Digital Studies 101

A common resource for Digital Studies at UMW.

Digital Audio

Digital technology supports the creation, the recording, and the distribution of audio media by individuals without requiring access to recording studios and radio broadcast stations. Hardware innovations, such as MP3 players, the iPod, and smartphones, have made possible the ability for audiences to listen to audio productions using digital devices. Networks have made possible the distribution of sound beyond the listening distance of speakers and reception of radio signals.

Although audio may be created, recorded, and released via multiple digital formats such as songs or book recordings, one popular digital audio medium that has arisen is the podcast. A podcast is a digital audio recording of speech, auditory effects, music, and even absence of sound. Podcasts often run in series, generally focused on a single topic for a “season” or more generally on particular interests, such as history, technology, design, sports, literature, and so forth. Podcasts may feature one person talking, an interview of one or more people, a series of people talking about a topic, or a combination of these.

Digital audio may be produced for audio-focused projects, such as individual songs or podcasts, but may also be created to be incorporated as part of video games, movies, and digital journalism.

Goals

  • Explore the significance of sound in digital technology
  • Compose effective digital audio using digital recording and editing hardware and software
  • Consider how digital technology has affected the creation and distribution of audio productions
  • Think critically about sound in everyday life and how that may be reflected (or not) in digital audio

Materials

“What Are Podcasts?”

“Audible Revolution”

Ways of Hearing: Listen to Episode 1: “Time” for a history of audio production

99% Invisible: “The Sound of the Artificial World

“Being Siri

“Meet the Man Whose Voice Became Stephen Hawking’s”

“The Sound of Life: What Is a Soundscape?” Part 1 and Part 2

Resources and Tools

  • Audacity
  • Audio Archive
  • Creative Commons Sounds, provides a search tool for looking for items available for re-use under a CC license (which should also be verified when viewing the work)
  • FoundSound, iOS tool
  • FreeSound is a collaborative database of Creative Commons Licensed sounds.
  • Garage Band
  • Radio Garden, “an interactive map of live radio stations across the globe”
  • RadioLab: “a radio show and podcast weaving stories and science into sound and music-rich documentaries”
  • Reply All podcast about how technology and people shape each other
  • SoundBible‘s Royalty Free Sounds
  • StoryCorps focuses on recording and sharing the stories of “everyday lives”

Suggested Tasks

  • Create an audio file using a tool such as Garage Band or Audacity
  • Listen to a podcast and think about all the different sounds intentionally used and occurring in the podcast
  • Listen to a series of individual sound clips and think critically about their different effects on the audience
  • Compose an audio essay using found sound recorded in a local environment, by using sound clips, or through some combination of clips and recordings
  • Create an edited interview of someone using StoryCorps-inspired questions
  • Consider how podcasts can support access for individuals without or with diminished hearing through transcripts, such as those found on Escape Pod
  • Re-present a text previously available only in written form via an audio recording
  • Keep a “sound” journal documenting and reflecting on digital sounds used by technology in daily life or in a podcast series

Slack Channel: digital-audio

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