Sounding Data

  • Mickey Vallee
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Sound book series (PASTS)


This chapter expands on the animal’s voice as it encroaches upon the scientific field of bioacoustics, an interdisciplinary field bridging biological and acoustic sciences that uses sound technologies to record, preserve, and analyze large datasets of animal communications. This chapter contributes to methodological discussions regarding the longstanding questions of how researchers and scientists are implicated in the knowledge and objects they collectively produce, and how they value infrastructures of audibility on a global and longitudinal scale. This is accomplished by giving a sustained, detailed account of the science of (computational) bioacoustics—particularly how its modes of measurement allow for a new way of understanding what is involved in the decentred modes of hearing that recentre acts of listening— and by considering the nature of the relation between researcher and researched.


  1. Adams, M., Cox, T., Moore, G., Croxford, B., Refaee, M., & Sharples, S. (2006). Sustainable soundscapes: Noise policy and the urban experience. Urban Studies, 43(13), 2385–2398.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen, M. (2010). VoxNet: Reducing latency in high data rate applications. In E. Gaura, L. Girod, J. Brusey, M. Allen, & G. Challen (Eds.), Wireless sensor networks: Deployments and design frameworks (pp. 115–158). London, UK: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asdal, K. (2008). Subjected to parliament: The laboratory of experimental medicine and the animal body. Social Studies of Science, 38(6), 899–917.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. August, T., Harvey, M., Lightfoot, P., Kilbey, D., Papadopoulos, T., & Jepson, P. (2015). Emerging technologies for biological recording. Biological Journal of the Linnean Societ, 115(3), 731–749.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Back, L. (2007). The art of listening. London, UK: Berg.Google Scholar
  6. Baptista, L. F., & Keister, R. A. (2005). Why birdsong is sometimes like music. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine, 48(3), 426–443.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bayne, E. M., Habib, L., & Boutin, S. (2008). Impacts of chronic anthropogenic noise from energy sector activity on abundance of songbirds in the boreal forest. Conservation Biology, 22(5), 1186–1193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Benschop, R. (2007). Memory machines or musical instruments? Soundscapes, recording technologies and reference. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(4), 485–502.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Berger, E. (2015). Welcome to the quietest square inch in the U.S. outside. Outside Online. Retrieved from
  10. Blesser, B., & Salter, L. R. (2007). Spaces speak, are you listening? Experiencing aural architecture. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  11. Blumstein, D. T., Mennill, D. J., Clemins, P., Girod, L., Yao, K., Patricelli, G., … Kirschel, A. (2011). Acoustic monitoring in terrestrial environments using microphone arrays: Applications, technological considerations and prospectus. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48(3), 758–767.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Borker, A. L., Halbert, P., McKown, M. W., Tershy, B. R., & Croll, D. A. (2015). A comparison of automated and traditional monitoring techniques for marbled murrelets using passive acoustic sensors. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 39(4), 813–818.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: A social critique of the judgement of taste. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  14. Brand, A. R. (1937). Why bird song cannot be described adequately. The Wilson Bulletin, 49(1), 11–14.Google Scholar
  15. Bruyninckx, J. (2018). Listening in the field: Recording and the science of birdsong. Cambridge: MIT Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Buller, H. (2013). Individuation, the mass and farm animals. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(7–8), 155–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Candea, M. (2013). Habituating meerkats and redescribing animal behaviour science. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(7–8), 105–128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Chandola, T. (2012). Listening in to water routes: Soundscapes as cultural systems. International Journal of Cultural Studies, 16(1), 55–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Chandrasekera, T., Yoon, S.-Y., & D’Souza, N. (2015). Virtual environments with soundscapes: A study on immersion and effects of spatial abilities. Environment and Planning B: Planning and Design, 42, 1003–1019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Chiew, F. (2014). Posthuman ethics with Cary Wolfe and Karen Barad: Animal compassion as trans-species entanglement. Theory, Culture & Society, 31(4), 51–69.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Cohn, J. P. (2008). Citizen science: Can volunteers do real research? AIBS Bulletin, 58(3), 192–197.Google Scholar
