Week 8: Sonic Literacy

How do the authors define sonic literacy

Comstock and Hocks first define sonic literacy as “the ability to identify, define, situate, construct, manipulate, and communicate our personal and cultural soundscapes.” They go on to describe sonic literacy in more technical terms, “as a critical process of listening to and creating embodied knowledge, of understanding our soundscapes as cultural artifacts, of achieving resonance with particular audiences, and of developing the technological literacies involved in recording, amplifying, layering, and mixing sound.”

What do Comstock and Hocks mean by critical sonic literacy

According to Comstock and Hocks, “recognizing both resonances and dissonances as cultural and individual are key to what we consider critical sonic literacy.” It is the “act of focusing on a particular sound” in the “pop video” of modern daily life. In order to critically analyze sound the listener has to create a negative space in order to truly isolate different sounds, like a deep bass or the sound of a particular instrument.

What is analytical literacy?

Analytical literacy is “where one begins to notice sound as structure that includes rhythm, as well as content.” Such sonic structures are created by modern audio mixing techniques that digitally replicate, or mirror, the reality of a certain sound. Analytical literacy is the ability to recognize that frame or structure that holds the mirror or lens to reality, and therefore makes the listener more acutely aware of it. 

The article uses the example of the modern tape recorder, introduced in North America the 1940s. It was apparently referred to as a “sound mirror” in that it “reflects an image of sound to the listener.” In plain terms, it is not the sound itself as we would hear it originally produced in real time. Rather a recording is a representation or a reflection of that original sound that bares its own critical reading; analytical literacy.

What is at least one possible benefit they argue results from doing sound projects? 

Doing sound projects and practicing sonic literacy facilitates better print writing. According to Comstock, writing for narration has made her more aware of tone and pacing. Understanding of one’s own voice can only improve the quality and realism of a narrative. 

They argue that “it’s still rare to hear an adult female voice over in an American feature film” What do you make of this assertion and section?

The assertion is, of course, a true one. When one imagines a stereotypical movie preview, the voice we automatically hear in our heads intoning “In a world” or “One man to save them all” is male. In fact it’s deeply baritone, authoritative and resonant. We seem to equate a male voice with authority. Even in films about women and marketed toward women, such as “Pride and Prejudice” or “Romeo and Juliet,” the voice over is male. In the “Pride and Prejudice” trailer the voice over sounded almost condescending, as if belittling the concerns of the characters in Jane Austen’s most familiar work. The article describes male voices as “dominating” and I would have to agree. Especially in trailers for softer, lighter films the voice of the powerful male narrator is the main focus and the voices of women and children seem muffled by comparison.




In-Class Writing About Sonic Literacy

One of my primary questions from last night’s reading assignment, “Voice in the Cultural Soundscape,” was why sonic literacy is not emphasized more in both primary and secondary education. Musical and technical production are bonafide fields of study. Students create media projects with voice overs, host student radio and create podcasts and YouTube videos. So what constitutes one as a hobby and the other as a kind of literacy worthy of academic study? How is creating a voice over narrative for a YouTube video different than narrating a documentary, for example, if both are serious, thoughtful, passionate and fact-based projects? What makes one person a “voice artist” and another an amateur with a microphone?

I felt the article never really addressed this question. It discussed sonic literacy from an academic point of view but literacy of all kinds isn’t purely academic or intellectual.

2/19 Class Activity: Typography

The two words I portrayed were “anger” and “punk or indie.” The first was obviously an emotion, the second was an identity.

For the first we were told we could use color, so I immediately chose a bright red. I chose a military-style font in large, all capital letters. I then made the text 3D so that it seemed to be projecting out into the viewer’s space.  All of the viewers except one guessed “anger.” Only one guessed fear, but I could definitely understand why.

“Punk or indie,” however, was a different matter. I’ve always associated being “indie” with being a bit nostalgic, or at least appreciating vintage style, so I chose a vintage style font accordingly. I also used all capitols and an unorthodox placement on the screen. However, I think the nuance of these choices were lost on most of the viewers, who chose either “childish” or “old.” I think this is more of a result of their not understanding the themes behind punk and indie culture rather than my aesthetic choices.

