Introducing forestscapes and open call for forest sounds

Soundscapes as method

How can soundscapes be used as a way to attend to forest life and the many different ways that we narrate and relate to forests, forest issues and forest protection and restoration efforts?

Forests and their wider ecologies are presented not only as sites of conservation and relaxation, but also as crucial infrastructures in addressing and building resilience against the effects of climate change; habitats for endangered species; hotspots of biodiversity; part of poverty alleviation programmes; sites for ecotourism, health and wellbeing; scenes of neocolonial afforestation; backdrops for corporate greenwashing; landscapes of danger, violence, destruction and resource conflicts; and places where different kinds of planetary futures may emerge. Forests are involved in collective life in many ways.

In this context, the forestscapes project will explore, document and demonstrate generative arts-based methods for recomposing collections of sound materials to support “collective inquiry” into forests as living cultural landscapes. It aims to facilitate interdisciplinary exchanges between natural scientists, social scientists, arts and humanities researchers, artists and public-spirited organisations and institutions working on forest issues.

While many previous works have explored sound as a medium for sensory immersion, (e.g. field recordings), forestscapes explores how recomposing sound material may explore forests as mediatised and contested cultural landscapes: diverse sites of many different (and marginalised) kinds of beings, relations, histories and representations. As part of the project we will co-create new sound works, as well as generative composition techniques using open source software and hardware.

Research on visual methods has explored how to work with “folders of images”, including formats for the re-arrangement of images for collective interpretation. Forestscapes will explore generative methods and techniques for working with “folders of sound” – whether folders of site-based recordings or collections of sounds associated with a particular place gathered from the web and social media.

Further details and materials from the project will be added here.

Call for folders of forest sounds

As part of the project we have an open call for folders of forest sounds. If you have a collection of forest sounds related to a particular site and you’d be interested in exploring soundscaping techniques, we’d love to hear from you.

What? We welcome sounds collected in different contexts, i.e. research projects involving forests in some ways (e.g. ecological restoration, study of climate change impacts, fieldwork, etc); sounds recorded during walks and trips; as well as material collected online. 

How? You can tell us about your folders of forest sounds here.

Who? We’re keen to hear from everyone with collections of forest sounds –  whether you’re a forest scientist with bioacoustic recordings; an environmental organisation exploring sound as a medium of community engagement; a new media researcher gathering online materials; an ethnographer working with sound materials;  a musician working with field recordings from a particular forest site; an artist interested in generative compositional techniques with ecological sounds; or a walker who has gathered a collection of sounds from a forest you often go to.

When? Please submit your files by 17th March 2023.

The forestscapes project is a collaboration between the Department of Geography, the Department of Digital Humanities and the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London, together with the Public Data Lab. It is supported by the National Environmental Research Council.

Exploring forest hashtags in COP27 Twitter with the European Forest Institute

The following is a cross-post from Rina Tsubaki at the European Forest Institute, drawing on digital methods recipes and approaches developed with the Public Data Lab as part a broader collaboration around the SUPERB project on upscaling forest restoration.

Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter has prompted confusion among its users and concerns about the platform’s future. Musk’s tweets are gathering daily attention due to large-scale layoffs and safety concerns around the new paid blue verification mark. To make things worse, as its engineers are on their way out of the door, users are also experiencing various technical glitches on the platform. Millions of users – including journalists, researchers and organisations – are already signing up on alternative platforms to be prepared for the platform’s deterioration and demise.

While no one can predict Twitter’s future, it remains widely used by politicians, scientists, companies, NGOs and influencers who are still busy posting on the platform. This includes COP27 in Egypt, where Twitter was one of the main platforms to report on the event. #cop27 has been tweeted over 2.85 million times since 5 November 2022. 

Social media platforms can give us additional insights into how broader publics make connections between forest restoration and other social, economic and environmental issues. To see which issues and narratives around forest restoration have been brought up on Twitter in the lead-up to the event, we’ve carried out a series of small explorations based on the digital methods recipes developed by our colleagues at the Department of Digital Humanities, King’s College London and the Public Data Lab who are part of the SUPERB consortium led by EFI. This has been a good way to see if EFI could use these methods independently to understand international events as they unfold.

We usually see a spike in hashtag usage a few days before global events like the COPs. Using #cop27we collected 217,189 tweets between 5 and 7 November 2022. We then examined the top 1000 hashtags to see which kinds of forest-related issues are present. 

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“Ways of Listening to Forests” workshop at Critical Zones exhibition, ZKM, 26th November 2021

There will be a free online workshop on 26th November 2021 featuring our forest listening project as part of the Critical Zones exhibition curated by Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel at the ZKM Center for Art and Media. This builds on a previous workshop in the summer. The sound pieces are now online as part of the Critical Zones exhibition and can be downloaded from the project website.

This piece is cross-posted from jonathangray.org.