Waste media pedagogy: Soundscape composition as responsive spatial practice

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Soundscape composition
Media education
Waste management
Listening publics

Historically, the primary aim of modern recording technique has been to control the social context in which recording happens. Modern recording technique implements a way of listening that conceptually and spatially suppresses noises that indicate the social context of studio production. While this provides technical efficiency, it displaces political questions and ethical considerations, discursively rendering production practice an activity without social consequences. Rather than teaching recording as nothing more than the technical task of operating devices and “engineering” sound, it is possible for the production studio to support a listening public and become hospitable to a wider range of social concerns. This thesis combines the fields of soundscape composition and media education to explore pedagogical opportunities encountered by focusing on "waste"—the spatial practices, material possibilities, and social meanings gathered around it. The thesis explores “disposability” and “responsibility” as ways that recording practices negate and engage the social production of Vancouver’s livability and the immateriality of the digital realm on which it depends as a global city. Researching a youth art project, this thesis reports how waste figured as a thing for organizing improvisation, and how composing with waste brought together people and places normally kept separate. It is proposed that composing with waste can focus media production as a public practice, encouraging producers in the studio to listen out to compose with those people, things, ideas, and histories that are regularly excluded, displaced, and forgotten in striving to keep intact the cohesive social space supporting Vancouver’s current formulation of a livable city.

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Stuart R. Poyntz
Barry Truax
Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication
Thesis type: 
(Thesis) M.A.