Listening Modes


Settle into a place within a space where you won’t have to move for at least five minutes or so. Take a full minute (or a half-minute depending on time constraints) to do each of the following steps.

Pull out your phone and scroll through your social media or your emails. Or pull out a book or magazine to read. Or engage in some other activity that will occupy your mind. At the end of this and each next step, take 20–30 seconds to make note of what you heard. What sounds came to the fore? What background sounds did you notice?

Closing your eyes, focus as much as possible exclusively on what you hear.

Open your eyes, and use your eyes to help you hear. Let your ears and eyes follow each other’s perceptions.

Having brought eyes and ears together, close your eyes once more and focus solely on your hearing.

Reflect on what you heard in each step and how you heard it. Did your sonic impressions of the space shift based on what you were doing?

What differences were there in what and how much you perceived? To what extent did the addition of sight affect what you paid attention to?

Suggested Uses
  • We are not neutral receptors of whatever impinges upon and stimulates our sensorial organs.
  • We pay selective attention to what goes on around us, and that attention can be affected by, among other things, what we are doing in a given space, which sets of our senses are engaged, and our ongoing relationship to that space.