Logo du site de la Revue d'informatique musicale - RFIM - MSH Paris Nord

Audibility, visibility and social inclusion through geo-locative sound art

Dana Papachristou
mars 2022



Dans cet article, j'explorerai le rôle des enregistrements de terrain qui émergent des paysages sonores culturellement caractéristiques de différentes communautés et des récits des personnes qui les composent. Ces paysages sonores seront ci-après appelés socialscapes [paysages sociaux], et je décrirai les différentes manières dont ils peuvent être combinés avec des œuvres d'art sonores géolocalisées, en tant en tant qu’œuvres politisées, au service de l'inclusion et de l'autonomisation au sein du contexte plus large de l'art activiste et politique. L'objectif de cette pratique est de promouvoir la visibilité - ici l'audibilité - pour les communautés, les minorités et d'autres groupes sociaux marginalisés, tels que les réfugiés, les immigrants et d'autres communautés socialement exclues qui se voient refuser toute implication dans les domaines sociaux, politiques, culturels, économiques et éducatives ou sont privés de citoyenneté, en raison de leur ethnicité, âge, classe et de leur diversité cognitive, psychologique et physique.

Les formes d'art sonore qui seront étudiées ici sont principalement les œuvres d'art géo-localisées, dont le matériel sonore est extrait du terrain pour être repositionné sur la carte grâce aux technologies GPS, aux plates-formes géo-locatives, aux médias locatifs et aux méthodes site-spécifiques, même si cette dernière condition n'est pas nécessaire. Les plates-formes géo-localisées et les œuvres d'art locatives utilisent la carte des territoires spécifiques comme un tableau, une partition pour y attacher, inscrire et attribuer du matériel audio ou visuel. Cette procédure est rendue possible grâce à des plates-formes basées sur un navigateur, telles que sont Echoes, GeoComposer et CGeomap. Après l'affectation et la fixation du matériel sur la carte, la promenade auditive est librement accessible à tous via des applications mobiles. L'étude de cas examinée ici est l'œuvre Dweling Stories de l'équipe artistique Akoo.o, une œuvre qui a exploré la dislocation et la vie quotidienne des résidents d’Athènes non originaires de la Grèce, pendant deux crises simultanées : la crise des réfugiés et la touristification d'Athènes.


In this article, I will explore the role of field recordings that emerge from the culturally characteristic soundscapes of different communities and the narratives of the people that comprise them. These soundscapes will be hereafter called socialscapes, and I will outline the different ways in which they can be combined with geo-locative sound artworks as a genre of political art and act, functioning as a means of endorsing the politics of inclusion and empowerment within the wider context of activist and political art. The target of such politics is to promote visibility – here audibility – for communities, minorities and other marginalized social groups, such as refugees, immigrants, and other socially excluded groups that are denied involvement in social, political, cultural and economic life, or in educational activities, or are deprived of citizenship due to their ethnicity, age, class, and cognitive, psychological and physical diversities.

The sound art forms that will be studied here are mainly the geo-locative artworks, whose sound materials are extracted from the field to be repositioned onto the map through GPS technologies, geo-locative platforms, locative media, and site-specific methods, though the latter is not necessary. Geo-locative platforms and locative artworks use the map of specific areas as a board to attach, inscribe and assign audio or visual material onto them. This procedure is made possible through browser-based platforms such as Echoes, GeoComposer and CGeomap. After the assignment and attachment of the material onto the map, the material is freely accessible to everyone via mobile applications. The case study examined here is the work Dwelling Stories by the artistic team Akoo.o, which explores the dislocation and everyday life of Greek non-native residents during the refugee crisis and the simultaneous touristification of Athens.


Texte intégral   

1In this article, I will explore the role of field recordings which emerge from the culturally distinctive soundscapes of diverse networks of individuals, namely of various communities and the narratives of the people that constitute them as such networks. These soundscapes will be hereafter called socialscapes,1 and I will outline the different ways in which they can be combined with geo-locative sound technologies, so as to create a genre of political art and act, endorsing politics of inclusion and empowerment within the wider context of socially engaged practices. The target of such tactics is to promote visibility, hence audibility, for communities, minorities and other marginalized social groups, such as refugees, immigrants, and other socially excluded communities that are denied involvement in social, political, cultural, economic life, and in educational activities - or are deprived of citizenship - due to their ethnicity, religion, age, class, and cognitive, psychological and physical diversities.

2The trigger for the following arguments is the case study of a geo-locative audiowalking project by Akoo.o team,2 Dwelling Stories, which was presented at the Italian Institute of Athens as part of the conference-exhibition on the 30th anniversary of the death of Italο Calvino, entitled Invisible Cities.3 This was an audio walk that was geo-located in the garden of the Archaeological Museum of Athens - concurrently with an exhibition about the Grand Tour held in the Museum - and contained, among other things, soundscapes and life narratives of residents of Athens, for whom, however, Athens is not their birth city. Although this project focuses on displacement, global movement, refugee and migration issues, and thus on ethnic exclusion and displaced individuals, it can serve as a paradigm for other projects that will focus on diverse communities with their distinct concerns regarding exclusion and inclusivity.

