A fleeting exclusion: space and the city

The fleeting and temporal trait of sound and its direct relation to space in the scape of the city reflects the experience of location-based mobile media. An awareness of the prominent positioning of sound, which is often overshadowed by the visual, is brought to the forefront in the embodied active experience of walking to the remix of designed sound or sound art through the city. Listening also takes on an active role in directing movement and conducting the soundtrack of the locative experience. “Mobile music as part of the urban landscape” (Beer, 2007 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.284) creates an “experience of control” (Simun, 2009 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.284), an immersion or exclusion into/out of the multisensory city.

I question and wonder whether the potent experience of sound in immersive locative mobile activity through the city, is really one of immersion or is it that of exclusion from the city’s surroundings? Mobile music (mp3) and the use of headphones detach oneself from the public space and remove the person from the surrounding sense of sound that immerses us in location. Though the National Mall offers an interactive site-specific sound experience, the listener/walker who engages with it, loses out on the unique, momentous, temporal and fleeting sounds that that walk through time might have in store. Thus our senses are controlled, exclusion takes hold. If “sound situates man in the middle of actuality and in simultaneity” (Ong, 2000 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.288) how can one not experience exclusion in the private domain of controlled sound while outdoor in public space?

Space and our senses’ interpretation of it lies at the center of the locative media experience. While through sound “the ear is a much better analyst of space” (Motte-Haber, 2002 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) the visual creates distance and eliminates space. “We hear… the presence of atmosphere” (Toop, 2004 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) while “if we look at objects we perceive space as being empty, only being ‘decorated’ with objects” (Behrendt, 2012, p.288). I’d like to present the spatial aspects of the visual and aural in the work of video artist Gary Hill Around and About (1980), a relationship between sound and vision in which space is almost eliminated by the objects that reflect it while sound makes us experience that distanced space by feeling its presence.


The historic, narrative form that actionbound offers as an app for locative interaction with sound can be experienced (though I have not personally experienced it) in the likes of Soho Stories; An excellent way to preserve and document the history of certain areas and communicate it to passersby. On this note, I am yet to experience the use of such an app and hopefully will start to do so as from this week.



Behrendt, F., 2012. The Sound of Locative Media [pdf] Available at: <http://con.sagepub.com.ezproxy.brighton.ac.uk/content/18/3/283.full.pdf+html> [Accessed 2 March 2016].

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