Online audi­to­ry train­ing and learn­ing stud­ies: promise and pitfalls

Fred Dick, Birkbeck

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Our audi­to­ry envi­ron­ment is full of com­plex com­mu­nica­tive sig­nals, alerts, and behav­ioral­ly rel­e­vant acoustic back­grounds, all of which need to be learned de novo by each per­son over devel­op­ment and into adult­hood. What is more, the audi­to­ry sys­tem has to be flex­i­ble enough to learn to rep­re­sent and parse entire­ly new sound envi­ron­ments — for instance, dis­tin­guish­ing the myr­i­ad sources of traf­fic sounds that are impor­tant for one’s sur­vival while cycling through cen­tral Lon­don. The dura­tion of such learn­ing — over days, weeks, and months — makes it awk­ward, expen­sive, and often entire­ly imprac­ti­cal to study in tra­di­tion­al lab set­tings, so the pos­si­bil­i­ty of doing extend­ed, larg­er N, and more dynam­ic audi­to­ry learn­ing stud­ies online is very exciting.

We have been work­ing on a num­ber of such exper­i­ments (as have sev­er­al oth­er audi­to­ry groups) — I’ll dis­cuss some of our ini­tial par­a­digms and find­ings, as well as touch­ing on some of the ongo­ing chal­lenges that arise in design­ing and car­ry­ing out online audi­to­ry learn­ing and train­ing studies.

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Online audi­to­ry train­ing and learn­ing stud­ies: promise and pitfalls