3The main genre studied here is the one of geo-located audio walks, with an emphasis on field recordings and socialscapes in combination with walking practices. At the same time, a distinction is made between listening walks, sound walks and audio walks, as an attempt to outline the field in terms of the different possibilities it offers, and the various styles it encompasses. However, in no case is it implied that there are no other types of artistic production that can function similarly within the broader field and stakes of socially engaged practices. As far as accessibility is concerned, the act of walking is here used in relation to the movement that can transfer a person from one place to another, thus from one geo-locatively assigned range to another. This movement can happen in any way a person might be moving, including wheelchairs, walking sticks, white canes and others. Furthermore, the particular project examined here (Dwelling Stories by Akoo.o) emphasizes sound and narratives by aurally augmenting an area, thus the project is not accessible for the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Although the Akoo.o team has since been involved in educational workshops for the d/Deaf and Hard of Hearing and in a research program addressing the issue (TwixtLab’s Audibility in B-AIR: Art Infinity Radio, Creating Sound Art for toddlers, babies and vulnerable groups4) by connecting sound art and various listening experiences, this particular project was not Sign Language interpretation friendly in terms of an embedded feature of the artwork. The reason for that was the specific platform used at the time, which did not allow other media to be assigned to an area. The latest version of the project is currently being transferred to a Echoes.xyz platform, which gives the opportunity to upload both video and audio files, thus making a translation in Sign Language possible. Unfortunately, the project could be Sign Language friendly only because of its inclusion of life narratives throughout the geo-locative and aurally augmented experience. A sound geo-locative project based on the aural augmentation of an area only by sound, soundscapes, music and sound composition might not be accessible to the whole d/Deaf community, depending on the personal audiogram of each person.

1. Field recordings

4Field recordings are audio elements and events that are technologically extracted from a field, with the use of a recorder, as products of conversing with the field for academic, research, or artistic reasons, among many others. They can consist of natural or urban sounds, industrial or agrarian sounds, or sounds of living beings, humans included. Humans can produce sounds or they can speak, using language as a way to communicate thought, volition and feeling. Furthermore, each social group or community is enveloped by its own special soundscape, a sign of cultural identity beyond language. In these groups the language, the cultural element, the religious element, and the ways of vocalization or articulation are distinct sound elements that can distinguish one community from another in public life. In this article, field recordings are an ensemble of recorded data that can encompass all of the above sounds, including voice. Voice and speech can include life narratives and stories, opinions and memories, as well as being able to coexist with the aural background of the city, the countryside or the workplace. The aim is to show how field recordings can function as sonic characteristics of a community, be recorded in the context of artistic, research and ethnographic practices, and be repositioned onto the map of an area in the public space, in public view, or rather inside common aural capacity.

5The sound art forms that will be studied here are mainly those of geo-locative artworks, whose sound materials are extracted from the field to be repositioned onto the map through GPS technologies, geo-locative platforms, locative media, and site-specific methods, though the latter is not necessary. Geo-locative platforms and locative artworks use the map of specific areas as a board onto which audio or visual material can be attached, inscribed and assigned. This procedure is made possible through browser-based platforms such as Echoes, GeoComposer or CGeomap, or the - now discontinued - noTours project, to name a few. After the assignment and attachment of the sonic material onto the map, the material is freely accessible to everyone via the respective mobile applications. The listener, by choosing the specific project through their mobile phone, can wander through the area, listen to the audio files, and recompose them by designating various walking trails in the public space at stake.

6This practice is related to public space, as well as being combined with walking. It brings soundscape composition into public space, and particularly into location-specific settings, generating a hybrid condition of physical presence in-space and of aural dislocation through sound.5 Apart from the movement that this presupposes, an additional interesting element is the free wandering of the listener which makes the work audible on the area of ​​the map where it is pre-placed, as the listener's walking options can change the final form of the work. In regard to the correlation of field recordings with the condition of mobility, distinct ambulatory genres are created, which can function within the context of artistic, research, and ethnographic discourses, or a combination of all the above.

7It is useful to make a distinction here between sound walks, audio walks and listening walks,6 though all three encourage attentive listening and interaction with the sound environment. A listening walk is walking while concentrating on the existing sounds of an area. A sound walk is the exploration of a specific area’s soundscape with the use of a score as a guide, usually the score being a map that draws the attention of the listener to unusual sounds or places to stand and listen throughout the route. An audio walk is a walk in which the soundscape of an area is augmented through the use of technology: pre-recorded sounds from the same - or any other - area, narratives, music or soundscape compositions emerge during the walkthrough, usually with the use of GPS geo-locative mobile applications.7 

8Thus, when field recordings are produced and narratives are used as the primary audio material of such works, we can speak of a connection between art - research and the social, in the sense that communities can acquire and promote their voice or voices as being a necessary part of a functioning political, democratic structure8 meaning a key representational trope for identity, power, conflict, social position and agency for the individual”.9 This process is pertinent to the stakes of acoustemology, as engaging acoustics at the plane of the audible – akoustos – to inquire into sounding as simultaneously social and material, an experiential nexus of sonic sensation”.10 It is true that speaking of one unanimous voice inside one community is inaccurate, since communities aren’t homogeneous spaces. It is frequent that opinions are differentiated, or frequently contradicting, but unfolding and addressing those contradictory and diverse aspects of the community relies on the intention, agency and choice of the people involved. In any case, highlighting them can benefit both communities and the public sphere, offering a possibility of visibility, here audibility, and a useful tool to explore their own oral history. In this way, art and research manage to function socially, in a much more tangible way, since they include narratives of people, unmediated by the official historiography, recorded and repositioned in public space, accessible freely and easily to citizens and listeners. The connection is achieved as these practices reinforce a context where the artworks mediate the social agency11 and encompass the very idea of ​​inclusivity. Thus, more practically, the various groups and communities that inhabit a place can project their voice and their specific socialscape to larger and different audiences, aiming at visibility and audibility to more people within the public sphere. In this way, the project, as a practice of geo-locative audio walk, can work for the benefit of these groups, whether it is a visibility-audibility issue or the strengthening of the links within the community.

