The Audiovisualities Laboratory aims to provide a structure for encouraging teaching and research in the booming field of sound studies, complementing and challenging the existing primacy of visual studies. It offers a privileged space for research gathering of undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty, around a series of topics approached through specific classes, seminars, and workshops. Housed at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Audiovisualities is directed by Duke faculty Guo-Juin Hong and Jacqueline Waeber.
Sound studies have now emerged as a major area of research in cultural and social studies. Omnipresent yet transient and ephemeral in our daily environment, sound poses issues in that it cannot be “seen” — only heard, and felt. The ineffable nature of aurality as well as the variety of sound origins — whether originating from nature, or from human technology, explains why its study is necessarily grounded in interdisciplinary approaches and methodologies. By situating sound studies and visual studies together at the center of a pluridisciplinary nexus, this Humanities Laboratory engages with film theories and moving image practices, musicology and ethnomusicology, media studies, literature, philosophy and history, cultural anthropology, as well as cognitive psychology and neuroscience, ecology and environmental studies—to name just a few.
As the inaugurating semester in Fall 2013, three affiliated undergraduate courses will be offered — First-Year Seminar on Audiovisualities, Introduction to Film Studies, and Sounds of the South — in anticipation for two other offerings in the Spring: Sound, Music and the Moving Image, and Electronic Music and Video. Collaborations with graduate students and faculty members from multiple disciplines, especially those in Music and the MFA Program in Documentary and Experimental Arts, will be formed, while various seminars and performances will be organized to begin collective inquiries into audiovisualities both in theory and practice.
These are not done in search of any neat but forced “synergy.” Rather, we hope to lay the grounds for future studies and practices that understand image and sound together as two major sensoria whose interconnected and sometimes contentious relationships shed new light on human experience.
The core commitment of the Humanities Labs is to engage undergraduates in advanced research alongside faculty and graduate student mentors/collaborators. Organized around a central theme, each Lab brings together faculty and students from the humanities and other disciplines in interdisciplinary, vertically integrated research projects. Lab participants work in physical spaces at the Franklin Humanities Institute that are designed to foster both formal collaboration and informal exchange. Shared technological resources enable the Labs to experiment with new research methods, new lines of inquiry, and new ways of engaging with public audiences at Duke and beyond.