The Sounds of BC Studies Past and Present with Paige Raibmon and Jenni Schine
Amplified is an audio blog series about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. This month on Amplified, we’re featuring BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly in conversation with Editor Paige Raibmon and Soundworks Associate Editor Jenni Shine. BC Studies is a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal that publishes regional scholarly work in print, audio, and multimedia formats. Together we reflect on how BC Studies became a space for alternative forms of scholarship, and the ways in which the journal continues to push the boundaries of what it means to publish alongside questions of decoloniality, regional-based work, and of course, sound-based scholarship.
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Stacey Copeland: Welcome to Amplified an audio blog about the sounds of scholarship from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network. I’m your host, Stacey Copeland.
Spending much of my research career in the world of sound studies. It was no surprise to me. Back in 2017, I heard about the Soundworks Initiative coming out of BC Studies: the British Columbia Quarterly actively working to integrate sound into their location-based scholarly project. Why wasn’t it surprising to me? You might ask? Well, as many cultural sound studies nerds, perhaps yourself included know, Canada’s province of British Columbia has a rich and complex history when it comes to sound studies, examining concepts, practices and technologies of sound, and listening in different historical and cultural contexts in and outside of Canada.
For example, the Sonic Research Studio at Simon Fraser University has a long history of sound-based practice from sound walks and sound mapping to critical listening techniques and soundscape composition. Going back to the late 1960s when the World Soundscape project was established by Composer R. Murray Schafer, the BC Studies Journal also founded around the same time aimed to bring a focus to regional and land-based questions as well.
With more contemporary BC based research like Dr. Milena Droumeva’s Liveable Soundscapes, an exploration of sound and urban livability, and Dr. Dylan Robinson’s Hungry Listening: Resonant Theory for Indigenous Sound Studies, BC scholars continue to showcase the important role of sound in British Columbia’s cultural, political, and economic past and present.
This month on Amplified, I’m joined by BC Studies current editor Paige Raibmon, and the journal’s Soundworks editor Jenni Schine. Together we reflect on how BC Studies became a space for alternative forms of scholarship, and the ways in which the journal continues to push the boundaries of what it means to publish alongside questions of decoloniality, regional-based work, and of course, sound-based scholarship.
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[00:02:37] Paige Raibmon: My name’s Paige Raibmon, and I’m a historian at the University of British Columbia. My own work deals with Indigenous peoples and resurgence in settler, colonial British Columbia, and I’ve been doing that work for a long time, especially working on collaborative research methodologies within history and also most recently working on a collective project with some collaborators on an open access digital book.
And I’m the editor of BC Studies.
[00:03:08] Stacey Copeland: and also with us is Jenni Schine.
[00:03:11] Jenni Schine: Yeah, I never know what to say with these intros. I feel like I don’t have a headline yet, but I’m a sound artist. I also do research and I’m currently back at school to become a counselor, so that is where I’m at these days. I’m also the Soundworks editor at the BC Studies Journal.
[00:03:30] Stacey Copeland: It’s great to have you both here today to talk a little bit about BC Studies as a journal. You know, here at Amplify, we’ve been following your work for a while now and, and keeping tabs on the evolution of your soundworks and podcasting publication options of course. And in addition to that, you know, Jenni’s work, I’ve been following for a while, both of us coming out of the SFU Sonic Studio tradition at Simon Fraser University’s School of Communication.
And of course, Paige actually getting to put a face to the name after reading some of your work as well. So lovely to have you both here. To start us off, you know, I’m familiar with BC Studies: the British Columbian Quarterly, and of course you two are very familiar with the Journal as well. But for our listeners, if you could give a sense of what the Journal is all about and how you both got involved with it.
[00:04:21] Jenni Schine: Paige, do you wanna start with-
[00:04:22] Paige Raibmon: you want me to go first? Yeah. So, BC Studies is an interdisciplinary quarterly published out of UBC. It’s a longstanding journal that started in 1969 and we publish on all humanities and social science areas that relate to British Columbia. So it really focuses on all kinds of great and innovative work that are happening within the region. I became involved as the co-editor initially under the previous editor, who was Leslie Robertson and she wanted to bring on a co-editor. When she was done her term and wanted to step down, I became the editor.
