Tune in to International Dawn Chorus Day online

By Alice Eldridge

This weekend is International Dawn Chorus day, a worldwide celebration of nature’s great symphony. Not everyone is of the requisite constitution to get up in time to witness the majesty of the spring dawn chorus, but fear not — you can listen in from the comfort of your own bed. As part of ongoing research into the art, science and technology of wild soundscapes we have installed a high-fidelity, DIY, off-grid live audio transmitter at Knepp Wilding Project in West Sussex.

Dawn mist over the hammer pond at Knepp Rewilding project.

Our live feed is part of a global broadcast, linking the dawn chorus of Sussex to a network of open microphones around the world. Over the weekend of Dawn Chorus day each year, project partners, Sound Camp curate a live global dawn chorus transmission, Reveil. By mixing live feeds from around the globe they create one continuous 24 dawn chorus, following the path of the rising sun around the planet as our feathered friends awaken and warm up their virtuosic synrinxes.

Reveil is a 24 hour live broadcast of the dawn chorus as it circumvents the globe.

You are invited to listen to the Knepp soundscapes both above and below water. One ear is up in an oak tree, roosting with the turtle doves, cuckoos, owls and nightingales that have come to breed, evidence of the astonishing success of the rewilding of this arable farm over the last 20 years. The other ear takes you under water into a little stream where you can variously hear the tinkle of a babbling brook, splashing of a duck bathing, pig drinking, or subtle munching of an, as yet unidentified, freshwater invertebrate.

The soundscape from the canopy of an oak tree is transmitted via a microphone, sound card and 3G dongle perched in the tree.

This technical and artistic experiment complements ongoing scientific and ethnographic research into cultural and natural soundscapes, including the potential to use sound to monitor ecological status. We now recognise that we are on the edge of the sixth great extinction. Various national, European and global strategies such as Biodiversity Net Gain, EU Biodiversity strategy 2030 or the UN Decade on Restoration, aim to halt or reverse biodiversity loss. Such schemes require evidence to monitor progress and inform decision making, but traditional survey methods of ecological health assessment are prohibitively time-consuming. Our previous research, alongside that of an increasingly active international community of ecoacousticians, demonstrates that listening in to ecosystems can provide valuable information about ecological status, biodiversity, and even behavioural changes in certain species.

The research cannot progress within a single discipline. Even within Sussex University over the last few years our research into cultural and natural soundscapes has involved collaborations across disciplines including conservation biology, international development, anthropology, AI, complexity science, neuroscience and music, partnering with artists in London, indigenous communities in Ecuador, fishers in Indonesia, parabiologists in Papua New Guinea, tourism operators in Sweden, anthropologists in Finland, ecoacousticians in Italy and geographers in France. Working together across and beyond disciplines enables technical and methodological innovation alongside enthnographic, cultural and ethical insights, that not only stimulate methodological and theoretical advances in conservation technologies, but bring other voices in to the conversation. In this way we aim to contribute to social and ecological sustainability through creating cost-effective monitoring tools and advancing equitable conservation agendas.

If the soundscape acts as a transdisciplinary nexus for research, it also connects across species boundaries. As you listen to the exquisite nightingale trios in the late evening, the sound of ducks paddling or tiny insects feeding, I defy you to maintain a strong sense of human exceptionalism. Intimately witnessing the moment-to-moment details of the lives of these other beings unfold is a strong, sensory reminder of our interdependence — of the fact that human well being and that of all other living organisms are inseparable. And a reminder that we need to act fast to ensure that all our songs continue long into the future.

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Bringing you 24 hours of dawn chorus around the earth, Reveil runs 5am London time (UTC+1) on Saturday 30 April to 6am on Sunday 1 May 2022. Listen live on the Reveil platform

The live stream from Knepp is a long-term experiment in Rewilding Soundscapes – perhaps the ultimate slow radio. It is funded by Sussex Humanities Lab, Experimental Ecologies strand and is a collaboration between Alice Eldridge and arts cooperative Sound Camp.

You can listen to the live stream from Knepp day and night for years to come here.

Scoping out the best site at for a long term soundscape stream with Grant and Dawn of Sound Camp

Coming soon: An exciting announcement which explains the motivation for and development of this long term audio streaming project …

Researcher Guide to Writing a Climate Justice Oriented Data Management Plan

The Digital Humanities Climate Coalition, which began as an initiative between the SHL Experimental Ecologies group, and working groups within Edinburgh, Southampton, and the Turing Institute, has just launched the Researcher Guide to Writing a Climate Justice Oriented Data Management Plan.

This should be of interest to anyone who’s considering applying for UKRI funding (or any funding), or who is already running a project. It’s a slinky little two page guide exploring how we can reframe data management within research projects, to put appropriate emphasis on climate justice. It emphasises what can be done now, within existing frameworks. In an appendix, it also explores how the DMP section might transform in the future.

We expect to iterate fairly rapidly, and welcome all feedback and suggestions, as well as potential deeper collaboration. If you’d like to signal boost on Twitter, here’s James’s tweet launching the guide.

