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Postdigital soundscape research
This presentation asks after soundscape research in the postdigital age. Inquiry into, and the very designation of, ‘postdigital soundscapes’ can both clarify and obscure, can both more properly designate the contemporary surround and add to the already overflowing bodies of scholarship that make any entry into such study impossible. My suggestion is that both contradictory possibilities warrant the explicit formulation of ‘postdigital soundscapes’ as a name and site of study. The ‘postdigital’ accurately names an age in which there is no clear demarcation between the analog and the digital while it unhelpfully suggests that such a distinction was ever clear or definable, which is why one founding article in the expanding network of postdigital science and education admits that ‘the postdigital is hard to define; messy; unpredictable; digital and analog; technological and non-technological; biological and informational;’ as something that ‘is both a rupture in our existing theories and their continuation.’ (Jandrić et al. 2018: 895). There is, first, a historical nexus between the postdigital and the soundscape. Significantly, the conceptualization and deployment of the soundscape resulted in the late 20th century in response to, among other things, ‘technological progress’ (Southworth 1969: 49) and its related production of ‘an overpopulation of sounds’ (Schafer 1977: 71). If the ‘soundscape is that which flowers in the distance, at the edges of the electroacoustic age’ (Sterne 2015: 68), perhaps it’s that which blooms at the heart of our postdigital age, when the sounds of technological ‘progress’, the incessant hums of computers, vibrations of phones, voices amplified through video calls, loud roars of electromagnetic plants and cloud storage facilities permeate our urbanized world. There is, second and more substantially, however, a way in which the soundscape as a term, practice, product, and experience, embodies the ‘messiness, often accompanied by unpredictability, [that] is inherent to our postdigital condition’ (Peters, Jandrić, and Hayes 2022: 18). Like the postdigital, the soundscape ‘sounds like what it means, even though the term lies like a blanket over a field of competing meanings’ (Sterne 2015: 65). Bringing soundscape studies in the postdigital landscape, this presentation examines sonic research in the postdigital age.