Object-disoriented sound: listening in the post-digital culture


Prelude: the sonic explosion  

For some time, I have been deeply concerned with the mindfulness of listening and the subjective ramifications of auditory perception. The thoughts that envelop these concerns essentially stem from questions of perpetual mobility and nomadism that are perhaps symptomatic of the contemporary post-digital culture. A nomadic listener is affected by a fleeting sound, which appears and diminishes in the way in which it triggers an amorphous stream of subjective contemplation and thoughts bordering on the immediate known-ness of the sonic phenomenon yet simultaneously moving toward the realm of the unknown.

What is the ‘unknown’ embedded in a sonic phenomenon? Does it operate outside of the reality of the sonic objecthood? Even object-oriented philosophers like Graham Harman have argued that the reality of anything outside of the correlation between thought and being remains unknowable. Harman has further criticized early phenomenologists’ approaches to sonic phenomena as reductive, such as “If I hear a door slam, then I hear a door slam, and this experience must be described in all its subtlety; to explain this experience with a scientific theory of sound waves and eardrum vibrations is derivative, since all we encounter directly is the experience of the door slamming” [1]

If we explore such a sonic phenomenon, we may find that a specific sound directs to a listening state inside the listener, who may, in a nomadic condition, indulge in taking the phenomenon as a premise or entryway into a world that he or she did not previously know. The listener may address the sound relating it to the imagining and remembrance of a number of amorphous moods triggered by the temporality of listening, instead of deciphering its objective meaning, location-specific identity, and other spatial information embedded in the characteristic texture and tonality of the sound. Today’s wind may not sound like mere wind, and the lonely screeching of the windowpane may not sound like mere friction between glass and wood; but these may sound like something more abstract in the sense that they are generating memories and imagination of other realities that deviate and refract in response to the immediate materiality of the sonic event. These sounds, as impermanent as they appear to the ears of a wandering listener, may open hidden doors and obscure entrances for further perceptual meanderings in the spiritual realm of contemplation and thoughts transcending the epistemic knowledge-based identity that the sound would otherwise objectify. The epistemological problems and ontological questions posed by such object-disoriented sonic explosion are precisely the area of interrogation and praxis in my current ‘post-digital’ research. Ancient Indian philosophers would call this sonic explosion in terms of ‘dhvani’ and sphōta’ meaning that “A sound changes into language and acquires meaning only after a certain explosion of sounds” (Barlingay 27), accentuating the subjective and mental resonances of sound through which a conceptual entity is perceived by the listener.

Fugue: the post-digital milieu

In order to interpret the provocative term ‘post-digital’ in my own understanding, I wish to underscore the extensive and ever-growing nomadism of agents attuned to the psychogeographic evocation of physical locations and corporeal places in the post-globalized universe of intense mobility. In this nebulous cosmos of rapid flow, the production, mobility, and reception of sound contents are the prerequisites to the decisive aspects of the formation of the notion of ‘post-digital’ via the extensions of social networks, greater interactivity/interpenetration, and personalization of the media. These features result in an increase in mobility and disembedding of sound contents as social acts beyond mere geographical limits. The technologies initiate an awareness of the wider worlds beyond local horizons. But these phenomena are intensely engaged with economic and cultural shifts too. As early as 1995, David Morley was writing about this future in his work Spaces of Identity:

“We emphasize two keys…on the one hand, technological and market shifts are leading to the emergence of global image industries and world markets; we are witnessing the ‘deterritorialisation’ of audiovisual productions and the elaboration of trans-national systems of delivery. On the other hand, however there have been significant developments towards local production and local distribution networks” (Morley 1-2).