2. Soundscapes - Socialscapes

9The term soundscape, coined by Southworth12 and promoted by Schafer13 to describe our sound environment, is a central concept in the development of the interdisciplinary field of sound studies.14 The ISO 12913-1:2014 provides the definition of a soundscape and offers a conceptual framework for the particular term as the “acoustic environment as perceived or experiences and/or understood by a person or people”.15 The study of the soundscape is a dynamic process linking the practice of listening to analysis, although criticisms have been formulated concerning the production of a sound / image event as located at a distance from the listener, instead of encouraging the experience of immersion in the sound stimulus.16 This implies a detachment between the observer and the sound object, even if we always perceive the sound while being in it and not by the position of the isolated observers. Moreover, throughout all literature on acoustic ecology, we can distinguish a difference between artificial and natural, as well as between technical and natural. 

10These two polarities are connected at several levels. The imperative to attach the individual to their natural environment through listening is often based on the axiom that the natural environment consists of nature, flora and fauna, far from cities or industrial areas. The focus of the World Soundscape Project, the vigilance against the distress caused by noise and sound pollution in our daily lives, is based on a manichean duality of city-nature, with an emphasis on the positivity of nature compared to urban life.17 At the same time, active listening is treated, not only as an exercise in acoustic awareness and connection to the sound environment, but also as an abstinence from the mediation of the eminently resounding technologies, the sounds of machinery and cars, from the buzz of electricity and the metropolis, mobile devices and others, which monopolize our sound environment, among other things such as our visual or tactile experiences. Finally, it often happens that one encounters an idealization of nature, similar to that of the territorial hero of romanticism18 and the land he traverses alone, against the urban and industrialized way of life. The sound artists thus present themselves as a noble savage capable of hearing the authenticity of a lost era, during which the link with nature was stronger. The opening paragraph19 of Schafer’s emblematic book on the topic of the soundscape20 is a characteristic example: the unwanted change happening to our world, the assumption that we all have the same needs, the qualification of the “new sounds” as bad and too intense, and the use of rather strong words – both in meaning and intensity – such as “danger”, “pollution”, “problem”, “vulgarity” and “control”, depict a grim picture of our aural environment as opposed to a more natural past, for which the author expresses some nostalgia as an aural lost era.

11At the same time, the focus on the soundscape is often linked to walking artistic or ethnographic practices in spaces with which a sound connection can be achieved through active listening. These practices emphasize the soundscape of a territory as a means of geographically and environmentally communicating with it, whether through proximity to the territory (site-specific, locative media) or by focusing on geographic allocation (dislocative media). Already, the World Soundscape Project21 was focusing on the natural sounds we had lost from our sound environment, living in the big metropolis, and how this fact affects us, as well as the dangers of noise pollution. So, walking in nature was suggested, using a map, a route, a score map, indicating interesting sound sources, which should be heard in silence, as part of what are called acoustic walks. The interaction with the sound environment was reduced to the absolute minimum, and the focus was set on listening rather than on producing sounds. Soon, sound and audio walks focused on wandering and active listening often by technological means. Two examples would be Akio Suzuki and Janet Cardiff, among others, who both showed a preference for creation, provoking interactions with this environment, instead of walking in silence and trying to intervene as little as possible in the soundscape.22 Nonetheless, walking remains pivotal for the paradigm. As Rebecca Solnit writes, presenting us with her work on the history of walking, as the most obvious and obscure thing in the world, research on walking offers us paths and meeting points leading to religion, philosophy, landscape, urban policy, anatomy, allegory, and heartbreak”.23

12There is no need to say that there are many artworks and projects that take into account the social aspect of the soundscape and field recordings, such as World Soundscape Projects’ Vancouver Soundscape or Sounds of my City by Tony Schwarz. Nevertheless, even in these projects there is a distinction between the natural and the artificial or human, as well as a contrast between the serenity of the natural soundscape and the distress of urban noise pollution. The critical position here, of course, is not against the field in general, or the researchers and artists who created it, but against specific views that traverse the field, sometimes crystallizing practices which were not intended to be entrenched. But a critique is always welcome, even necessary contextually, especially when new technologies are introduced, and when social needs change, allowing us to vary our practices and theoretical footing.

13So, what is a socialscape? Why do we need to devise a conceptual transition from soundscapes to socialscapes and how can this be achieved? Why is the term soundscape not enough for the specific desiderata discussed here? Why do soundscapes do not include socialscapes anyway? And how can the term socialscape be linked directly to sound?