2/18 Class Activity

1) Creative Commons Image 

2) Copyrighted Image 

The image I chose was a political cartoon from 2006. Although it is a copyrighted image its purpose is inherently to commentate and to criticize. The copyright is also part of the image, so as long as I did not crop or remove that part of the image or cited the creator or original publisher of that image I am still giving credit where credit is due.

3) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lx96QodvmDY

This is a segment from the BBC that a YouTube user reposted under their own account. Technically this individual user does not own the rights to this BBC segment, nor did they presumably ask for said rights to redistribute this clip. It was not remixed for the purposes of commentary or criticism.

Steps Toward Rhetorical Analysis: Week 1

“Rhetoric,” wikipedia

The article defines rhetoric as discourse, i.e. a conversation, meant to inform an audience and improve the capabilities of the writers or speakers. Wikipedia as a platform is a kind of digital conversation between various contributors, editors, readers etc. It’s flawed certainly, but it is also an incredible constantly evolving and expanding source of knowledge that could not exist without collaboration. The central figure in Western rhetoric is Aristotle, who defined rhetoric as, “the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion.”

The five cannons of Western rhetoric are invention, arrangement, style, memory and delivery. They are the basis of teaching rhetoric and oration. As the article states, they are a guide for creating a persuasive argument. Invention is the beginning of the process in which the author decides what they would like to say. Arrangement and style are concerned with how the author presents their ideas and what tools they use to do so. Memory and delivery are concerned with the actual presentation of the information.

Aristotle’s definition of rhetoric is broad, and purposefully so. The ability to make observations and present a convincing argument using those observations is an essential skill in all fields. Scientists do it on a regular basis. Graduate students and doctoral candidates applying for research grants do it regardless of their area of study. The ability to make a point clearly and to use the information at your disposal in order to do so is the most basic and necessary tool of communication.


Laura Bolin Carroll’s “Backpacks vs Briefcases: Steps toward Rhetorical Analysis”

Bolin defines rhetoric as the way we use language and images in order to persuade. From what I understand of Carroll’s discussion of Bitzer’s article, a “rhetorical situation” is when rhetorical analysis is applied to media in order to solve or respond to some sort of problem. The three components of a rhetorical situation are exigence, audience and constraints. Exigence is the recognition of a problem to be solved using rhetoric. Audience is the intended recipient of the rhetorical message. Constraints refer to the limitations of the rhetorical situation that effect the exigence. It is important to understand the three components of a “rhetorical situation” in digital composing because rhetorical situations are all around us, especially in the form of advertisements. It is essential to understand the messages we create and their effects as well as the effects digital rhetoric has on our daily lives. We need to be able to be critical about source, audience and the consequences of digital compositions.

Aristotle’s “rhetorical triangle” consists of writer, reader and purpose. Writer is the source of the rhetoric and asking questions about the writer helps the reader, or the audience of the rhetoric, determine whether the source is credible. The purpose of the rhetoric helps the reader understand what the rhetoric is intended to achieve. The rhetorical triangle is similar to Bitzer’s components of a rhetorical situation because it encourages the analyst to question the source of rhetoric as well as its intended audience in order to come to a conclusion about its intended message. As Carroll points out, rhetorical analysis is about determining credibility and that is an essential life skill in general.

Since I began my path to an IMS minor I have found myself asking questions about media in casual contexts. When I watch television I analyze the visual elements of commercials—the lighting, the subject and how it is displayed, the colors and the camera angles— as well as the music and other audio elements, the network on which it is aired and the sponsor. From there I find myself making conclusions about the intended audience or the angle the writers and composers of the media were attempting to manipulate in order to sell an idea to a viewer. I have come to realize that advertising is less about the sale of a product or the promotion of a cause then a sales pitch to people in their living rooms about an idea. The sale of what the cause or product represents (or rather what the seller wants it to represent) is more important even than the product itself.