Listening to Location

Motte-Haber (1998 cited in Behrendt, 2012, p.287) points out that the “geometric description of space enforces the visual dominance of space reception”. In other words, because we can readily measure space, this makes it easier to communicate and render precisely via visual means — space then gets defined as a visual phenomena at the expense of non-visual aspects of spatial perception such as sound. Side stepping the visual bias to consider spaces sonically, foregrounds the importance of time, because without time you have no sound. This move allows for a temporal analysis of spaces or media and spaces. In such an analysis, spaces have to be considered as less bounded, with permeable boundaries unlike the “hard and fast visual constructions of space” (Behrendt, 2012, p.288). As this description of the Soho Stories locative sound app concurs; “If you move away from an area the audio fades rather than cuts out. As you move back it picks up where you left off” (Telegraph, 2012). The fade here drawing attention to the ephemerality of sound and in turn its temporality.

Considering the temporal dimension to an analysis of locative media does some good things. Firstly, it diminishes the importance of the “common focus on location” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292), when you add a temporal dimension locations become more like events. Thinking of an event, you no longer consider the body as static, instead you start to think of movement or performances or “embodied interactions” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292). The immersion in space that a sonic encounter with the world entails, also puts us, or the user, in the middle — “centre stage” (Behrendt, 2012, p.292). So one’s “situated experience” and the framing social, physical context is given primacy. This way of understanding how people, media and space work together in time is shared by Mackenzie (2003, cited in Timeto, 2013) who uses the concept of transduction. The theory is complex and multi-facted, but to take a brief quote, he describes how he considers technologies as “events happening together with people encountering their affordances on the basis of situated practices”. In this way a sonic perspective allows for analysis of locative media to find people, material places and practice in location, again.

Behrendt, F. (2012) The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18(3): 283-295.

Telegraph., (2012). Soho Stories Android app review. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 24 March 2014].

Timeto, F., (2013). Redefining the city through social software: Two examples of open source locative art in Italian urban space. First Monday, [online] Available at:<> [Accessed 16 Dec 2013].