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Thanks for visiting the Colby Sensescape project

Poster Presentation at the Central States Anthropological Association in Iowa City
The Door

How do you make sense of Colby College?  


Four Colby students, Karen Clark, Lindsay Hylek, Iris Kim, and Abbey Wallace, with the aid of Professor William Hope, explored this question as an extension of the 2011 Fall term AY397: Introduction to the Anthropology of the Senses.  Employing Edward Casey’s insight that “places gather various animate and inanimate entities, experiences and histories, even languages and thoughts,” (Casey 2009: 327), we have sought to understand what Colby College means to us and how we make sense of it.  Our approach to understanding the unique environment on Mayflower Hill therefore engages various sensory orientations that are both personal and social.

Inspired by Steven Feld's notion of acoustemology – the study of "local conditions of acoustic sensation, knowledge, and imagination, embodied in culturally particular senses of place" (2005: 179) – we constructed a sound map to chart the interrelationships of sounds and senses of place on the Colby College campus. The project situates this exploration of place in dialogue with scholarly interests in sensory experiences as cultural practices in fields of social relations (Classen 1997, Howes 2003, Turino 2008); embodiment and the habitus (Bourdieu 1977, Mauss 1979, Noland 2009); phenomenological approaches to place, space, and time (Casey 2009, Feld 2005); and ethnographic approaches to acoustic ecologies (Schafer 1994, Torigoe 2002, Wagstaff 2002).  Over the 2011 fall semester, we recorded various spaces on campus at distinct times to engage some of the daily auditory experiences of Colby students.  It is our hope that you will be able to virtually move around Colby, orienting yourself to time, space, and place in relation to the typical sounds of different moments and happenings on campus.

Following David Sutton’s discussions of the significance of memory and inter-sensorial experience, we developed an open-ended survey to gather campus community reflections on what comes to mind in relation to sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch at Colby.  Sutton defines synesthesia, “the union of the senses” (Sutton 2001: 305), to discuss the interconnectedness of one’s sensory experiences in developing memories and a sense of place.  This adds importance to the scope that the perceptions page is able to capture, beyond the auditory experiences presented in the sound map.  Student’s responses demonstrate a wide range of unique associations as well as unifying impressions with which other students make sense of their experiences of place at Colby.  Additionally, Karen Clark captures some of the signature sights that surround Colby students through a photo essay.

We encourage you, and all visitors to this website, to experience a Colby beyond just the focus on classes, clubs, and organizations that make this institution so unique. We believe that creatively and pro-actively attending to the variety of sensory perceptions enables one to better understand the engaging social and physical environment of Mayflower Hill, the dynamicity of everyday life on campus, and the many different ways in which we each make sense of Colby College.

Materials & Methods

To capture the many constant and dynamic sensorial experiences at Colby, we used a variety of methods.

Recordings: We collected numerous recordings all over Colby’s campus and affiliated locations. These recordings were then classified into three groups: ambiant, moving, and people.
Survey: We sent out a survey to Colby’s student body and faculty. The survey asked for the number of years the responder had spent at Colby, as well as “What comes to mind when you think of your Colby experience? Sights? Sounds? Smells? Feels? Tastes?” In total, we collected 69 responses. Answers were compiled and are listed in the Perceptions tab. Repeated answers were extrapolated and listed as a “mark” of Colby’s campus (ie. soundmark, tastemark, etc.)
Soundmap: We plotted the locations of each of our recordings on a map of Colby’s campus and provided each recording with a title and brief description.
Photo Essay: Karen constructed a photo essay of Colby’s visual experience. Photos can be found by clicking the Images link on her page.
Colby College Sensescape: Our final project is the completed Colby College Sensescape, an interactive website that addresses students’ sensorial experiences at Colby. Please enjoy!
Seasonal Recording: Abbey created a sound portrait of walking through the seasons that can be found under the recording “Shuffling through the Seasons.”  It portrays the changes in the walk to class as the paths are covered with leaves, snow, mud, and sunlight throughout the year.

- Marantz PMD 620
- Marantz PMD 661
- Canon EOS Rebel XSi

Thanks to Leighton Pierce for his reminder of acknowledging the nontransparent nature of recording technology.

Concluding Thoughts

Over the course of the semester, we have come to realize the importance of our senses and how profoundly they impact the manners in which we make sense of our worlds. By prioritizing a conscious awareness of our senses of place, sensory perception itself has become foregrounded in our everyday activities. The intricacies of their interrelations have amazed us; each sense is always already perceived in connection to the others, which makes for unique, individual experiences unsusceptible to replication. Exploring our senses of place at Colby has compelled us to become more critical in our attentiveness to every component, conscious and unconscious, that encompasses our lived experiences of being-in-the-world.


We would like to graciously thank the following people for their contributions and assistance in the completion of this project: Colby Media Services for providing our recording devices, Andrei Papancea for creating this website and providing constant technological support, Colby’s Department of Anthropology for their support for this class and our various field trips, Ellen Freeman for creating our class blog, the many Colby students who supported this project and contributed to the survey, Laura Gigliotti for her help taking group photos, the rest of the AY397 students for a really great semester, the student of the Knox sound map for creating a wonderful site of inspiration and insight, and Professor Hope for his guidance, lessons, and unwavering enthusiasm for this class and the material.

Works Cited

  1. Bourdieu, Pierre. 1977. Outline of a Theory of Practice. Trans. by Richard Nice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  2. Casey Edward S. 2009. Getting Back into Place. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  3. Classen, Constance. 1997. "Foundations for an Anthropology of the Senses." International Social Science Journal 153: 401-412.
  4. Feld, Steven. 2005. "Places Sensed, Senses Placed: Toward a Sensuous Epistemology of Environments." In Empire of the Senses: The Sensual Culture Reader, 179-191. Ed. David Howes. New York: Berg.
  5. Feld Steven, Brenneis D. 2004. Doing anthropology in sound. Am. Ethnol. 41(4): 461–74.
  6. Howes, David. 2003. Sensual Relations: Engaging the Senses in Culture and Social Theory. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  7. Mauss, Marcel. 1979. "Body Techniques." In Sociology and Psychology Essays. Trans. Ben Brewster. London: Routledge.
  8. Noland, Carrie. 2009. Agency and Embodiment: Performing Gestures/ Producing Culture. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  9. Schafer, R. Murray. 1994. The Soundscape: Our Environment and the Tuning of the World. Rochester: Destiny.
  10. Torigoe, Keiko. 2002. "A City Traced by Soundscape." In Soundscape Studies and Methods. Edited by Helmi Jarviluoma and Gregg Wagstaff. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Ethnomusicology.
  11. Turino, Thomas. 2008. "Habits of the Self, Identity, and Culture." Music as Social Life: The Politics of Participation, 93-121. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  12. Wagstaff, Gregg. 2002. "Toward a Social Ecological Soundscape." In Soundscape Studies and Methods. Edited by Helmi Jarviluoma and Gregg Wagstaff. Helsinki: Finnish Society of Ethnomusicology.
  13. Open Sound New Orleans http://www.opensoundneworleans.com/core/
  14. Montreal Sound Map http://www.montrealsoundmap.com/?lang=en
  15. Berlin Wall of Sound http://www.netaudioberlin.de/berlin-wall-of-sound/
  16. Knox Sound Map http://www.knoxsoundmap.com



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