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

Brown, Steven D.; Kanyeredzi, Ava; McGrath, Laura; Reavey, Paula and Tucker, Ian (2019). Organizing the sensory: Ear-work, panauralism and sonic agency on a forensic psychiatric unit. Human Relations (Early Access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/0018726719874850

Abstract

How 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.

Viewing alternatives

Download history

Metrics

Public Attention

Altmetrics from Altmetric

Number of Citations

Citations from Dimensions

Item Actions

Export

About

Recommendations