Open Thread: Share your thoughts about #Tweetasound!
The SoundBox Team was completely blown away by the unique and creative submissions to #Tweetasound last Thursday. Our collaborators from around the country and yes, the globe, composed and/or shared more than 100 total audio files! If you weren’t able to follow along, or if you want to hear some of the wonderful recordings again, this storify includes the vast majority of the conversations and contributions.
When we dreamed up the idea of #Tweetasound, we hoped to be surprised by the results and we were not disappointed. Because we wanted the experience of tweeting in sound to feel as constrained as writing in 140 character does, we decided to impose a few limits like a 12-second rule. We also didn’t want it to feel tedious to listen to so many recordings. I think the constraints worked very well in that respect but I must admit that I ignored this rule at times, particularly when linking to already existing sonic content on the web.
Initially nervous about what to share, I ultimately felt really liberated by using the new form. I felt it was suddenly possible to communicate about things that would be very uninteresting in text. For example, @stephceraso tweeted the sounds of a flock of geese. Had she simply written “flock of chatty geese” I likely would have been uninterested. But, to be sitting in my home listening to this noisy clamour, I felt completely transported and excited about the possibilities of attention and discovery through listening. Birds were a big theme overall, which seemed fitting given the grammar of Twitter, which we had also visually punned on in our initial call:
The editorial team from SoundingOut! Blog chose to document their day in audio by recording and submitting 12 seconds every hour, on the hour, during the work day. You can listen to examples from Editor-in-Chief, Jennifer Stoever-Ackerman here. The team’s Managing Editor, Liana Silva @literarychica also offered editor’s picks from the blogs audio archive, like this one. Robin James (@doctaj) also followed a theme throughout the day, offering sounds she describes as “Semiotics of the Kitchen.” Inspired by performance artist, Martha Rossler, these delightful recordings feature the sound of a single culinary item, such as an apron, an egg, or a pizza cutter (for “P”). You can listen to her audio-project in progress here.
There were so many incredible sounds produced and a range of methods and software and hardware employed, so I will stop for now and simply invite you to join me in reflecting on what happened during the experiment (whether you were able to participate or not!). We welcome your insight into #tweetasound, great or small. From deep intellectual conclusions to recommendations for social media apps, please pipe up. We thank you all so much for your willingness to participate and for your inspiring creativity and generosity.
But first, here is a recording that Whitney, Darren, and I made during lunch on #tweetasound day. If this is any indication, your continued noise-making is welcome! I have heard from several people who were busy on the day of the event. Please feel free to continue to use the #tweetasound hashtag when you feel like making some noise. We are excited to think about how to develop an interactive digital archive that would continue to document this experiment.
[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/61949640″ iframe=”true” /]
Like Mary Caton, I too was impressed and excited by the many sounds, noises, and sonic activities of #tweetasound. I was also impressed and surprised by how easy it was to tweet certain kinds of sounds. With my iPhone and my soundcloud app, it took all of 30 seconds to walk into my backyard, records 12 seconds of bird sounds, and seamlessly load it up to twitter.
It was not so easy with already recorded sound content. While it was easy enough to use online audio sound editors like Audio Cutter by 123appz (https://mp3cut.net/)—which I used to post 12 iconic seconds of Charles Mingus—or a native application like audacity, this presented one more step in the process. Moreover, I couldn’t figure out a way to do it on the go. Once I was so frustrated with my attempts at putting up 12 seconds Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” that I used to soundcloud phone app to record a youtube video through my computer speakers. The sound quality was terrible, much to my annoyance! There must be a way to tweet 0:34–0:46 of (your favorite song here), but I certainly couldn’t find one.
Twitter’s flexibility with text, links, and pictures is one of its strengths and one of the reasons why its popularity continues among so many different kinds of people. Why not such flexibility with sound? Why must we rely so heavily on third party apps? The answer probably has to do with the general restrictions on sound that the internet seems to have as a whole. As Whitney has pointed out to us, gone are the days of Midi track accompaniment to our websites. Thankfully! But I have to think that there must be other ways to creatively incorporate sound into our web-based world.
I think you hit a bullesye there fellas!
I hope my voice won’t sound too dissonant but although the result is superb in terms of participation I’m feeling a bit disappointed.
Using sound in Twitter and trying to make it heard the best way possible was not new to me, like everyone else involved in audio, radio or music for some years now. People and even bots are tweeting sound all around the clock every day. This is something quite banal and #tweetasound wasn’t the first operation of its kind – go look for the World’s Listening Day for example.
Recently I was really happy that Soundcloud managed to have its app embedded into Twitter such as Youtube or Vimeo. It was a step forward for the spreading of audio into the web.
OK, many people still don’t know that tools exist for sharing sound through the web but, thoughout the #tweetasound day, I was suprised to only see links leading to Soundcloud and Audioboo.
I thought that #tweetasound was more open to unexpected ways of expressing sound through Twitter, such as describing sounds with words in any possible ways (scientific, poetic, etc.) or using phonetics or pictures or whatever I can’t even imagine!
