Soundpostcards from Lisbon in Times of COVID-19 Confinement*

por Iñigo Sánchez , investigador do INET-md (NOVA FCSH)


The restrictions imposed during the COVID-19 crisis on our everyday life has changed the way we perceive and experience our urban sound environment. The confinement measures to stop the transmission of the virus have created the conditions for a new atonement with our surrounding urban environment. Cities have become quieter. Common sources of noise disturbances such as road-traffic, aircraft noise, music from entertainment facilities, loud crowds, etc., have faded out or even disappeared during the lock down. On the other hand, sounds that were already there like the humming sound of air conditioning, the electrical buzz of traffic lights, the mundane sounds of construction work and cleaning brigades, and even birds have acquired a new presence in the deserted streets and squares. Likewise, sounds from the domestic space defy the confinement of our homes and permeate the public spaces, forcing us to rethink the limits between the private and the public in times of social and physical distance.

This work-in-progress explores the changes in the sound environment of some of Lisbon’s tourist hotspots during the COVID-19 confinement. For a tourist city such as Lisbon, the travel restrictions led to the hibernation of an industry that many regard as a symbol of the boom experienced by the Portuguese capital in recent years: mass tourism. With an average of 4,5 million tourist per year, tourism generates 13,7 billion euros in the Lisbon region and it is responsible for around 180.000 jobs, according to the Lisbon Tourism Association (ATM). The sudden disappearance of tourists and the quarantine imposed to all ancillary services associated to them (from guided tours to tuk-tuks, tourist buses, cafes and restaurants, pub crawls, and other leisure activities) has revealed a very different urban landscape than it was just a month ago.

Inspired by the tradition of the phonocards (also known as “talking postcards”), and drawing upon that powerful symbol of the touristic experience as it is the postcard,  this project presents a series of  audio-visual vignettes of Lisbon’s tourist attractions  in times of COVID-19 confinement as a testimony of what a city without tourists might sound like.

* This project is part of the Sounds of Tourism SR&TD Research Project funded by the FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia (PTDC/ART-PER/32417/2017).

Lisboa, 10 de abril 2020.


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