Organizing the sensory: Ear-work, panauralism and sonic agency on a forensic psychiatric unit

Journal article


Brown, S., Kanyeredzi, A., McGrath, L., Reavey, P. and Tucker, I. (2019). Organizing the sensory: Ear-work, panauralism and sonic agency on a forensic psychiatric unit. Human Relations. 73 (11), pp. 1537-1562. https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726719874850
AuthorsBrown, S., Kanyeredzi, A., McGrath, L., Reavey, P. and Tucker, I.
AbstractHow are relations of care and security between hospital staff and patients organized through sound? This article argues that a shifting distinction between meaningful sound and noise is fundamental to the lived experience of immersion in an organizational acoustic environment. Based around a qualitative study of listening practices and ‘ear-work’ at a medium-secure forensic psychiatric hospital, using interview and photo-production methods, the article positions the organizing of the sensory as central to formal organization. Analysis of empirical material demonstrates how the refinement of key listening practices is critical to the ways in which staff and patients orient to the hospital setting. It also details how the design process for the unit has undermined the capacity to manage and control through sound, or ‘panauralism’, rendering it as a reversible and contested struggle to make sense of the acoustic environment, and describes the attempts by patients to create alternative acoustic spaces and exercise ‘sonic agency’. We contend that ‘acoustic organizational research’ offers an experience-near means of mapping organizational space and power relations and invites a renewed questioning of the role of the sensory as form of organizing in itself.
KeywordsManagement of Technology and Innovation; Strategy and Management; Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous); General Social Sciences
Year2019
JournalHuman Relations
Journal citation73 (11), pp. 1537-1562
PublisherSAGE Publications
ISSN0018-7267
1741-282X
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726719874850
Web address (URL)https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0018726719874850
Publication dates
Online23 Oct 2019
Publication process dates
Accepted12 Aug 2019
Deposited06 Sep 2019
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