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unCOMMON @ the Research Commons: A Salon Series: Home

Talking Books and the History of Aural Speed Reading


Mara Mills: Talking Books and the History of Aural Speed Reading

Speech gained momentum in television and radio broadcasting in the 1970s, after the commercialization of "time compressors" that allowed tape recordings to be accelerated without any change in pitch. This talk will discuss the cultural imperative for aural speed reading among blind Talking Book readers, dating to the 1930s, which drove time-stretching innovations in the magnetic tape era, allowing playback rate to be changed without affecting pitch.

This talk is excerpted from a book-in-progress that Mills is co-authoring with Jonathan Sterne. Tentatively titled Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed, it traces the practice of accelerated and decelerated sound reproduction from blind phonograph users in the 1930s to Auto-Tune, Ableton Live, Audible books, and YouTube videos today.


Mara Mills is Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, where she co-founded and co-directs the Center for Disability Studies. She is a founding editor of the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience.  Her research and teaching interests include communication history (especially related to telephones and reading practices), science and technology studies, disability theory, and mobile media studies. 

In her previous works, she has argued for the significance of phonetics and deaf education to the emergence of “communication engineering” in early twentieth-century telephony.. Mills is currently working on the history of optical character recognition and, with Jonathan Sterne, she is co-authoring a book titled Tuning Time: Histories of Sound and Speed. Mills is the recipient of three NYU teaching awards, as well as numerous fellowships. More information can be found at her website:


Thursday, February 27th at 6:00 PM 

Bobst Library

Open to the Public | Light Refreshments will be served 




The Salon is sponsored by the Bobst Library Reference Departments (Business & Government Documents, Coles Science Center, and Social Sciences & Humanities Reference)


What is a Salon?

salon is a gathering of people under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation. These gatherings often consciously followed Horace's definition of the aims of poetry, "either to please or to educate" ("aut delectare aut prodesse est"). Salons, commonly associated with French literary and philosophical movements of the 17th and 18th centuries, were carried on until quite recently in urban settings.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia (

Publication that premiered at a Salon!

Michelle Greenwald presented at an April 4, 2013 Salon entitled, "Optimizing and Inspiring Innovation to Create New Products and Services."  Catalyzing Innovation: 60 Lines of Thinking to Drive Innovation, her new book which grew out of her presentation, is now available at the iTunes Store.  In her own words, Michelle describes the book as, "different from anything written on innovation before.  It's an extremely visual tool (over 500 categorized examples), and it links to strategically building product and services.  Companies, entrepreneurs & designers can use the framework to innovate in a more methodical, complete & creative way.  Several international business schools have inquired about using it to teach innovation." 

Glad you were able to give us a preview Michelle!

History of Salons at NYU Libraries

NYU Libraries first started hosting salons in 2007.  The Coles Science Salons were a speaker series created and organized by the Coles Science Center, the science reference department at Bobst Library.  The early Salons had a Science focus and proved to be quite popular with the NYU community.  The Business and Government Documents Center, drawn by the success of the Science salons, also began hosting business focused salons in 2012.  Not to be left out, the Social Sciences & Humanities Reference were also planning to host their own salon series.  But, rather than all the reference centers hosting competing salons, it was decided to join forces to create the unCOMMON Salons.  These Salons are a reflection of the interdisciplinary research being conducted at NYU, and are now co-sponsored by Business and Government Documents, Coles Science Center, and the Social Sciences & Humanities Reference Center.  

The unCOMMON Salons are scheduled to be held 2-3 times per semester as a space for NYU scholars to share their work. The purpose of the salons is to foster interdisciplinary dialogue,  encourage networking across disciplines, and provide a vibrant place in the library for students, faculty, and library staff to informally socialize with each another.

If you would like to present at an unCOMMON Salon, please contact us:

Brynne Campbell -

Hadeer Elsabi -

Laurie Murphy -

Cindy Pena -