[00:05:04] Jenni Schine: and I became the Soundworks editor, I’m not sure actually when that was (laughs) . So maybe we’ll cut that out, all these dates, Covid happened and then years disappeared. But yeah, Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier started the Soundworks section and when she stepped down I took that over and that was a really innovative and interesting part of the journal and part of Alexandrine’s, her. and also her passion around soundscapes. So that part of the journal has soundworks that are at the forefront. So before the writing, so the piece is more about the sound itself, and then there’s supplementary writing as opposed to the other way around.
[00:05:47] Stacey Copeland: And on the topic of the Soundworks in particular, you know, we all here have a sense of what a soundwork is, specifically in the context of BC studies as well. You know, and on the website you outline a few of the general objectives of this particular form of submission. You know, asking questions about whether it specifically addresses and engages with topics within sound studies, of course, explorations around understandings of British Columbia and whether the work is really engaging with sound in ways that simply text could not with the particular questions and, and research that it’s grappling with.
and what you’re considering soundworks here does vary from other uses of the term by, say, Michelle Hilmes, radio scholar, who’s thinking about podcasts and radio pieces like radio documentary work also as soundwork , that intentional mixing of music and voice and sound effects . Here we’re, we’re thinking more of sonic explorations that don’t necessarily fit into, say, a podcast category, taking on experimental, interpretive sound art forms of research.
[00:07:02] Jenni Schine: Yeah. If you go to the BC Studies website and the Soundworks section, there are nine pieces there, and they’re all fairly short, you know, from 4 minutes to, maybe the longest one is 12 or so. They’re also different. Some of them really are about field recordings that have minimal processing and others have more soundscape composition. Some of them have historical field recordings as well. So that’s been really interesting also to talk about at what point is a sound works yours? If you’re using audio recordings from an archive. So how do you make that your own piece? Looking at Jacek Smolicki, I hope I pronounce his name correctly, his piece, Intertidal Room: A Soundwalk through Timscapes of Vancouver’s coastline.
[00:07:56] Jacek Smolicki Soundwork Clip – BC Studies – Intertidal Room: What is usually a short patch of the beach now stretches quite far off. the edge between the water and sound blares .
[00:08:06] Jenni Schine: That is a really great soundworks to check out because it also has ties to soundwalking, which is a major practice in soundscape studies and it ties in with the Vancouver Soundscape and the World Soundscape Collective and the Vancouver Soundwalk Collective. And I think he goes back to also Kitsilano, which is Hildegard’s piece –
[00:08:30] Stacey Copeland: Of course. Yeah. Kits Beach Soundwalk by Hildegard Westerkamp.
[00:08:33] Jenni Schine: Yeah so, and it has some processing and narrative and he uses voice as a way to bring us back into place. So it’s really an interesting piece .
[00:08:44] Jacek Smolicki Soundwork Clip – BC Studies – Intertidal Room: I’m somewhere between this elusive edge and the peak of the beach marked by human made seawall between nature and culture, or at both ends at the same time.
[00:08:55] Jenni Schine: And Hildegard Westerkamp also has a piece where she examined different responses to a soundwalk that she held in Bamfield. Milena has a piece about the Coffee-Office, so that’s also, it’s a really different soundscape.
[00:09:18] Milena Droumeva Soundwork Clip – BC Studies – The Coffee-Office: [coffee shop ambience of clanging cutlery, plates and coffee machines mixed with lounge style cafe music create this ethereal coffee-office soundscape.]
[00:09:23] Jenni Schine: So there are different, yeah, there are different ways to present a soundworks.
[00:09:28] Stacey Copeland: Yeah. You know, it was intriguing to me to find a journal outside of Sound Studies that that actually publishes sound forward scholarship, you know, work that bridges across the social sciences and humanities. Not only that, but also encouraging and inviting scholars to think beyond the written text in ways that we’re not always encouraged to do so. In the journal, you can also find photo essays and digital media peer reviews, for example. Could you speak a bit to what sparked BC Studies to take on alternative forms of scholarship in this way ?
