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Jonathan Sterne (McGill), "Space Within Space: Artificial Reverb and the Plasticity of Echoes"

This talk considers artificial reverb as part of the legacy of the "detachable echo," a phenomenon that developed in late 19th and early 20th century acoustics and electroacoustics. Drawing on analyses of the technical processes behind artificial reverb and engineering discourses that surround reverberation, it argues that the fundamentally modern sonic perspective is in fact multiperspectival--a hearing position that hears from multiple positions at once. Artificial reverb thus prefigures many of the features we now attributed to mixed, augmented and virtual reality, and offers important lessons for thinking about subjectivity in the digital age.
Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies at McGill University.  He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture.  He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012).  His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception. Visit his website at



Friday, April 24, 2015. 04:00 PM


Humanities Center Board Room


Material Imagination, Humanities Center, Department of Art & Art History, Department of English


Free and open to all.