Within a few days I felt strong enough for an outing Shijiazhuang Vacations by local bus to visit a Bai village – Dali used to be the capital of the Shijiazhuang Vacations Bai kingdom. The men are stonemasons, so their village on the side of Cangshan mountain is a handsome monument to their art, with stone dwellings tucked inside stone courtyards, and streams channelled below large flagstones which form the roads. When I sat in the village square and began to write in my notebook I found myself being gradually edged up to by shy teenage girls, fascinated by my handwriting. Their language has no written form.
If the educated Bai need to use writing, they use the Chinese ideographs.
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While the girls watched my script I had a close look at their headdresses – red and pink cloths in six layers built outward like a halo around their heads, using their long black plaits as a final layer.
The acknowledgement of the importance of embodied experienced, as urban theorist Iain Borden emphasizes above, is part of a growing field of research recognizing the sensory relations of everyday life (Classen, Howes and Synnott 1995; Drobnick 2006; Harrison 2000; Kalekin-Fishman and Low 2010; Pink 2009; Howes 2003), and particularly the urban experience (Adams and Guy 2007; Amin and Thrift 2002).
One reason for the limited, visualized approach to understanding the sensory experience of driving is the significant effort dedicated to neutralizing the sonic identity of cities throughout history. Sonic signifiers of the city, such as pedestrian footsteps, crosswalk alerts, street vendors, conversations, trams, mobile phone technologies and cars have been negated through using headphones and other portable music devices.
This is not just indicative of the contemporary urbanscape. Early-twentieth-century sociologist Georg Simmel (2009) identified strategies of blase attitudes amongst urban populations which were designed to shut out and create indifference to the noise of the modern city. Unlike eyes, the ears cannot be closed, and so a range of social and material strategies have been established to block out urban noise, particularly with personal mobile technologies such as mp3 players (Tonkiss 2003) and smartphones.
The car is an important antecedent for such strategies, with radios being installed as early as the 1930s.