Within the merging local-global boundaries, one culture develops constant awareness of the existence of other. Cultural components like images and sounds travel through this dispersed space in mutual interaction, influencing and infusing each other, although the aspects of travel prevail over these implied interactions. These ‘deterritorialised’ wanderings substantially contribute to an emergent culture of primarily mobile and itinerant beings engaged in the liberated ebb and flow of events, phenomena, and ephemera, which operate arguably beyond digital essentialism. This essentialism in digital revolution, which was the predominant theme of the late 1990s and early part of this millennium, starts to dissolve into an ever-growing field of intangible data and immoderate information, with Nicholas Negroponte aptly proclaiming: “Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only in its absence, not by its presence. Face it – the digital revolution is over” (Negroponte 12). Alongside this comes a sense of saturation across the prevailing digital divide between already digital and rapidly digitized contents. During this process, digital media were turning our world into an augmented one. In this rapidly emerging environment, we found that different forms of older media, such as recorded sound and other sound contents, were constantly moving, being relocated, reinterpreted, and engaged in conflict with the purely digital contents within an imminent convergent culture. These sound contents could be as varied as archival sound recordings, clips of music and songs, spoken words, environmental field recordings, and electro-acoustic samples. We could observe a certain movement of these sound contents from a localized state (creative/productive end) to a globalized state (consumptive end) and vice versa. For example, a piece of field recording was digitally mediated so as to be considered a work of sound art, or a ‘traditional’ song from one part of the world was transmitted via the internet to another part of the world as a ‘folk’ song. The question was whether a ‘fluid-local’ sound element was losing its characteristics or retaining its identity over the course of a ‘hyper-global’ shift. We could also ask how such locative sound elements were received and interpreted at the widest end of a rather volatile audience reception within the dissemination of digital media technology and establishment of e-commerce. In this very context, Robert Pepperell and Michael Punt have aptly decoded the term ‘post-digital’: “The term ‘Postdigital’ is intended to acknowledge the current state of technology whilst rejecting the implied conceptual shift of the ‘digital revolution’ – a shift apparently as abrupt as the ‘on/off’, ‘zero/one’ logic of the machines now pervading our daily lives. New conceptual models are required to describe the continuity between art, computing, philosophy and science that avoid binarism, determinism or reductionism” (Pepperell and Punt 2).

The central question arising from interest in the sonic was the ongoing dialogue between older sound contents from primarily locative analogue sources and digitally generated ephemeral traveling sounds, with rapid digitization rendering the interpretation of older/analogue sound contents as digitalized sonic artifacts beyond the mere binarism, determinism, or reductionism of the old vs. new or digital vs. non-digital. The phenomena contributed to the evolving ‘post-digital’ discourse by regarding digitalized artifacts as displaced, relocated, and transformed, thereby dissolving the digital divide between already digital and rapidly digitized contents on the one hand and their reinterpretations as a ‘background’ (Cascone, quoting Ihde) or elusive field of data on the other.

Once this saturation is reached, Kim Cascone argues that, in the domain of sound art and experimental music, “the medium of digital technology holds less fascination for composers in and of itself” (Cascone). In deciphering the term ‘post-digital aesthetics’ in relation to experimental music, he speaks of the “failure” of digital technology and the way in which it triggers subversive practices with glitches, clippings, aliasing, distortion, etc. I, however, perceive this as a failure of a pervasive digital media technology to identify, structure, and archive the transient and elusive sound field from the nameless, placeless, and faceless background world of data. In this world of ‘big data’ (Rasmus Helles and Klaus Bruhn Jensen), ‘data abundance’, and ‘data flood’ (Steve Lohr), itinerant sound data essentially loses its locative character, normative structure (digital, analogue, or digitized), ontological source identity, and epistemic knowledge-based objecthood.

Coda: sounding the post-digital

Such behaviors of sound are accentuated in the post-digital universe of ‘big data’, contributing to the elusive identity of the ‘digital (sound) object’ (compared to ‘non-digital’ objects, devices, and systems) and posing problems of authentication and/or preservation, thereby proliferating a sense of ‘absence’ in a digital sound object’s recognition, identification, and negotiation of the corresponding knowledge-structure upon a network of listening. In their work ‘A theory of digital objects‘, Jannis Kallinikos, Aleksi Aaltonen, and Attila Marton claim that “digital objects are marked by a limited set of variable yet generic attributes such as editability, interactivity, openness and distributedness that confer them a distinct functional profile” (Kallinikos, Aaltonen, and Marton). This leads to a profound sense of ‘instability’ as evasive and fleeting artifacts that contrast with the solid and self-evident nature of already-old sound media, such as sound recordings on tape, CD, file systems, or other types of storage. The fluid and mutating nature of that universe of digital objects and their diffusion across the social fabric make them difficult to authenticate, preserve, or archive in the social memory and knowledge base. These invisible digital objects, carrying multitude of sound contents, problematize their (sound’s) objecthood, rendering them more as ephemera than even artifacts.

