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Listening Brackets and Noise Limits: An Ethnographic Study of Noise Management in Taiwan

Taipei cityscape
Date and Time: 
Friday, May 8, 2015. 04:00 PM - 06:00 PM
Meeting Location: 
Stanford Humanities Center, Board Room
Workshop: 
The Material Imagination: Sound, Space, and Human Consciousness
Meeting Description: 

In this talk, Jennifer Hsieh examines the moving boundary between sound and noise through an analysis of Taiwan’s noise management apparatus. Whether one uses sound level meters, official standards, or the perceptions of everyday subjects, the category of noise remains under contestation. Hsieh will explore how the materiality of sound interacts with social processes to produce noise as a cultural object. 

About the speaker:

Jennifer Hsieh investigates noise as a public problem and the social transformations through which city sounds become heard as noise in Taipei. She is conducting 16 months of fieldwork on the governance of noise in Taiwan’s central government and on the experiences of hearing in three Taipei neighborhoods. Informed by semiotics, materialism, and phenomenology, she examines why, despite 30 years of noise regulation in Taiwan, noise persists as a problem. Hsieh will analyze Taipei’s changing acoustic ecology, including the sounds of people, businesses, traffic, and machines, to understand the conditions through which individuals and institutions are accepting of some sounds while averse to others. Her methodology includes archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, and an aural component involving audio recordings to examine the cultural, political, and global processes that shape local, differentiated listening practices among Taipei’s increasingly diverse population. Originally from Texas and trained as a classical pianist, Jennifer holds a B.A. from Harvard and M.A. from Columbia, both in anthropology. 

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