Sound of Democracy. Sound as a Metaphor

The fol­low­ing text dia­logues with the pod­cast from the per­spec­tive of lin­guis­tics as a dis­ci­pline and was writ­ten by Prof. Dr. Ingo H. Warnke togeth­er with two of his doc­tor­al stu­dents, name­ly Chris­t­ian Bär and Hagen Steinhauer.

The word sound can refer to a wide range of phe­nom­e­na. With­in the son­ic spec­trum, it is relat­ed to all aspects of emerg­ing sounds, includ­ing harsh or dis­turb­ing nois­es, sub­tle hints of musi­cal tim­bre, a warm musi­cal har­mo­ny, or the space-fill­ing shape of an urban sound­scape. In lin­guis­tics, it is also relat­ed to voice and mean­ing, think­ing for instance about the com­mu­ni­ca­tion­al nuances in the tone of a voice. Fur­ther­more, sound as well as sound-relat­ed attrib­ut­es are used as metaphor­ic sources to describe the com­plex­i­ty of social, cul­tur­al, and polit­i­cal spaces or dynam­ics. The expres­sion sound of silence may give an exam­ple of how sound is fun­da­men­tal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with mean­ing­ful­ness or sym­bol­ism, shap­ing even the absence of sound.

In Sound of Democ­ra­cy we specif­i­cal­ly refer to the seman­tics of sound as a metaphor­ic fig­ure of thought in order to address the ques­tion of what democ­ra­cy sounds like today. To grasp this field, we cen­ter two inter­re­lat­ed aspects.

First, we are inter­est­ed in the con­cepts of voice and dis­course which are linked to the ques­tion of polit­i­cal moods, or rather moods that are shaped by the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of each voice in the diver­si­ty of social and polit­i­cal dis­course. In this regard, the metaphor of sound is inter­twined with dif­fer­ent lin­guis­tic and affec­tive strate­gies of dis­cur­sive posi­tion­ing. We are thus inter­est­ed in think­ing about such voic­es as sounds of democ­ra­cy on a spec­trum between utopi­an or dystopi­an poles, between har­mo­ny and dis­so­nance, between indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and plu­ral­i­ty. More­over, in polit­i­cal dis­cours­es, objects like democ­ra­cy often entail metaphor­i­cal key­words, chang­ing rather abstract ide­o­log­i­cal notions into expres­sive rhetor­i­cal fig­ures of speech. This may quite dif­fer from how we talk about polit­i­cal top­ics in every­day life. There­fore, lin­guis­tic explo­ration can access a con­cep­tu­al lev­el of how democ­ra­cy sounds through words.

We are inter­est­ed in think­ing about such voic­es as sounds of democ­ra­cy on a spec­trum between utopi­an or dystopi­an poles, between har­mo­ny and dis­so­nance, between indi­vid­u­al­i­ty and plurality

Sec­ond, a par­tic­u­lar inter­est in Sound of Democ­ra­cy focuss­es on the con­cept of lis­ten­ing, involv­ing a broad per­spec­tive on the lin­guis­tics of polit­i­cal com­mu­ni­ca­tion. In con­trast to hear­ing in the sense of per­ceiv­ing, we under­stand lis­ten­ing as a per­for­ma­tive act of com­mu­ni­ca­tion­al par­tic­i­pa­tion. Thus, we assume that what we hear and want to hear is shaped by the way we lis­ten. The ques­tion aris­es whether this refers to dif­fer­ent dis­course prac­tices involv­ing dif­fer­ent par­tic­i­pant roles of actors and groups of actors. We ask whether lib­er­al vs. author­i­tar­i­an democ­ra­cies not only sound dif­fer­ent­ly, but also cor­re­late with a spe­cif­ic dis­tinc­tion between the roles of hear­er and lis­ten­er. Final­ly, enter­ing into con­ver­sa­tions about Sound of Democ­ra­cy and engag­ing with the metaphor of sound also includes a crit­i­cal and self-reflec­tive per­spec­tive being expres­sive of democ­ra­cy today.

About

Hagen Steinhauer

Doctoral Researcher at the University of Bremen

Christian Bär
Ingo H. Warnke