Listening Like a Postdigital Human: The Politics and Knowledge of Noise

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Chapter in a Book

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This chapter explores how the postdigital era has or might change listening practices. Locating the productive possibilities of the postdigital human in the ways it opens up definitions of humans, machines, and the relations between the two to struggle and contestation, this chapter extends these debates to the sonic register. It begins with a brief review of postdigital literature that emphasizes the old and the new characteristics of such an era, before turning to Marx’s conception of machinery to draw out how the machine has been seen as the objectification of human intelligence. Next it considers the aesthetic and political questions about postdigital human senses, examines key works in sound studies, and briefly revisits the history of the production and reception of music in the twentieth century. This allows not only for situating the argument within the context of colonialism and anti-colonialism but also for exploring the importance of noise in rebellions and the shifting definitions of noise that took place in response to such rebellions. In some ways, digital music production eliminates noise by turning analogue signals into ones and zeros. In other ways, however, it introduces noise into the most “human” of all instruments: the voice. Here it becomes literally impossible to tell where the human ends and the digital begins.

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