Call for Special Issue

Audiography: Recording as Academic Tool - due January 1, 2018

Guest Editors:            

Jacob Smith, Northwestern University
Neil Verma, Northwestern University

The study of sound and its histories has become an energized activity across media studies lately. It’s not that there’s been a sudden “discovery” of the richness of sound histories, discourses, and social practices – sound studies has always been with us, often under other names – but rather that scholars increasingly acknowledge the way sound can reorganize ties between previously discrete areas of research and criticism drawn from cinema and media studies, critical theory, art history, sociology, history, musicology, performance studies, neuroscience, computer science and other areas. There has also simply been an incredible output of texts. The last decade has brought a stream of outstanding books, journal special issues, readers and handbooks, seminars and conferences at prominent institutions, as well as scholarly interest groups at SCMS and elsewhere all devoted to sound, listening and associated concepts. Jonathan Sterne has called all this an “interdisciplinary ferment” in the human sciences, one in which a variety of academic agendas have been served by using sound as a point of “departure” or of “arrival.”

Surprisingly, however, relatively few scholars have treated sound as a means – as the road rather than starting point or finishing line. This despite the fact that we are living through a revolution in audio media, with a number of scholars using recorders and digital audio workstations, producing podcasts in classes, presenting data sets using audio tools, and interacting with sound artists and engineers. Recently there have been signs that it is time for sound studies to think outside of the text, from the work of the Aca-Media Podcastand sound studies sites such as Seismograf and Sounding Out! to digital humanities work such as Emily Thompson’s project on The Roaring Twenties and the Provoke project at Duke.

Prompted by this work, this upcoming special issue of [in]Transition provides a forum for “sound studies” of a different sort: experimental “audiographic” critical works. We take as inspiration Brian Eno’s well-known lecture about the recording studio as a “compositional tool,” in which he explored how music and musical composition themselves were transformed by studio work. Creators no longer went in to studios with complete works in mind, but instead used studios to invent genres and modes of creation.

In a similar way, we ask scholars to consider recording as an act as essential to making an academic argument as putting pen to paper, and to produce works that think reflexively about that matter. We solicit research projects that involve media in one way or another but may -- or may not! -- concern sound specifically; our focus is on works that use acts of recording and mixing as vibrant intellectual tools, works that are made with the audio form in mind; as opposed to using sound as an afterthought. We are especially interested in projects that use audio in ways that augment ordinary argumentative and discursive practices. Some ideas might include:

  • Projects that experiment with purely auditory citation
  • Essays that make or augment arguments through use of creative sound practices, including noise, music and mixing
  • Ethnographic or social studies that experiment with a multiplication of voices and accents, especially to complicate notions of race and gender
  • Submissions that use soundscapes analytically as well as atmospherically
  • Submissions that experiment with time, rhythm and episodic structure
  • Creative use of sound effects or chance operations in the recording process
  • Submissions that experiment with the “sonification” of data and its integration into an argument
  • Experiments in the translation of audio texts
  • Essays that explore the sonic possibilities of media criticism; audio analogs to DVD “commentary tracks” for example
  • Sound-centric installations that function as media criticism
  • Audio submissions can vary in length, with 12-15 minutes optimal; submissions should not exceed 40 minutes in length.

Please consult the section below on submission and peer review practices prior to crafting your submission. Feel free to contact the editors Neil Verma ( and Jacob Smith ( if you have any questions.

The deadline for submissions is January 1, 2018.

Submission and Open Peer Review Process:

Contributors should contact guest editor Neil Verma at to arrange the most convenient file transfer method. Your submission materials should include (1) your audio file in any common format (mp3, WAV, AAC et al), along with (2) a 25-50 word abstract, (3) a 150 word bio and (4) a 300-1000 word supporting statement that articulates the research aims and process of the work as well as the ways in which those aims are achieved in the audio form. There are no submission or processing charges - [in]Transition is free to publish, free to read.

Within one month of the deadline, the [in]Transition editors will listen to the work, confer on it, and either: agree, in the first instance, to send the work out for peer review to two expert reviewers (including members of [in]Transition’s editorial board); or write to the author to explain why, in our view, the work does not yet merit being sent out for external review. One [in]Transition editor will agree to take on the role of liaising with the author and reviewers for each submission.

Peer reviewers will know the name of the person(s) submitting the work and, at the outset of the review process, will be asked to declare any conflict of interest. If there is a conflict, a new reviewer will be sought. Once a reviewer agrees to evaluate the work (comprising audio piece and research statement) they will be asked to make a written recommendation (approximately 300-500-words) to the editors about publication, normally within one month of being sent the work, with three conclusive options: “publish as is”, “make minor amendments”, or “reject”. In the case of the latter recommendation, basic suggestions for major revisions should be made, where appropriate, and resubmission of the work may be encouraged.

Following the reviewers and editors’ approval of the work for publication (with or without further amendments, on which authors will work on in discussion with one assigned [in]Transition editor, normally within the space of a month), submitted pieces will be published alongside the original or amended research statement, as well as edited versions of the peer-reviews (signed by their authors). Further comments from readers/viewers will be encouraged.

In all these ways, as the editors of the online practice research journal Screenworks have argued of that publication’s innovative review process (which has informed our own), we are employing an active, dialogic model of criteria generation and research within our “community of screen media scholar practitioners as to how our research is constituted, defined and disseminated.”

Authors retain the rights to their audio and creator statements, granting [in]Transition the right to publish their work. While we allow creators to determine their own copyright stipulations based on their country of residence, we encourage creators to license their work under CreativeCommons.

We look forward to receiving your submissions.