Silence! The Background of Attention as a Battleground


  • Anette Vandsø



Silence, Attention Ecology, John Cage, Background Soundings, Attention Economy


The commodification of silence responding to a disturbing environment is integrated in the growing attention economy. This paper suggests that the idea of silence embedded in these products preclude fruitful understandings of—and interventions in—the
problematics they address, and it proposes Cage’s silence as a more efficacious model for understanding our problems with a disturbing environment, and a better practice for intervening in it. Informed by Yves Citton’s ecology of attention the paper argues that Cage’s silence centers the interplay of attention, subjectivity and intentionality, as it takes play between us and the background, which to some extent produces us. And finally, it suggests that the Cagean practice of paying attention to this background is what Citton calls a “micropolitics of attention”, because it reveals the background as a battleground.

Author Biography

Anette Vandsø

Associate professor Anette Vandsø is head of Centre for Sound Studies at Aarhus University, School of Communication and Culture.Her research explores the intersections of aesthetics, culture, and technology within the fields of sound studies and environmental aesthetics.She has published broadly on these issues, latest the chapter “The Sonic Aftermath” in Bloomsbury Handbook on Sonic Art.


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How to Cite

Vandsø, A. (2023). Silence! The Background of Attention as a Battleground. The Nordic Journal of Aesthetics, 32(65).