Module 6: Audio/Podcasting Workshop

6.3 Considering Our Relationship With Sound

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Analyzing Our “Sound Diet” and Keeping a Sound Journal

What are the sounds you interact with in your day-to-day life? In (Re)Educating the Senses, Ceraso’s sound artist interviewee Glennie uses the phrase “sound diet” to describe the sounds we encounter in our daily lives. By now you might be developing a curiosity about your own sound diet and the impact it has on your interactions with the world. You might find it interesting to keep a sound journal over the course of an average day. Alternatively, if you are interested in analyzing a specific space or event, you may wish to keep a journal of the sounds you encounter during a trip to the space of interest or while engaging in the event in question. What sounds do you experience in various spaces? How do you experience these sounds in your body and your mind?

As you build your sound journal, take some time to reflect on what you learn and observe. The following questions may be useful as you work to analyze your sound journal.

  • What were some of the dominant sounds you expected to encounter? Did logging them in your sound journal reveal any surprises or new insights about these sounds?
  • What are some of the sounds that surprised you? How did they surprise you?
  • Were you overwhelmed by the sheer volume of sounds you experienced? How did this help you think about sound pollution in your life?
  • How did keeping a sound journal help you understand the embodied ways you interact with sound?

Creating a Soundscape

In the same vein as the work of McKay, musician and soundscape creator Roxanne Layton thinks about the ways that sound can shape the body. In her 2018 TED Talk, Layton performs a soundscape that replicates the rhythm of a resting heart rate, and upon asking the audience to reflect on their experiences of her soundscape, she places emphasis on the physical reactions to the sounds she produced. Navigate to the video below and listen to Layton’s soundscape and consider your own embodied reaction.

Thus far we have considered the ways we consume sound. However, we are all producers of sound as well. Think about some of the sounds you produce. How do you impact the sonic environment? One of the ways we can consider our impact on the sonic environment is to create a soundscape of the noises we produce. A soundscape is a piece of media that involves the merging of sound and environment. For example, I might create a soundscape that captures the sounds of my office. If I were to make a soundscape that represents my experience of my office, I might include the tapping of my pen against the desk, the sound of my fingers rapidly moving across the keyboard, or a vibrating sound that represents my leg bouncing up and down to improve concentration.

What would your office soundscape include? Let’s find out!

For this activity you are asked to reflect on your own production of sound and create a soundscape composed of sounds you introduce into your sonic environment. It is helpful to think about a specific environment, like an office, workspace, or room in your home. You can write a description of your soundscape or produce a playlist of various sounds you introduce into the sonic environment. With this said, later sections of this module will focus on audio recording and editing strategies. If the idea of producing a soundscape is intriguing, we encourage you to use these newfound strategies to produce a soundscape audio file of your own!

Using Sound Responsibly

Does being more conscious of the impact of noise on bodies and minds make you want to be more conscious of the sounds you emit into your sonic environment? We know from the work of sound scholars like Treasure that sound impacts physiological, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral functions. Sound can certainly aid physiological, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral well-being, but it can negatively affect these facets of life as well.

Sound theorists like Ceraso question ‘sonic overstimulation’ and how the constant presence of multiple layers of noise can negatively affect subjects. We can think about sound as a way of asserting power, considering the way that the setting of the sonic environment is also a setting of the social environment. We may therefore want to think about the intersections of sound, power, and control. Dustin Tahmahkera (2017) speaks to the ways in which the sounds, both presently audible and remembered, can be a reminder of colonization. Tahmahkera describes the sounds of colonist weapons in sacred Indigenous spaces as “sonic savagery” (n.p.). Tahmahkera highlights the sounds associated with military training, thinking about how they may be experienced differently by fellow Indigenous subjects who have and continue to be threatened by the militaries of colonizers.

Traumatizing or aggressive uses of sound aren’t the only problematic sounds to avoid. Sonic overstimulation is a commonly faced problem, as are uses of audio without accessibility in mind or forgetting about the bodily impact of sound. If you are intrigued by the prospect of adding audio to your repertoire of digital methods, you might want to think about the physiological, psychological, cognitive, and behavioral implications of your decision. This is not to say that audio should be avoided. Audio can and does play a role in knowledge acquisition and transmission, community building, and disability justice work. Like all methods and modes of making, we encourage you to build projects with care and contemplation. Use the one minute essay function below to jot down some of the ways you can responsibly use audio as a digital method. When you are done, click through to see some possible responses.


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Digital Methods for Disability Studies Copyright © 2022 by Esther Ignagni is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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