From Soundscape to Meaningscape

Invited paper

Frederik Laigaard Nielbo

Aarhus University

Tuesday 2 june, 2015, 16:20 - 16:40

0.6 Madrid (49)

Throughout evolution the auditory system has been shaped to detect, localize and identify significant events in the environment. Sounds carry information about events relevant for the perceiving organism, enabling it to navigate in the environment, detect prey, avoid potential dangers, etc. The sounds can, in other words, be considered sign vehicles or meaning carriers and the sense of hearing can be understood as a tool for gathering information about events in the surroundings in order to initiate appropriate behavior (chasing, fleeing, etc.). Insights from biosemiotics, cybernetics and ecological psychology suggest that perception is intimately linked to action, but this linkage has been largely ignored in traditional research on human auditory perception. I argue that interaction potentials play an important role in soundscape perception. It is well established that individual sounds can carry meaning for the perceiver, and ecologically informed studies indicate that listenersí perception of soundscapes is structured by semantic categories related to events and activities taking place in the heard environment. From the rudimentary hearing system of simpler organisms to the complex human auditory system, perception of such events is functional and instrumental; it guides the perceiverís behavior by utilizing information about potential interactions with the environment. With this paper I wish to discuss the notion of a semiotic dimension of soundscape perception, where soundscapes are considered as "meaningscapes", complexes of functional auditory signs to be perceived and acted upon, and by which the perceiver makes sense of the environment.

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