2003 March 23

(entry last updated: 2003-03-24 14:12:13)

  • Slashdot reports that O’Reilly is employing the Creative Commons licenses to construct some new copyright instruments for publishers.

  • Slashdot reports that a band called Anything Box has released an album in MP3 form that is completely freeware. See what the community thinks.

  • Something not too good seems to have happened to Freedom to Tinker – I hope it’s just that the server has lost track of the date (since March 7 seems to be the latest entry up).

  • I’ve been reading The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, albeit fitfully, what with everything else that’s going on. I haven’t gotten terribly far into it, but it’s been fascinating.

    There have been three particularly striking ideas:

    • The author argues that before the era of true sound research, the concept of sound was solely constructed around the notion of speech. Other sounds were just noises, devoid of meaning or interest. With the construction of sound as vibrations in air, speech lost its “privledged” position and became a specific type of sound, but no different at the scientific level than any other. This construction also led to the ability to measure features of sound (frequency, amplitude, speed), further abstracting the notion of sound from the meaning of the sound.

    • This re-conceptualizing of the nature of sound led researchers to consider what the author sees as the signature element that lies at the heart of all sound reproduction technologies today – the typanum or vibrating plate. The early machines sometimes literally employed the outer and middle ears of corpses, extracted via new methods of dissection. The research was directed toward the development of a specific kind of machine: machines that hear for others. Implicit in this research was the idea that such machines would also convert the sounds into visually interpretable materials that could be used to reconstruct sound, and its meanings.

    • Therefore, the bulk of the work into developing the technologies that we recognize today as the instruments of sound recording and reproduction would be regarded as failures in light of the goal that the researchers were working toward – a technology of that would transform sound into interpretable graphical form. Bell, in particular, was working to teach the deaf how to speak in the same fashion as those who could hear, and he saw the conversion of sound into something that could be interpreted by the sighted as the path to this goal. More generally, there was this overall objective of converting speech into written words (or something equivalent), (which of course remains a vital area of research and product development).

      Essentially, this work was a rejection of the notion of deaf culture, based upon a “modern” notion that communication by hand gestures was the hallmark of savages, while audible and graphical communication was modern.

    The overall notion so far is that as the science of sound and the technology of measuring and (eventually) generating sounds evolved, so too did the way in which sound was conceptualized by the public and considered within the culture.

  • Why do I bring all this up? Because today’s New York Times Magazine discusses a novel technology for sound delivery that is may lead to another wave of reconsideration of the nature of sound: The Sound of Things To Come. The article discusses the inventor of HyperSonic Sound, Woody Norris, and the bizarre features of the technology that he has been working on. Slashdot discussion: Projecting Sound ‘Inside Your Head’

  • Remember that ILAW Brazil starts tomorrow, and Donna has promised to blog it.