Sensory Cartographies

This Monday SHL hosted a fascinating artist talk from Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn. Jonathan and Sissel explored a wide sense of mapping far beyond two dimensional diagrams of territories, and took us through recent and ongoing artistic projects, exploring the use of wearable technologies to augment, expand, refilter and transform sensory experience.

The Zoom recording of the seminar is also available here, and you can explore the Research Catalogue exposition here.

Urban Algorhythms

On Monday, SHL was lucky enough to have Prof Shannon Mattern visit the virtual lab for a fascinating seminar on ‘Urban Algorhythms.’ Shannon’s talk situated contemporary and emerging practices of macro-scale listening within a broad historical frame, tracing a genealogy from diagnostic auscultation, and articulated and explored some of the tricky ethical and epistemological questions around sonic surveillance and the stewardship of the city’s many dynamic ecologies and systems.

A recording of the seminar is available here, and you may also be interested in this recent article in the journal Places.


Prof Shannon Mattern’s research and teaching address how the forms and materialities of media are related to the spaces (architectural, urban, and conceptual) they create and inhabit. She writes about libraries and archives, media infrastructures, the material qualities of media objects, media companies’ headquarters and sites of media-related labor, place branding, public design projects, urban media art, and mediated sensation. She is the author of The New Downtown Library; Deep Mapping the Media City; and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: 5000 Years of Urban Media, all published by the University of Minnesota Press. She is a professor of anthropology at The New School in New York City. Twitter: @shannonmattern.

This event was part of the SHL lockdown seminar series. Please also join us on 1 June for Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn on ‘Sensory Cartographies.’

SHL Lockdown Seminar Series

#BuildBackBetterForAll

Covid-19 reminds us how interconnected we are: globally as the human species, and biologically as members of the animal kingdom; it also reminds us that the social, economic, ecological, political and technological dimensions and dynamics of our world are similarly intrinsically coupled.

How can we better think across and beyond disciplines to celebrate and harness these entanglements in the (re)design of our technological, economic and social infrastructures for the benefit of all living organisms?

In the SHL lockdown seminars we invite scholars and artists from a range of disciplines whose work critiques our techno-cultural infrastructures in ways that help us imagine how we can #BuildBackBetterForAll.

Mon 18 May 2020 – 2pm (BST)
Prof Shannon Mattern (Department of Anthropology at The New School in New York)
Urban Algorhythms

Attendance is free and open to all; please register here.

Human bodies often render their internal operations audible, and for centuries healers have used auscultation — the practice of listening to the body, typically aided by gadgets and machines — to assess the body’s health and diagnose ailments. Cities, likewise, have lent themselves to sonic analysis, and they’ve been likened to both bodies and machines. This talk examines how methods of urban listening, through human and machinic ears, have “sounded out” the city as an organic or machinic body — and how new artificially intelligent ears are “scoring” the city in accordance with their own computational logic.

Shannon Mattern is a Professor of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities; Deep Mapping the Media City; and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt, all published by University of Minnesota Press; and The City Is Not a Computer, forthcoming from Princeton University Press. She contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places Journal, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.

Shannon Mattern

Mon 1 June 4pm (BST)
Sensory Cartographies – Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn (independent artist-researchers, NL) – Artist talk

Attendance is free and open to all; please register here.

When humans experience an environment, our bodies are constantly working at filtering vast streams of sensory impressions to make sense of the world. This filtration is not only an evolutionary development, but is also a learned process of culturally conditioned attention. At its very core, our perception of being in a place is neither universal nor neutral. From hand-drawn maps and coordinate systems to LIDAR and GPS – spatial technologies codify aspects of the world and expand the scale of our senses and memory. However, as Jennifer Gabrys points out, sensors (and mapping technologies) do not merely record information about an environment – they also generate new environments and environmental relations. The artistic project Sensory Cartographies is a response to these themes. Together, Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn, work on multidisciplinary artworks that explore alternative ways of knowing the land to counter the ubiquitous “top down”, “observe and control” impulse. Rather than placing the human in the position of overseer, our methods scramble the hierarchies between human, non-human, technological and ecological.

Sensory Cartographies is a collaboration between composer Jonathan Reus and artist-researcher Sissel Marie Tonn. The Sensory Cartographer seeks to explore extreme and information-rich environments; developing an understanding of these spaces through mediated forms of attention and mindfulness towards physiological, psychological and cognitive movements. We create wearable technologies and neuro-sensory attunement instruments that attempt to renegotiate techniques of cartography, collection, categorization and navigation originating the in colonial “golden age” of botany, drawing a line between these impulses to categorise nature to modern measurement and monitoring technologies. A living document of this work can be found at researchcatalogue.net.

Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn
Jonathan Reus and Sissel Marie Tonn