Sonic Intimacy: Voice, Species, Technics (Stanford University Press, 2017)

“With Sonic Intimacy, we are manifestly in the hands of a skilled and not a little playful writer who connects new media to long developed philosophical conversations. This is a book that catalyzes thinking as much as it documents thoughts, and its influence should be wide and varied.” — David Cecchetto

Sonic Intimacy is a perceptive, engaging, and clever set of meditations on a topic of increasing scholarly importance: how sound produces human, technical, and nonhuman intimacies. Pettman’s treatment of sound across the human and nonhuman is innovative, refreshing, and quite needed at this time.” — Richard Grusin

“The form and style of Pettman’s book capture the character of this roving ear, always pricking up with the possibility of another intriguing example. Pettman is a very engaging writer, and the way he traverses contexts and theoretical horizons is thrilling…” — Naomi Waltham-Smith, Boundary 2

Sonic Intimacy asks us who—or what—deserves to have a voice, beyond the human. Arguing that our ears are far too narrowly attuned to our own species, the book explores four different types of voices: the cybernetic, the gendered, the creaturely, and the ecological. Through both a conceptual framework and a series of case studies, Dominic Pettman tracks some of the ways in which these voices intersect and interact. He demonstrates how intimacy is forged through the ear, perhaps even more than through any other sense, mode, or medium. The voice, then, is what creates intimacy, both fleeting and lasting, not only between people, but also between animals, machines, and even natural elements: those presumed not to have a voice in the first place. Taken together, the manifold, material, actual voices of the world, whether primarily natural or technological, are a complex cacophony that is desperately trying to tell us something about the rapidly failing health of the planet and its inhabitants. As Pettman cautions, we would do well to listen.

Professor of Culture & Media at the New School for Social Research and Eugene Lang College.

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