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Anthropology of the senses

With the fourth workshop of the research network we began more intensely to concentrate on working on individual chapters and the overall structure of the final handbook. The workshop took place at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and it started with a public symposion at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt. Under the titel Gadget & App Culture we explore the anthrtopology of the senses in everyday life with lectures and performances by Jonathan Sterne, Veit Erlmann and Antye Greie a.k.a. AGF. Jonathan Sterne started with a compressed version of his upcoming book on the cultural history of the mp3-encoding format, in which he stressed the incorporated listening model from the year 1929 that was researched on by an industry-driven strive for efficiency in transducing at Bell Laboratories, just been baught by banker J.P.Morgan at this time. In the second lecture Veit Erlmann presented his thoughts on the cultural history of the unconscious concerning sound around 1900 as he explored it in his latest publication on Reason and Resonance. Both lectures were responded by Peter Wicke respectively by Michael Bull.


Jonathan Sterne’s lecture in audio
(as provided by our colleagues of the Klangschreiber-blog as hosted by Axel Volmar)


In the center of this afternoon an auditory performance by AGF did take place that truly altered our listening mode and auditory-corporeal self-perception in the specific situation: the concetrated and logocentric mode of listening to a lecture was urged to open up to a very different, bodily grounded mode of listening to the physical beats and sound processing alogrithms applied by the artist in her latest release beatnadel.




This time the closed workshop on saturday dealt in its first part with the regular format of 6 brief 10-minute-presentations on aspects of an anthropology of the senses – which provided (rather not surprising) an insight into the state of current sound studies and its challenges as an evolving discipline or transdiscipline. Veit Erlmann, Jens Gerrit Papenburg, Jonathan Sterne, Holger Schulze and Michael Bull presented their likewise positions and research findings on either specific cases or general reflections on methodological and disciplinary questions but also the public representation of the field called sound studies: How can we deal in sound studies research with rather non-scientific statements (in the habit of research findings) as in this scary example by Julian Treasure? How can we understand the process of conceptualizing sound in the process of mastering audio records? How can we describe the current state of sound studies and prevent the mistakes made by other researchers in developing a new research field? How can we dismantle the deeply engraved sensory models in our research cultures? And finally: How can big projects on popularizing sound & sensory art as well as sound & sensory research contribute to the development of the field? All these questions brought us recurrently back to our work on the final publication.



In the afternoon we worked together on the general chapter structure and the process of writing collectively and individually this final volume that should comprise the work and the insights of the 25 researchers at the end of three years in 2013/14 into one artifact – be it digital or be it in paperform. The first publishers have been contacted and the next step will be a more detailed proposal by the three main editors and founders of this research network. The members and guests agreed that a basic concept should give young researchers the opportunity to present their work but also to represent adaequately the international discourse and the state of research in our field in the 2010s.



On the last day a much smaller, additional international meeting took place with researchers e.g. from Denmark and The Netherlands. At first we received the great news from Erik Jensen that a Nordic Research Network for Sound Studies (NORSOUND) has just been granted; among the eight international guests of this all-scandivian network are three members and guests of this research network namely Michael Bull, Anahid Kassabian and Holger Schulze. Our main topic at this meeting was to discuss the outline of further european perspectives for the transdisciplinary field of sound studies – concerning research projects, biennial international conferences and promoting the work and education of younger researchers in this field.

(c) Photographs: Sound in Media Culture Network

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