Hearing with the cochlear implant and the filmic production of auditory ecologies

Public lecture, University of Exeter, Lecture Series Anthropology and Sociology, 3 October 2016, 3:30pm, Amory B316

Robert Stock (Konstanz) (TP 2)


This talk will discuss media practices of hearing with cochlear implants by focusing on the filmic production of ‘auditory ecologies’. The cochlear implant system is thereby not understood as a mere tool or prosthesis subject to human agency, which can easily be used by its bearers. Rather, the implant system, its social, technical and political ‘impacts’ need to be conceptualized as ‘effects’ of specific situations and environments. By connecting ANT, Sound Studies and Media Studies, it will be argued that the cochlear implant and the actors it assembles can be considered as a particular auditory ecology (Gatehouse et al. 1999). The latter will be described by analysing the long-term documentary film Natalie oder der Klang nach der Stille [Natalie or the sound after silence, 2013, dir. Simone Jung]. By doing so, I will demonstrate how various forms of hearing and non-hearing are constituted cinematographically. We hence propose that films are specific operations that constitute visibilities, invisibilities or (in-)audibility. Such an understanding of film foregrounds the performative production of hearing as an ‘audiovisual event’. Consequently, the description of the reciprocal relationship between user and implant, between image and sound, here understood as an integral part of a complex media ecology, allows us to get an idea of the audiovisual event of enabling and disabling practices of technological hearing.

The lecture will be accompanied by three seminar sessions (4, 6 and 7 October)discussing nanotechnology, the paradoxes of participation, hearing and non-hearing, cochlear implants etc. with Michael Schillmeier (Sociology, University of Exeter) and Tom Rice (Anthropology, University of Exeter).