I’m here to listen 2

Image from the work by Camille Robinson. I'm Here to Listen.

Camille Robinson. I’m Here to Listen, 2014

When any kind of communication technology is used – letters, telephones, email, etc. – there is the expectation that there will be a person to be at the other end of that communication listening to what we have to say, and that in turn our partner in communication will expect us to listen to them.

When we use communication technologies that give a sense of immediacy – telephones, Skype – we commit an act of trust in that technology and the network of which it forms a part, and submit to the belief that the person heard and/or seen is present, willing, and able to communicate with us in real time. We trust that the network will act as a faithful extension of the senses, and show us something genuine; and faithfully represent ourselves, and show us to others as we are. When I call you, and I hear and/or see you through the network, I believe that you are real, and that you will listen, and that you will believe I am too.

We give this trust even when so much of what is experienced in our lives through screens, speakers, and headphones, is a fabrication or simulation. I flip from a window playing a movie file, to a web browser, to an email client, to a game, to a video chat window, and I believe and expect that each will represent a particular form of reality or unreality, and tailor my perception and understanding, and my actions, to those beliefs and expectations. If we set these beliefs aside though, why should we trust what we see and here? Is anyone listening? If so, who?

I’m here to listen 2 interrogates the act of listening, its mediation by technology, and the acts of trust that lead us to listen and feel listened to when using communication networks. Through the situation it places listeners in and the structure of experience it creates, it endeavors to drawn them into reflection on the dual role of listener/speaker, the performance of listening, the sounds and gestures that signify it, and the trust placed in communication networks.

I’m here to listen 2 is my second piece to explore the act of listening in the context of networked communications, and is based on ideas developed through my PhD project Listening Art: making sonic artworks that critique listening.

Listening Art responded to a situation in the sonic arts, whereby artists tend to take for granted that how a listener listens to a sonic artwork affects what that listener perceives that sonic artwork to be. It sought to address this problem by making sonic artworks that took criticality of listening as their primary concern. Using an integration of schema theory and immanent critique, I structured sonic artworks around critical discourses on listening. Using an adaptation of the Heuristic research method, I determined whether those artworks fostered critical reflection on listening, through collection and appraisal of listeners’ descriptions of their experiences.

– Camille Robinson, May 2015


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