The Sound of Work in Ghana: Authority and Context
This is a very short, non-ethnographic, post about the authority of sound and how ethnographers often gave favor to oral interactions at the sake of text. Essentially, this runs counter to what most other disciplines have, which is essentially the authority of text over all other sensory representations. I suspect this has mostly to do with some conceived idea that text is less open to interpretation, more filtered to remove ambiguity, that sort of thing.
However, I will let the following make the case that audio alone offers something approaching a comprehensive representation of a place and time. Below (excuse the visuals; this user used them to embed it somewhere) is the sound of people at work. It is at the University of Ghana, Legon in 1975. It is the sound of office workers doing what might be otherwise a very mundane, repetitive task: cancelling stamps. However, they have turned work into celebration, mundanity into some sort of song. I have it on my iPod and it paints one impressive picture of what that office looks like, what it sounds like, perfectly illustrative. Tell me this audio is not authoritative.
I visited the University of Ghana (we have a lot of content partners there) as part of the subject of my ethnographic study, eLearning Africa in 2008. I did a few workshops for librarians from across the county (without Internet and temporarily powered by a generator). I cannot imagine it looks all that different than it did in 1975. Below is an iamge from the campus. Each of the departments had their own slogan and this one just spoke to me.