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Noise Worlds: Reading globalization through noise

Noise Worlds: Reading globalization through noise


Dr. Niall Martin


Dr. Jan Hein Hoogstad, Prof. dr. Mireille Rosello
External researchers: Dr. Pepita Hesselberth (Universiteit van Leiden), Dr. Yasco Horsman (Universiteit van Leiden)]

Description of the research programme of the research group

As the language of crisis and disaster supplants the promise of a new world order within discourses of globalization, the need to develop conceptual resources for making sense of chaos and disorder becomes correspondingly urgent.   Recent theorizations of noise which have extended the concept’s application beyond its traditional homes in information science and musicology provide a promising resource for this task.   Accordingly this reading group will examine the potential for deploying concepts of noise within broader questions of cultural analysis as they bear on the issues and problematics of a globalization normalized around crisis.   Alongside canonic texts by Michel Serres, William Paulson, Katherine Hayles and Jacques Attali, introductory readings will be drawn from more recent works on noise by Joseph Nechtvatal, Mark Nunes, Mattin & Anthony Iles, Jussi Parikka, Peter Krapp and Greg Hainge.    However, the emphasis of this reading group will be on the application of noise theory in cultural analysis and thus participants will be encouraged to adapt the conceptual vocabulary of noise to their own objects and areas of research as these intersect with the themes and issues of globalization.     Possible areas of exploration include the place of noise in mapping the plural and multiform borders of a world space which is rendered increasingly noisy both by its hetero- and homogeneity.   In this context ideas of noise as parasite (Serres) provide a productive frame for discussions of hospitality, sovereignty and the forms of Othering involved in the construction of (multicultural) communities. Can the vocabulary of noise help us address the increasingly urgent questions surrounding the treatment of strangers when the notion of home as the locus of hospitality is problematized by the deterritorialising logics of globalization?    Noise as the interference of medium with message also offers perspective on new materialisms (Bennett) and recent attempts to rethink notions of animacy (Chen). So too the informationalisation of notions of life within biological science and network studies suggests the productive role of noise as a conceptual resource for examining the biopolitical dimensions of globalization (Doyle).     Politically, the association of noise with new forms of subjectification is suggested by Jacques Rancière’s notions of ‘disagreement’ and ‘the distribution of the sensible’, while its tactical deployment within a global media environment has most recently been illustrated by the Occupy movement.   The specific intersections of noise and globalization addressed by the group will, however, depend on the research interests of its members.

Envisaged results

The reading group will lead to a symposium in Spring 2014 whose proceedings will be published either in a special issue of a journal or edited collection. A funding application for the symposium has been submitted to the Amsterdam Centre of Globalisation Studies. In addition the group aims to establish a national interdisciplinary network of scholars with a shared interest in noise as a productive conceptual resource for cultural analysis.

Work plan and time schedule

Monthly meetings of the reading group will commence in April 2013. These will serve to establish the research questions around which the symposium in March 2014 will be organized.

Societal relevance

Insofar as it is concerned with exploring the potential of noise theories to contribute to our understanding of the social effects of globalization, the societal relevance of this project is high. By extending the conceptual vocabulary through which we address the issues and problems of globalization, the group speaks to concerns over a number of pressing social issues including the differential movement of people and information within global communication systems, and hence, to questions of migration, assimilation and the political representation of post-national communities. Its concern with the conditions of communication across networked systems similarly addresses critical issues at the conjunction of new technology and the conceptualization of life which speak to issues of political subjectification – who or what gets heard – and monetarization of life as information.

This research group is active in the following constellations:


Globalization and Migration

Cultural and Social Critique