14A socialscape is the audio recording of cultural features of a place and its inhabitants, communities and social groups, as well as narratives that contain distinct elements from the history and cultural heritage of the people. Soundscapes as a concept through the relevant literature and history highlight the audio element with an emphasis on the environment, but in a form where they do not include people. Related theories and practices often give the impression that humans and nature are two separate elements, and that humans will always threaten, destroy and infect nature, as human speech or activity spoils a natural recording or destroys an audio file when someone accidentally speaks. Although it is not certain that a soundscape will only capture the natural environment, and although there are several theories, ethnographies and artistic practices to link the social-political stake and the sonic environment, the principle of soundscapes is often based on the absence of distinct cultural elements of a community. The overemphasis of these elements, together with the integration of the narrative, can complement this wide field, shifting it into a more political outcome. The aim here is not a rupture with the field and the existing practices, but an addition to the quiver of weapons and tools24 that may be available to the sound artist and researcher. The interest lies in the direct relationship of sociality and sound, as an ethnography of the senses and a way of acknowledging the social condition through the sense of hearing, as sound envelops

15Thus, I propose the term socialscape within the wider field of sound studies and public space practices in order to conceptualize the respective technical processes (field recordings of activities in public space, repositioning them on a map of an area to replay them) towards a renegotiation within the public sphere in general. In the term socialscape, sound is not included as a word exactly because of this aural plurality of the practice, encompassing a large variety of acoustic expressions and performances of people and spaces. The sound becomes less important as an element per se, while other aspects are highlighted, such as the voice, the combination of people and machines, noise, urban activities, and urban gatherings, therefore separating the term from the field of sound studies and soundscape studies as it has been hitherto formed. On the other hand, ethnography, political science and practice, art and city/landscape planning prevail, as well as geo-location and other relevant technologies of recording, editing and playback. At the same time, sound remains an essential element, although geo-locative practices, and locative media as a whole may link sound with other media, such as photos, videos, QR codes (as stickers, stencils, posters in public space and elsewhere) and augmented reality/aurality components. Although the range of choices is diverse, the idea of socialscapes being extracted from excluded places and communities and being repositioned in the public space is indispensable. In this way, excluded spaces and marginalized communities acquire audibility, as their socialscape is repositioned in public sight and public hearing. Here, field research, both as ethnography and as artistic engagement with communities and the social, can be affiliated with movement and ambulatory practices, according to the stakes of ethnography on foot by Tim Ingold, for whom movement, and not cognition, should be the starting point of the exploration of perceptual activity.25 

16As these geo-locative creative procedures and artworks are directly assigned to the public space, the importance of this space becomes pivotal for such endeavours. From Jonathan Raban’s soft city26 to urban studies and urban planning, there is one element of life in public space that is common: its use by people. The city and all other public spaces are judged in terms of our social behaviour inside it, is not a normal circumstance”.27 Nonetheless, all relevant fields study the shrinking and impoverishment of so-called public space28 with many activities previously carried out outdoors now happening in new forms of communal space29 or having been “transferred to the private sphere by means of the television and computer”.30 The contemporary concerns on maximization of security and surveillance, the fear and the control lead to more controlled enclaves, gated communities, and theme parks31 leaving public space segregated and segmented32 instead of freely accessible to encompass all mixed and diverse communities that our society consists of. Moreover, the deleuzian and guattarian striated and smooth space (and time) describe a distinction between a closed and organized system that fulfils its predefined function, while the smooth space is an environment in which rhizomatic events are created.33 The terms are used here to distinguish between an organized-dichotomous machine and a nomadic machine, the first representing the arborescent, the predefined, the linear, and the second being the symbol of the rhizomatic, the nomadic, the breakdown of organization. 

17Theories about public space highlight the social issues that arise in it and the fermentations produced within. The practice of socialscapes goes hand in hand with these questions, on a theoretical and practical level, since here we examine the way the audio element is produced, extracted and reproduced in public space, as an accentuation of social flow but also as a way of acquiring visibility – audibility for communities and groups that inhabit it and shape it. However, the stake is not just public space but the public sphere in general, as a domain of social life where public opinion can be formed”.34 Τhe public sphere can be regarded as a conglomeration, an assemblage of opinions, mentalities and beliefs, constituting a public ethos in all of its discontinuity. Though public sphere as a term is rather new, a distinction of private and public has been recorded since ancient Greece with the division of the house35 (oíkos) and the common (koinós) of public life (dimósios víos) pertaining to the state (pólis). Today, after many discussions on the public space, public opinion, public sphere and the digital public agora, we can say that philosophical participation in the public sphere can involve finding designations for the new polis”.36 This new polis can only contain heterogeneous residents, diverse communities, and unassimilated individuals, away from the romantic quest of the nation state that desires uniformity37 or the neoliberal politics that wish to standardize and homogenize populations.38

3. Dwelling stories

18The main example for these theoretical correlations will be the audio walk Dwelling Stories of the artistic team Akoo.o, which was presented in 2015 in the framework of the conference and exhibition Invisible Cities for the 30th anniversary of the death of Italo Calvino. Dwelling Stories is a walking artwork that was geo-located on the site of the Archaeological Museum of Athens, opposite of the Italian Institute of Athens, which hosted the main event. At the same time, the museum hosted the exhibition A Dream Among Beautiful Ruins about the Grand Tour, with archival material from travellers from the 17th to the 19th centuries, and their impressions and thoughts about the city of Athens. The geo-location was chosen precisely to converse with both exhibitions: the exoticism and orientalism of the Grand Tour and the imaginary world of Marco Polo as he narrates to the emperor impressions of his empire. The main material was field recordings from the city and life narratives from people who moved to Athens without having been born there: immigrants, European citizens, refugees and displaced/uprooted individuals, all shared their experience from the first moment they landed or arrived in Athens by aeroplane, boat or on foot, while they reveal their perspectives and impressions of Athens down to the details of their lives and their difficulties in adapting, if they had any.

