chapter  12
16 Pages

A Preliminary Phenomenology of the Audiobook: D. E. Wittkower


Philosophy has been called “a radical asking of the common questions of everyday.”1 Here, our object of inquiry is not one as fundamental to experience as those typical of philosophical inquiry, and our question not quite so common or everyday. Rather than radicalizing general questions such as “What is that?” “Who are you?” or “What time is it?” we will instead ask two interconnected questions:

What is it like to listen to an audiobook?• What are we listening to when we listen to an audiobook?•

Before turning to the experience of listening to an audiobook, it is worth making a few preparatory notes on the material conditions necessary for the possibility of this experience. Wired or wireless, the audiobook can reach us only through our involvement in a larger technical system, both in the preparation of the experience in question and in the circumstances of the experience itself. The preparation necessary for the possibility of the experience, completed within a larger technical system, may differ in each instance, but a typical preparation might include obtaining an audiobook on CD or through download, adding the audio fi les to a digital library on a desktop computer, adding the fi les within a playlist synced to an MP3 player, and updating the MP3 audio library. The circumstances necessary for the possibility of the experience itself will differ as well but invariably include integration in one of a number of larger technical systems, such as listening to the audiobook on a car stereo while driving, on a home stereo while performing domestic tasks, or on an MP3 player while walking or at the gym.