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Alexandra Hui on Standardizing Species: Listening to, Representing & Universalizing Bird Sounds in the 20th Century
November 4, 2014 @ 12:00 pm - 1:30 pm
Talk by Alexandra Hui, Associate Professor of History at Mississippi State University. Discussion moderated by Alexandra Lippman, Postdoctoral Fellow, ICIS, UC Davis.
Thursday, December 11 from 12-1:30 pm, Room 1246, SSH (lunch will be provided).
Co-sponsored with Center for Science and Innovation Studies, Science & Technology Studies, and History.
Abstract: My larger interests are in the creation and maintenance of listening practices. I ask what informs scientific communities’ process of perceptual standardization and what are the consequences for these individuals’ listening, their science, and their understanding of the environment. So, how did individuals’ conception of their environment relate to their aural perception of it? I am especially interested in the subfields of biology that study vocal species – ornithology, marine biology, herpetology, entomology, etc. In this talk I will give a brief overview of my monograph project on how field scientists learn to listen in the twentieth century. I will then offer a close examination of field notebooks, correspondence, academic articles, and field guides, to trace the changing efforts of both avocational birders and ornithologists to represent bird sounds according to new standards and goals. These efforts to represent bird song, often in visual form, made it into a scientific object. They also made specific birds’ songs repeatable and transportable; separate in time and space from the bird itself. This narrative arc provides insight into how scientific communities standardize subjective aural experiences, perhaps at the cost of alienating nature from the individual listener’s experience of it.