Hugo Boothby: The Politics of Listening

Welcome to a K3 seminar with Hugo Boothby, PhD candidate in Media and Communication Studies.

The title of the seminar is The Politics of Listening. It will be Hugo’s 25 percent PhD seminar. Kristina Lindström, Senior Lecturer in Product Design, K3, will function as discussant.

This will be an online seminar, carried out through Zoom, and it will take place on Friday, March 12 at 10.15-12.00. Please note this seminar is on a Friday! Please join here:

Below is an abstract for the seminar. If you would like to read the whole manuscript, please contact Hugo at

This paper presents work towards a PhD in Media and Communication studies equivalent to 25% of a completed thesis. My research addresses the politics of listening with a specific focus on the significance of audio technologies and audio media in practices of listening. Within this work listening is defined as a “relations of attention” (Bickford, 1996, p. 24) within communication processes. I take my definition of politics from Hannah Arendt as the “the twofold process of decision and persuasion” (Arendt, 1965, p. 91 in Bickford, 1996, p. 73), following this definition my focus narrows further to a “micropolitics” of listening (Bassel, 2017; Farinati & Firth, 2017) that occurs in everyday sense making processes (Lacey, 2013). So far, this work has addressed three key sites of research, collaborative radio production with Konstkupan, a migrant focused community arts space in Malmö. Experimental collaborative music composition with Elefantöra an ensemble that includes disabled and non-disabled musicians, and experimental instrument building in Music for Universities (Boothby, 2019a, 2019b) a composition that performs a media archaeology (Parikka, 2012) with digital audio technologies. These sites of research and extracts of the audio work they have generated are presented in the Swollen Appendices of this paper. All three sites embrace action orientated arts-based research exploring its potential for producing knowledge both in the processes of making, and in exhibition and performance. Functioning as boundary objects (Star & Griesemer, 1989) the political potential of the listening instigated around this production and performance is understood to manifest in the possibility of convening small, diverse, but attentive “listening publics” (Lacey 2013b) among producers, participants, and niche audiences. In acknowledging the potential of listening publics I seek to emphasise the productive and participatory nature of listening and disrupt a persistent hierarchy within media and communication studies that privileges articulations of voice over practices of listening in expressions of political action (Bickford, 1996; Lacey, 2013).


Arendt, H. (1965). On Revolution. New York: Penguin Books.

Bassel, L. (2017). The politics of listening: Possibilities ad challenges for democratic life: Palgrave Macmillan.

Bickford, S. (1996). The dissonance of democracy: listening, conflict, and citizenship. New York: Cornell University Press.

Boothby, H. (2019a). Music for Universities. Paper presented at the Algorithmic Music:  Value, Creativity and Artificial Intelligence, one-day symposium., Kings’ College, London, UK.

Boothby, H. (2019b). Transversal Media Practice as a Tool for Radio Research. Paper presented at the Media, Communication and Cultural Studies Association (MeCCSA), University of Stirling, UK.

Farinati, L., & Firth, C. (2017). The Force of Listening. Berlin: Doormats6.

Lacey, K. (2013). Listening Publics: The Politics and Experience of Listening in the Media Age. Cambridge: Polity.

Parikka, J. (2012). What is media archaeology? Cambridge: Polity.

Star, S. L., & Griesemer, J. R. (1989). Institutional Ecology, ‘Translations’ and Boundary Objects: Amateurs and Professionals in Berkeley’s Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, 1907–39. Social Studies of Science, 19, 387–420.

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