Geographical Applications for Sound Walks
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Geography has long been a predominantly visual discipline, but recent work in geography has sought to explore the multisensory, embodied, emotional and affective dimensions of people’s relations with places. One way to engage this type of exploration is through the use of sound walks: walks along a specified route accompanied by a soundtrack (on headphones or stationary speakers) that conveys information, enacts a story, produces an ambience or atmosphere, or illuminates certain aspects of the environment through which the listener is walking. This thesis aims to show how geographers can benefit from using sound walks as thinking tools, representational tools and teaching tools. Drawing on my own experiences producing sound walks, I first examine the ways that sound walk production processes help generate productive geographical thinking for those producing sound walks (Chapter Two). The various stages of producing a sound walk require different skill sets, pose different challenges, and require different sorts of environmental awareness, and therefore present novel opportunities for developing geographical insights about specific places or spatial relations. Second, I focus on four experientially-oriented aspects of sound walks – using multiple senses, walking, contingency, and moments of interaction – to argue that sound walks can be useful representational tools for geographers, whether those creating sound walks subscribe to a representational or non-representational theory of knowledge (Chapter Three). The value of sound walks as representational tools is in the experience of ‘doing’ them. That is, audiences discover for themselves through interaction what is being represented, rather than having it delivered to them. The experiential elements of ‘doing’ sound walks recommend them as potentially helpful representational tools for geographers. Third, by examining the work of a small sample of fourth year “Advanced Geography of Music” students, I develop the argument that sound walks can be effective tools for teaching students and for creating circumstances for students to learn independently (Chapter Four). Sound walks have potential to be effective pedagogical tools because they are commensurate with several key pedagogical schools of thought that emphasise the importance of requiring students to engage actively with their environment using a combination of senses. The thesis demonstrates that sound walks are a worthwhile resource for geographers to use theoretically, representationally and pedagogically in their work. The next step is for geographers to put them into practice and realize this potential.