Soundscapes of the diver[city]


Mapping the sounds, images, voices, languages and cultures of the cities

This ongoing exploratory study (Jupp, 2006) utilizes walking methodology (Springgay & Truman, 2017) and sound scaping/sound walking (Carlyle, 2007) - Walking Sound Methodologies (WSM)  to capture the cultural and linguistic diversity of the cities (Diver[city]). I immersed myself in walking the main streets and other important places of the cities to capture their cultural and linguistic richness. 

This project has two major goals: 1) to theorize how the concepts of languages and cultures intersect and are not static symbols, and 2) to build a sense of awareness of the vibrant cultures and languages of the cities. I hope that this research helps to create a welcoming feeling of belonging in our communities. The documented soundscapes accompanied by photos or videos are useful for educators to create lessons, tasks and assignments within their curricular practices. This may advance ongoing conversations in critical multi/literacies and linguistic landscapes that embrace the complex perspectives of plurilingual/cultural cities. 

As an aesthetical multimodal, creative and artistic inquiry project, I understand languages and cultures as synergic and ecological entities that foster collectivity and subjectivity beyond individuality and materiality within geospatial territories for all. 


Complexity theory 

Complexity theory is a field of study that seeks to understand the inherent uncertainty and non-linearity complexity of systems and how they evolve over time. It is concerned with understanding the behaviour of complex systems, and how they can be modelled and analyzed to gain insight into their behaviour. (Grobman, 2005). Complexity theory draws on ideas of a complex adaptive system (CAS) in which the word “complex” implies diversity, through a great number, and a wide variety of interdependent, yet autonomous parts. “Adaptive” refers to the system’s ability to alter, change, and learn from past experiences. The “system” portion refers to a set of connected, interdependent parts; a network. While there are a great number of CAS existing at different scales, complexity theory reveals that there are common, interrelated principles which can be observed across all CAS (Zimmerman et al., 1998).

Plurilingualism and Pluriculturalism

Plurilingualism as a theory and educational approach look at people’s language(s) repertories and how they use them at any given moment to communicate (Piccardo & Ortega, 2018). The use of these languages at is aimed toward valuing even the most partial knowledge or variations of any language. Therefore,  “Plurilingualism is a unique, overarching notion, implying a subtle but profound shift in perspective, both horizontally, toward the use of multiple languages, and vertically, toward valuing even the most partial knowledge of a language (and another para- and extralinguistic resources) as tools for facilitating communication.”(Piccardo & Puozzo, 2015, p. 319).

The notion of plurilingualism is informed by several interrelated key constructs, particularly: plurilingual and pluri-/intercultural competence, agency (with the user/learner seen as a social agent), and mediation. This competence mainly refers to “the ability to use languages for the purposes of communication and to take part in intercultural interaction, where a person, viewed as a social agent, has proficiency, of varying degrees, in several languages and experience of several cultures.” (Council of Europe, 2001, p. 168).

Pluriversal Politics

Politics are based on the existence of multiple universes and thus a variety of realities (Escobar, 2020). The concept of a pluriverse refers to a world in which multiple realities exist, rather than the current reality shaped by extractivism, globalization, and neoliberalism, which suggests that any alternative is limited or even impossible, and constructed in its own dominant language. Escobar introduces the idea of radical relationality as a way of imagining a pluriversal world, which refers to the interconnectedness of all forms of life (human, non-human, and beyond human) in a non-dualistic ecosystem.



Recording Tools



Image and map analysis

I initially used photograph analysis as a  way to learn and  “understand how societies are culturally and socially constructed, to critically uncover the meaning people place on certain activities, places, things and rituals and to record and analyze important social events and problems.” (Cleland & MacLeod, 2021, p. 231). I paid attention to how cultures/languages were exhibited and made marks on the photos. 

After that, I used a point pattern analysis within map analysis which “ looks at the relationship between the locations of objects or events in space relative to the locations of other objects or events” (Deluca & Matson, 2017, p. 112) to understand how cultures and languages perform, correlate or overlap with each other.  I made a list of all the languages and cultures  I experienced by re-casting/re-listening to the recorded soundscapes.

Finally, I used the information obtained through the analysis and collated it on spreadsheets to further coding of languages and cultures observed and then create an analytical display to see the correlations to create themes. 