19The Αkoo.o team interviewed diverse individuals, so as to create a mosaic of people and narratives, while blending these stories in a non-discriminatory way and grouping them into topics. These individuals came from different backgrounds and statuses, and their lives had different levels of complication when it came to social inclusion and their adaptation to everyday, administrative and bureaucratic life. One of the interlocutors arrived on foot from Kashmir, another shared stories about illegally crossing treacherous rivers between Albania and Greece, while others travelled by plane first class. Some had lived here all their lives without ever being able to obtain a Greek identity card, while others obtained a direct residence permit, even though they came from western countries from which one needs a visa to enter, or never needed a permit for all administrative procedures that concerned them. The experience of the interview did not present any difficulties because the people were eager to narrate their memory, trauma and story for the sake of a project that could bring those out in the open. In this way the narratives themselves dictated the form of the work, as the life narratives were selected and grouped so as to form a real social background and to promote a non-aestheticized artistic result.

20The stories mostly consisted of the reasons for relocation, the way they crossed the borders, their first impression of the city of Athens, their second and most mediated impressions of the city, the difficulties or facilities they encountered during their residence, and why they remained residents of Greece. Issues such as uprooting, memory, mourning, adventure, ambition, love, bureaucracy, family and socio-political conditions were discussed. These passages were selected and geo-located in specific parts of the garden of the archaeological museum, a garden arranged in the french style, symmetrical and with many opportunities for a seated rest. This allowed the listener to stop and listen to the whole narrative, or to skip it by continuing to walk around, while if they re-entered an area where a skipped narrative was geo-located, then the narration started again from where the listener had left it. This was a very frequent occurrence, as the garden’s promenades were entangled and overlapping throughout.

Ill. 1: Dwelling Stories, photo by the author


21In this work, despite the hegemony of language, but also because of it, the Akoo.o team managed to unite many different narratives of people who could not have met due to the immense differences in their economic and class status. Nevertheless, the concurrence of the narratives, recounted in different accents yet describing the same problems, acquired common ground and convergences in an unexpected way. Ethical issues were taken into account by the team: the names of the participants are not heard during the audio walk (they were mentioned in the presentation of the artwork and in the program of the conference-exhibition), and each and every one of them has given their consent for this project. The participants were very interested by the fact that they were able to share their experiences with a wider audience, beyond their immediate social circle. The project generated many positive reactions and an empathy for all the personal problems that unfolded from the narrators' stories, resulting in a joint sonic condition that united many narrators and listeners and achieved audibility regarding various issues.

4. Socially engaged practices and audibility

22The correlation between the relevant theoretical discourse and the specific case study can clearly show how field recordings can be relevant to the stakes of socially engaged practices, and can include the voices of various marginalized groups and citizens’ narratives, and encompass their relation to the urban and/or rural space. Thus, a socialscape can be presented that will divulge the cultural elements and soundscapes related to a community, made to promote and respect the agency of the group that created it. Audibility, pertinent to the discourse about visibility, is the main goal of the representation, the contribution and the relocation of field recordings in the public space, discourse and sphere inside the field of socially engaged practices, in order to achieve a new inclusive state, where each member can have the visibility and inclusion that suits the diversity of contemporary inhabited places.

23The way in which the issue of the public sphere is approached refers to more general theories of socially engaged practices, including public art and community art. In a deCerteauian polarity, socially engaged practices mobilize tactics and not strategies: there is not a central, organised and solidified power arrangement connected with them, instead they appear to start from the point of the less privileged, looking to offer them the possibility to represent themselves and to provide the tools and the context in which they can make their voice heard.39 Moreover, for Nicolas Bourriaud, we have entered a relational era, a condition where art becomes a practice “taking as a theoretical horizon the sphere of human interactions and its social context, more than the affirmation of an autonomous and private symbolic space”.40 This adds to the suggestions that the role of contemporary artistic works is no longer to form imaginary realities, but to engage audiences in models of political and social action.41 Thus, in relationism, relational art functions as a war machine whose main characteristic is nomadism.42 The speed of nomadism in the war machine of relationism is in itself a weapons system.43 It aims at the abolition of power arrangements and the abolition of the organization, significance and subjectification. The lack of direction towards a royal structure, towards a streak or a general hegemonic objective, characterizes the nomadic: it is the becoming and the process itself.44 It occupies the territory precisely because it is not striated, it moves between real smooth spaces, virtual or digital, in the smooth space of the war machine within a nomadic territoriality. In this process, the technology of geolocation can be used simultaneously as a weapon and a tool so as to function as a means of transforming the public space and the public sphere into revolutionary space.

24This is precisely the concept of audibility, the condition whereby a voice can be heard and highlighted, and can come out of the limited circle of the communities’ scope, however heterogeneous each community can be. Demands can be heard and can be united with more centralized societal claims, if there are some, while the voice can function as a political metaphor for political agency,45 and thus audibility can be the objective of a possibility of inclusion. In the specific case of geo-locative socialscapes and audio walks, the concept of audibility is based on the idea that sounds and narratives formerly out of reach, secluded or hidden, can enter the public sphere and become audible, embodying the literal and metaphorical political aspect of voice. Communities can be informed about the possibilities of using these tools, which are often found in opensource, freeware, DIY format and copyleft practices. Dialogues can be established between different communities, but also wider discussions on issues dealing with and coping with hegemonic forms of life, surveillance, bureaucracy and population management. Such practices can reactivate bottom-up actions and interventions, in an effort to make audible requests, while they can act as a sound ciné-tract, quick and effective.