On the other hand, sound does indeed seem ‘less esoteric’ in this post-digital milieu because of our “newfound comfort with the immaterial world of pure data and information flowing through the cyberspace” (Dayal, quoting Gopnik). The contemporary media environment allows the separation of sounds from their locations and facilitates their travel across hyper-dispersed networks as background noise. A sound that is disembodied from its locational specificity causes multiple layers of mediation across its multiple receptions and interpretations outside of place, time, and context, whether in an audio streaming network on the internet, a digital sound composition published on a net label, or exhibited within the augmented space of an interactive installation work. In an interactive art piece, identification of a sound event can be understood through its interpretation as an augmented situation for the re-embodied experience by inter-subjective interaction. The post-digital discourse essentially relates to the perpetual transience of these amorphous but fertile auditory situations (Chattopadhyay) into temporality. It is evident that, in this constant flow, the production and reception of sounds over greater mobility and interactivity leads to its interpretation as itinerant auditory situations, which is a transformation of the original sounds, ready for re-interpretation beyond their objecthood in post-digital culture. Admittedly, at this stage, my motivation lies in delving into the question of sound’s object-disoriented behavior upon transient listening.

Variation I: object disorientation of sound

Let me elaborate on what I mean by the ‘object-disoriented behavior’ of sound. To do this, we need to go back in time and excavate the term ‘sound object’. Pierre Schaeffer, arguably the founder of musique concrète, coined the term ‘sound object’ (objet sonore), which paved the way for a new kind of perception, ‘acousmatic listening’. To Schaeffer, the ‘sound object’ was an intentional representation of sound to its listener. With the rise of new audio technologies, the ‘sound object’ recorded on magnetic tape or other media were no longer referred to a sound source, hence the musical exploration of the ‘acousmatic experience’ of sounds that one hears without seeing the causes behind them. The emphasis here was on the reduced listening state instead of causal listening, if we borrow Michel Chion’s terminology. The problem here is the imposition of the word ‘object’ over ‘sound’. The intrinsic flaw in reduced listening as Schaeffer conceptualized it in ‘The Theory of Sound Object’ is that it assumes that sound has an ‘a priori content’ (Demers) that is separate and distinct from any cultural or historical associations it might have subsequently acquired. According to scholars such as Joanna Demers, this assertion is problematic on both practical and theoretical counts. Listeners have difficulty hearing sounds divorced from their associations; at the same time, it is nearly impossible for the human listening faculty not to ascribe a multiplicity of causes to a sonic phenomenon. Furthermore, in practice, the listener is almost certain to simultaneously create imagined gestures or link a sound to its illusory myriad sources, evoking some kind of contemplative and thoughtful imagery in this process of mental resonance and mindful personalization into various listening states.

In his seminal writings, for instance in the famous article ‘Aural Object’, film-sound scholar and early phenomenologist Christian Metz expresses serious doubts about the object specificity of sonic phenomena in scholarly thinking following Schaeffer. He instead focuses on the ‘characteristics’ of sound and emphasizes the problematic aspects of locating sound’s object-oriented or location-specific source. He states that “Spatial anchoring of aural events is much more vague and uncertain than that of visual events” (Metz 29). In classical sound studies (Rick Altman et al.), scholars have already underpinned the issue of sound’s problematic relation to its object or source and emphasized its interpretative nature over its production: “Sound is not actualized until it reaches the ear of the hearer, which translates molecular movement into the sensation of sound” (Altman 19). Altman speaks here of a sound event as defining the trajectory of the essential production and subsequent reception of a sound element. Its narrative, as Altman terms it, is hypothetically bound to the source that produces it. This source, the sounding object when producing sound, is spatially defined or connected to a place. These spatial sources of sound are by definition localized but are not rendered until and unless they are carried by a medium to reach the point of reception. By the same token, a sound is mediated whenever it is digitally registered. Digitization dislocates sounds from their original sources, turning them into discreet data in the nebulous post-digital environment as discussed above. Sound contents are thus only recognized at different stages of digitization toward reaching a saturation state of an assumed ‘post-digital’ economy/ecology, by which process they are freed from the object. Sound thus, by its very nature, implies mobility and subsequent object disorientation in order to establish its recognition in the ‘post-digital’ domain. However, the process of interpretation is more complex than it appears at its perceptual level of reception. Contributing to this discourse, New Media scholar and theorist Frances Dyson argues concerning the ‘sound object’ that “first – find a way of discussing and representing sound unhinged from the visual object, second, find a device (the tape recorder) that will somehow enable such a representation, and finally, mask the mediation of that device by arguing for an ontological equivalence between the reproduced sound and the original sonic source” (Dyson 54). This ontological equivalence might be difficult for a listener to establish in a nomadic condition in which a specific sound presents a multitude of amorphous listening states inside the listener’s mind, leading to a sonic explosion of object-disoriented but mood-based streams of thoughts within the nomadic listener’s consciousness.

