by Jennifer Stoever, Associate Professor of English, Binghamton University
In Spring 2016, Tech Works! partnered with students from Binghamton University English Professor Jennifer Stoever's upper-level undergraduate course "How We Listen" to produce 10 unique, historically researched "Aural Postcards" from Binghamton's technological past. Students researched Binghamton's history all semester in the community and in Tech Works!'s rich archives, guided by the help and expertise of Tech Works Director Susan Sherwood.
The term "Aural Postcard" is taken from the work of sound theorist Fran Tonkiss who argues that the modern city is sonic as well as visual, and that sound offers us a unique perspective on the past as well as the present. Stoever's students were free to interpret Tonkiss's term how they saw fit, uniquely contouring it within the richly textured history of Binghamton. As a result, you will see, read, and listen 10 unique takes on the sounds of Binghamton's past and what they offer to us in the contemporary moment. Here's how one student group, the designers of one of the two McIntosh Amplifiers aural postcards, explained the philosophy behind their aural postcard.
In addition to creating wonderful online experiences for anyone interested in Binghamton's technological past, these projects contributed new sounds and research toward Dr. Stoever's ongoing Binghamton Historical Soundwalk Project, in concert with recent Binghamton University graduate Daniel Santos and the Binghamton University Center for Civic Engagement. The student-designed project began in the Spring of 2014 in Stoever's "How We Listen" course with a competition to create a civic engagement project that put sound studies methodology to work in intervene in a local community issue. As Daniel Santos describes the project:
Students in Fall 2015 "How We Listen" course furthered the project by performing oral histories and pitching sites to include in the final soundwalk. After Stoever, Santos, and TechWorks! Director Susan Sherwood selected downtown Binghamton as the site for the forthcoming walks, Spring 2016's students performed research in and around Water Street. Spring 2016 team photos below. Every semester, we get a little bit closer to mapping out and creating the sounds for our walk. Stay tuned!