Provoke! A Special Collection of Digital Sound Studies

Cross-posted on Innovating Communication in Scholarship

Screen-Shot-2015-01-06-at-12.05.12-PM-e1420564088283Provoke!  published its first online collection of sonic scholarship, making scholarly communication just a little noisier. As the editors write:

“Provoke! creates a home for creative-critical projects by makers, documentary artists, and sound scholars whose work presses at the boundaries of scholarship. Envisioned as ‘provocations’ to existing forms of publication, these projects relate to one another through their deep engagement with sonic materials and innovative formal presentation….

The editors, known collectively as Soundbox, wish to see audio material featured more abundantly and creatively in scholarly settings. At the heart of our collaboration is a bold aspiration to hear sound used as a primary means of knowledge production.”

Their website privileges listening. Hovering one’s cursor over different projects triggers related sound. The range of scholarship and approaches are impressive. Perhaps the challenges of working between media and fields of expertise fostered frequent collaboration. Dancers, composers, ethnomusicologists, curators, sound artists and others worked together. The pieces include “a city symphony of sounds” collected before the 2010 earthquake in Port-Au Prince; recordings from a music studio set up in the Richmond, VA jail; and an audio effects processor, Paperphone, for giving scholars tools to ‘sonify’ their presentations.

As part of Paperphone’s debut at the UCLA, I had agreed to become one of experimenters. Using the MaxLive software plug-in, I performed “Mixtape Rio,” weaving together soundscapes I recorded with my vocal narration. Everyone’s varying uses of the software revealed and opened up new possibilities for scholarly communication and artistic creation.

But, what of credit and evaluation for this kind of scholarship? How does the work register as scholarship and what challenges does it present for the standardized peer-review model of publishing? Support and guidance from well-respected individuals and institutions helps; Duke’s Franklin Humanities Institute and PhD Lab in Digital Knowledge sponsored the initiative. Also, the online iteration of Provoke! Digital Sound Studies will be followed by an edited volume to be published by Duke in Fall 2015. Perhaps, these multiple modes of publishing can work together to strengthen and push the possibilities for scholarship– sonic or otherwise.

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