Countdown to midnight
The countdown to midnight is a familiar example that illustrates the power of joint speech to assemble many individuals into a common time and place. Rituals are the first means by which humans marked the passage of time, and we still use such coordinated acts to bring a common temporal framework into being. This example is from outside Trinity College Dublin, at the cusp of 2015.
The Human Microphone
The human microphone, or people’s microphone, was an organised response to the prohibition, by the New York Police Department, of amplifiers and loudhailers during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protests. Some background information is here. Of particular note is the provision of an alternative parallel channel to signal the stance of the speaker to the text being spoken. Arms high with downward pointing fingers (down twinkles) signals disapproval. In this manner, participants can act as mechanical cogs in an amplifying machine, without incurring the commitments that normally accompany the act of uttering.
Commerative silence: A limiting case
If you are silent on your own, nothing much happens. But if we are silent together, as when we mark a tragedy, the event is powerful. I view it as a limiting case of joint speech, where the words are reduced to a minimum, while the performative act of being-with-each-other is everything.
The commercial appropriation of the power of chant
Joint speech lies at the heart of rituals that we use to create and maintain our identities. It is particularly grating then to see this particular activity appropriated by a corporation, and the result comes across as an odious act of humiliation perpetrated upon the captive employees.
Do you want to see a show?
The Sharpe Brothers ensure the crowd are committed by simply getting them to respond “yes” to the exhortation “Do you guys wanna see a show?”. Speaking jointly generates commitments.
Secular ritual: Naturalisation
In many countries, the ritual by which one becomes a citizen includes the demonstrative joint speaking of an oath. This example is from Ireland. Such joint speech is strictly instrumental, and is characterised by a lack of musical prosody and the absence of repetition.