Your voice of dissonance is a welcomed addition, so thanks for sharing your disappointments and critical comments with us! I also think your comments can be generative in other ways. #tweetasound WAS open to unexpected experimentation and creativity, yet most of the material we generated was much more mainstream as you point out. So why was this? Is it something about the form of twitter? The skills of the people involved? Our inability to advertise to others on twitter who might push #tweetasound in a different direction? A problem with the event from the start?
For me this comes back to ease of use, having the necessary skills, and wanting to invest the time into a project like #tweetasound. Twitter works fabulous for some uses and not for others. People work in fabulous ways for some things and not for others. How does the form of twitter constrict and encourage those two aspects and how would people react? That question was at the heart of our provocation and I think we do have some answers, disappointment included.
I was a participant in #tweetasound but honestly hadn’t thought of poetically describing sound. I think with a lot of this stuff, people learn by seeing what others come up and then move from there. Since it started where it started we ended up with what we have. However, if there is another #tweetasound day, I am definitely going to go for poetic transcription via twitter. That actually sounds challenging, awesome, and very fun to me.
I think what we are seeing happening now is sound moving out of the silos of people who work directly with sound, and it moving to different areas of study that are finding themselves more open to experimental play as part of scholarship. If all this did was introduce a few more people to the tools that are available for sharing sound, then I think it is successful. I am all for anything that gets people to try something new with media.
This was a great project. I haven’t had a chance to listen though many of the sounds, but I thought one way forward which might be interesting could be to let a load of creative sound artists / musicians loose with the sounds as a pool of audio to work from – perhaps like the Disquiet Junto project Marc Weidenbaum so excellently curates / organises. https://soundcloud.com/groups/disquiet-junto/info
One of the things I found most interesting in how people tweeted sound was the paratexts they used. Twitter’s capacity to send text became a way of annotating sound in much the same way many of use Twitter to annotate the web, sharing our thoughts on a site or project or talk or blogpost. I (stupidly?) wasn’t expecting this — I thought people would try to compose what they wanted to say about something in sound, then tweet the sound, when in fact people were sharing sounds they liked and using Twitter to discuss them. For me, pairing Twitter with sound really amplified the platform’s social capacity — it’s ability to connect humans and ideas.
I was disappointed that more digital humanities people weren’t involved. Sound studies people are already doing stuff like this on their blogs — I was hoping doing so through Soundbox would turn the experiment into a space for thinking about sound in scholarship, especially since so many digital humanities projects are silent. That didn’t really happen.
Thoughts toward a spin-off project: a twitter account (maybe shared?) that ONLY tweets in sound. Little blips of sonic material, flung into the world; a kind of micro-radio station, with all clips kept (say) under one minute. Guest-tweeters could curate strings of sonic experiences, exploiting Twitter’s temporality to do live performances and disaggregated soundscapes.
This is a really nice idea. I’m in ;)
I, too, hoped that more DUL library departments would participate. I think we walk through our day relying mostly on our eyes to interpret the world and rarely stop to think about what our world sounds like (obviously that does not apply to non-sighted people). I found it compelling to stop and listen to the work of the conservation lab and to find those sounds that would translate well in small bits. I could see a “day in the life” series that paired our Instagram account with Soundcloud to tell a more rounded story. It would be really fun to get students involved, too, to “hear” the library from their standpoint.
I was alerted to this project the day before it happened. I’m not tuned into the humanities per se, but work in the basement of Perkins Library. I’m happy to have participated, and I’d like to think more aurally in the future.
Beth, the tweets from DUL preservation were among my favorites! Thanks for your participation. We’ve been talking quite a bit about sound in libraries — how they are marked as silent spaces that are nonetheless resonant with sound. I would love to bring sound into Perkins in a tactful (in all senses of the word) way.
I love the idea of a “day in the life” series on the sound of libraries, especially if it reached into the bowels of the basement. When I worked in DPC, I remember my days being punctuated by the sound of scans. Eeeeeee, rrrrrrrr, *flip*! And, repeat. Ad nauseum.
Beth, this was my favorite sound of the whole day:
Thank you so much for your participation! Your recordings were delightful. I agree with Whitney that it would be fun to stage some sound experiments/provocations in the library at Duke!
Thanks again for organizing #tweetasound day. It was a lot of fun. What was most striking to me was that despite the fact that lots of audio resources are out there, using sound and voice recordings as tweets isn’t that common (at least in my twitter stream–and I follow tons of sound studies/DH people). Tweeters often link to music clips or podcasts on other sites, but tweeting with one’s own voice or recording an environmental sound, for instance, hasn’t really caught on in a big way.
So one thing that I think the #tweetasound project accomplished on a basic level was awareness that these resources exist. And to echo Jade, that is an important step, especially since people interested in sound are spread out across many disciplines and different professional areas and might not be aware of the possibilities yet.
That said, I really like Whitney’s idea for a spin off project, or even multiple spin off projects that give people more purposeful occasions to explore sound, as well as the affordances and limitations of the sonic in a twitter environment. Keep on rockin, SoundBox team. I think #tweetasound has the potential to grow exponentially.
