Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel

Overview


Do you enjoy listening to music while driving? Do you find radio traffic information indispensable? Do you like to sing along with whatever you like as you drive?

This book tells the fascinating story of how, over the course of the twentieth century, we turned automobiles from intentionally noisy contraptions into spheres of auditory privacy that make us feel sound and safe. It explains how engineers in the automotive industry found pride in making car engines quieter once they...

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Sound and Safe: A History of Listening Behind the Wheel

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Overview


Do you enjoy listening to music while driving? Do you find radio traffic information indispensable? Do you like to sing along with whatever you like as you drive?

This book tells the fascinating story of how, over the course of the twentieth century, we turned automobiles from intentionally noisy contraptions into spheres of auditory privacy that make us feel sound and safe. It explains how engineers in the automotive industry found pride in making car engines quieter once they realized that noise stood for inefficiency. And, after the automobile had become a closed vehicle, it follows them as they struggled against sounds audible within the car. The book also traces how noise is linked both to fears - fears of noise-induced fatigue, fears about the danger of the car radio and drivers' attention spans - and to wants, exploring how drivers at one point actually desired to listen to their cars' engines in order to diagnose mechanical problems and how they now appreciate radio traffic information. And it suggests that their disdain for the ever-expanding number of roadside noise barriers made them long for new forms of in-car audio entertainment.

This book also allows you to peep behind the scenes of international standardization committees and automotive test benches. What did and does the automotive industry do to secure the sounds characteristic for their brands? Drawing on archives, interviews, beautiful historical automotive ads, and writing from cultural history, science and technology studies, sound and sensory studies, this book unveils the hidden history of an everyday phenomenon. It is about the sounds of car engines, tires, wipers, blinkers, warning signals, in-car audio systems and, ultimately, about how we became used to listening while driving.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"This wonderfully researched and written book charts the fascinating history of our relationship to the sound of automobiles. From the individual strategies and skills embodied in listening to the sound of our engines to the commercial practices that have standardized and marketed those sonic experiences. Sound and Safe is a major contribution to our understanding of the culture of the automobile."--Michael Bull, author of Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience

"Most music is listened to in cars. Karin Bijsterveld and her colleagues in this fascinating well-researched book, part of the new interdisciplinary field of sound studies, trace mainly in European contexts how cars have become auditory bubbles cocooned from their surroundings." --Trevor Pinch, Cornell University

"Deeply researched, highly compelling, and utterly original, Sound and Safe will be of immense interest to scholars of sound studies, automotive culture, and cultural, business, and engineering history. In unprecedented detail, it explains the acoustemological history of automotive culture, explaining how cars were heard, why they were listened to in particular ways, and how their sounds and their silences have come to define the driving experience. A splendid, absorbing, and important book." --Mark M. Smith, University of South Carolina

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199925711
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/2014

Meet the Author

Karin Bijsterveld is Professor of Technology and Society Studies, Maastricht University
Eefje Cleophas is Instructor, Department of Technology and Society Studies, Maastricht University
Stefan Krebs is Researcher, Eindhoven University of Technology
Gijs Mom is Associate Professor of the History of Technology and Mobility, Eindhoven University of Technology

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Table of Contents

Contents
Acknowledgements
1. Driving in Control
2. "It Shuts with a Comforting Sound": Closing the Car Body
3. Humming Engines and Moving Radio: Encapsulating the Listening Driver
4. "Like a Boxed Calf in a Traffic Drain": The Car on the Corridor
5. Selling Sound: Sensory Marketing in the Automotive Industry
6. Sound and Safe: Auditory Privacy and Sonic Relief in the Car
Author Biographies
Archives, Journals and Interviews
References
Index

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