Beate Ochsner/Robert Stock/Markus Spöhrer – Auditory Ecologies. Documentary Practices of (Non-)Hearing

In the field of media studies, the cochlear implant (CI) and the actors it assembles can be conceived as a specific auditory ecology (Gatehouse et al. 1999) in which practices, subjects, objects and techniques of (non-)hearing are (re-)produced. This complex relational environment triggered by the CI involves actors from engineering sciences, nano-technology, medicine, medical research, and (bio-)social groups. While most of the research on the CI treats ‘(non-)hearing’ either as a medical, communicational or pedagogical issue, the auditory ecology related to the CI is rarely addressed. We thus propose to analyze the latter, that is, auditory ecologies shaped by this nanotechnology, in long-term documentaries conceiving them as “media cultural assemblages” (Parikka 2013: 151), “meshes of human and non-human actors” (Parrika 2013: 151), being formed by and related to each other in participatory practices of “sensing, doing and knowing” (Fuller 2008).

The selected film productions aim at creating different perspectives on the CI and, as a consequence, produce sometimes diverging positions regarding auditory environments of human and non-human actors as well as media techniques in which “new sensory regimes” (Hansen 2001) are put into practice: SOUND AND FURY (PART I 2000, PART II 2006) narrates the story of the Artinians, a US family consisting of both hearing and deaf persons, staging a highly emotionalized conflict about the CI that leads to a consequent separation of the family into a hearing part and a deaf part. NATALIE ODER DER KLANG NACH DER STILLE (2011) documents a series of audiometric tests and everyday situations of a CI-recipient emphasizing a continuous ‘tuning’ between the CI-bearer, the CI and the acoustical world. HEAR AND NOW (2007) narrates the (un)successful implantation of pre-lingual deafened adults, who decide to get a CI after having lived the most part of their lives as deaf persons. The film constructs the early years of their lives as a constant process of adaption to the ‘hearing world’, as a ‘social tuning’, which involves the painstaking task of learning and developing communication techniques. Our aim is to discuss the production of different auditory ecologies in which CI-recipients and the technical device are co-constituted in a process of reciprocal tuning, a processual mode of producing subjects, auditory technology and media environment (cf. Pickering 2001).

Beate Ochsner is the speaker of the DFG-research group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement” at the University of Konstanz. Since 2008 she is a professor of media studies at the University of Konstanz. Her main research interests focus on the relations between media and participation, audiovisual productions of dis/ability, media practices of hearing and seeing, monsters and monstrosities as well as film as an experimental system. She is the author of a monography on DeMONSTRAtion. Zur Repräsentation des Monsters und des Monströsen in Literatur, Photographie und Film, München: Synchron Verlag 2010. She is the editor of SenseAbility. Mediale Praktiken des Sehens und Hörens (together with Robert Stock, Bielefeld: transcript, forthcoming), AugenBlick. Konstanzer Hefte zur Medienwissenschaft 58. Themenheft: Objekte medialer Teilhabe (together with Isabell Otto and Markus Spöhrer), Marburg: Schüren, 201 and Andere Bilder: Zur Produktion von Behinderung in der visuellen Kultur (together with Anna Grebe), Bielefeld: transcript 2013. Recent publications: „Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Werner Herzog, 2010) oder: Zur Ko-Existenz (audio-)visueller Praktiken“, in: Markus Spöhrer (ed.): Die ästhetisch-narrativen Dimensionen des 3D-Films. Neue Perspektiven der Stereoskopie, Springer VS: Wiesbaden, 2016, S. 181-195; „Human, Non-Human, and Beyond: Cochlear Implants in Socio-Technological Environments”, in: NanoEthics 9.3, 237-250 (2015, (together with Robert Stock and Markus Spöhrer); “Das Hören des Cochlea-Implantats“, Historische Anthropologie 22.3 (2014, together with Robert Stock) and “Mapping the brain. Neuropolitics and the design of Cochlear-Implant-Activation-Videos”, in Documentary and Disability, ed. by Catalin Brylla/Helen Hughes, London: Routledge Forthcoming.

Markus Spöhrer studied American Cultural Studies, German Studies and English Literature at the University of Tübingen, Germany and Film Production, Film History and Popular Music at the University of Miami, Coral Gables. He did his Ph. D. at the University of Konstanz, Germany (Media Studies). Currently he is a Postdoctoral researcher in the DFG project “Mediale Teilhabe” (Media and Participation). Also he is working as a lecturer of contemporary German film, theory of media, culture and film. His research interests are film production, media philosophy, philosophy of science and Science and Technology Studies, human enhancement, and participation cultures of the cochlear implant. Recent and forthcoming publications include Die ästhetisch-narrativen Dimensionen des 3D-Films (2016, ed.), Film als epistemisches Ding: Zur Produktion von Hip Hop-Kultur und Till Hastreiters Status YO! (2016, forthcoming), Applying Actor-Network-Theory in Media Studies (mit Beate Ochsner, 2016, eds., forthcoming), (2016): „Vom Eigen- und Stellenwert der geisteswissenschaftlichen Wissensproduktion: Schreiben als Experimentalsystem“. In Bartl, Andrea, Famula, Marta (Hrsg.): Vom Eigenwert der Literatur. (2016, forthcoming); (2015): „The Cochlear Implant between Restoring and Transcending Humanness: The Cases of Michael Chorost and Enno Park”, in: Comunicazioni sociali 3 (2016).

Robert Stock is the coordinator of the DFG-research group “Media and Participation. Between Demand and Entitlement” at the University of Konstanz. He holds a Master’s Degree in European Ethnography from the Humboldt-University and Free University Berlin. In his dissertation project at the International Graduate Centre for the Study of Culture (Gießen), he analyzes postcolonial memory politics in documentary films from Mozambique and Portugal. His main research interests are the mediality of participatory processes, audiovisuality, cultural and media practices of hearing and seeing, representations of disability in media and postcolonial memory politics. He is the editor of ReClaiming Participation. Technology – Mediation – Collectivity (together with Mathias Denecke/Anne Ganzert/Isabell Otto, Bielefeld: transcript 2016), senseAbility. Mediale Praktiken des Sehens und Hörens (together with Beate Ochsner, Bielefeld: transcript Forthcoming). Recent publications also include “Das Hören des Cochlea-Implantats“, Historische Anthropologie 22.3 (2014, together with Beate Ochsner); “Singing altogether now. Unsettling images of disability and experimental filmic practices”, in Documentary and Disability, ed. by Catalin Brylla/Helen Hughes, London: Routledge Forthcoming and “Körper im/als Schaltkreis. DIY-Apparaturen und audiovisuelle Praktiken sinnlicher Wahrnehmung”, in Technisierte Lebenswelt. Über den Prozess der Figuration von Mensch und Technik, ed. by Marie-Hélène Adam/Szilvia Gellai/Julia Knifka, Julia, Bielefeld: transcript Forthcoming.

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