Ways of Hearing
A writer-musician examines how the switch from analog to digital audio is changing our perceptions of time, space, love, money, and power.
Our voices carry farther than ever before, thanks to digital media. But how are they being heard? In this book, Damon Krukowski examines how the switch from analog to digital audio is changing our perceptions of time, space, love, money, and power. In Ways of Hearing—modeled on Ways of Seeing, John Berger's influential 1972 book on visual culture—Krukowski offers readers a set of tools for critical listening in the digital age. Just as Ways of Seeing began as a BBC television series, Ways of Hearing is based on a six-part podcast produced for the groundbreaking public radio podcast network Radiotopia. Inventive uses of text and design help bring the message beyond the range of earbuds.
Each chapter of Ways of Hearing explores a different aspect of listening in the digital age: time, space, love, money, and power. Digital time, for example, is designed for machines. When we trade broadcast for podcast, or analog for digital in the recording studio, we give up the opportunity to perceive time together through our media. On the street, we experience public space privately, as our headphones allow us to avoid “ear contact” with the city. Heard on a cell phone, our loved ones' voices are compressed, stripped of context by digital technology. Music has been dematerialized, no longer an object to be bought and sold. With recommendation algorithms and playlists, digital corporations have created a media universe that adapts to us, eliminating the pleasures of brick-and-mortar browsing. Krukowski lays out a choice: do we want a world enriched by the messiness of noise, or one that strives toward the purity of signal only?
Paperback$19.95 T | £14.99 ISBN: 9780262039642 136 pp. | 5 in x 7.5 in 136 color illus.
Strange as this adaptation may seem in theory, it works perfectly in practice. The way Krukowski approaches his subject makes for engrossing and enlightening reading.
Because the book reads like an illustrated script, complete with sound-effect and scene-setting embeds, the narrative played out vividly in my mind.
The AV Club
Damon Krukowski's Ways of Hearing is an ear-opener. Based on the podcast of the same name from Radiotopia, the book is a multimodal experience, one that opens the ears through the eyes.
This has echoes of Berger and Marshall McLuhan in its approach. I think it will be seen as an important book one day, in terms of distilling how the change from analogue to digital has changed our way of experiencing the world.
Ways of Hearing poses a compelling counternarrative to typical tech criticism: instead of glibly lamenting how digital life destroys intimacy, Krukowski asks listeners to pay attention to both the sonic as well as the political qualities of sound. Krukowski makes us consider sound—what we hear, what we don't, how, and why—as a means of listening but also, perhaps, of resisting.
Krukowski's book ultimately succeeds as a worthy successor to Berger's in the ways that it differs from its predecessor. Listening isn't seeing; why should a book about one unnecessarily echo a book about the other? Krukowski gets more right by charting his own territory than he would by more closely following Berger's blueprint.