[00:10:08] Paige Raibmon: I would like to really give credit to Leslie Robertson and Alexandrine for initiating that. So I wasn’t part of the journal, and I think that under Leslie’s editorship, she undertook a lot of innovations with the journal and she in conjunction with Alex started the Soundworks aspect of it. So I know that one of Leslie’s core kind of values around working with the Journal and one that I share, and part of the reason I came on to join her is really around decolonizing knowledge and part of that practice of decolonizing scholarly knowledge, especially is in making it more accessible both to new audiences, but also making it accessible for different kinds of knowledge producers to be contributors to scholarly knowledge. So that’s one of the things that the sound research and sound scholarship that we publish enable.
[00:11:06] Stacey Copeland: So there’s the Soundworks stream, right? Yeah. And then that was started by Alexandrine Boudreault-Fournier and, and Leslie Robertson. And now, more recently, you’ve added another, another sound based submission possibility for scholars, and that’s the podcast stream that’s begun to take shape under your guidance Paige.
[00:11:26] Paige Raibmon: When I came on, that was an idea that I had that it would make a logical extension. Since we had all of this jumpstart through Leslie on how we might peer review scholarship that wasn’t primarily based in print with the soundworks, and that had been quite successful. And so I thought that it would be really great to include peer reviewed podcasts as something that would also be a way to help scholars who wanna disseminate their knowledge in that form also have a peer reviewed stamp on it to help them with their own, really with their own career profiles and their own CVs so that they’re getting validation at their institutions, which is a struggle.
[00:12:07] Stacey Copeland: Peer review is definitely something I’d like to touch on a bit more here. I mean, as you know, the question of how to peer review, sound-based scholarship, particularly podcasts for us is a question we are actively working on here at Amplify. And you know, we often find lots of excitement, intrigue about the idea of peer reviewed scholarly podcasts and soundwork but in reality we run into a lot of barriers around apprehensions about the time investment involved for both sides in the project for both scholarly producers who are worried about the potential amount of revisions they might have to make to their work. And for peer reviewers who aren’t sure how much labour is actually involved in listening to and providing feedback on scholarly podcasts.
How have you navigated through what peer review looks like for sound-based submissions through the journal?
[00:13:04] Jenni Schine: Yeah, it’s really interesting because it’s, you know, there needs to be some understanding of what a soundworks is and the value of the soundworks, and then also the content of that soundworks. So generally it’s nice to have someone in the sound studies field potentially, or who understands that field. And then also someone who can speak to the content, specific content. And there’s a little bit of education I think that happens just in terms of what a soundworks is. But generally we’re really lucky with our soundworks Peer reviewers, I. , especially because a lot of folks are in the arts, and so there’s a, just a broader general, more flexibility and understanding in different types of knowledg eproduction and dissemination.
[00:13:50] Stacey Copeland: so how does that Soundwork peer review experience then translate into the development of peer review for the more recent podcast submission option, particularly given that, as you say, Soundworks or soundscape composition submissions tend to be more arts -based and are on the more creative interpretive side of things in the scholarly publication world, whereas, whereas podcasts tend to have some of that art s based creativity involved, but they also are much more voice and narrative driven works. Perhaps somewhere more in between the traditional written article and Soundworks formats. Right? How have those frictions coalesced then in your podcast peer review process?
[00:14:34] Paige Raibmon: So I would say that actually the barriers that you mentioned, Stacey, are the ones that we are also still encountering and it’s been in a way more challenging with the podcasts maybe than with the Soundworks. For those people who are producing sound scholarship it’s a form that is already maybe more familiar. Whereas we’ve had a lot of interest from scholars who haven’t made any audio scholarship before, who might wanna present what would’ve been a written article maybe they could make a podcast. So we actually seen one of our podcasts go all the way through to the completion of our peer review process yet, and it, that’s taking longer than we thought it would.
And part of it is the issue that Jenni raised about people’s sense of what a podcast is. Part of it is the ones that have gone back to the podcaster for revision have stayed for quite a long time with the podcaster because that’s time consuming and it’s, it’s a different kind of editing and it’s more challenging than getting the word processor out and changing some words and trying to make it sound seamless if you’re trying to go back and edit. One of the ways we’ve tried to approach that, has been, so normally we would have a, we always have at least two peer reviewers and with the podcast anyway, we’ve tried to split the difference a little bit and make sure one of the peer reviewers is somebody who works with sound and who can talk about it as a piece of audio scholarship on its own terms.
