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Liquid learning: audio collected and assembled by the water

Liquidlearning by Michael Gallagher on Mixcloud

I apologize for that title, but I really had no idea what to title this post. I included the playlist above (and the tracks are listed at the bottom of this post). I had recorded a few more Audioboo recordings over the weekend and was giving those a listen and something struck me. The audio signature was different from those collected elsewhere. I don’t simply mean the obvious aural characteristics of the water lapping on the shore or anything like that. I was struck by the sound of socialization, how people were influenced by or interacted with the water itself. It changed the tones of the recordings.

Now how much of this is my interpretation (I assume quite a bit) and not anything particularly objective or even observable, I am not sure. But I don’t think I would be going out on a limb by suggestion that water influences the way we interact with it and each other. It provides a governing structure in which we make meaning. In some cases merely being beside the water makes people turn playful; in others, it fills them with dread or foreboding. It does both for me. I marvel at and am awed by its ferocious simplicity. In the same breath, I am frightened by its relentless vastness. So long story short, I stick to rivers whenever possible. More accessible; less stressful. I think Joseph Conrad gets tis, but the point he raises about restlessness is valid. We are drawn to water as it is reproduces the rhythms of our own wandering souls.

“The sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.” -Joseph Conrad

Water has fascinated us for eons and will always. It is the stuff of life and the object of appreciation. It is the most perfectly sublime organic invention. I suspect it is the archetype we base much of our understanding of the world around. It has incredible psychological effect and power. It reveals, completes, tears asunder, other hyperbolic statements.

“For whatever we lose (like a you or a me),
It’s always our self we find in the sea.” -e.e. cummings

It most certainly effects social interaction. And, as such, it seems a particularly apt metaphor for elearning and mlearning (see, I managed to jam it in there). Learning through fluid space and connections. Ephemeral constructs, transient connections, no intersection of time, space, and socialization is ever the same. We bend according to its fluid structure, much like it bends when we try to contain it.

“Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its container.” -Wallace Stevens

So we have the sound of birds and snow and lapping water and all the hallmarks of water-based audio recording (because it will be all the rage in 2013). More importantly than that however, we have this social interaction. We have social alignment with the governing dynamics of the environment. We bend towards it.

There are thousands of cultural inferences to be made here and a thousand means of interpretation for them. I might be influenced by the water more or less so than my counterpart in another country. I draw from literature reflecting my own sentiments, my own upbringing, and my own sense of what is important. I cannot deny that. But compare the recordings below for yourself. One is from Hyde Park on a particularly sunny day (which certainly effects the activity as well), another is from Shadwell Basin on a snowy day, and the third is from a park in Gyeongju, Korea, nowhere near the water. Two of these have the sounds of social interaction, and the third, the Shadwell Basin one, has me, the recorder, attempting to still myself to catch the rhythms of the falling snow and the passing water. The recordings aren’t that good, but their signatures I think are clear. Water influences our behavior, as all space does.

Hyde Park, London: February 2013

Shadwell Basin near the Thames River, London: January 2013

Gyeongju, Korea: April, 2012

Playlist

The playlist I included above was a cobbling together (or if I am feeling academic, an assembly) of songs that make me think of the water. I have included the track names below. The Tuarag one might seem like a strange addition, but the sound of caravans and that rolling sense of Saharan music always makes me thinks of oceans. As I had mentioned in the Timbuktu post, it was a good transition for me when I started to see this Saharan towns as ports on a vast expanse of sand. And the track name translates to “Water is Life” so that is good as well. All of the tracks are available on iTunes. Enjoy.

  1. ISAN: Cathart
  2. Jonsi & Alex: Daniell in the Sea
  3. Tinariwen: Matadjem Yinmixan
  4. Mozart: Quintet for Clarinet and Strings in A Major: Kv 581
  5. Squarepusher: Tommib Help Buss
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About Author

My name is Michael Sean Gallagher. I am a Lecturer in Digital Education at the Centre for Research in Digital Education at the University of Edinburgh. I am Co-Founder and Director of Panoply Digital, a consultancy dedicated to ICT and mobile for development (M4D); we have worked with USAID, GSMA, UN Habitat, Cambridge University and more on education and development projects. I was a researcher on the Near Futures Teaching project, a project that explores how teaching at The University of Edinburgh unfold over the coming decades, as technology, social trends, patterns of mobility, new methods and new media continue to shift what it means to be at university. Previously, I was the Research Associate on the NERC, ESRC, and AHRC Global Challenges Research Fund sponsored GCRF Research for Emergency Aftershock Forecasting (REAR) project. I was an Assistant Professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (한국외국어대학교) in Seoul, Korea. I have also completed a doctorate at University College London (formerly the independent Institute of Education, University of London) on mobile learning in the humanities in Korea.

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