  22. Connors, J. P., Patrick, J., Lei, S., & Kelly, M. (2012). Citizen science in the age of neogeography: Utilizing volunteered geographic information for environmental monitoring. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 102(6), 1267–1289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Cornwell, M. L., & Campbell, L. M. (2012). Co-producing conservation and knowledge: Citizen-based sea turtle monitoring in North Carolina, USA. Social Studies of Science, 42(1), 101–120.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Crist, E. (1996). Naturalists’ portrayals of animal life: Engaging the verstehen approach. Social Studies of Science, 26(4), 799–838.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Crist, E. (2004). Can an insect speak? The case of the honeybee dance language. Social Studies of Science, 34(1), 7–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. De Coensel, B., & Botteldooren, D. (2007). The rhythm of the urban soundscape. Noise and Vibration Worldwide, 38(9), 11–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Despret, V. (2013). Responding bodies and partial affinities in human–animal worlds. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(7/8), 66–91.Google Scholar
  28. Donaldson, A. (2016, July 11). National network of acoustic recorders proposed to eavesdrop on australian ecosystems. ABC News. Retrieved from
  29. Farina, A. (2014). Soundscape ecology: Principles, patterns, methods and applications. London, UK: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Farina, A., Lattanzi, E., Malavasi, R., Pieretti, N., & Piccioli, L. (2011). Avian soundscapes and cognitive landscapes: Theory, application and ecological perspectives. Landscape Ecology, 26(9), 1257–1267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Farina, A., Pieretti, N., & Piccioli, L. (2011). The soundscape methodology for long-term bird monitoring: A Mediterranean Europe case-study. Ecological Informatics, 6(6), 354–363.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Fong, J. (2016). Making operative concepts from Murray Schafer’s soundscapes typology: A qualitative and comparative analysis of noise pollution in Bangkok, Thailand, and Los Angeles, California. Urban Studies, 53(1), 173–192.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Friese, C., & Clarke, A. E. (2012). Transposing bodies of knowledge and technique: Animal models at work in reproductive sciences. Social Studies of Science, 42(1), 31–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Gabrys, J. (2016). Program earth: Environmental sensing technology and the making of a computational planet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Gallagher, M. (2015). Field recording and the sounding of spaces. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 33(3), 560–576.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Giraud, E., & Hollin, G. (2016). Care, laboratory beagles and affective utopia. Theory, Culture and Society, 33(4), 27–49.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Greenwood, J. J. D. (2007). Citizens, science and bird conservation. Journal of Ornithology, 148(Suppl. 1), S77–S124.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Hall, M. (2016). Soundscape ecology: Eavesdropping on nature. Deutsche Well (DW). Retrieved from
  39. Haraway, D. (2008). When species meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  40. Hawkins, D. (2011). “Soundscape ecology”: The new science helping identify ecosystems at risk. Ecologist: Setting the environmental agenda since 1970. Retrieved from,%202017.
  41. Helmreich, S. (2015). Sounding the limits of life: Essays in the anthropology of biology and beyond. Princeton: Princeton University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Hill, P. (2007). Olivier messiaen: Oiseaux exotiques. Burlington, VT: Ashgate.Google Scholar
  43. International Bioacoustics Council. (2019).
  44. Irwin, A. (1995). Citizen science: A study of people, expertise and sustainable development. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  45. Johnson, J. J. (1995). Listening in Paris: A cultural history. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  46. Kircher, A. (1650/1970). Musurgia universalis. Hildesheim and New York: G. Olms (Reprint of the Rome, 1650 edition).Google Scholar
  47. Kitchin, R. (2014). The data revolution: Big data, open data, data infrastructures, and their consequences. London, UK: Sage.Google Scholar
  48. Kronenberg, J. (2014). Environmental impacts of the use of ecosystem services: Case study of birdwatching. Environmental Management, 54(3), 617–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Laiolo, P. (2010). The emerging significance of bioacoustics in animal species conservation. Biological Conservation, 143(7), 1635–1645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Latimer, J. (2013). Being alongside: Rethinking relations among different kinds. Theory, Culture & Society, 30(7/8), 77–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Latour, B. (2005). Reassembling the social: An introduction to actor-network-theory. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  52. Lawrence, A. (2006). “No personal motive?” Volunteers, biodiversity, and the false dichotomies of participation. Ethics, Place and Environment, 9(3), 279–298.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Lievrouw, L. A. (2010). Social media and the production of knowledge: A return to little science? Social Epistemology, 24(3), 219–237.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Lynch, M. E. (1988). Sacrifice and the transformation of the animal body into a scientific object: Laboratory culture and ritual practice in the neurosciences. Social Studies of Science, 18(2), 265–289.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Manovich, L. (2001). The language of new media. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  56. Mazumder, A. (2016). Pacific North West LNG Project: A review and assessment of the project plans and their potential impacts on marine fish and fish habitat in the Skeena estuary. Environmental Assessment Report, Government of Canada. Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