Kate Shields, artist-in-residence

SHL welcomes our new artist-in-residence Kate Shields, who will be developing the project GUTS over the next three months. GUTS explores the experience of living with the long-term chronic health condition Ulcerative Colitis. Kate writes:

My residency began officially on Friday, and my aim is to write about my process each week here. Through the Lab, I hope to approach the subject of chronic health in more community-minded and digital-based ways.

Read more here.

Three high contrast black and white images of a performance artist, spot-lit on stage, straining their muscles as they drag a toilet to which they are tied or chained. Across the three images, it seems to barely move ...

SHL Priority Areas — what are they and why?

A short reflection one year on 

By Sharon Webb 

In 2021 the Sussex Humanities Lab, one of the University’s four flagship research programmes, reviewed and re-evaluated its research structure. In an effort to amplify voices within the Lab, and to attract new voices and contributors from outside of it, we devised eight so-called priority areas that reflect current research and the expertise of our members. These priority areas allow us to highlight our research and provide a structure for our seminar and open workshop series, as well as a way to support strategic research development and grant capture. A year in, we are reflecting on how this structure has or hasn’t worked. Either way, through this structure we have managed, despite Covid challenges, to develop a programme of work which has provided crucial points of discussion, dialogue, debate, and growth.  

Our priority areas aim to further build research capacity across the University and to provide entry points to new Lab associates and to the wider community. We recognise that for some it can be difficult to know exactly what the Lab “does,” and we hoped our priority areas would help demystify that. The fact is, we do a lot: we are diverse, and we work in such an agile manner that it can be difficult to pin us down – this has its advantages and disadvantages!

We define ourselves as a Lab because we are a space of doing, of experimenting, of making (watch this space for a co-authored chapter on this very topic soon). Our collaborations cut across boundaries and as a group we all work in an explicitly transdisciplinary and interdisciplinary fashion. Our work is also value-driven, with a concern for ethics, equalities and diversity work, and by social justice and sustainability issues. In that regard, we are driven by a set of values explicitly written into the fabric of the University of Sussex, and indeed values embedded in our home school, the School of Media, Arts and Humanities. It is probably no surprise then that many of our priority areas reflect these values and concerns, cutting across disciplines and subject areas – such as ‘Philosophy of AI’ or ‘Uncertainty and Interpretability of AI’ , led by Beatrice Fazi (MAH) and Ivor Simpson (EngInf) respectively. ‘Experimental Ecologies’, led by Alice Eldridge (Music), is concerned with developing wider disciplinary understanding our (human and other organisms) environmental relations in the anthropocene, where the biosphere and technosphere are irrevocably linked.  In this way ‘Experimental Ecologies’ aims to foster:

post-disciplinary research where arts and humanities, natural and computational sciences, traditional indigenous knowledge, and everyday local experiences have an equal footing in addressing key environmental issues at human-environment interfaces.

In this area, “an equal footing” is key, and this perspective and outlook informs much of work in other priority areas developed by Lab members. My own area for example, ‘Intersectionality, Community and Computational Technology’ (ICCT) highlights, challenges, and disrupts the way in which computational technology reproduces and reinforces various inequalities in society. It is concerned with, reflective of, and feeds into the value system of the Lab but it is also concerned with research that is driven by perspectives of equity and inclusion. Above all it is community driven, and its foundations are born from collaborative work with queer and intersectional feminist communities and research praxis – community perspectives are on par (on an equal footing) with academic ones. This priority area reflects existing work within the Lab, specifically through the ‘Feminist Approaches to Computational Technology (FACT) Network, the ARHC-IRC funded network grant, ‘Intersectionality, Feminism, Technology and Digital Humanities’ (IFTe), whose overaching objective is to:

‘un-code’ gendered assumptions, question our digital environments and systems, and embed intersectional feminist methods and theory within DH with a view to the creation of new DH futures

And more recently, ‘Full Stack Feminism in Digital Humanities’, a two-year project jointly funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) and the Irish Research Council and part of their ‘UK-Ireland Collaboration in Digital Humanities Research Grants Call. This project aims to develop feminist praxis, methodologies, and ethics from within and across Digital Humanities projects and research. “Full stack” means we are concerned with issues related to inequalities in DH that span from the infrastructure layer to the representation layer – it reaches, and cuts, across all types of environments. In this sense, the Lab’s priority areas represent critical mass of research that grows through engagement within and across the Lab. 

You can read about all our priority areas and ways that you might get involved here: 

Our priority areas represent things that we care about, things that we want to grow, areas we want to foster and nurture. They are not static or fixed but rather a means for us to articulate our priorities but as we know priorities change as we as individuals, as members of society, as colleagues in a School/University develop. We nurture these areas not for the Lab’s own benefit but for the benefit of those that engage with us.  

So, reflecting a year on, does the structure work? Maybe it doesn’t matter what structure we have if the right conversations are happening, if the right collaborations are developing, and if ultimately our members, our community feel involved. Our research structure can only be judged by the collaborations and research they foster, and in this regard, I think we’re not doing too bad!  

Prepping Robo_Op (2021)