And then there still has to be a topic expert . Who may or may not know anything or even be supportive of podcasting as a genre who we try and bring on board and say like, we’re doing this experimental thing, but you’re an expert on the topic. Can you evaluate the scholarly side of it? I would say it’s still a work in progress. And we’re really encouraging, you know, more scholars to continue submitting their work to us. We’ve also been having like sort of ongoing conversations with people who are interested in submitting, whose podcasts are already out there in the world in some format. So technically our commitment and we’re SSHRC funded, so we sort of have to meet those terms, is to publish unpublished work.
And so we’re also trying to. and trying to be creative with sort of pushing up against conventional notions of what already published would mean. Many high quality podcasts, including from scholars, are already out there by the time people wanna submit them to us. So that’s something else that we’re working through.
[00:16:59] Stacey Copeland: Oh, geez. Yeah, that brings up a whole other broader debate really about what under grant funding or institutional funding is considered a scholarly publication or publication at all. Versus public knowledge mobilization or unaffiliated work that a researcher is just happening to do, but outside of their academic context. Especially. with podcasting since so much of it is self-published. So does that count as already published in relation to submitting it to an academic journal like BC Studies?
[00:17:33] Paige Raibmon: Yeah. I mean, the other part of our peer review also, which is, is tied to our SSHRC grant. And what we’ve promised to SSHRC is that we we’re committed to a blind peer review process, which also kind of limits the ways we can innovate the peer review process.
[00:17:47] Stacey Copeland: And for Any international researchers listening, SSHRC is the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, which is one of our main funding bodies here in the country.
[00:17:58] Paige Raibmon: Typically, all of our written work is double blind. It can be single blind in certain circumstances and in lots of these podcasting instances it’s too onerous to ask somebody to prepare something that a hundred percent preserves the anonymity of, of the podcaster. So we’re working a little bit more within the box because of the structure of our funding.
[00:18:18] Stacey Copeland: That is such a huge touchpoint really surrounding the politics of peer review. You know, like the level of anonymity and, and what it actually is contributing, especially with podcasts. Where If the scholar is also the host or the lead narrative voice in the series or in the episode, it becomes difficult to keep any sort of anonymity, especially in smaller circles of research like BC studies, which is quite regional. So the question becomes, you know, should we be having that anonymity among the peer reviewers, if they will likely know the voice of the scholar.
How do we level the power dynamics or the playing field there? You’ve mentioned the Secret Feminist Agenda peer review project in the past that Amplify’s Hannah McGregor and Siobhan McMenemy produced a few years back as one example exploring the open peer review model. But it’s equally interesting to me to pause here and and hear more about how you navigate the further questions and limitations, as well as perhaps opportunities around anonymous peer review based on what your funding is contingent on and, and what the model is for other forms of scholarship across the journal .
[00:19:31] Paige Raibmon: I think I was just gonna add like, so I think that’s such a good point. Because that’s one of my responses to when people get concerned, like, oh, this can maybe only be a single blind publication. This comes up sometimes with print articles too, that are deeply community engaged, and the author will say to me like, I can’t really present what my research is if I don’t identify myself in this.
And I actually think the idea that double blind is always truly double blind. Isn’t accurate because most scholarly fields are small enough that people, even with written work can guess, they have a pre- people are going to conferences and they’re tuned into their field, which is what would make them a good peer reviewer for conventional scholarship too, they often have a pretty good guess of who it is, and the key thing is not to have a conflict. I also think there’s value in these multiple forms of peer review and anonymous and open. But even the purely anonymous it, I think we should admit that people, it’s a, all of these are small, scholarly fields.
[00:20:32] Stacey Copeland: These key questions around peer review and support for alternative forms of scholarship are definitely key questions we’ve been interested in here at Amplify around what’s happening with BC Studies as a journal, but I know there’s also a lot of other projects happening at the Journal. What else should we be keeping our eyes and ears open for?
[00:20:53] Paige Raibmon: So one of the things that’s exciting that’s coming up is a call for papers for a special issue that focuses on Relational Technologies, so it will be a multimedia issue, guest edited by Daisy Rosenblum and Dave Gaertner, which they have a grant that brings together a whole range of scholars working in various multimedia forms to focus on community storytelling.
