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THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF SOUND STUDIES Edited by Trevor Pinch and Karin Bijsterveld OXFORD NEW KEYS TO THE WORLD OF SOUND TREVOR PINCH AND KARIN BIJSTERVELD 1. INTRODUCTION We were sitting in the Tudor Arms, S ‘ockholm, recently voted as “the best British pub in the world"—outside of Great Brit in. With oak-paneled walls, wooden beams, nooks and crannies, warm beer, and special British culinary delights such as steak and mushroom pie, the Tudor Arms is a perfect emulation of a pub. We were with two friends, Thomas and Otto, one Swedish, one German. The discussion was getting heated; the topic was the SoundEar. ‘The Sound¥ar isa special device found in many kindergartens in Scandinavia, Itisa box that displays an outline ear with green glowing LEDs that can be attached toa classroom wall. The SoundEar measures sound.' When the noise in the class- room is at or below a predetermined level, the ear glows green. When the noise reaches 10 decibels above this level, the inner part of the ear glows amber; if the noise continues at this level or above for longer than ten seconds, the ear will glow red, The kids have been warned: Be quiet! Otto had encountered this device when his child first entered Swedish kinder garten. He had noticed that the kids had shut up as soon as the ear turned amber, For Otto, who was used to rowdy German kids and their teachers’ use of more tra ditional means of keeping order, it was a telling example of the difference betwe Swedish and German society. In public places the Swedes liked to be “civilized. Even on the train home to the suburbs of Stockholm, where he lived, he had observed older school kids monitoring the behavior of younger kids and telling 4 THE OXFORD HANDBOOK OF SOUND STUDIES them to pipe down if they were too loud. Thomas quietly asserted that Otto was missing the point, The SoundEar was a safety device that had been introduced into all’ ng of school employees. This atention to noise in the workplace was actually a sign of Swedish prog ness. Of course, it might bea means of discipline, but Thomas pointed out that this vedish schools by the caring state to protect the h nuldn’t want more head is what hard hats at a building site do and surely Otto w injuries. Otto wasn’t buying this argument, however. He claimed that the kids at first took no notice of the SoundEar and that their natural inclination was just to talk louder as their excitement rose, Thomas conceded that the SoundEar some times didn't work properly or was switched off in the realization that teachers sometimes just couldn’t stop the kids from beingkids. As Otto and Thom. we realized that th e almost silent The Tudor Arms was a p argued, pub had becor emulation of a British pub except for on: -veryone was looking our way. ing, In Britain the noise gets louder as the evening wears on and more and more beer is consumed. In Sweden that crescendo never comes! ‘We wondered, was this the future of pubs? Once the pub would have been full rywhere (except for Berlin, as Otto proudly pointed of cigarette smoke; now pub: ‘are smoke free, Will new laws and polices eventually be enacted to control sound in public spaces? Will one day machines like the Sound] ar glow everywhere? And the SoundEar is starting to glow in other places. The largest market for sales is, hospitals in the United States. Patients who are coming out of anesthe e- cially sensitive to sound. Furthermore, as Hillel Schwartz points out in this volume, hospitals, which were once islands of silence, are getting noisier and noisier, and one of the major contributors to the increased cacophony are technologies, whether the humming of ventilators or the beeping of monitoring equipment. The SoundEar helps maintain a quiet environment for certain patients, Researchers ‘the use of the SoundEar during surgery: It has been claimed that a percentage of gical error arises from unwanted noise in the operating room. This true story” of our encounter with the SoundEar captures some of the main themes in this book. Modernity has brought about developments in science, tech nology, and medicine and at the same time increasingly new ways of producing, storin also explor nd reproducing sound. Sound is no longer just sound; it has technologically produced and mediated sound. This allows it to be more easily transformed, or “transduced,” the term used by some of the authors in this book, Transduction turns sound into something accessible to other senses. The SoundEar turns sound into sight. Of course, we should not forget (as Jonathan Sterne and Mitchell Akiyama point out in their chapter), that the human ear itself is a tran: ducer, turning sound into vibrations that then become nerve impulses that are registered in the brain. Yet now that techn we would like to foreground 1 des of transduction are everywhere, appropriation and consequences in science, society, and culture as important topics for study Sound is no longer produced only by humans and nature, for machines roar everywhere and technologies not only measure sound in a myriad of new ways but also product ulate sounds, such as in video games and movies. New sources