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Justin Griffin


Despite a contemporary outpouring of popular and scholarly discourse on “the attention economy” and its discontents, cultural critics have scarcely considered the role of listening attention in this time of technological, economic, and social change.   My project, Ambient Technologies, aims to register how collective listening practices change in tandem with shifting techno-economic conditions, from Muzak Inc.’s subtle colonization of 20th century background sound to the 21st century explosion of mobile listening devices and digital music streaming.  Drawing on experimental and ambient composers like Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, and Brian Eno, I theorize a concept and practice of ambient listening.  While critics of attention capitalism strive to preserve a largely visualist, individualist form of “deep attention,” I argue that ambient listening offers an alternate way forward, opening toward a diffuse, collective field of aesthetic attention.