Listening, Corporeality, Place and Presence

Listening, Corporeality, Place and Presence

Susan Turner (Napier University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-020-2.ch009
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Abstract

This chapter considers the role of sound, and more specifically, listening, in creating a sense of presence (of “being there”) in “places” recreated by virtual reality technologies. We first briefly review the treatment of sound in place and presence research. Here we give particular attention to the role of sound in inducing a sense of presence in virtual environments that immerse their users in representations of particular places. We then consider the phenomenology of listening, the nature of different types of listening, and their application: listening is active, directed, intentional hearing, and is not merely egocentric, it is body-centric. A classification of modes of listening that draws on work in film studies, virtual reality, and audiology is then proposed as a means of supporting the design of place-centric virtual environments in providing an effective aural experience. Finally, we apply this to a case study of listening in real and simulated soundscapes, and suggest directions for further applications of this work
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Introduction: Sound, Sense Of Place And Presence

Studies of sense of place and allied concepts, such as spirit of place, place identity, and place attachment, are distributed across the literature of phenomenological and social geography (the classic work of Relph, 1976, Tuan, 1977, among others) environmental psychology (e.g., Canter, 1997), cultural and leisure studies (e.g., Haldrup & Larsen, 2006; Jorgenson & Stedman, 2001), and philosophy (from Aristotle to Bachelard, 1994 and Casey, 1997). Throughout, the material characteristics of the physical space are treated as intrinsic to sense of place, comprising not merely the natural or manmade landscape, but sights, smells, and sounds. As Tuan observes, sound serves to delineate the dimensions of a place; to create a sense of its size and the relative distance of objects within it from the observer. Further, places have their own characteristic sounds, some of which serve to identify a particular sort of place – the conversation, keyboard clicks, and printer noises of a busy office, the constant thrum of a busy road, the birdsong and leaf rustle of a wooded glade – others of which are unique to that place alone. This is vividly encapsulated in the US National Public Radio (NPR) network’s solicitation of “audio postcards”: “… the sound should somehow be remarkable -- the rasping of 17-year cicadas so loud it drowns out conversation; the music of church bells in the medieval German city resonating with history and spirituality and celebration; the midnight creaking and snapping of birches in the Maine woods in January eerie and otherworldly. This is sound that is not just ambience. It’s the audio equivalent of that four-color photo. It should really make listeners feel they were there.” (NPR, n.d.)

However, a detailed treatment of sound and sense of place is rare in the academic social science literature1, perhaps because much recent work has focused heavily on nonmaterial, sociocultural meanings of place. For this we must turn to the present research community, and as we shall see later, to film design. There are many possible definitions of sense of presence, some emphasizing the illusion of nonmediation in virtual environments, others the quality of being with others who are not physically present, but for our purposes here, we intend the sense of “being there” in an environment (including real environments as well as virtual environments, or the location of a movie scene, or the setting of a chapter in a novel…) even when one is physically situated in another. (Insko, 2003, Witmer & Singer, 1998).

Sound has been explored largely as a contributory factor to sense of presence: sound is better present rather than absent (Gilkey & Weisenberger, 1995; Hendrix & Barfield, 1996); usually better spatialised than not (Bormann, 2005; Hendrix & Barfield, 1996; Murray, Arnold, & Thornton, 2000; Stanney, Mourant, & Kennedy, 1998); and, generally, the more realistic (or perhaps plausible) the better. Sound is also used to suggest a location or event, rather than simply reproducing it, or to evoke a particular mood, as discussed inter alia in Robertson, de Quincey, Stapleford, & Wiggins (1998) and Sheridan (2004), and in common with other forms of mediated experience such as (video) games or movies: Kubrick’s use of Ligeti’s requiem in 2001: A Space Odyssey successfully transported us to the depths of the solar system, while John William’s theme music for Jaws created an extraordinary sense of dread, respectively. In present research that is explicitly related to sense of place2, recent sound-oriented work includes the BENOGO project (Serafin & Serafin, 2004; Turner & Turner, 2006), whose virtual, photo-realistic recreations of botanic hothouses, cityscapes, and interior environments included equally realistic audio and EMMA, where the virtual “Relaxation Island,” intended for psychotherapeutic use, was set in a soundscape of mewing seabirds and lapping waves (Freeman, Lessiter, Keogh, Bond, & Chapman, 2004).

