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Noise Disappearance
An aspiration of Noise Disappearance?
24 December 2019 . 4min read

The other day, I had to get my iPhone screen fixed. It was coming up to the 2 year anniversary; I remembered I had paid for AppleCare. So, I looked at the "local" Apple Store, and determined that whilst the Cambridge one was certainly in a delightful setting, it would require me to take a bus into the centre so that I didn't have to pay the stinging parking fees. So, I was destined to drive to Milton Keynes, only 31 direct miles away, and visit the Apple Store there.

It was typically raining, but in a half-arsed kind of way. You know, that way where your windscreen wipers can't decide which mode to go in to; casual or manic. 65 minutes of driving later, with a disproportional about of parking-stress at its conclusion, I was there.

In contrast to my local Cambridge alternative, Milton Keynes is a "new" town. By that, I mean they essentially designed it in a few meetings, rather than over several hundred years. Yes, I know I am over simplifying this, but you maybe get the point. It is a perfectly acceptable clinical execution of what a city would look like if it was designed and build in the last 50 years or so.

OK, let me just come out and say it; Milton Keynes has the sense of being "over designed". I expect that for some of you, that is a good thing, but I'm not in that particular Venn diagram intersection. I'm not saying that there is anything wrong with Milton Keynes, but in my view it doesn't have the same texture as Cambridge.

Anyway, I rocked up to the shopping centre, then subsequently to the Apple Store, and due-fully deposited my iPhone to them. As expected, the service was faultless, and the conclusion was as expected; nothing to see here.

However, there was a gap of an hour or so where I had nothing to do. It was then that something started to unsettle me. It took a moment to work it out, but then it struck me. It struck me in a subtly annoying way; piped music.

To be clear, it wasn't the actual music that was being played. No, it was the fact that someone decided that music needed to be played at all. I was in a shopping centre, a mall.

To appease my step-count, I ambled around and spotted no end of specific speakers for piping the said music into the ambient setting. This was not by accident; it was by actual design.

Why the music? What are they afraid of?

As I found somewhere to sit down, I'd done enough of those steps. I took a moment to view the vista before me. The brightly coloured shop fronts, the tall ceilings, looking down onto the marble floor. The people, a mixture of those rushing about and those ambling along. What would happen to these people if the music just stopped? Would there be mass hysteria? Perhaps the music is designed to take the edge of the shopping experience? You know, like a shot of vodka before an interview... oh, is that just me?

The music was metaphorically and actually, noise.

It got me thinking, what other kind of noise do we have in our lives, and is it getting louder?

When I look at my Facebook feed, it feels like there is more re-sharing of stuff than there used to be. Perhaps it is just the mix of people that I now have on there, but compared to my memory of it a few years ago, there are less original posts. It's tricky to quantify, though.

Twitter feels like that too. The cliche of people tweeting about every mouthful of food, or just even waking up, seems to have passed. Again, that is only a feeling. So, I decided to put some numbers around it.

For something quite unrelated, I had collected some data of 6.6 million tweets. So, I did a query as to the number of retweets (the noise) versus the non-retweets (the original content). I have to say; I was a little shocked;

Out of 6.6 million tweets;

retweets = 4.5 million (68%)

original = 2.1 million (32%)

My feeling was true. Two-thirds of what is whizzing around twitter is noise; a non-scientific approximation, but it gives an indication.

With piped music, constant re-sharing of content online, there is more noise in our lives than ever before. It feels like a problem to me. Think about how much brain power we waste filtering out the noise from the original content.

If the noise disappeared, I wonder what we could all do with that extra two-thirds of our minds...

Removing all the noise and fuss can create something rather nice.


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire