Resonance is delighted to be welcoming three new associate editors to the journal’s editorial team. This is the first of a series of blog interviews with the new associate editors. In this inaugural post, Resonance Co-Editor Jay Needham interviews incoming Associate Editor Josh Shepperd. Shepperd is assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, director of the Library of Congress Sound Submissions Project, and sound fellow of the LOC’s National Recording Preservation Board. He is currently soliciting papers for a forthcoming Resonance Special Series, “Soundwork: Activism, Archives, and Aesthetics,” which he is editing along with guest editors Angela Tate and Alex Sayf Cummings.
JN: In your new role as one of the Associate Editors of Resonance, what are some of the important themes and concepts emerging in sound studies and practice that have caught your attention?
JS: The turn in sound studies that has really caught my attention is the discipline-wide mobilization to promote sound as a primary source. Audio records provide insight into experiences that might or might not be found in paper archives, often from alterity groups. Since 2015 hundreds of archivists, faculty, and curators have convened or joined projects to identify, analyze, preserve, and make available sound documentary evidence for researchers and the public. I’ve been fortunate to write letters for and work on dozens of connected grants that diversify the historical record, in my continuing role as fellow of the Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board. It’s rewarding to see a few consequent publications end up in the pages of Resonance.
JN: You work on an impressive number of initiatives and projects, how do you maintain such an active research agenda? Can you share some advice for researchers who are starting in the field?
JS: I’m very interested in the relationship between how concepts of public good, often articulated as mission statements, are translated into institutional practices. I research the history of public media, a nonprofit industry heavily indebted to a mid-century social movement that sought to increase equal access to education through technology. I try to materialize associated principles across theoretical, historical, and applied forms of scholarship, such as public humanities. For me all of the initiatives that I work on are more or less different applications of my intellectual and political investments.
JN: The latest Special Series in Resonance is a variation on the “Soundwork of Media Activism” series that you helped to organize. Can you tell us some background on the colleagues who are working with you on it?
JS: I’m very fortunate to be working with Angela Tate, Curator of Women’s History at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), and Alex Sayf Cummings, Professor at Georgia State, on this special series. The term “Soundwork” is a direct reference to coinage developed by Michele Hilmes (University of Wisconsin), who has long been a guiding light for sound history. She was generous to write the lead piece in last year’s series. “Soundwork of Media Activism” was developed in 2020 with Alex and two other scholars—Georgia Ennis (Penn State) and Jen Shook (University of Iowa)—as a strategy to accentuate research that’s typically ocular centric but also produces auditory phenomena. Indeed we found that many of the pieces that we published were derived from the same data sets as visual empirical evidence. One of our favorite publications in the first run came from Angela, and Alex and I knew that the series would greatly benefit from her voice, so we invited her to co-edit this year’s run.