Thesis Info

Thesis Title
Noisy Fields: Interference and Equivocality in the Sonic Legacies of Information Theory
Nicholas Knouf
2nd Author
3rd Author
Number of Pages
Cornell University
Thesis Supervisor
Phoebe Sengers
Supervisor e-mail
sengers AT
Other Supervisor(s)
Tarleton Gillespie, Tim Murray, Maria Fernandez
Language(s) of Thesis
Department / Discipline
Information Science/Media Studies
Languages Familiar to Author
URL where full thesis can be found
Noise, Finance, Sound, Voice, Information theory, Robotics
Abstract: 200-500 words
Noisy Fields: Interference and Equivocality in the Sonic Legacies of Information Theory discusses the ways in which noise causes interferences within disciplinary fields. Noise tends to bring diverse disciplinary approaches together, interfering in their constitution and their dynamics. I understand noise to be more than either positive revolutionary potential or negative disruption; instead, noise functions equivocally, possessing aspects of each pole in varying degrees. As such, it is vital to follow the machinations of noise. Considering noise as a material-discursive phenomenon, I trace its intersections with sonic practices and information theory. Noise was a key point of contention in the early debates surrounding the development of information theory, and I examine some situations that provide alternatives to the standard formulations. I then trace the interrelationships between information theory, noise, and early electronic music in the 1950s, outlining how artistic experiences necessitated the development of new information theories. Considering the confluence of sound and information in finance, I show how noise is both understood as a potential source of monetization while ultimately confounding attempts at complete capture. I turn to the nexus of speech, the voice, and noise, to consider situations of parrhesia, or "fearless speech", that consists of noisy interferences within social systems via the activity of robotic performing objects. Finally, I listen to the electronic vocal manipulations of Maja Ratkje and Holly Herndon to consider a micropolitics of the noisy voice. In sum, I show how the analysis of noise requires a transdisciplinary approach in order to elucidate the complicated dynamics of its interferences.