The Meaning of Noise in an Emerging Audio Platform

this article is based on my dissertation work.  In it, I develop the idea of “deep meaning” from cultural sociology to aid conversations about morality in design for STS.  My case is the development of ‘object-based audio’, a new audio platform currently in stages of R&D, and which is quickly gaining ground as infrastructure.  Here’s the abstract:

Personalized audio is an emerging technology meant to adjust for the differences between user bodies, where physical and perceptual distinctions affect the experience of sound. This platform is conceived in opposition to conventional accounts of audio which assume the possibility of a perfect technology around which listeners differ in quality. To explain this change, I use ethnographic observations from the R&D lab of a large audio firm. Using the engineers’ discourse and practices, I argue this opposition parallels critiques of the modernist concept of “noise” from postmodern social theory. Introducing cultural sociology to enrich STS scholarship on design fictions and values in design, I make the analytical distinction between technical classifications and moral codifications to argue this change in understanding and its manifestations in design results from the redefinition of “noise” to distinguish “good noise” as an engineering concept with deep meaning.

[image: Faunhofer PR, http://www.iis.fraunhofer.de/en/pr/2013/20130903_Audio_3D-MPEG.html]