Media Parasites, Specificity and the Unheard
The auditory experience of technical mediation is related to certain perceptual techniques we have developed in order to differentiate between meaningful sound and undesired parasitic artefacts. The act of ‘unhearing’ undesired sound is motivated by ideologies of transparency and fidelity. 'Unhearing' the unwanted results from what Jonathan Sterne identified as a continuous conflict between the idea of technology as a vanishing mediator and the reality that audio media have their own sonic character. In contrast, medium-specific practices in sound try to address the sonic character of their medium. Medium specificity, however, is a concept that has a history. This article reviews its theoretical implications with roots in visual arts discourse in order to develop a perspective on medium-specific practice in sound. Drawing on the concept of technological affordance the author discusses works by Christian Marclay, Roger Miller, Paul DeMarinis and Jens Brand who make use of sound (re)production technologies as an artistic medium.