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“Sound is a tremendously important part of human life. Hearing is the first sense we humans develop,” says Alexander Ljung, co-founder and CEO of SoundCloud. It follows that social research into all manner of human activity relies on sound and sound technology. Interviews and field notes are typically audio recorded, analysis away from the field is aided by referring to recordings and conclusions are often shared and discussed orally at lectures. Audio communication is integral to social research and a platform such as SoundCloud is likely to become part of the researcher’s toolkit as its potential is realised as more than a platform for musicians.
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The so-called ‘YouTube of sound‘ is rapidly evolving as developers reveal features improving accessibility and functionality. Currently about 9 million users around the world record, promote and share their sounds on SoundCloud. Over the coming year that number is set to double. Here are 5 ways that social researchers can take advantage of a number of developments and how they can become part of a growing community of people connecting with sound:
1 – The newly updated SoundCloud app, designed for iPhone, iPad or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later, is perfect for when in the field. Researchers can upload interviews directly from a mobile device – no need to go back to a desktop machine and no risk of losing irreplaceable data if a recording device is lost or damaged. Uploads can be easily shared with colleagues who can instantly contribute their input – especially handy for collaborative work.
2 – Informants can submit audio recordings directly to researchers through a private DropBox widget - useful for gathering information away from the field. Studies can be coordinated from afar, with participants posting responses to research questions.
3 – The app gallery contains many useful apps for creating, discovering and sharing sounds. For example, the transcription service offered by SpeakerText takes the hassle out of processing hours of collected audio data. Interviews can be transcribed quickly and effortlessly and the important task of analysis can begin.
4 – Researchers can publicise work through podcast-style updates which can be inserted into a personal blog, or department website. Recent research and publications can be showcased, leading to potential new audiences. Audio material can also supplement traditional print publication and thus expand the reader experience. Leading universities have begun to establish their presence on SoundCloud, for example UCL share lectures and news updates this way. Some of their tracks receive thousands of plays, reaching far more people than could have attended the live lecture.
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5 – Find inspiration in the work of others! SoundCloud is an ever-increasing reservoir of sounds from around the world, providing fertile ground for development of research ideas. It is a great research starting point: from 81 year-old NewYorkers recalling a lifetime on Manhattan streets, to people in the Scottish Outer Hebrides making tweed, there is a rich resource of stories, sounds and voices waiting to be tapped by researchers.