Variation II: the nomadic listener

At this juncture, a nomadic listener floating across the post-digital milieu may interact with the background noise or the unknowledgeable sounds of nameless, placeless, and faceless flow of sound data, which inculcates a sort of ‘semantic fatigue’ so that, eventually, they seem cut adrift from the sources or origins (Demers) in the mind of the listener. The listener in this process may sensitize his or her ears to the pseudo-object of the sounds and is able to deconstruct them into his or her listening self through an evocative capacity toward a sonic explosion as streams of timeless sonic states of interconnected reveries, ruminations, and musings. The ‘unknown’ embedded in the wandering shadows of sounds is explored and given a context by the nomadic listener’s intervention into his or her appearing and diminishing, leaving object-disoriented states of feelings or moods.

Variation III: hyper-listening

Let us indulge in further philosophical musings triggered by listening in the post-digital milieu and attend to what John Cage claims to be mindful: “Silence is not acoustic. It is a change of mind” [2]. This will require us to set aside ‘epistemic’ issues of recognizing the source or ‘object’ of sound and instead focus on the subjective and inward perception of sound within the ‘self’ or ‘mindfulness’ of the nomadic listener. Following this methodology, we can examine the way in which the memory, imagination, and personal experience of the itinerant listener alter the character of sound. Taking my point of departure in the epistemological basis of sound object, I now introduce an alternative methodology of listening in the post-digital culture, which I term ‘hyper-listening’, meaning that I intend to relate to the higher-level/psychic pre/post-cognitive processes triggered by listening to the object-disoriented sounds in terms of creating thought-provoking auditory situations. This method perhaps operates on the fringe of what artist Yolande Harris (2011) explains in her doctoral thesis as creating “situations where sound can affect and activate people’s experiences in a personal way” but at the same time expands the idea of ‘experience’ to include conscious contemplation. Much of this argument resonates with Roy Ascot’s recent writings in which he speaks of “interconnectedness, nonlocality and the inclusion of consciousness” [3] embedded in new media art that includes process-based artistic practices with sound and listening. According to Ascot “Process-based art implies field awareness, in contrast to the object dependency of much art practice”. This leads to what he claims to be “the shamanic path to immersion in the spiritual domain, where interaction with psychic entities is the means, transformation of consciousness is the goal and the emergence of new knowledge the outcome” (Ascot). Much of this line of thinking may be arguable, but what is essential is the potential of inclusivity in listening. In his seminal work ‘Listening’, Jean-Luc Nancy  argues that a philosopher is one who hears but cannot listen “or who, more precisely, neutralizes listening within himself, so that he can philosophize.” (Nancy). Operating on the basis of this premise, the methodology of ‘hyper-listening’ challenges the epistemic discourse in sound that equates ‘listening’ with ‘understanding’, ‘audibility’ with ‘intelligibility’, and the ‘sonic’ with the ‘logical’. ‘Hyper-listening’ explores the contemplative and mindful potential of sonic phenomenon at the nomadic listener’s end, emphasizing the indolent mood of elevated thoughtfulness.

