Academic journal article Taboo

Sonic Cartography: Mapping Space, Place, Race, and Identity in an Urban Middle School

Academic journal article Taboo

Sonic Cartography: Mapping Space, Place, Race, and Identity in an Urban Middle School

Article excerpt

This article began as an exploration of the ways in which sounds can be utilized to understand urban educational contexts. My interest in this intersection has manifest in a longitudinal interpretive study that examines how writing songs about academic content about science might help mitigate race and gender gaps in science for urban students in Northeast Ohio. This study was conceived in light of contradictions between national concerns about a general lack of science knowledge in the United States in schools (e.g., Dye, 2004; Holland, 2009) and far less frequent discussions of continuing racial gaps as and still under-reported gender gaps in science knowledge in P-12 education and science professions (e.g., Huang & Fraser, 2009; Prime & Miranda, 2006). I wondered if processes of music-making might serve as a curricular tool (on cultural tools and toolkits, see Swidler, 2001) to help students better understand and be more interested in science content. I was similarly interested in whether or not this curricular tool could serve as a lens for the meanings about science their songs contained and what might be learned about middle grades classrooms through its use (see Cockburn, 2000; Hudak, 1999). While this article focuses on the case of Ricky, a student in one of four classrooms, approximately 70 students from across these four contexts participated in this study over the course of the 2009-2010 academic year.

Although it is not possible to disentangle the content of one's talk from the way in which one speaks and/or again from the movements that accompany one's talk (for a particularly elegant discussion of this entanglement, see Erickson, 2004), I focus here on how sounds form local and less local geographies (of. Brandt, Duffy & MacKinnon, 2009; Feld, 1996; Iseli, 2004; Leitner, 1998; Sterne, 2005). In the same ways that music in a car creates sound spaces that supersede the physical boundaries of the vehicle's interior (Bull, 2001) or headphones alter a person's migration through physical geographies (Thibaud, 2003), the distance voices carry enunciate the boundaries of learning places that can be within or beyond physical boundaries of classroom walls (Gershon, 2011a).

Sounds serve as a sociocultural means for the empirical and theoretical understanding of places, histories, and peoples (e.g., Bull & Back, 2004; Erlmann, 2004, 2010; Kim-Cohen, 2009; M. M. Smith, 2004; Sterne, 2003). Similarly, sounds can be the means, focus, and locus of qualitative research (Bauer, 2000; Drobnick, 2003; Erlmann, 2004; Feld & Brennis, 2004; Makagon & Neumann, 2009; Samuels, Meintjes, Ochoa, & Porcello, 2010). The viability of such sonic understandings and possibilities in studies of educational contexts has also been established (e.g., Aoki, 1991; Dimitriadis, 2009; Gershon, 2011b; McCarthy, Hudak, Miklaucic, & Saukko, 1999; Powell, in press; Stovall, 2006). In all cases, these are critical discussions of how sounds constitute spaces, places, and identities, a discussion that necessarily attends to questions of norms and normalizing, of sociocultural ideas and ideals.

Of equal importance are the ways in which the mapping of these sound fields (1) is a form of narrative cartography. As Dennis Wood (2010) presents and Katharine Harmon (2004, 2009) and Lex Bhagat and Lize Mogel (2008) document, maps do not necessarily have to be, nor from the point of critical geography are they ever (e.g., Harvey, 2002; Soja, 1989), objective sets of factual information--maps tell stories. Here, following in the footsteps of sensory ethnography (Pink, 2009), sound studies (Pinch & Bijsterveld, 2011; Sterne, 2012), and sonic ethnography (Gershon, 2012), these narratives are presented sonically, a possibility I am calling sonic cartography. While it is certainly possible to envision future versions in which sound maps are not accompanied by contextualizing text, my choice to do so here lies at the intersection of ethics and methodology because the textual information provides both transparency into process and contexts, important factors in allowing the reader/listener to more clearly delineate between local actors' lives and my interpretations of those lives. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.