Sound as Control

This recording of an announcement in Yoyogi Park is played every few minutes through a loudspeaker (featured photo). A feminine voice tells park users not to ride bicycles along the pathways as it is dangerous to pedestrians. This is an example of sonic control, an one expression of social control. In his essay ‘Postscript on the Societies of Control’ (1992), Deleuze argues we are living in ‘societies of control’, which are gradually phasing out the Foucaudian societies of discipline (1992:4). The difference between the two is explained as such:

[i]n the disciplinary societies one was always starting again (from school to the barracks, from the barracks to the factory),while in the societies of control one is never finished with anything … (ibid: 5-6).

In Deleuze’s cyclical sequence of warning (and subsequent observance), networks are structured in ways that appear to allow us choice, in the sense that we make decisions when we act: we choose a school, or we choose a career. Yet, when we make these decisions, there are structures of control subtly guiding us through the available options (the acquisition of educational debt, for example, may affect our choices of education and career). Deleuze is speaking primarily of capitalism as the control mechanism at work here (‘[m]an is no longer a man enclosed, but a man in debt’ [ibid: 6]). Here we also look at the ways capitalism, and other social ideologies, such as neoliberalism, are expressed through sound in Japan. Sound makes apparent these structures of control, and the sensory experience of these structures imprints messages (and ensuing behaviours) in the minds and bodies of individuals.

Reference cited:

Deleuze, G. 1992. Postscript on the Society of Control, October, vol. 59 (winter 1992): 3-7.

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