So community led collaborative storytelling practices through multimedia. So it’ll be an opportunity for us to publish a range of other forms of digital scholarship, many of which we haven’t tried to peer review before. But we’re absolutely game and excited to do (laughs). I think one of the nice things that comes from this is having the Soundworks lay the groundwork for thinking through what peer review for something like this could look like. It seems to me. It’s not that difficult to begin imagining how we could extend it to other forms of digital scholarship and non-print scholarship. So stay tuned. That’s gonna be coming.
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[00:22:10] Stacey Copeland: A big thank you to Paige Raibmon and Jenni Schine for joining us here on Amplified. This month you’ll find additional info on BC Studies and other references made throughout our conversation In the show notes. If you have comments or additional thoughts on the ideas shared here today or other Amplified topics, please do reach out. We’re always interested in hearing from other folks, engaging with scholarly podcasting and other alternative modes of academic publishing. Thanks for listening to Amplified, a podcast, an audio blog, about the sounds of scholarship coming to each month from our team here at the Amplify Podcast Network.
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Paige Raibmon is the the editor of BC Studies: The British Columbia Quarterly, a peer-reviewed, interdisciplinary journal that publishes regional scholarly work in print, audio, and multi-media formats. A Professor in the Department of History at University of British Columbia (UBC), their research engages a range of questions united by my preoccupation with Indigenous peoples’ endurance and resurgence in the face of settler colonialism’s historical workings and on-going implications. Paige has lived most of their life on the unceded, ancestral territory of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam) people where they now reside with my two daughters. As a settler scholar and mother, their teaching, writing, and public history efforts grow from their on-going learning about their place in this place.
As a sound artist, Jenni Schine‘s hope is to make art that is ecologically accountable and builds relationships in a reciprocal manner. A big fan of public engagement, she has extended her work into art installations, film, radio, and soundscape compositions. As an educator, she teaches in both urban and rural environments and uses teaching as a conduit to connect artists with scientists. Jenni is a 2021/22 Action Canada Fellow and currently serves as the SoundWorks Associate Editor of the BC Studies Journal and as a board member for the Western Front, an artist-run centre in Vancouver. She holds a MA in Communication from Simon Fraser University and a BA in Anthropology from the University of Victoria. Jenni grew up in the traditional territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), and Sel̓íl̓witulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, where she currently lives.
Links and Resources
BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly – https://bcstudies.com
Call for Abstracts: Special Issue of BC Studies “Relational Technologies: Community-Led Knowledge Keeping in the Digital” (Abstracts due May 2023) – https://bcstudies.com/call-for-abstracts-special-issue-of-bc-studies-relational-technologies-community-led-knowledge-keeping-in-the-digital/
BC Studies Soundworks – https://bcstudies.com/issues/soundworks
BC Studies Podcast Submission Guidelines – https://bcstudies.com/submissions/scholarly-podcast-submissions/
Droumeva, M. (2017). The Coffee-Office: Urban Soundscapes for Creative Productivity. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, 195, 119–127. https://doi.org/10.14288/bcs.v0i195.189054
Smolicki, J. (2021). Intertidal Room: A Soundwalk through Timescapes of Vancouver’s Coastline. BC Studies: The British Columbian Quarterly, 210, 101–106. https://doi.org/10.14288/bcs.vi210.194008
Hildegard Westerkamp’s Kits Beach Soundwalk (1989) – https://www.hildegardwesterkamp.ca/sound/comp/3/kitsbeach
SFU Sonic Research Studio – https://www.sfu.ca/sonic-studio.html
Secret Feminist Agenda Peer Review Pilot Project – https://www.wlupress.wlu.ca/Scholarly-Podcasting-Open-Peer-Review/Secret-Feminist-Agenda
Intro + Outro Theme Music: Pxl Cray – Blue Dot Studios (2016)
Soundscape Ambience in Intro – Clip from SFU World Soundscape Project – Vancouver Tape Collection – WATERFRONT / CP WHARF Sept. 13, 1972. Recorded by Peter Huse, Bruce Davis & Howard Broomfield.
Written and produced by: Stacey Copeland