So You Want to Be A Scientist 2010 Experiments - Sam O'kell: Gig Crowd Experiment

Original Idea

Sam O'Kell

I believe the greatest crowd density at a music gig is not at the front, next to the barriers, but three rows back between 6-10 feet from the front. I would test this by wearing a pressure sensing vest beneath normal clothes, and take readings at different locations in the crowd.

Introduction

The principal aim of this experiment is to contribute to the verification of crowd models to enable a better understanding of crowd intensity at music concerts, and to ultimately provide greater comfort and safety for a concertgoer.

Method

Sam travelled to Roskilde music festival in Denmark to carry out his experiment. This festival was chosen because they are committed to carrying out crowd monitoring experiments, after a tragedy in 2000 saw nine people crushed in the crowd during a Pearl Jam set on the main Orange stage. Since then, stringent safety precautions have been implemented at the festival to prevent further accidents.

A team of volunteers was needed to take multiple measurements from different areas of the crowd at once. Sam and Laura, a student from Buckinghamshire New University, wore pressure measurement suits in predefined positions in the front of the crowd. Four sets of measurements were taken during performances of Them Crooked Vultures, Alice in Chains, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy and Gorillaz.

Video about Bucks New University crowd pressure monitoring suit.

Results

The final two performances, of Alice in Chains and Them Crooked Vultures showed a large number of instances of higher pressure. Clearly activity in the crowd is directly related to the activity on the stage - the band on stage can control crowd behaviour.

Conclusions

The final two performances, of Alice in Chains and Them Crooked Vultures showed a large number of instances of higher pressure. Clearly activity in the crowd is directly related to the activity on the stage - the band on stage can control crowd behaviour.

This initial experiment has shown some agreement with my hypothesis, and the experiment enabled the validation of a prototype crowd pressure measurement system.

Nevertheless further experimentation is required for this work to significantly contribute to the science of crowd dynamics.

Scientific Mentor

David Hodgson

Professor Geoff Lawday, Tektronix Chair in Measurement, Bucks New University
I research Signal Integrity Engineering - designing and testing embedded systems, such as state-of-the-art mobile phones. At the moment we are using this technology inside a 'pressure suit' that can be worn in a crowd to remotely measure pressure.

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