Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity

Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity

Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity

Ubiquitous Listening: Affect, Attention, and Distributed Subjectivity

Synopsis

How does the constant presence of music in modern life--on iPods, in shops and elevators, on television--affect the way we listen? With so much of this sound, whether imposed or chosen, only partially present to us, is the act of listening degraded by such passive listening? In Ubiquitous Listening, Anahid Kassabian investigates the many sounds that surround us and argues that this ubiquity has led to different kinds of listening. Kassabian argues for a new examination of the music we do not normally hear (and by implication, that we do), one that examines the way it is used as a marketing tool and a mood modulator, and exploring the ways we engage with this music.

Excerpt

Whether we notice or not, our days are filled with listening. of course, you will object: some people more than others, some countries more than others, some economies more than others, and this is true. But a colleague told me he heard music in a supermarket on a dirt road in South Africa, so let us not leap to conclusions about the lives of others. Nonetheless, I will be happy here to think about England and the United States, the two countries where I’ve lived, and to a lesser extent, Canada and western Europe, where I have frequently traveled and have discussed these issues with colleagues and students.

Ubiquitous Listening is about the listening that fills our days, rather than any of the listenings we routinely presume in musicology, sociology, media studies, and elsewhere. the problem I am addressing is not a disciplinary one—it crosses fields and disciplines blithely. How do we listen to the music we hear everywhere, and how does that listening engage us and activate the world we move in?

My basic thesis is this, put bluntly: Ubiquitous musics, these musics that fill our days, are listened to without the kind of primary attention assumed by most scholarship to date. That listening, and more generally input of the senses, however, still produces affective responses, bodily events that ultimately lead in part to what we call emotion. and it is through this listening and these responses that a nonindividual, not simply human, distributed subjectivity takes place across a network of music media.

Since these six terms—ubiquitous musics, affect, the senses, attention, listening, and distributed subjectivity—are at the core of everything that follows, they bear some defining.

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