25Furthermore, the conditions occur for a literal procedure of territorialisation, deterritorialization and reterritorialization,46 relevant to public space, public discourse and the public sphere in general. The link between field recordings and space, the movement onto it and the actual map, can function as an activist way of reclaiming the public space and can lead to the reverse of the process of touristification, gentrification and promotion of the city-museum, as well as of various policies and mentalities of exclusion. These geo-locative and site-specific practices can encompass the notion of nomadism, as an antithesis to apparatuses of capture and the State,47 a different mode between the nomadic and the sedentary.48 The use of the concept of nomadism here, as in the work of Deleuze and Guattari, describes the revolutionary mode of conversation with power, and the arrangements of subjugation and control,49 embracing the heterogeneity of free space and the need to occupy and rhizomatically connect smooth spaces.50 Deleuze and Guattari see a potentiality in nomadic art, as itinerant, minor, ambulant art, which follows molecular flows and lines of flight. In the case of audio walks, nomadism does not apply by suggesting an escape from the city, but by offering walking as resistance to its striated, confined and delimited space. In addition, in these sound compositions narratives prevail, communities acquire space and voice, and buildings are not simply places for tourist visits. Furthermore, the city ceases to be presented as a collection of historical information, becoming a smooth space in which to cross and connect its segmental elements in new rhizomatic connections. Music and narration as tools emerge from ethnography, scores, concert halls, museums and institutions to become ductile materials, fragments of a living organism, of a city-score whose music is made by and addressed to people. In reality, the notions of nomadism and the war machine apply here as a war of becoming against being, of the nomadic against the sedentary”.51

26Another interesting point could be the capacity of the user, or the community of users, to develop parallel levels of numerical spaces and / or environments in the city, as an aspect of the spatialisation of the internet.52 However, in the case of sound and audio walks, the community / group of users using the technologies of the geo-locative media can thus produce acoustic zones, in negotiation - and in an indestructible relationship - with the natural environment. In addition, the inclusion of narratives and stories underscores the importance of their involvement in the process of mapping a region. In this way, the built and the sound environments are intimately linked to the emotional landscape unfolding from the narration of memory.

27Moreover, these procedures can further engage communities when they are the result of workshop-based methods, during which recording, editing and locating the field recordings onto the map could contribute to the correlation of knowledge-power [savoir-pouvoir]:53 by encouraging knowledge dispersion, autonomy in self-representation and advocating the agency of communities, minorities and marginalized social groups acquire and reclaim their voices and become visible and audible inside the social net. Thus, field recordings can function simultaneously as tools and weapons, serving the communities at stake, as means to express and subvert politics, policies and mentalities of marginalization. This relation of science, art and technical knowledge forms a competent line of flight, which will classify the tool and the weapon in the same arrangement, capable of assisting more diverse struggles:54 Underground, aerial and submarine technicians are formed, who more or less belong to the world order, but who involuntarily invent and amass loads of virtual knowledge and action, usable by others, meticulous, however easy to acquire, for new arrangements”.55

28Finally, it is important that these extrovert processes should be informed by the agency, tactics and desires of each group involved. Here, workshop-based practices, where the artist offers tools and knowledge, can be very useful in the general desideratum of knowledge-power, in order to function as a link between knowledge and training, so that the work is created by the groups themselves, made to be concern with their issues and to achieve representation of their socialscapes in their own way, reflecting their choice, image and demands. In the same direction, Bram Crevits, starting from P2P, open source and participatory practices, connects the artistic and the social as a dispersed patchwork, [which] embodies and presents a new constellation of art, culture and society”.56 Crevits argues that the artists use different languages and roles, and focuses on the service they can provide to all social bases and to different communities,57 while studying the relationship that art and science have or should have today, and the social bonds they can embody in activism and social art.58

5. Conclusion

29Speaking of politics of inclusion and politics of visibility, we should perhaps end by saying that they are indeed political choices, beyond the social bottom-up demand that has been examined here. The treaties and declarations that are being drafted and signed, the bills and amendments that are being voted on, and even the policies amidst European programs related to art and society, move in this direction. In most artistic, academic and research open calls from diverse institutions there is a prerequisite of inclusion and accessibility interest within the proposed project. Apart from the political strategies of inclusion, the demand also emerges from the bottom up, from the communities themselves as a survival tactic. The inclusion of this request for each community in local and international legislation and financial policies depends on the strength of each community: although different communities enjoy some extent of visibility-audibility and political inclusion, the same does not apply to recent refugee waves, asylum seekers, or people with mental and cognitive impairments.

30The goal of this visibility-audibility concern is not to achieve a uniformity and homogenization of society, but to promote inclusion that would highlight the existing colourful palette in the contemporary diverse societies. The specific paradigm of this article, that is accessibility and inclusion in aural terms, concerns various groups that experience vulnerability, but in the capitalist and post-capitalist world no group of citizens fits exactly into the norm. Capitalism functions as a social and economic system that consolidates relations through deterritorialization.59 Its axiomatic creates relationships between centre and periphery, but operates through its streaks and consolidations, using the south as an abstract concept defining the third world, when it is clear that there are third worlds and domestic souths even in the centre.60 Within these domestic third worlds, geo-locative sound practices can serve communities suffering from lack of inclusion, such as diverse forms of disabilities, refugee and minority issues, class exclusion, groups experiencing varying levels of cognitive, mental, or physical diversity, urban ​​cultures and subcultures, and possibly even more. Becoming heard through both hegemonic or bottom-up mediums serves demands that concern our communities, regarding political inclusion and representation, familiarization of the public sphere with narratives, accents, and problems that seem specialized but concern each and every one of us.

