Aural Commons without an Aural Community?

On the Difficulties of Living Together in a City with Sound

Keywords: aural commons, media ethnography, urban soundscapes, noise complaints, noise disputes

Abstract

This article explores the ontological, epistemological, and ethical implications of understanding urban soundscapes as aural commons: as dynamic fields of action shaped together by various actors with heterogeneous valuations. Adopting the perspective of the commons implies that the management of
soundscapes should not be framed in terms of isolated sound (re)sources but through the social, cultural, and political processes by which the actors inhabiting the shared acoustic environment seek to make sense of their inevitable coexistence. The notion of aural commons is illustrated with a particular noise dispute between a multi-story night spot and its neighbors in Helsinki, Finland, from a media ethnographic approach. The analysis shows that relevant arenas and practices through which differing sonic valuations could be mediated are lacking. Noise disputes in administrative processes and their media representations are translated into a technical discourse that fails to create common ground for appreciating the differences in living together in a city with sound. By focusing on the potential of commoning as a social process, the
article proposes an alternative approach to understanding and improving the socio-cultural and socio-material dynamics of urban soundscapes.

Label for peer-reviewed scholarly publications
Section
Articles
Published
Jun 25, 2020
How to Cite
Venäläinen, J. (2020). Aural Commons without an Aural Community? On the Difficulties of Living Together in a City with Sound. Ethnologia Fennica, 47(1), 57-80. https://doi.org/10.23991/ef.v47i1.84993