lecture by Michael Bull

Spatial structures are the dreams of society. Whenever the hieroglyph of any such spatial structure is decoded, the foundation of the social reality is revealed. (Kracauer)

For the first time in history, the majority of citizens in western culture possess the technology to create their own private mobile auditory world through the use of a range of mobile sound technologies. Contemporary urban culture is one in which we increasingly use communication technologies to control and manage our experience of the urban environment. The automobile, mobile phone and MP3 player have progressively transformed the meaning of what it is like to live in urban culture. Their use represents a fully mediated culture in which increasingly large parts of our experience are constructed through the use of these mobile communication technologies. It is a culture of auditory mobility in which the privatising impulse of Western culture has come to a state of maturity. The use of media technologies and the spaces of the city become intimately intertwined, media use is increasingly amorphous and mobile whilst urban space is largely mediatised. In this lecture I argue that we increasingly live in a hyper-post-Fordist culture in which urban subjects construct what they imagine to be their own individualised schedules of daily life – their own daily soundtrack of media messages, their own soundscape as they move through shopping centres, their own work out sound track as they modulate the movement of their bodies in the gym. Urban subjects increasingly move through space in their auditory bubble, on the street, in their automobiles, on public transport. In tune with their body, their world becomes one with their “sound tracked” movements; moving to the rhythm of their music rather than to the rhythm of the street. In tune with their thoughts – their chosen music enables them to focus on their feelings, desires and auditory memories. The lecture argues that it is no longer possible to adequately understand the nature of urban culture without also understanding the nature and meaning of the daily use of mobile communication technologies.

appearance at Tuned City
public and private soundscapes / 03.07.08