Tabitha Farthing

Hagood, M. “Quiet Comfort: Noise, Otherness, and the Mobile Production of Personal Space.” American Quarterly, vol. 63 no. 3, 2011, pp. 573-589. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/aq. 2011.0036.

This article is centered on the Bose QuietComfort noise-cancelling headphones and their use as soundscaping devices in airports and on airplanes. It provides background information about Amar Bose, the company’s creator. The author also discusses the advertising for the product as portraying predominately upper-class white male consumers, and how this emphasizes the Western subjectivity associated with this technology.

The primary strength of this article is its specificity in topic that allows for a comprehensive, though not exhaustive, view of soundscaping by focusing on noise-cancelling headphones. This quality appeals to the audience because the narrow focus makes it easier to follow the argument. The credibility of the author is evident through the extensive examples and use of authoritative and diverse sources.

This article is useful to my research because it presents a function of headphones not conventionally discussed: soundscaping. This is described in the statement, “In these spaces where freedom proves illusory, soundscaping technology provides at least an illusion of freedom, offering the ability to disconnect from the networks of sound and sociality in which one is implicated.” The author is referring to the constraining environment of airplanes, and the escape from one’s surroundings that these headphones offer. As Bose advertises, the noise-cancelling technology is meant to give freedom of mind by mediating the background noise.


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