  57. Merchant, N. D., Fristrup, K. M., Johnson, M. P., Tyack, P. L., Witt, M. J., Blondel, P., & Parks, S. E. (2015). Methods in ecology and evolution. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 6(3), 257–265.Google Scholar
  58. Michael, M. (2012). Anecdote. In C. Lury & N. Wakeford (Eds.), Inventive methods: The happening of the social (pp. 25–35). London, UK: Routledge.Google Scholar
  59. Michael, M., & Birke, L. (1994). Enrolling the core set: The case of the animal experimentation controversy. Social Studies of Science, 24(1), 81–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Morton, T. (2010). The ecological thought. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  61. Mundy, R. (2009). Birdsong and the image of evolution. Society and Animals, 17, 206–223.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Nelson, N. C. (2013). Modeling mouse, human, and discipline: Epistemic scaffolds in animal behavior genetics. Social Studies of Science, 43(1), 3–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Obrist, M. K., Pavan, G., Sueur, J., Riede, K., Llusia, D., & Marquez, R. (2010). Bioacoustics approaches in biodiversity inventories. In J. Eymann, J. Degreef, C. L. Häuser, J. C. Monje, Y. Samyn, & D. Vandan Spiegel (Eds.), Manual on field recording techniques and protocols for all taxa biodiversity inventories (pp. 68–99). Brussels: Belgian Development Cooperation.Google Scholar
  64. Pijanowski, B. C., Farina, A, Gage, S. H., Dumyahn, S. L., & Krause, B. L. (2011). What is soundscape ecology? An introduction and overview of an emerging new science. Landscape Ecology, 26(9), 1213–1232.Google Scholar
  65. Pijanowski, B. C., Villanueva-Rivera, L. J., Dumyahn, S. L., Farina, A., Krause, B. L., Napoletano, B. M., & Pieretti, N. (2011). Soundscape ecology: The science of sound in the landscape. BioScience, 61(3), 203–216.Google Scholar
  66. Ponomarenko, A., Vincent, O., Pietriga, A., Cochard, H., Badel, É., & Marmottant, P. (2014). Ultrasonic emissions reveal individual cavitation bubbles in water-stressed wood. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, 11(99), 20140480.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Powers, A. (2016). Preserving the quietest places. The California Sunday Magazine. Retrieved from
  68. Priest, E. (2018). Earworms, daydreams and cognitive capitalism. Theory, Culture & Society, 35(1), 141–162.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Radick, G. (2007). The simian tongue: The long debate about animal language. Chicago, IL: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  70. Rempel, R. S., Hobson, K. A., Holborn, G., Wilgenburg, S. L. V., & Elliott, J. (2005). Bioacoustic monitoring of forest songbirds: Interpreter variability and effects of configuration and digital processing methods in the laboratory. Journal of Field Ornithology, 76(1), 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Rosen, J. (2017). Sustainability: A greener future. Nature, 546(7659), 565–567.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Rothenberg, D. (2008). Thousand-mile song: Whale music in a sea of sound. New York, NY: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  73. Schafer, R. M. (1994). The soundscape. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books.Google Scholar
  74. Servick, K. (2014). Eavesdropping on ecosystems. Science, 343(6173), 834–837.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Sicular, S. (2013, January 22). Big Data is falling into the trough of disillusionment. Retrieved from Gartner database.
  76. Slabbekoorn, H., & Peet, M. (2003). Birds sing at a higher pitch in urban noise. Nature, 424, 267.Google Scholar
  77. Sterne, J. (2003). The audible past: Cultural origins of sound reproduction. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Stiegler, B. (1998). Technics & time 1: The fault of epimetheus (R. Beardsworth, Trans.). Stanford, USA: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  79. Szostak, R., Gnoli, C., & López-Huertas, M. (2016). Interdisciplinary knowledge organization. New York: Springer International Publishing.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Tegeler, A. K., Morrison, M. L., & Szewczak, J. M. (2012). Using extended-duration audio recordings to survey avian species. Wildlife Society Bulletin, 36(1), 21–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  81. Tønnessen, M. (2015). The biosemiotic glossary project: Agent, agency. Biosemiotics, 8, 125–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Torino, L. (2015). You can actually hear the climate changing. Outside. Retrieved from
  83. Truax, B. (2001). Acoustic communication (Vol. 1). Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  84. Vallee, M. (2017). The rhythm of echoes and echoes of violence. Theory, Culture & Society, 34(1), 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  85. Vartan, S. (2016). We’re changing the way the world sounds: Noise impacts ecosystems in more ways than you might think. Mother Nature Network. Retrieved from
  86. von Uexküll, J. (1982). Glossary. Semiotica, 42(1), 83–87.Google Scholar
  87. Wallheimer, B. (2011, March 23). New scientific study will study ecological importance of sounds. Science News. Retrieved from

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mickey Vallee
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre for Interdisciplinary StudiesAthabasca UniversityAthabascaCanada

Personalised recommendations