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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

Sonic Archaeology: Acoustic mapping with coastal communities

Mitchell, Caroline (2022) Sonic Archaeology: Acoustic mapping with coastal communities. In: Sonic Cartography: Soundscape, Simulation and Re-enactment, 28 - 30 October 2022, University of Kent. (Submitted)

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)


Whitburn Resonance is a community embedded “sonic archaeology” project that explores the acoustic landscape of the medieval fishing village of Whitburn on the North East coast. The project synthesizes archaeological data and methods with sonic research to explore how we might hear through time and navigate local natural, cultural and industrial soundscapes as an indication of change. The project is rooted in connecting people to place and celebrates the lived experience of locality through deep reflection on the coastal environment. Our aim is to support a cultural shift within coastal communities that enables a deeper sense of stewardship for their marine heritage and seascape through participatory co-research and acoustic mapping.

Through a series of workshops in 2021, Whitburn residents worked together to map historical resonances relating to local archaeological artifacts and the community’s memories of the village through sound. Participants co-investigated a range of concepts and ideas, co-collected data, and co-produced a series of analog designs for sonic memory maps, and sound explorations during the workshops which were delivered in community run venues and locations in the village. Key themes and topics covered during the project lifecycle include; the residents’ perceptions of and relationship to the sea through time - including traces and resonances of the fishing industry in Whitburn, oral histories and speculative futures of Whitburn, psychogeographies, song lines and concepts of mapping and navigation through sound, and the past on the edge of memory and today and the relationship between them.

These explorations resulted in a suite of primarily cultural and social memory sounds which have been collated and presented as an online repository, entitled Sound Dig ( The repository encapsulates these ideas through the voices, stories and experiences of local people, evoking memories that have great meaning to them, and giving residents agency over the narrative around their local environment. Sound Dig both offers material as a creative stimulus and presents an alternative route for residents and audiences to engage with the untold or hidden stories of the village.

This conference talk explores how mapping and producing co-created sounds has helped the community researchers to navigate their local landscape, and how focussing on locality and valuing local knowledge highlights new perspectives on and creative responses to environmental change. Through consolidating and sharing the new collective knowledge, interdisciplinary methods and tools, the project has deepened awareness, connection and understanding of the North East marine environment.

The project was seeded within a curated cross-sector, interdisciplinary lab entitled Sea AIR (Artist in Residence), devised by Dr Suzy O’Hara and brings together; a participatory action research model, entitled C-Map, devised by Prof Caroline Mitchell; music, sound and technology expertise by researcher and artist-researcher Shelly Knotts and archaeology and community engagement expertise by Robin Daniels (Tees Archaeology).

Shelly Knotts an independent artist-researcher exploring critical approaches to data-driven and technologically facilitated music and sound making. She is active as performer and facilitator and in the fields of live coding, network music and sonification.

Caroline Mitchell is Professor of Radio and Participation and has been involved in community radio production, activism, training, and research spanning feminist radio, community radio participation, participatory archiving and geolocated online mapping, for over 30 years. She was a lead member of the research team behind award winning global online platform

Suzy O’Hara is a curator, educator and practice-based researcher exploring emerging models of cross-sector collaboration between Art, Innovation and Society. She is leading on SeaScapes Co/Lab a public engagement project for SeaScapes marine heritage project.

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More Information

Depositing User: Suzy O'Hara


Item ID: 16248

Users with ORCIDS

ORCID for Caroline Mitchell: ORCID iD

Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 15 Jun 2023 13:16
Last Modified: 15 Jun 2023 13:16


Author: Caroline Mitchell ORCID iD

University Divisions

Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries


Fine Art > Curating
Fine Art > Art in Context
Fine Art > Digital Media
Fine Art > New Media
Media > Radio

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