Finale: Mind Your Own Dizziness

Addressing a practice-based approach, I explore my ongoing project ‘Doors of Nothingness’ (2012-)[4] and a series of upcoming sound installation/interventions ‘Mind Your Own Dizziness’ (2014-) [5], which incorporate the concept of ‘hyper-listening’. Taking my point of departure in the phenomenological premises of sound, I make the subjective and personal experience the basis of these works, which frame spatial sound phenomena in their entirety, including the mental and emotive context of the listener’s situation. The thought processes activated by sonic phenomena arguably transcend the epistemic comprehension of the source identity of sound toward outlining the auditory situation in a context that delineates the sound events beyond immediately accessible meanings, expanding on and transcending the existing knowledge structure. The works rely on intuitiveness in listening rather than the reasoning involved in deciphering the meaning of ‘aural objects’. The strong belief in inward contemplation, subjectivity, and enhanced ‘selfhood’ available to a nomadic listener (because of his or her ability to free the ears of object specificity, whether spatial, temporal, or locative) mean that the project on one hand explores the personal or private nature of listening while on the other hand engaging with the emergent sonic practices of the implicit post-digital culture.



[1] Graham Harman quotes Husserl, in Kimbell, Lucy. “The Object Fights Back: An Interview with Graham Harman”. Design and Culture 5(1): 103-117 (2013).

[2] See ‘Where the Heart Beats: John Cage, Zen Buddhism, and the Inner Life of Artists’ by Maria Popova, here: http://www.brainpickings.org/index.php/2012/07/05/where-the-heart-beats-john-cage-kay-larson/

[3] See ‘Technoetic Pathways toward the Spiritual in Art’ by Roy Ascot, here: http://www.facebook.com/notes/roy-ascott/technoetic-pathways-toward-the-spiritual-in-art/10151612039371073

[4] See project page here: http://budhaditya.org/projects/doors-of-nothingness/

[5] See project page here: http://budhaditya.org/projects/doors-of-nothingness/mind-your-own-dizziness/


Works cited:

Altman, Rick. Sound Theory/Sound Practice. New York: Routledge, 1992. (Print).

Barlingay, Surendra Sheodas. A Modern Introduction to Indian Aesthetic Theory: The Development from Bharata to Jagannåatha. New Delhi: D. K. Print World, 2007. (Print)

Cascone, Kim. “The Aesthetics Of Failure: ‘Post-Digital’ Tendencies in Contemporary Computer Music”. Computer Music Journal 24.4 Winter (2002). (Web)

Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. “Auditory Situations: Notes from Nowhere”. Journal of Sonic Studies 4 (Special Issue: Sonic Epistemologies) (2013). (Web)

Chattopadhyay, Budhaditya. “Doors of Nothingness.” In jərˈmān June edition (2012). (Web)

Dayal, Geeta. “Sound art”. theoriginalsoundtrack.com, 2013. (Web)

Demers, Joanna. “Field Recording, Sound Art and Objecthood”. Organised Sound 14.1 (2009): 39-45. (Web)

Dyson, Frances. Sounding New Media: Immersion and Embodiment in the Arts and Culture. University of California Press, 2009. (Print)

Harris, Yolande. Scorescapes: On Sound, Environment and Sonic Consciousness. PhD thesis, Academy for Creative and Performing Arts, Faculty of Humanities, Leiden University, 2011. (Web)

Helles, Rasmus; Jensen, Klaus Bruhn. Introduction to the special issue ‘Making data-Big data and beyond. First Monday, Volume 18, Number 10 – 7 October, 2013. (Web)

Kallinikos, Jannis, Aaltonen, Aleksi, and Marton, Attila. “A Theory of Digital Objects”. First Monday 15.6 (7 June 2010). (Web)

Lohr, Steve. “The Age of Big Data”. The New York Times. 11 February (2012). (Web)

Metz, Christian. “Aural Objects,” trans. Georgia Gurrieri. Yale French Studies 60: 24-32 (1980). (Print)

Morley, David and Robins, Kevin. Spaces of Identity: Global Media, Electronic Landscapes and Cultural Boundaries. London and New York: Routledge, 1995. (Print)

Nancy, Jean-Luc. Listening. (Trans. Charlotte Mandell). New York: Fordham University Press, 2007. (Print)

Negroponte, Nicholas. “Beyond Digital”. Wired, December Issue 6.12 (1998). (Web)

Pepperell, Robert and Punt, Michael. The Postdigital Membrane: Imagination, Technology and Desire. Bristol: Intellect Books, 2000. (Print)


Budhaditya Chattopadhyay

6 thoughts on “Object-disoriented sound: listening in the post-digital culture

  1. Hi Budhaditya

    Thanks for your paper which I thought had developed well from what I remember of your short version. I have gone through and made some comments and notes in word and will happily email those to you if it is helpful.

