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COVID-19 Impacts on Historic Soundscape Perception and Site Usage

Jordan, Pamela; Fiebig, André

The ISO 12913 standards acknowledge the primacy of context in perceiving acoustic environments. In soundscape assessments, context is constituted by both physical surroundings and psychological, social, and cultural factors. Previous studies have revealed similarities in people’s soundscape assessments in comparable physical surroundings, such as urban or national parks, despite differing individual associative contexts. However, these assessments were found to be capable of shifting in the historic setting of the Berlin Wall Memorial. Providing contextual information from the past appears to have some bearing on soundscape perception. The COVID-19 lockdown measures enacted since March 2020 in Germany have prevented most tourist activity at the memorial, and a resulting shift in user activity has been observed in the otherwise open and accessible memorial landscape. Building on previous soundscape investigations conducted at the memorial, this paper investigates what effect the restrictions have had on the soundscape context and its perception by visitors. Informal interviews paired with comparative measurements indicated context pliability for local stakeholders. In contrast to site programming alone, tourist presence also appears to affect context perception for local users. This holds repercussions for soundscape and heritage site designs serving local and tourist populations—and their divergent perceptions—alike. The impacts of soundscape assessments being neither static nor generalizable across stakeholders are discussed with suggestions for further research.
Published in: Acoustics, 10.3390/acoustics3030038, MDPI