As someone who is “new” to sound studies, I was so excited by #tweetasound. Mary Caton suggested via Twitter to try out Audioboo to share sound; I had never heard of Soundcloud or Audioboo before the #tweetasound event, and now I can’t seem to get enough of these digital tools. I find myself whipping out my smartphone to record exuberant bird calls, roaring trains, shuffling feet etc. So, as limited, or perhaps ‘uncreative,’ as Soundcloud and Audioboo are for practiced sound scholars, I found this event to be inspiring.
When I was exploring Audioboo for #tweetasound, I couldn’t help but think of the importance of contextualizing my sound tweet; I had recorded a gorgeous bird call in this pseudo-industrial part of campus that did not appear to be a spot where such wonderful sound would originate; I felt compelled to supplement the bird song clip not only with an image of the bare brick wall and billowing blue tarps, but also with text. As much as I found the mix of sound, image and text a compelling compilation, I also wondered if I was reverting to my “comfort zone”–relying too heavily on image and text to explain something I wasn’t so comfortable with (e.g. sound). I agree with Whitney that there is merit in letting sound stand for itself.
As I delve into this new world of sound (discovering sound, recording sound, sharing sound), I am also thinking about the “ethics” of recording. I kept thinking that it would be so interesting to record the noise of the East-West bus route (the chatter of students, the opening and closing of doors, the squeak of blue upholstered seats), but kept stopping myself because of concerns over privacy rights etc. Where do we draw the line between ethical recording and non-ethical recording? In capturing the sounds of coffee shops, or bus lines etc., do we risk invading individual’s privacy?
Thank you all for your wonderful comments! So many excellent points were raised and I agree with Whitney, Steph, and Jade that it would be great to continue the project in a variety of ways. Robert suggested the idea of an experimental digital musical ensemble having their way with some of the sounds and I think that is a great idea. I’ve also given some thought to Ashley’s point about the ethics of using anonymously captured sounds and I think in general it’s ok. But, how would you all feel if your #tweetasound recordings were used for an experimental musical project? Personally, I’m very comfortable with that.
It’s funny the idea of poetry and poetics keeps coming up because I think one of the things that contributed to my thinking about using Twitter as a stage for formalist experimentation came to me as I tried to tweet this famous poem by e.e. cummings:
I have a distinct memory of first seeing that poem in a textbook in junior high school. It absolutely blew my mind! Anyway, it’s often cited for its innovative use of typography and every fall I see a leaf and I’m reminded. Last year, I thought the poem would look cool in twitter and strategized how I would make it work. For one thing, for it to be readable in a feed, I would have to type it backwards. I’d need to do it quickly, too, so my followers could get a sense of what I was doing. I ran into an unanticipated problem, though, because you cannot post a single letter in twitter. They read as SMS commands. The idea was a bust, but I realized that playing with and against formal constraints inspires me to think differently about textual encounters. Musically, for me, the same is also true. (I am obsessed with thinking about how musical genres work sonically and socially) In terms of #tweetasound, we hoped to make some of the invisible, no, silent things about twitter audible. Like Ashley and others, the activity of recording and listening that I experienced has caused me to be much more aware of my sonic environment, in generally. So, the structural takeaway for me ended up being much bigger than the social media platform.
And one last thing that I noticed about the #tweetasound form. My affective responses to the sounds were so much more pronounced than when I read text or see a photograph. When Robin posted the sound of a Kitchen Aid mixer (https://audioboo.fm/boos/979856-kitchenaid-mixer-speeds-stir-2-4), I could literally taste chocolate chip cookie dough in my mouth and feel gritty, buttery sugar on my tongue and the cold ceramic stirrer. When I heard the fire crackling and the water splashing against the shore at the cabin in Canada where Beck was recording, I felt transported (https://soundcloud.com/beck-tench/sets/paudash-lake). Experiencing sounds in time was so different than imagining them through textual representation. That was one of my biggest takeaways.
I am always for remixing. So I’m all in if people want to play with my sounds.
With regards to photography, it is commonly understood that the best camera is the one you have with you when you need it. The same should be true for casual reproduction of sound. During the #tweetasound experiment however, I found my smartphone to be inadequate for reproducing sounds that were not emanating from sources directly in front of the microphone. There appears to be an expanding chasm between the tech industry’s interest in developing better cameras, and integrating them into personal computation devices, and equivalent ambitions for sound reproduction. Practically, smartphone microphones are intended — and thus, mechanically designed — for voice transmission.
It seems safe to say that current personal devices are targeted more at visual than auditory reproduction. This is quite a paradox as I am under the impression that sharing sound is a great way to engage in sonic economies that are not acoustic per se, and I find this approach to be furtile on numerous levels. In order for me to further integrate on-the-fly recording into my personal sonic practice and whimsical gathering of data, better microphones are absolutely essential. Experiments such as #tweetasound reveal (at least to me) that we are in many ways still firmly rooted in a “phone” paradigm; smartphones are meant for transmitting or recording speech, not for recording sound as such. I am confident that better, more convenient equipment would make this particular type of practice much more prevalent.
It was a great experience, though, and I’m already looking forward to similar events in the future.
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