During the Fall semester, Scholars Lab Design Architect, Jeremy Boggs and I spent time conceptualizing and sketching a web interface to house a perusable version of my ethnographic composition, Community Listening in Isle Royale National Park. Check out the project abstract below. This blog post is the first of many posts that will track our developments.
Meanwhile, check out past Scholars’ Lab Fellow, Wendy Hsu‘s recent series in Ethnography Matters, On Digital Ethnography. This four-part series provides a groundwork for discussing and making ethnography that exists beyond text and print. My project Community Listening falls nicely into this category.
Community Listening in Isle Royale National Park traces how I became part of a dialogue among a team of wolf biologists and a community of park-explorers who share a unique deep listening relationship. The scientists involved in this project are the primary investigators in the five-decade long wolf/moose project, the longest continuous wildlife study in the world. The primary way these researchers determine clues of wolf reproduction is to listen for the sounds of group howling during the summer months when excitement at den sites erupts during pup feeding time. For these clues, the researchers ears, or “antennas” as they put it, tap into a network of visitors and employees who are scattered across the island, listening. This listening network is directly tied to the ecological well-being of the park, which is currently at risk of major change because the wolves, who play a vital role, are on the brink of “blinking-out” due to global climate change. The ethnographic composition weaves together several different types of sound data collected during fieldwork: soundscape recordings of the place, interviews with the wolf/moose researchers, interviews with park visitors and employees, audio diaries, an audio essay derived from field notes, and archival recordings. The work will exist in three formats: a 25-minute radio work, an online web environment that mirrors the listening network as an interactive form, and a concert piece. Issues of access are important to this project because of its interdisciplinary nature. Therefore, the narrative frame of each format is meant to guide the listeners through the specific project content while also creating a space for self-perusal and discovery.