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Table of Contents
Acknowledgment
Chapter 1
Alan Dix
Map, mazes, myths, magic, and mathematics, computation, cognition, community, and the constructed environment, all reveal something of our internal... Sample PDF
Paths and Patches: Patterns of Geognosy and Gnosis
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Chapter 2
Jon Kerridge
This chapter concerns the question of how people navigate through a space in which other people are also present. Issues addressed include how the... Sample PDF
Let's Meander Through a Measured Space
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Chapter 3
Matthew Leach
The Speckled Computing project is a large multisite research project based in Scotland, UK. The aim of the project is to investigate, prototype, and... Sample PDF
Navigating a Speckled World: Interacting with Wireless Sensor Networks
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Chapter 4
John Willy Bakke
Workplaces are key loci for expressing and studying organizational identity, even in distributed work. In organization studies, there is a growing... Sample PDF
Contested Terrain: Place, Work, and Organizational Identities
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Chapter 5
Anne Sofie Laegran
The chapter is based on a study of Internet cafés in Norway, and interrogates the way space and place is produced in interconnections between people... Sample PDF
Technosocial Space: Connecting People and Places
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Chapter 6
Lynne Hall
This chapter discusses artists’ use of virtual space to collaboratively create a digital stained-glass rose window. It explores the use of virtual... Sample PDF
Reconfiguring the Rose: An Exploration of the Use of Virtual Space by Artists Collaboratively Creating Digital Stained Glass
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Chapter 7
Elin K. Jacob
In distinguishing between space and place, one approach is to contrast the physicality of space with the sociality of place: space directs attention... Sample PDF
Context, Boundedness, and Structure: The Apprehension of Place in the Development of Information Environments
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Chapter 8
Richard Coyne
The widespread use of mobile telephony prompts a reevaluation of the role of the aural sense in spatial understanding. There are clear correlations... Sample PDF
Voice and Space: Agency of the Acousmêtre in Spatial Design
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Chapter 9
Susan Turner
This chapter considers the role of sound, and more specifically, listening, in creating a sense of presence (of “being there”) in “places” recreated... Sample PDF
Listening, Corporeality, Place and Presence
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Chapter 10
Stephen Boyd Davis
The chapter is concerned with the relationship between the planar space of graphic representations and the world space that they represent. To... Sample PDF
Representing Space: The Pictorial Imperative
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Chapter 11
Fiona Carroll
The art of the visual-narrative is not a new phenomenon. Artists and designers have been using images to tell stories for thousands of years. From... Sample PDF
The Spatial Development of the Visual-Narrative from Prehistoric Cave Paintings to Computer Games
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Chapter 12
Shaleph O’Neill
The Situationists defined the increasingly spectacularized society (The Society of the Spectacle ) as the alienation of the individual by an... Sample PDF
The Interactive Spectacle and the Digital Situationist
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Chapter 13
Shaun Lawson
People use spatial language in everyday face-to-face conversation, and we also now use such language during everyday computer-mediated interactions.... Sample PDF
Spatial Language in Computer Mediated Communication
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Chapter 14
Phil Turner
Recent years have witnessed a number of initiatives to develop technology (“memory prosthetics”) to enhance and extend human memory. Typical of... Sample PDF
Space, Place, and Memory Prosthetics
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Chapter 15
Julian Warner
This chapter is concerned with exposing the material basis for the concepts of the syntagm and paradigm from linguistics, and the message and... Sample PDF
Materializing Communication Concepts: Linearity and Surface in Linguistics and Information Theory
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Chapter 16
Sándor Darányi, Péter Wittek
Current methods of automatic indexing, automatic classification, and information retrieval treat index and query terms, that is, vocabulary units in... Sample PDF
On Information, Meaning, Space and Geometry
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About the Contributors