Voices Pt. 3: Dork-o-phonics (Jonathan Sterne)

April 13, 2022 | 00:39:18

Jonathan Sterne is one of the most influential scholars working on sound and listening. His 2003 book, The Audible Past: Cultural Origins of Sound Reproduction, had a formative influence on the then-nascent field of sound studies. His 2012 book, MP3: The Meaning of a Format, was both a fascinating cultural history and a deep meditation on the purpose of compression technology in capitalism. Today, Sterne talks to Phantom Power about his new book, Diminished Faculties: A Political Phenomenology of Impairment (Duke UP 2022). Specifically, he tells the story of the “Dork-o-phone,” a vocal amplifier he wears to give talks or communicate in loud spaces. Jonathan explains why he wears the Dork-o-phone, what it’s taught him about voice, technology, and disability, and how his experience informs Diminished Faculties’ “phenomenology of impairment.”

This is the third and final part of our series, Voices. Although you don’t need to listen to the other episodes first to enjoy this one, here are the links to part one and part two.

All of this episode’s sound art and music are performed by Jonathan Sterne and/or groups he appears in:

Jonathan Sterne is Professor and James McGill Chair in Culture and Technology at McGill University. He does research in sound studies; media theory and historiography; science and technology studies; new media; disability studies; music; and cultural studies.

You can read Jonathan Sterne’s cancer diaries at https://www.cancerscapes.ca.




Ethereal Voice: This…is…Phantom Power.

[Transitional Noises]

Jonathan Sterne [Spacey Voice]: The interior voice is at least as much imagined as a reflection of external phenomenon.

And if you have a voice and never heard a recording of yourself speaking, you probably know that the auditory perspective between your ears is like nowhere else.

A shifting interior voice is an index to something very different from a stable interior voice.

[Transitional Noises]


Mack Hagood: Hey, it’s Phantom Power, a show where artists and scholars tell stories about sound. I’m Mack Hagood, and welcome to part three of our three-part series called Voices, this time we’re featuring sound studies scholar, Jonathan Sterne.