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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Writers Block

So I've been working on a review of the book Listening Publics for the last week or so. And I've come to a stumbling block. I think I have a good introduction, but the middle and ending are causing me some interesting challenges. I feel like I am leaving out a few important parts in my description of the book.

Ultimately what the author is arguing is we as a society view listening as a passive activity, not an active one. In actuality, listening is an active activity. But with new technologies, we are able to control who and what we listen to. This is where the problem comes in. Below is my rough draft. I hope to finish it by the weekend. Thoughts or ideas are welcomed.

         "When our society hears the term “communication”, it typically thinks of one of two areas: 1) Interpersonal communication, or 2) The medium of broadcasting. The medium of broadcasting is still in its infancy, and a number of studies have been done to better understand the effectiveness this new medium has on audiences. However with the increase of these new studies, one area of communication has fallen from the forefront of study and discussion. Yet this activity is so fundamental, that we often take it for granted. The forgotten activity is listening. If we are not good listeners, we run the risk of misunderstanding the message.
            This is the topic of a new book written by Kate Lacey entitled: Listening Publics: The Politics and Experiences of Listening in the Media Age. Lacey’s book is an engaging and thought provoking study that asks the question: “Why has listening been so over looked in recent communicational studies?” Lacey hypothesizes that listening is currently viewed as a passive activity. In actuality, listening is more of a active activity. “Despite the growth in ‘sound studies’, academic treatments of listening rarely attend to the sensory experience of listening and a political philosophy of listening. This book challenges such a restricted understanding of the listening public by identifying listening as a category that bridges both the realm of sensory, embodied experience, and the political realm of debate and deliberation.” (p. 8)

            Lacey begins her case by defining listening as: “the active direction of the sense of hearing to discern meaning from sound…” (p. 22) She then focuses on how communication is interconnected with political practices through cultural practices. For centuries, groups of individuals would gather together to discuss new ideas and policies. This became an integral part of the development of democracy. However with the rise of new technologies from the Industrial Revolution, things began to change. Phonographs, telegraphs, telephones, print, and radio began to give audiences more control over what they listened to. Individuals could return to their homes and listen in private to news, information, or entertainment.

As technology grew and developed, it began to be seen as the “great equalizer” between classes. Since information was being delivered to people in their homes, it was thought that out of a sense of duty, people would continue to listen to political discourse, and become even more engaged.  And for those who did not have the education, the broadcasting medium would teach them.

This however did not occur. As society was given more control over what they listened to they began to choose entertainment over civil discourse. “Radio needed to respond to the moment and whose ears had been ‘tortured for eight long hours by the noise of machines’, ears which were tired and worn for the delicacies of cantatas and classical odes.” (Schirokaure 1929) With educational programs not being listened to, broadcasters knew they had to make a decision. And this is where the paradigm shift began in how listening is viewed.

Listening became a passive activity. As this passivity grew, individuals began to accept being talked at more. For Lacey, this passivity in listening created three problems: “The problem of property, dialogue, and consensus-building”. (p. 169) Since listening is so interconnected with politics, this can be very dangerous. Lacey states: “the act of listening opens up a space for intersubjectivity.” (p. 179)

            A compelling argument is made for a refocus on the art of listening."


Matt Maldre said...

Everyone can hear, but few listen.

To listen is to fully digest. Listening requires not only understanding the speaker from your perspective, but also from the the speaker's perspective. When you fully digest what the speaker is saying, so much thought is created within the listener, that the listener cannot help to either feel something or to share something back.

We've become a society obsessed with happiness to the destruction of growth. Growth takes time, care, and analysis. Now we seek to simply be entertained.

That could be changing in part thanks to social media. Give this Atlantic article a read:

Matt Maldre said...

Heh. I'm looking for quotes on listening and hearing. My listening/hearing quote is pretty close to Ernest Hemmingway's: “When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Here's a few more:
“We have two ears and only one tongue in order that we may hear more and speak less.”
― Diogenes Laertius

“There's a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
― G.K. Chesterton

Peter Kreten said...

You totally nailed the entire concept of this book Matt with your quote from Diogenese Laertius. Love it!

Matt Maldre said...

The 3rd century applies to this day.