    I’m not a good proof reader but picked out some places where the language does not flow or quite make sense. I tend not to like or see the purpose in saying things like “in my own understanding” (paragraph 4) as it is a redundancy. It would be a good idea to get someone to proof it properly for you.

    General comments.

    Overall this is an engaging and stimulating read that manages to contextualise your research in relationship to the post-digital. This does however make it feel a little forced at times and maybe references to your research (such as the bottom of paragraph 3 – are precisely the area of interrogation and praxis in my current ‘post-digital’ research.) could be rephrased so the paper stands alone a little more.

    That said my strongest recommendation is that you extend the Finale so that someone reading this without knowing the work can better understand what you saying. This might be possible with embedded audio documentation but perhaps a simple description of the installation would be good to include as well. I finished that section feeling it was a rushed and I needed to know more.

    Sections I had trouble with and feel need some amendments.

    Paragraph 6
    “Cultural components like images and sounds travel through this dispersed space in mutual interaction, influencing and infusing each other,…”

    I wonder why you widen the field of inquiry here to include images. It seems to beg the question why you are addressing only sound and not the nature of digitally dislocated media?

    “and engaged in conflict with the purely digital contents within an imminent convergent culture.”

    I’m wondering what you see as being purely digital in this context given the assumed analogue nature of listening? Later you discuss the digitization of field recordings as part of a creative/ consumptive cycle but then don’t include the analogue-ization of perception.

    Paragraph 8
    “I, however, perceive this as a failure of a pervasive digital media technology to identify, structure, and archive the transient and elusive sound field from the nameless, placeless, and faceless background world of data.”

    I wonder how robust this comparison is, the glitch arguably being one of background data brought to the fore? Wouldn’t this then make the glitch sound art part of the pd aesthetic as Cascone claims?

    Paragraph 8
    “These invisible digital objects,”
    Can you use a word other than object here as it is unclear – do you use it in the sense of artefact or object-hood?

    “carrying multitude of sound contents, problematize their (sound’s) object-hood, rendering them more as ephemera than even artifacts.”
    What is especially ephemeral about artefacts? Do you mean digital artefacts?

    Paragraph 9
    “augmented space of an interactive installation”
    This doesn’t seem a strong example as I can think of many examples where the sound is generated in the installation and is only dislocated by the distance between the processor and the speaker. Can you be more specific about the type of installation?

    “situation for the re-embodied’
    I don’t understand why is it re-embodied?

    “The post-digital sonic discourse essentially”
    Suggest you change to sonic otherwise all pd is about audio.

    “over greater mobility and interactivity leads”
    This doesn’t read clearly can it be rephrased?

    “sound’s object-disoriented behavior upon transient listening.”

    Suggest you change to – sound’s object-disoriented affect on transient listening behavior.
    Paragraph 11
    “In his seminal writings, for instance in the famous article”
    I generally don’t see much point in referencing things as famous. Why is it relevant?

    This paragraph is all good and clear but I wonder how this is different from sight which might be considered even more disoriented as the light falling on an object originates elsewhere and so is not a property of the object at all?

    Hope thats helpful! Best James

    1. Hi James,

      Thanks for the helpful comments! I do appreciate. The language correction and other revision of the piece are forthcoming.



  2. Hi Budhaditya,
    I wasn’t suppose to review your piece, but did it anyway by mistake, and I don’t regret it :-). Your text was an interesting read, and I agree with James that you have moved things further. I see that some of my review comments match his, but anyway here they come:

    Thank you for your article. I enjoyed reading it, and I appreciate your attempt to include a ‘mindful’ aspect of listening, and the discourse around digital sound.

    I have a few comments that mostly address how this message comes across.

    Most significantly, I think the introduction could be improved. You say it is about ‘mindfulness’, and that you have a concern about this, but as a reader I’d like to know why? What assumptions are you addressing/critiquing? Why/how is this related to the ‘post-digital’ culture (and not just a digital culture?) And, what will I (as a reader) get from reading this article? What I get from the article is a an introduction to other modes of listening, and perhaps you could build up this expectation in the introduction?

