Module 6: Audio/Podcasting Workshop

6.2 Module Overview


A sunny trail through the forest. Image Source: Pixabay.

Imagine you are traveling down your favorite nature trail with a to keep you company. Maybe you are experiencing the rhythm and flow of spoken word poetry. Perhaps you are at a concert and you can feel the bass throughout your body. Our minds and bodies are guided by sound on a daily basis. Let’s try a warm up exercise to get us thinking about sound and audio. Use the one minute essay function to describe your definition of sound.


What sorts of things did you think about when you worked to define sound? Was it hard to define sound? Did you associate sound with particular body parts or bodily functions and abilities? There is an entire interdisciplinary field of sound studies interested in exploring what sound is, what sounds does, and how we experience sound.


It is useful to start our journey into audio and sound by exploring how we interact with and experience audio. Sound scholars argue that we don’t experience sound with just ears and hearing. Instead, sound scholars think about the ways that sound is experienced in an embodied fashion. Steph Ceraso (2014) writes that,

“identifying the ear as the body part that enables listening does not capture all that is involved in experiencing a sonic event. Listening is a multisensory act” (p.102)

Let’s return to our earlier example of a concert to illustrate the ways sound is experienced beyond the ears. If you have ever been seated near the speaker system, you will know that the beat and vibrations of the music can be felt throughout the body. Maybe you are in-tune with a beat and think about the ups, downs, highs, and lows as a line with dips and peaks. You already know what it means to experience sound beyond ears and hearing.

In Shakin’ all over : popular music and disability (2013), George McKay draws attention to the ways disabled people are impacted by and agents of influence in the world of sound. McKay pays homage to the long list of disabled music innovators and the ways they shift the sonic environment. Yet, McKay does not stop at mere recognition of influential figures. In fact, he celebrates the ways that disability can enhance one’s musical sound making capacities and points to the ways that qualities often arising from impairments, such as a so-called “damaged, imperfect, deviant, extraordinary body or voice” (2013, p. 1). McKay further explores this mutual relationship between the disabled body and sound through pointing to the ways that sound itself can be disabling. One example is the loud sounds common in live music venues (p. 11). Constant exposure to loud sounds and other environmental hazards work to shape, and in some cases create, impairment for those who occupy the space. Further, McKay doesn’t separate music and disability as two different fields of experience and inquiry that can be mashed together for the sake of analysis. Instead, he points to something deeper between disability and sound, arguing that, historically speaking, important developments in disability history and rights intertwine with important moments in modern music and popular culture. For example, McKay links the increase in war-related visible disabilities at the end of World War 1 and the rise in access to and popularity of music, suggesting that these two major moments of social change have influenced one another (p. 3).

Now that we have thought more deeply about what sound is and how we experience sound, we are better positioned to understand what sound does.

The Four Effects of Sound

Sound scholar Julian Treasure suggests four effects of sound:

  • physiological
  • psychological
  • cognitive
  • behavioral
    (2018, pp. 15-16)

This is to say that sound impacts our bodies, emotions, minds, and actions.

Imagine an irritating noise like a car alarm. Maybe this signals danger and shapes your behavior as you check on your car. Perhaps you feel the irritation in your body, muscles tensing up. What about a calming sound such as ocean waves? Can you feel a swaying feeling in your body? As you continue to think about the waves do you notice a change in your breathing pattern? Sound isn’t simply in the background. It shapes our bodies, moods, thoughts, behaviors, and environments.

Multimodal Listening

Ultimately, sound scholars would generally argue that we need to practice and learn to become more involved consumers and producers of sound. Ceraso (2014) would suggest that is a deeper, more intentional form of listening. What is multimodal listening? Ceraso writes,

“multimodal listening requires undoing ear-centric habits and developing a holistic approach to sonic encounters through situated, embodied experience” (p. 118).

In other words, multimodal listening resists attending to sound only in terms of what we hear of the interpretation of the words we are presented with and instead focuses on the ways we filter sound through contexts and feel sound throughout our body. In short, we can build more meaningful relationships with sound through multimodal listening.

We can connect the practice of multimodal listening and consciousness of the sound we produce to disability. is “a term given to the idea that the unique sensory orientation of deaf people leads to a sophisticated form of visuospatial language and visual ways of being” (Murray, 2016). This perspective pushes back against social structures that work to label Deafness as deviant or less than. In the context of conscious sound use and experiencing sound beyond the ear, Deaf populations regularly attend to the other embodied ways sound can be experienced. Rather than barring Deaf people from meaningful engagement with sound, Deaf populations can understand the impact of sound in ways that hearing populations may not. This is a direct challenge to , or the privileging of hearing and hearing people over Deaf people and spoken language over signed language.


As you work to contemplate how you will bring multimodal listening to your audio consumption and making, think of some of the ways you can incorporate multimodal listening into your everyday life. Feel free to do this reflection in the textbox below. Once you have completed your writing, click Submit to see additional suggestions that may be useful as you continue to work your way through the remainder of this chapter. You can then click Create Document and Export to save a copy of your reflection in Word (.docx) format.


In this module we will:

  • Review and analyze our second series of Media Maker Spotlights. In this module, we highlight podcasters Fady Shanouda and Jeff Preston.
  • Perform a platform analysis of podcasting, interrogating the affordances, constraints, and accessibility of audio platforms and digital audio file-sharing online.
  • Consider a handful of the many ways sound can unite, divide, or otherwise impact human behaviours and social relationships
  • Create and edit our own mini-podcast episode to communicate a topic or issue related to disability and technology.


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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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