The Diver[city]: The city as a sentient being 

Data recorded evidenced the city as a sentient being, a living organism that has the ability to experience and perceive consciousness, including the capacity to feel, perceive, and respond to stimuli (Pink, 2015). The city in this state is what I have called the Diver[city], a space and place that acknowledges, welcomes and celebrates all who inhabit the city. It creates and recreates an intelligent system that is advanced enough to exhibit behaviours and responses that are similar to those of conscious beings. 

The concept of  Diver[city] as a sentient being is used as a performative act of the living creatures that are capable of experiencing and perceiving their surroundings from those that do not have this ability, such as plants or inanimate objects. In my field notes, I wrote " The diver[city] is a sentient being where cultures and languages collide. It is alive, and I sense this as a new home for some and a long-dwelling for others, regardless, we all belong and share the endearing space within and its interconnectedness (City centre, Belfast, Northern Ireland, UK, November 14, 2022).

Figure 1 represents the sentiment of the Diver[city] as portrayed by AI technology. The Diver[city] is not static but in a constant movement where bodies collide and beings carry their hopes, their dreams, their fears and also their lives packed in their suitcases, their baby strollers or shopping bags. Figure 2 represents the movement of beings while interacting with others within the realms of the city. In a sense, this Diver[city] is like "A system can be described as a set of entities that are related to one another and influence one another, and a state of the system is the set of properties of its components at any particular moment in time." (Giuastello et al., 2009, p.244).

Figure 1: 

The Diver[city] as depicted by AI

Figure 2: 

The Diver[city] in movement

Ethics and Transparency

This research project was approved by the ethics review board at Queen’s University Belfast. It is understood that recording multiple interspersed voices, noises, and background sounds might minimize the risk of identifying or pinpointing specific individuals. However, in order to keep a sense of transparency and accountability, a visible sign (see figure) is carried out at all times for passersby to be aware that there is a sound recording in the vicinity. A set of leaflets and business cards are also carried out to hand out to those who inquire about the recording explaining the research intentions and where the recording will be publicly held. Passerby has the right to reach out and comment/consult at any time during or after the research project. If anyone listening to the recorded audio needs further details or has any concerns feel free to email: 

I am  currently collecting data in the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland (UK). Check the menu for details about Belfast and the other cities from the pilot project as well as for the interactive map below. 

I recommend using noise-cancelling headphones for a more vivid feeling as you walk with me and experience the sounds, voices, languages, and cultures in the city.


Carlyle, A. (2007). Autumn leaves: Sound and the environment in artistic practice. Association Double-Entendre.

Cleland, J., & MacLeod, A. (2021). The visual vernacular: Embracing photographs in research. Perspectives on Medical Education, 10(4), 230–237.

Council of Europe. (2001). Common European framework of reference for languages: Learning, teaching, assessment. Cambridge, U.K: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge. 

Deluca, E., & Matson, L. (2017). Mapping, society, and technology. In S. Manson (Ed.), Mapping, Society, and Technology (pp. 11–130). University of Minnesota Libraries Publishing.

Escobar, A. (2020). Pluriversal politics: The real and the possible. Duke University Press.

Guastello, S. J., Koopmans, M., & Pincus, D. (2009). Chaos and complexity in psychology: The theory of nonlinear dynamical systems. Cambridge University Press.

Jupp, V. (2006). Exploratory Research. In The SAGE Dictionary of Social Research Methods. SAGE Publications, Ltd.

Piccardo, E., & Ortega, Y. (2018). Plurilingualism in the new era: A conversation with Enrica Piccardo. Argentinian Journal of Applied Linguistics, 6(1), 75–91.

Piccardo, E., & Puozzo, I. C. (2015). Introduction. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 71(4), 317–323.

Pink, S. (2015). Doing sensory ethnography. SAGE.

Springgay, S., & Truman, S. E. (2017). Walking methodologies in a more-than-human world: WalkingLab. Routledge.

In the spirit of complexity theory and dynamic complex systems, the information from this website and its contents are evolving and changing but always reliable. If you would like to share and reference this work, this is the suggested academic citation for APA. 

Ortega, Y. (2022). Soundscapes of the diver[city]. Retrieved Month Date, Year, from

This research project is supported by the Faculty Research Initiative Fund (FRIF) from Queen's University Belfast.