Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Did you hear that?


Did you hear that? Yeah, that. That noise, did you hear it? No, not the person walking by, the other noise. That humming, what is it? Oh, you didn't hear it before? Hah, good luck, now it's all you're going to hear. It's beneath all the other noises, but ever-present, underscoring everything else that goes on. Steady, constant crackling. And what about that other noise, that humming? Where's that coming from? Is it a machine running, running, running, nonstop? Doesn't it get tired? Isn't it tiring to think about?

It's interesting to stop and consider that we're never in complete silence, even when we think we are. Something is always going on around us, be it human or machine. It's almost frightening to consider what utter silence would consist of, because that would suggest a complete and utter loneliness that most of us have never faced. I once watched a documentary about prisons, and in the course of the show some  of the prisoners spoke about the ultimate punishment for acting up in prison; getting sent to solitary confinement. Of all possible punishments, this doesn't sound very threatening but, in reality, it is the most terrifying threat a person can face. People sent to solitary fight to maintain their own sanity, sometimes unsuccessfully. Most would do anything to avoid it. Interesting, isn't it? Obedience, in response to the threat of silence.


I tried out the #justlistening activity by watching the above clip from Fight Club. It's interesting what you hear when you listen with purpose.

In the clip, sound is used precisely to set the tone. Without watching, I hear the echoes people shifting uneasily in a large room. The sound is tinny, as if the walls don't absorb any of it-- perhaps a room made of cement. I hear coughing, echoes of affirmation from men, the cracking of joints, lighters being flicked on, cheering, and jeering. This is all outside of the main sound, which is Brad Pitt's monologue. Next, I hear grunts, fists making contact with skin, crashes, whoops, and then eerie, echoing music. Finally, footsteps and an upbeat track accompanying Pitt and Norton as they walk and discuss their dream fights. These sounds are all things that aren't meant to be heard but, if they didn't exist, the film would be empty.


The Truth podcast is fascinating, and I'm so glad it was recommended for this week's assignment. I was particularly intrigued by the episode titled "Dark Matter," and I'm glad I chose that one in particular because the use of sound is powerful throughout the episode. In many instances, I felt as if I were watching a TV show, but all of the images were in my head. Underscoring much of the dialogue was an eerie track, which heightened the mystery of the subject matter. In moments of dialogue, the characters didn't constantly speak directly into the microphone, some sounded closer, others further. When one person was speaking under his or her breath, you could tell. When two characters were speaking but a TV was on in the background, the illusion of dimension was powerful. The sound wasn't always crystal clear, sometimes characters sounded distant, other times there was an echo, building the illusion of someone speaking in an large room. It's amazing to consider this was done in a sound studio! What's more, I felt dragged into this story, as if I was fully immersed, as if it was much, much more than just audio. It was a dynamic and when it ended I found myself clinging to the last word. In short, I'm hooked!


You can find my blackout poetry exercise here. Check it out and let me know what you think, I had a lot of fun with the assignment.


I'm still loving the daily digital alchemies, in fact, below are the ones I have completed for this past week:


I was excited, beyond excited, to watch this week's studio visit with Howard and Mamie Rhinegold. We used one of Howard's books, Net Smart, a few semesters ago in New Media Studies, and it was an eye-opening experience to see how much the internet has expanded since its creation. We had the opportunity to Skype with Howard in New Media Studies as well, and it was such a honor to listen and talk with such an incredible mind and pioneer in the digital world. I am continually impressed by the amount he has accomplished in his career, and how much progress he has seen.

It was also very cool to listen to Mamie as well, as she spoke about how she was surrounded by her father's influence her entire life and at first reacted against it, until she got older and was able to understand how important his work was. As children, we don't often realize how much we are shaped by our parents, or how lucky we may be to be surrounded by the opportunities that we take for granted. I used to tease my father every week as he went off to supervise a high school robotics club. He has since been credited as an influence by kids who have gone to MIT and graduated as engineers. I myself am now fascinated by coding and I wish I had listened more back then!

Getting back to the studio visit, our reach, due to the Internet, can be far more powerful than we expect. Our "virtual communities" can be comprised of people that we have never met, and may never meet face-to-face, but these communities have radically changed our definition of the term "public sphere." One post on the internet can go around the world in the matter of a few hours. Once upon a time, "public" had much smaller implications. Now "public" can be global. Especially in this time of political dissent, public spheres and public opinion can be heavily swayed by virtual communities.
"Whether twenty people or twenty thousand people pay attention to you, the important thing is agency and participation. You are not just one of the millions of people who are fed what a few people create for you, you are, in some way, a creator of culture."             -Howard Rhinegold
We have been given such a huge opportunity with the technology that we have access to, and it's becoming more and more important to use it responsively and constructively. Now, everyone with access to the internet has a way to express themselves. This can either be used to help, or to harm. Why not use it to do great things?

1 comment:

  1. Marissa,
    Thanks for making me think further about the relationship between silence and what we experience as loneliness. It seems to me that it is the fear of loneliness that makes us dislike silence. But silence can be peace too. Silence can also be the prelude to inner peace.

    I am loving your #dda contributions...the transformation one was adorable!

    Your final quote from Howard is definitely a highlight from the hangout. We must seize the empowerment in being creators (not just consumers) of culture! Hopefully, #NetNarr is like an vitamin boost in remembering that truth in this new cultural landscape..