Technological Cultures of Sound is a research line within the Maastricht University Science, Technology and Society Studies (MUSTS) research program, which is also connected to a number of of sound-related teaching projects in various education programs of Maastricht University’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
Our research line asks about the role of sound in society and culture, and does so from the understanding that sound is increasingly technologically produced and mediated, and that listening practices are socially and historically situated. The Sonic Skills project is part of this line of research – you can find information about other research projects below.
The role of sound, and the ways in which we listen, are subject to historical transformation and are strongly intertwined with technological developments, but it is not a simple case of technology-driven change: the technologies do not pop out of thin air and influence how we listen, but are embedded in social relations and cultural practices. For example, the listening practices of doctors (and indeed, the importance of listening in medicine) fundamentally changed with the introduction of the stethoscope, but its influence was not a given when it was first invented; it had to be integrated into existing clinical practices, embedded into the teaching routines for doctors-to-be, and expressed in new ways of communicating about sound. Similarly, recording technologies had obvious implications for the production, distribution and consumption of music, but they, too, had to be aligned with existing values and practices.
Our research deals with questions such as: how did sound become orchestrated as a public problem, as expressed in the anti-noise movements of the twentieth century? Indeed, what cultural meanings did the inhabitants of cities give to their sonic surroundings in different time periods? How on earth has it been become possible that we value the car as a place in which to find peace and quiet, or to listen to our favourite music as if it is a mobile listening booth, even though it was still a highly noisy vehicle at the start of the twentieth century? And what is the role of sound in science? Scholarly publications rarely mention the listening skills of scientists, but does that mean that listening indeed doesn’t play a role, or only that it is often purged from the final write-ups? Do people listen differently in different situations and contexts? The projects assembled in the research line of Technological Cultures of Sound address such questions on the role of sound in technological culture.
Some recent research projects include:
Listening on display – for more information see here.
Talking You Through: Traffic Information and Car Radio, 1950s-now – for more information see here.
A new baroque organ for the 21st century – for more information see here.
Selling sound: the standardization of sound in the European car industry and the hidden integration of Europe – more information see here.
Soundscapes of the urban past: staged sound as mediated cultural heritage – for more information see here.
The ring of machines: technology and the history sound in Western European cities, 1875-1975 – more information see here.
Sound Technologies & Cultural Practices – more information see here.