Communication occurs for human beings through all five senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—but modern media specialize in the first two only, with rare exceptions. Media studies, too, focuses on the “audiovisual” zone, and yet visuality has dominated media analysis, with sound too often regarded as a mere adjunct to much more important work done by the pictures on the screen. The “blind” medium of radio had just begun to be taken seriously by scholars and critics in the 1940s when television arrived to upstage it. By the time that media studies emerged as a field in the 1980s, radio and recordings scarcely entered into the discussion. Recently, however, audio media have come back into the mix, largely due to sound’s digital explosion: podcasts, online audio, streaming services, and a much improved access to sound’s past via digital archives, often experienced through increasingly mobile reception technology. In fact, sound media have frequently led digital developments while visual media struggle to catch up.

This essay may be found on page 180 of the printed volume.

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