Sonic coexistence, sounding imaginary. Toward an audible reframing of urban narratives

Westiminister school of law, London 2018 (forthcoming)

How does sound operate ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ law’s normativity and how does it display urban and cultural changes? The paper aims to discuss the ways in which sonic perception can be considered a device that affects intractable controversies through (the agency of) annoyance. We explore then the political implications of problematic sonic “messages” diffused within the urban environment by a various range of institutional as well as “marginal” stakeholders.

The notion of annoyance is thus effective as it reveals how sonic perception is crucial for the understanding of the contemporary urban scape. Indeed, it is possible to acknowledge how sonic annoyance hides the hierarchy of priorities endorsed by the urban agendas: “noise” is systematically controlled, regulated and repressed; whereas “clean” and “quiet” atmospheres are established in order to drive and support the urban transformations. What is left from such logic is a complex and layered understanding of particular sonic identities; produced, among others, by the most marginalized, yet representative communities.

Since urban and regional atmospheres, narratives and imaginaries are deeply influenced by a shared perception of sonic identities, we can claim sound as a “sense making” tool, through which the audible environment can inspire urban planning and public policy design. Listening to the imaginary challenges, then, urban and regional marketing, promotes the quality of new residential and productive districts, and encourages an innovative wave of policies focused on social integration.

photo credits Nicola Di Croce