Adventures in Sonic Seasoning

Author
PLIX Team
Published
October 4, 2022

Do you eat with your ears?

How can we encourage healthy eating through sound?

This autumn, the Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) at the MIT Media Lab teamed up with Creative Technologist, Northeastern University Professor and Media Lab affiliate researcher Rebecca Kleinberger, and two Cambridge librarians Clara Hendricks and Saffana Anwar of Cambridge Public Library. We’re beta-testing a new activity based on Rebecca’s work Sonic Seasoning with collaborators Janice Wang of Aarhus University and Akito van Troyer of Berklee College of Music.

Beta-testing group-fie with the PLIX team, Rebecca Kleinberger, Saffana Anwar, and Clara Hendricks
Beta-testing group-fie with the PLIX team, Rebecca Kleinberger, Saffana Anwar, and Clara Hendricks

What does it mean to add seasoning to sound?

Sonic Seasoning explores how using different auditory seasoning filters can change the experience of food to potentially regulate eating behaviors in real-time. Part of this work is about encouraging people to eat slower and more mindfully. There are many benefits to eating slower, including improving our dental and digestive health. As a creative STEM learning activity, we tested out different low-tech and accessible ways to change our perception of the crunchiness of eating chips.

Saffana and Clara playing cup-telephone with crunching sounds.
Saffana and Clara playing cup-telephone with crunching sounds.

We tried eating with earplugs, paper cups over our ears, listening to someone else crunch while we also munch, and eating in a sphere. Eating in a sphere made the chips sound brighter and crunchier. Rebecca pointed out that it amplifies the high frequencies of our eating. Meanwhile the paper cups and ear plugs made us more aware of the middle and low frequencies of the chip-munching sounds, dulling the fun crunch-crunch-crunch.

Saffana pointed out that eating and making noise are usually frowned upon in libraries. So this is definitely an activity for the rebellious librarian! And, if you’re looking for a book connection for this activity, Clara recommends “I hear a pickle” by Rachel Isadora.

Ada from PLIX eating lunch with her head in a globe. High frequencies are amplified so food sounds crunchier!
Ada from PLIX eating lunch with her head in a globe. High frequencies are amplified so food sounds crunchier!

What do you hear when you eat?

What other ways can you change the sound of your food?

Check out more beta-testing explorations on this PLIX forum thread.

If you’re interested in participating in a future study, sign up here. Rebecca will reach out to you when they’re ready for the next round.

PLIX develops creative STEAM learning experiences based on MIT Media Lab research and designed for the public library setting.

The Public Library Innovation Exchange (PLIX) is a project of the MIT Media Lab Digital Learning & Collaboration Studio. Except where otherwise noted, all materials on this site are licensed under a CC BY-SA 4.0 license. Accessibility.