Listening Project

Project Convenors: Dr Tanja Dreher, Dr Justine Lloyd, Dr Penny O’Donnell
Cultural Literacies Node (with Cultural Technologies Node)


The program will examine ‘listening’, an emerging focus in Media Studies and citizens’ media interventions. Habitual critiques of representation and the politics of ‘speaking’ (or giving voice to the voiceless) are giving way to investigation of more dynamic and active possibilities for social inclusion and social change based on recognition, dialogic engagement and acceptance. The issue of cultural respect lies at the heart of the cultural citizenship debate (Stevenson 2003).

Internationally, there are increasing calls for attention to the practices, politics and ethics of listening. Sociologist Charles Husband has long argued that the ‘right to be understood’ and an ethics of listening are as important as the ‘right to communicate’ in developing a multi-ethnic public sphere. Media scholars John Downing and Clemencia Rodriguez identified ‘listening’ as a crucial new theme for media studies research in Keynote addresses to the OURMedia conference in Sydney (April 2007). Indeed, Downing proposes that constructive cultural change is contingent on engendering ‘a sense of obligation to listen’ to those historically marginalised from public communication. Researchers in education propose a need to develop ‘ears that can hear’ in antiracism education (Jones 1999), while debates around the politics of recognition and deliberative democracy raise interesting questions about the genuine difficulties of ‘listening to everyone’ (Bickford 1996). Yet there is remarkably little scholarly publication or ongoing research into these vital issues.

We propose a program of workshops leading to a multi-authored publication around the theme of ‘listening’. A focus on ‘listening’ opens up innovative and theoretically informed research in media and communications, as well as connecting with researchers in a number of other areas such as social inquiry, cultural studies and politics.

A further series of events is currently being planned for 2009.


Project Activities

Listening Workshops 2009
Three workshops and a concluding symposium

Listening Workshops 2008
A series of five workshops on related themes held throughout 2008

Masterclass on Media and Listening with Prof Charles Husband
13 November 2008, UTS

Publication Workshop
November 2008