Silence and the Notion of the Commons

1. Franklin discusses the role of silence in the context of the commons, or the public sphere.

2. Franklin concludes that silence is an integral part of the commons, which ought to be supported by the government as a fundamental human right.

3. Interesting quotations:

  • “In addition, modern devices make it possible to decompose, recompose, analyze and mix sounds, to change the initial magnitude and sustainability of sound, as well as to change all the characteristics that link the sound with its source. R. Murray Schafer called this ‘schizophonia,’ separating the sound from the source” (Franklin 642). In addition to introducing a clever portmanteau, this explicates a hidden result of the advancement of sound technology: the sound is no longer dependent on the source.
  • “Silence, in addition to being an absence of sound, is defined by a listener, by hearing” (Franklin). Eschewing its common (and, admittedly, correct) definition, Franklin grounds the concept of silence more strongly in the context of people, without whom silence becomes irrelevant (at least to her topic).

4. Confusing quotations

NOW we’re talking…

  • “First of all, we must insist that, as human beings in a society, we have a right to silence” (Franklin 645). It seems that, in an effort to be pithy, Franklin has lost a significant degree of precision. This imprecision arises most importantly from her use of the word right. If by right she simply means to imply that it is better for humans to have silence available for contemplation, then this statement seems rather uncontroversial. However, if she actually means a sort of inalienable or fundamental obligation of the government to enforce a degree of silence, her statement seems much less plausible. What does she mean to say here?
  • “I have yet to see, beyond hospitals, a public building that has a private room” (Franklin 645). Um, how about a library? That seems, if anything, even quieter than a hospital.

5. Related article: This article summarizes an article written by the clever wordsmith Franklin cites (quotation 3.1). The article in question discusses the negative effect the “introduction of unwanted noise” has on natural environmental noise.


One thought on “Silence and the Notion of the Commons

  1. You’re right to note the lack of precision in Franklin’s discussion of our “right” to silence. I read that as our right to NOT have sound forced upon us, though that is a slightly different statement.

    And yes, libraries.

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