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'Auraldiversity': Defining a Hearing-Centred Perspective to Socially Equitable Design of the Built Environment

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Historically, sound, soundscape and human hearing have collectively received little attention in the design of urban spaces and places, particularly with regards to the psychological and sociological impact of hearing on the experience of individuals in the built environment. It is proposed that the sonic considerations which have been made in urban design are commonly developed within an assumption of otologically normal hearing, and, more broadly, without the acknowledgement of the actual diversity in people's auditory and sensory abilities. Existing considerations of sound and hearing within inclusive design research, particularly in the built environment, are grounded in an 'auraltypical' perspective where the primary focus is hearing individuals or those with hearing loss. This position supposes to some degree that an idealized otological profile and consistent model of hearing proficiency is shared amongst all citizens and engenders a culture of urban design driven by 'good/bad' ears and homogenized sonic interaction. This paper introduces the theoretical paradigm of 'auraldiversity' – an emerging agenda that acknowledges the diversity of human hearing and the multitude of elements that place the hearing modality within a state of constant flux. The paper situates this theoretical perspective within the context of the built environment through the mapping of three 'auraldivergent' hearing profiles. Each profile charts the lived sonic experiences of a d/Deaf or disabled individual in the built environment. The paper concludes by positioning the auraldiversity paradigm as a catalyst in the development of a hearing-centred approach to inclusive design research, a new agenda where the opportunity for more socially and sonically equitable design of the built environment is established.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: March 1, 2018

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  • Built Environment is published quarterly in March, June, September and December. With an emphasis on crossing disciplinary boundaries and providing global perspective, each issue focuses on a single subject of contemporary interest to practitioners, academics and students working in a wide range of disciplines. Issues are guest-edited by established international experts who not only commission contributions, but also oversee the peer-reviewing process in collaboration with the Editors.

    Subject areas include: architecture; conservation; economic development; environmental planning; health; housing; regeneration; social issues; spatial planning; sustainability; urban design; and transport. All issues include reviews of recent publications.

    The journal is abstracted in Geo Abstracts, Sage Urban Studies Abstracts, and Journal of Planning Literature, and is indexed in the Avery Index to Architectural Publications.

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