Common wisdom describes blistering noise as intensely undesirable. Our ears are trained to appreciate polite melodies and predictable rhythms and anything outside that narrow aesthetic comfort zone offends our delicate sensibilities. However, getting blindsided by cacophony is not necessarily a bad thing. In those rare moments when you are exposed to something that is visceral, loud and so new that it sounds alien, a few things happen: you freeze in your tracks, the hair on the back of your neck bristles, and – instinctively – your attention locks onto and tries to make sense of the din. You might feel compelled to take a defensive stance when blasted by a wall of sound, but that would be a mistake. Noise should always be welcomed as a friend, rather than a foe, as, like good company, it foregrounds the immediacy of the moment and it rattles opinions loose from the bindings of reason and habit.
All posts in Theory
When accused of being a chaotic thinker by the eminent sociologist Robert K. Merton after a 1955 talk at Columbia University, Canadian media theorist Marshall McLuhan coyly replied “You don’t like those ideas? I got others.” Fast forward 57 years and embracing a multitude of perspectives and conflicting viewpoints is not so much an intellectual approach as an evolutionary survival mechanism. We’re bombarded by an impossibly dense stream of media stimulus 24-7, and yet we parse that input to cultivate nuanced worldviews. We’ve taken less than a decade to rethink our daily routines and interactions as ‘machine-readable’ events and we effortlessly manipulate the social web to share, collaborate and enjoy the persistent presence of our peers – welcome to the new age of abundance! While it is naive to think that increasingly detailed data trails and heightened connectivity will allow us to ‘solve’ perennial problems like inequality, the distribution of wealth and unsustainable economic and industrial practices, we can calibrate this new milieu to help us rethink how we represent and engage the world around us.