Speech gained momentum in television and radio broadcasting in the 1970s, after the commercialization of "time compressors" that allowed tape recordings to be accelerated without any change in pitch. This talk will discuss the cultural imperative for aural speed reading among blind Talking Book readers, dating to the 1930s, that drove time-stretching innovations in the magnetic tape era, allowing playback rate to be changed without affecting pitch. The talk is excerpted from a book-in-progress that Mills is co-authoring with Jonathan Sterne. Tentatively titled “Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed”, it traces the practice of accelerated and decelerated sound reproduction from blind phonograph users in the 1930s to Auto-Tune, Ableton Live, Audible books, and YouTube videos today.
Mara Mills is Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication
at New York University, where she co-founded and co-directs the Center for Disability Studies
. She is a founding editor of the journal “
Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience”. She has co-edited a special issue of “Grey Room” on “Audio/Visual” as well as the anthology “
Testing Hearing: The Making of Modern Aurality” (forthcoming 2020 from Oxford University Press). Her book “
On the Phone: Hearing Loss and Communication Engineering” (forthcoming from Duke University Press) argues the significance of phonetics and deaf education to the emergence of “communication engineering” in early twentieth-century telephony. This concept and set of practices later gave rise to information theory, digital coding, and cybernetics—along with new electroacoustic tools and a revised understanding of human speech and hearing. Mills is currently working on the history of optical character recognition and, with Jonathan Sterne, she is co-authoring a book titled “
Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed” More information can be found at her website: maramills.org
This event is part of the LITS’ speaker series on information and technology issues affecting society at large.
In conjunction with this lecture, LITS is also hosting the exhibit “Touch This Page: Making Sense of the Ways We Read” created by Northeastern University, Harvard University, and the Perkins School for the Blind. The exhibit is on display in the library Reading Room from April 1-30, 2020 and an exhibit walk-through will follow the lecture. Refreshments will be served.