    In the introduction you also refer to your own ‘post-digital’ research. Firstly, it is not clear why your research is post digital. Secondly, as a reader you are much more interested in the article than your research.

    Picking up on the ‘post-digital’: What is your critique of Cascone (I am referring to the phrase “I, however…”)? It seems as if you one the one hand speak of your interest in a post-digital and ‘nomadic’ culture of listening, and on the other, you also want to do away with a post-digital discourse (Cascone)? I think you ought to elaborate on why you perceive failures of machines and software as a failure “to identify, structure, and archive the transient field from [this is a bit unclear] the nameless, placeless, and faceless background world of data”. This is partly elucidated in the next chapter, but still the relation to Cascone, and the relation between glitch and a “faceless background world of data” is unclear.

    In the introduction you bring up Harman and object-oriented ontology, you later return to a discussion and critique of sound objects. What is the relation between object orientation and object disorientation? I think this needs some clarification.

    In the last section, you mention your own work. This does not work well. Arguably, your own practice is interesting, but you do not explain why this is brought into the article. In my opinion it doesn’t do much for you – other than pointing to your practice. If you wish to include your practice, it would work much better with a more analytic approach describing the work and analytically addressing the sounds, the relation between sound and listener, etc. This could alternatively also be incorporated in the introduction. But on the other hand, I don’t necessarily need this to follow your argumentation, so you could also leave it out entirely. In my opinion, as a reader, I don’t need the references to your practice to make your writing work as an extended reflection on your practice. Many practitioners write really good texts in this way, without referencing their own work.

    On a more formal level, your footnotes need to be turned into references. I.e., you can delete them and include them in the list of “works cited”, and if necessary reference them in brackets in the text (according to the MLA style guide).
    In the list of works cited you are free to add the URLs. This is not compulsory, but as it is an online journal, it may work well.
    In your list of works cited, a minor detail are the references to the medium (Web, Print, etc.). This is usually not put in brackets in MLA.


    1. Hi Christian,

      Many thanks for the constructive remarks. I am reworking on the paper and your feedback helps a lot.



  3. Really interesting paper, clearly written and argued for, accessible also to a wider readership. My main concern is the use of the term post-digital and its application to the sonic. You define the post-digital quality of sonic arts or phenomena in terms of displacement, disorientation and more disturbingly in term of banal-ization into just background (noise?). Even though I feel that both tendencies are present and active, I would argue that displacement and disorientation are an effect of the digital revolution, while the banality of electronic music is a symptom of post-digital fatigue. In your paper, you stress the former rather than the latter, so I feel that your analysis is more applicable to the digital rather than the post-digital. In any case I would think that the reader would benefit from a more clear explication of what post-digital entails for acousmatic experience or the sonic.

    A different question has to do with the very issue of dislocation. Already with analogue recording both the sound or the music if you like that is separated from the source. In the case of our current condition dislocation is double because of digital technologies of recording and transmitting and the listener, who is living a nomadic existence, divorced from his ‘familiar’ environment. This double dislocation marks a difference for the acousmatic experience, but maybe it would be helpful to compare the two as an example.

    Minor points:
    “On the other hand, sound does indeed seem ‘less esoteric’ in this post-digital milieu because of our “newfound comfort with the immaterial world of pure data and information flowing through the cyberspace” (Dayal, quoting Gopnik).” Immateriality does not necessary translate to profanity; many scholars have pointed to the mystic appeal of ‘cyberspace’ (eg Gibson, Eric Davis).

    “This essentialism in digital revolution, which was the predominant theme of the late 1990s and early part of this millennium, starts to dissolve into an ever-growing field of intangible data and immoderate information, with Nicholas Negroponte aptly proclaiming: “Like air and drinking water, being digital will be noticed only in its absence, not by its presence. Face it – the digital revolution is over” (Negroponte 12).” The term essentialism is present four times in your paper (once in a title), but its not really clear what you mean by it and its usage is not the sames as the common philosophical use. It would be useful, to be a bit more clear by defining the term.

    1. Hi Georgios,

      Thanks for the comments. I appreciate, and try to address them in the reworked version.



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