Alessandra Lembo, PhD (University of Chicago)
Is cultural experience structured?
Is there a structure to cultural experience? If yes, can we map its underlying structure? These are two questions that interest me and motive my article in Sociological Forum, “He Heard, She Heard: Toward a Cultural Sociology of the Senses.” In that study, I developed a novel interview technique designed to facilitate the description of music experience using adjectives not typically used to describe music. This study was a first step in demonstrating the validity of the task. John Levi Martin (University of Chicago) and I then made an attempt using some of the data to map out the overall structure of music experience in our recent article in Poetics, “The Structure of Cultural Experience.” We were gratified to find that, despite the difficulty of the task, the resulting data possessed internal validity and allowed us to make counter-intuitive predictions which were confirmed.
Now, we are looking to expand this project in a collaboration with Noah Askin (INSEAD).
Using the original interview protocol as our guide, we have scaled-up the study to an online
survey. We feel it is very important to get a large sample comprised of people with a variety of
different musical backgrounds and from different geographic areas. Doing so is critical to our
goals of determining whether there is a structure to music experience, and understanding how
individual characteristics such as gender, geographic region, and musical training shape this
experience. As an intermediary between the small, in-person studies with which I began, and a
completely open, web-based, study, we would love to have sociologists interested in culture
complete the survey. We therefore invite you to check out (and complete!) our survey, which can be found here: www.structureofsound.com. When you complete it, you will be able to see where you fall on a map relative to others who are more or less like you in terms of music experience, age, and gender (among other variables). We would then love to hear your thoughts on the difficulty and enjoyability of the task, and whether you imagine that the results
have validity (or whether you felt you were consistently simply “guessing”). We look forward to
your thoughts…and your data!