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Why Listen to the City?

Why Listen to the City?

New handbook provides strategies and tools for community empathy, engagement, empowerment, and change through sound.

“This book is the result of a year-long collaboration that arose from a shared desire to explore how sound – including the human voice - can enrich our understanding of place. Although no single truth exists, we often narrate and come to our own understanding about a community, its history, and its present challenges from a single point of view. Through listening, we embark on a transformative journey through the memories and sensations of a place, and develop a deeper appreciation for all it represents." begins the Introduction to the Listening to the City: Community Research and Action Through Sound and Story Handbook. The book is the culmination of a year-long collaboration between the MIT Community Innovators Lab (CoLab) here in Cambridge, LA Listens, the Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI) in Boston.

As a longtime creator of city soundscapes and a participant in the 2017 Listening To the City conference, which was the first event in the collaborative project, I was really excited to explore this rich resource.

The handbook is divided into eight self-contained sections that can be used individually. Each section includes an overview, potential uses, interactive activities that include action steps and tools, and examples. Sections include:
• Building Awareness and Empathy through Meditative Listening
• Identifying Community Needs and Assets through Audio Mapping
• Sensing Shifts in Communities through Soundwalking
• Uncovering and Honoring Hidden Histories through Personal Storytelling
• Promoting Public Discourse through Pop-up Listening
• Democratizing Decision-making through Drama
• Mobilizing Community Action through Story Mapping
• Proposing Policy Change through Photovoice

Although each section is self-contained, the Building Awareness and Empathy through Meditative Listening serves as a guide for beginning to experiment with the use of sound-based methods for research, teaching and/or community engagement. Several activities and tools guide the user through this process.

This is a powerful resource for urban planners, community activists, artists, researchers, and anyone interested in engaging more deeply with the community around them.