31However, there are dangers as well: lines of flight can become the object of cultural appropriation by the system. Smooth spaces are not themselves liberatory, but it is in them that the struggle changes, moves, and that life reconstitutes its stakes, faces new obstacles, invents new paces, modifies the adversaries”.61 It is central for this inclusion to be based on each group’s agency. The efforts concerning visibility-audibility, aural inclusion, protection of the agency of the community, promotion of their voice and their socialscape can be captured by institutions (and other similar apparatuses) or become a catch phrase in a research, artistic or academic proposal, where all the notions discussed here can appear empty of meaning. Furthermore, it is pivotal to be aware of the politics that impose on such endeavours, when neoliberal funds dictate the construction of the community in terms of success stories and fabricated inclusion. For these reasons such endeavours are and can remain collaborative, in a united front of diverse lines of flights and tactics, respecting molecular processes within communities and the public sphere.


1 The term has been already used in different contexts, as in social media industry and intelligence, as well as in history (in Peter J. Carroll, Between Heaven and Modernity: Reconstructing Suzhou, 1895-1937, Stanford, California, Stanford University Press, 2006) and in legal history (in Thomas J. Davis, Plessy v. Ferguson / Thomas J. Davis. Santa Barbara, California, Greenwood, 2012). Here the term is used in direct association with the terms landscape and soundscape, arguing for a more inclusive aspect of these practices that could involve the effect and impact on contemporary societies, as well as demonstrate their influence on our aural environment.

2 The Akoo.o team members are Nikos Bubaris, Sofia Grigoriadou, George Samantas, and Dana Papachristou.

3 Program of the conference- exhibition: https://iicatene.esteri.it/iic_atene/el/gli_eventi/calendario/2015/10/le-citta-invisibili-omaggio-a-italo-calvino.html, last accessed on 22/03/2021.

4 https://ced-slovenia.eu/en/project/b-air-art-infinity-radio-en-ijs/, last accessed on 14/10/2021.

5 According to Josh Kopeček, CEO and creator of the platform Echoes, these particular sound mapping practices can be immersive experiences in public space, see echoes.xyz.

6 Dana Papachristou, L’esthétique des arts technologiques selon Capitalisme et Schizophrènie I & II de Gilles Deleuze et Félix Guattari, Berlin, Freigeist Verlag, 2021, p. 151-158.

7 ibid., p. 153.

8 Jenny R. Lawy, Theorizing Voice: Performativity, Politics and Listening”, in Anthropological Theory vol. 17 no. 2, 2017, p. 193.

9 Steven Feld, Aaron A. Fox, Thomas Porcello and David Samuels, “Vocal Anthropology: From Music of Language to the Language of Song”, in Alessandro Duranti (ed.), A Companion to Linguistic Anthropology, Malden, MA, Blackwell Publishing, 2004, p. 341 and Amanda Weidman, “Anthropology and Voice”, in Annual Review of Anthropology vol. 43, 2014, p. 39.  

10 Steven Feld, On Post-Ethnomusicology Alternatives: Acoustemology, in Francesco Giannattasio and Giovanni Giuriati (eds.), Perpectives on a 21st Century Comparative Musicology: Ethnomusicology or Transcultural Musicology?, Udine, Nota, 2017, p. 85.

11 Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1998, p. 5.

12 Michael Southworth, The Sonic Environment of Cities, Environment and Behavior, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1967.

13 Murray R. Schafer, The Soundscape: Our Sonic Environment and the Tuning of the World, Vermont, Destiny Books, 1977. 

14 Nikos Bubaris, Ηχοτοπίο, Συνδέσεις και διαστάσεις στην ακουστική εμπειρία, in Δημήτρης Παπαγεωργίου, Νίκος Μπουμπάρης, Λενιώ Μυριβήλη (eds.), Πολιτιστική Αναπαράσταση, Αθήνα, Eκδόσεις Κριτική, 2006, p. 111-139.

15 https://www.iso.org/standard/52161.html, last accessed on 14/10/2021.

16 Tim Ingold, Against Soundscape, in Angus Carlyle (ed.), Autumn Leaves: Sound and Environment in Artistic Practice, Paris, Double Entendre, 2007, p. 10-13.

17 Murray R. Schafer, op. cit., p. 3.

18 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, Capitalisme et Schizophrénie / Mille Plateaux, Paris, Les éditions de Minuit, 1980, p. 417.    

19 The soundscape of the world is changing. Modern man is beginning to‬ inhabit a world with an acoustic environment radically different from any‬ he has hitherto known. These new sounds, which differ in quality and‬ intensity from those of the past, have alerted many researchers to the‬ dangers of an indiscriminate and imperialistic spread of more and larger‬ sounds into every corner of man's life. Noise pollution is now a world‬ problem. It would seem that the world soundscape has reached an apex of‬ vulgarity in our time, and many experts have predicted universal deafness‬ as the ultimate consequence unless the problem can be brought quickly under control.

20 Murray R. Schafer, op. cit., p. 3.

21 Hildegard Westerkamp, “Soundscape, in The Journal of Acoustic Ecology, vol. 1 n. 1, 2000.

22 Akio Suzuki’s Oto-Date and Janet Cardiff’s Words Drawn in Water, to name just two, show how these two artists interact openly with the environment using it as a canvas to produce sounds on or to re-imagine it through technological means respectively.

23 Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust / a history of walking, London, Penguin, 2000, p. 3.

24 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., p. 500-517.    

