Bull M, 2004, "Sound connections: an aural epistemology of proximity and distance in urban culture" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 22(1) 103 – 116
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Sound connections: an aural epistemology of proximity and distance in urban culture
Received 9 January 2002; in revised form 29 November 2002
Abstract. In this paper I analyse the nature of proximity and distance as experienced through the use of sound-communication technologies. I argue that contemporary media-based analyses of communication technologies often fail to take into account the specific relational qualities attached to forms of 'sound' consumption. The meanings and uses attached to sound technologies are then conceptualised through reinterpreting three iconic historical moments of sound consumption in Western culture: Horkheimer and Adorno's account of the meeting between Odysseus and the Sirens in The Dialectic of Enlightenment, and early-20th-century accounts of the use of the phonograph and radio taken from the work of Kracauer and Taussig. One example is situated in the mythic prehistory of Western culture, the other two from its 'heroic' period of mechanical reproduction. These examples are used to point to what an analytical framework for understanding contemporary states of aural proximity and distance might look like. The paper points to the manner in which the use of sound technologies can be understood as part of the Western project of the appropriation and control of space, place, and the 'other'. In particular I focus upon the specific relational qualities attached to sound through which subjects relate to their surroundings, others, and themselves, focusing upon the central role that aestheticisation plays as a strategy of the control of place and space. The analysis is contextualised through a contemporary analysis of that most mobile and privatised of media artefacts, the Walkman.
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