Check out Yowei Shaw‘s Really Good Elevator Music project. The Atlantic a while back did a profile of Shaw and the project’s purpose, which tries to answer the question, “What if we could make elevator music that manipulates human behavior for a pro-social cause, audio that promotes community?” Context:
In the 1930s and 1940s, the executives behind Muzak — the bland background noise piped into hotel lobbies, malls, and elevators — adopted a slogan touting their social engineering capabilities: “Muzak While You Work for Increased Efficiency.” A carefully calibrated playlist with increasing tempo promised to make factory workers more productive, while slower, easy-listening tunes claimed to encourage shoppers to take their time.
“I found all that kind of sinister,” jokes Yowei Shaw. A freelance public radio reporter and producer by training, Shaw has been grappling with questions of engaging listeners in public spaces as part of her residency with the Philadelphia-based Asian Arts Initiative’s Social Practice Lab.
I’ve listened to all the tracks and have been smiling through many of them. It’d be great if whole neighborhoods and specific buildings initiated similar projects and partnered with buildings to pipe them in at no cost. This is a good example of a subtle (but meaningful) way that art can enhance daily life.