25 Locomotion, not cognition, must be the starting point for the study of perceptual activity

26 Jonathan Raban, The Soft City, New York, The Harvill Press, 1974.

27 Mirko Zardini, “Toward a Sensorial urbanism, in Anja Schwanhauer (ed.), Sensing the City: A Companion to Urban Anthropology, Basel & Berlin, BauVerlag, 2016, p. 140.

28 ibid., p. 144-145.

29 ibid.

30 ibid.

31 ibid.

32 Steven Flusty, Building Paranoia, in Ellin Nan (ed.), Architecture of Fear, New York, Princeton Architectural Press, 1997, p. 47–59.        

33 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., p. 592-625.

34 Jürgen Habermas, The public sphere, in Chandra Mukerji, Michael Schudson (eds.), Rethinking Popular Culture. Contemporary Perspectives in Cultural Studies, Berkeley/Los Angeles, University of California Press, 1991, p. 398-404.

35 House has many meanings here. As in ancient Greek city-states oíkos meant the family, the property and the house establishment, the proto-germanic and Old English-derived word house initially meant shelter and residence, but slowly took other meanings in different historical contexts: it could be used to describe a residential building, or a space of familiarity and safety inside a household, but also describes ancestors and descendants, especially in despotic or noble heritages, or a dynasty, implying inherited property, family names and titles in feudal, despotic and monarchical systems.

36 Shaj Mohan, On the Relation between the Obscure, the Cryptic and the Public, in Divya Dwivendi, Sanil V., The Public Sphere from Outside the West, London, New York, Bloomsburry Academic, 2015, p. 70.

37 Zygmunt Bauman, Community. Seeking Safety in an Insecure World, London-New York, Polity Press & Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2001 p. 91-94.

38 Diane Richardson, Desiring Sameness: The rise of a neoliberal politics of normalisation, in Antipode, vol. 37, no 3, 2005, p. 515-535.

39 Michel de Certeau, The Practice of Everyday Life, trans. by Steven Rendall, Berkeley-Los Angeles-London, University of California Press, 1984, p. 29-42.

40 Nicolas Bourriaud, Esthétique relationelle, Paris, Les presses du réel, 2001, p. 12.

41 Laurent Boy, “Réflexions sur l’art contemporain et sa capacité à fonder l’espace public”, in Réfractions recherches et expressions anarchistes, https://refractions.plusloin.org/spip.php?article20, last accessed on 09/06/2005.

42 Dana Papachristou, op. cit., p. 11-15.

43 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., p. 496.

44 ibid., p. 617.

45 Adriana Cavarero, For More Than One Voice. Towards a Philosophy of Vocal Expression, trans. and intr. by Paul A. Kottman, California, Stanford University Press, 2005, p. 197-212.

46 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., passim.

47 ibid. p. 524.

48 ibid. p. 34.

49 ibid. p. 559.

50 ibid. p. 592.

51 Robert Deuchars, Creating Lines of Flight and Activating Resistance: Deleuze and Guattari’s War Machine, Ante Podium, Victoria University Wellington, 2011, p. 3.

52 Dimitris Haritos, Τα μέσα επικοινωνίας δι’ εντοπισμού και οι επιδράσεις τους ως προς την κοινωνική αλληλόδραση στο περιβάλλον της σημερινής πόλης, in Ζητήματα Επικοινωνίας, vol 5, Αθήνα, Εκδόσεις Καστανιώτη, 2007.

53 Michel Foucault, Surveiller et punir : naissance de la prison, Paris, Gallimard, 1975, passim.

54 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., p. 502.

55 ibid.

56 Bram Crevits, “On Media Art”, in https://v3.pubpub.org/user/bram-crevits last accessed on 30/10/2017.

57 ibid.

58 Bram Crevits, “The Doers Decide”, in Human/Artist by Anyuta Wiazemsky, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E-naVT14jtw, last accessed on 28/10/2017.

59 Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari, op. cit., p. 566-567.

60 ibid. p. 584-585.

61 ibid.


Dana Papachristou, «Audibility, visibility and social inclusion through geo-locative sound art», Filigrane. Musique, esthétique, sciences, société. [En ligne], Articles soumis à la suite d’un appel à articles, Numéros de la revue, À l’écoute des lieux : le field recording comme pratique artistique et activisme écologique, mis à  jour le : 12/03/2022, URL : https://revues.mshparisnord.fr:443/filigrane/index.php?id=1102.


Quelques mots à propos de :  Dana Papachristou

Dana Papachristou studied music and musicology at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the Attikon Conservatory. She took her MA in Cultural Studies, Media and Music and her joint PhD in Aesthetics of new media art at Paris VIII – Vincennes – St. Denis and the Ionian University. She is a sound artist, composer and founder of the To Aesthate research center. She currently teaches Design, Creative Media and Audiovisual practices, and Art History and Theory at the University of Thessaly in Volos, Greece.
Dana Papachristou a étudié la musique et la musicologie à la National and Kapodistrian University of Athens et au Attikon Conservatory. Elle a obtenu une maîtrise en études culturelles, média et musique ainsi qu’un doctorat en esthétique des nouveaux médias artistiques, à l’université Paris VIII – Vincennes – Saint Denis et à la Ionian University. Elle est artiste sonore, compositrice et fondatrice du centre de recherche To Aesthate. Elle enseigne actuellement le design, les médias créatifs et les pratiques audiovisuelles, ainsi que l'histoire et la théorie de l'art à la University of Thessaly, à Volos, en Grèce.University of Thessaly