Democracy of the Senses…
In the news this week was a fascinating story about the world’s quietest room. The anechoic chamber at Orfield Laboritories holds this peculiar title. Perhaps even more curious is the news that this very very very quiet room is so uncomfortable for humans that no one can stay there for longer than 45 minutes. It simply becomes too disturbing.
I couldn’t help but think about Les Back’s wonderful book The Art of Listening. One of the ideas that he toys with is that of the democracy of the senses. He is concerned that academic work, sociology in particular, is too focussed on representations. All this noise with no one listening. Urging us to spend more time closely considering what is going on. He calls for research and writing to respond to a democracy of the senses.
I hold a lot of interest in this idea. I am fascinated by our visual culture but hugely concerned that we overlook so much information in our obsession for visual data.
The anechoic chamber highlights how powerful our hearing can be, but more importantly how much noise we live with and disregard and overlook.
I certainly feel that academic work, with rich detail about colour, smell, texture, and taste gives us a great insight into the worlds in which we are making our enquiries. For me it provides a connection to the everyday lives of those people we are striving to understand. Those people who, whatever our own interests may be, have their own stories which need to be listened too.