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 …

Utopia on the Tabletop

Utopia on the Tabletop is a forthcoming collection of scintillating interventions and essays about tabletop roleplaying games and their relation to utopian theory and practice. It is being edited by Jo Lindsay Walton and supported by the Sussex Humanities Lab’s Open Practice group. Contributors include:

  • Emma French
  • Francis Gene-Rowe
  • Grant Brewer
  • Kelsey Paige Mason
  • Lesley Guy
  • Vivek Santayana
  • Felix Rose Kawitzky
  • Nicholas Stefanski
  • Maurits W. Ertsen
  • Rafael Carneiro Vasques, Vitor Celli Caria, and Matheus Capovilla Romanetto
  • Benjamin Platt
  • Grace A.T. Worm
  • Allan Hughes and Mark Jackson
  • Jess Wind
  • Nicholas J. Mizer
  • Jo Lindsay Walton
  • Rok Kranjc
  • Kellyn Wee

More to be confirmed!

The collection will launch in late 2022 / early 2023. It will be a collaboration with MAH’s new poetry and poetics imprint Both Are Worse. In the meanwhile, you can keep an eye on Vector, where you’ll be able to get a sneak peek at some of the chapters throughout the second half of 2022. See also the related Applied Hope Games Jam.

Welcome

Welcome to the sparkling new Sussex Humanities Lab blog!

What is this field, called the Digital Humanities? Broadly speaking, it’s about a dialogue – occasionally a tussle, or a two-part harmony – between all the things humanities scholars have traditionally done, and the new and emerging practices which digital technology enables. Here at the SHL, we’re organised into four strands: Digital History/Digital Archives, Digital Media/Computational Culture, Digital Technologies/Digital Performance, and Digital Lives/Digital Memories; we also collaborate extensively with the TAG (Text Analysis Group) Lab, and with the University of Sussex Library. Building innovative archival and analytic tools to reappraise literary and cultural heritage is part of what we do; so is thinking through the ethical implications of the changing nature of privacy and personal data; so is investigating fledging or fleeting everyday cultural practices of social media users. The fore-edges of medieval manuscripts are in our wheelhouse; so are the memes of 4Chan.

But even a permissive definition of the Digital Humanities risks falling short of the sheer richness and diversity of activity taking place under its rubric. The influence of the Digital Humanities spreads wide, as encounters with new cultural forms often cast fresh light on the familiar, revealing what was under our noses all along. Some scholars and artists have already started to prefer the term postdigital. Let’s not forget about that strong practice-led thread either: the Digital Humanities is not only critical and curatorial, but also creative.

Perhaps the best way to understand the Digital Humanities is to keep an eye on what Digital Humanities scholars are up to. That’s where this blog comes in. In the coming months we’ll be bringing you glimpses of dozens of exciting projects and initiatives with which the Sussex Humanities Lab is involved. We hope to make this blog a place of interest to researchers of all disciplines, and to the public at large.

For my part, I mostly work on the intersection of speculative fiction and economics. How are creators of speculative fiction imagining the impact of automation and Artificial Intelligence on society? Can speculative fiction inform the design of new institutions and policies, allowing us to meet the ecological challenges of the future? Or … maybe it can’t? Later in the year, I’ll be sharing my research more fully. But right now, I want to flag up two projects I’ve been involved with editorially, both hot off the presses. On the fiction side, there’s Strange Economics, an anthology from David Schultz, featuring original economics-themed short stories. The ebook will be free for a limited time. Then there’s Vector, the UK’s longest-running magazine of SF criticism. Vector #288, co-edited with Polina Levontin, a special issue devoted to the future of economics. The magazine only goes to members of the British Science Fiction Association, but we’ll be featuring plenty of excerpts on the Vector website over the next few months.