Acoustic Cocooning: How the Car became a Place to Unwind

K.T. Bijsterveld*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

30 Citations (Web of Science)


Since the late 1990s, car manufacturers increasingly underline their cars' interior tranquility Both this acoustic condition and the availability of car audio sets enable drivers to transform their car into a highly personal, controlled and relaxing sonic bubble Yet how could the car, once a noisy contraction, evolve into such a space for acoustic cocooning? This article studies the introduction of car radio and interior car sound design in Europe between the 1920s and the 1990s The car radio's meaning shifted from an artifact that brought companionship to lonely drivers, to an instrument that helped drivers to menially block out their fellows on the road At the same time, listening to engine sounds changed from a drivers' skill to a practice drivers had to de-learn Moreover, car sound construction shifted from reducing noise to creating target sounds for specific consumer groups This article employs three forms of cultural analysis to understand these shifts an "archeology of corporate culturology," the symbolism of sound, and Gerhard Schulze's theory on the experience society Finally, by analyzing the rise of acoustic cocooning in the car, it aims to contribute to the study of "techno-cocooning" the use of technology for creating sensory privacy
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-211
JournalThe Senses & Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2010

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