Colloquium: Jonathan Sterne


Thursday, November 7, 4:15 p.m.
MacLean Center, 112 S. Michigan Ave., room 522

MP3s are the most common form of recorded audio in the world. They often occupy center stage in controversies about sound quality and intellectual property, but they also provide important insights into the broader cultural changes in listening practices and communication technologies over the last century, as well as changes to come in the 21st.

In his new book, MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke, 2012), Jonathan Sterne situates mp3s within a general history of compression. MP3 tells a story about how massive telecommunications infrastructures were tuned to ideas about listening, while our very ideas of what it means to hear or communicate were shaped by the needs of media. Join us for a discussion of some of the ideas in the book, and bring your questions. After a short introduction, Sterne will lead an interactive group discussion of the issues raised by his book.

You can read the intro online here for free:
Format Theory [PDF]

Jonathan Sterne teaches in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies and the History and Philosophy of Science Program at McGill University. He is author of MP3: The Meaning of a Format (Duke, 2012), The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction (Duke, 2003); and numerous articles on media, technologies and the politics of culture. He is also editor of The Sound Studies Reader (Routledge, 2012). His new projects consider instruments and instrumentalities; histories of signal processing; and the intersections of disability, technology and perception. Visit his website at