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Assistant Professor | Glenfraser Endowed Professor
Milena Droumeva is an Assistant Professor and the Glenfraser Endowed Professor in Sound Studies at Simon Fraser University specializing in mobile media, sound studies, gender, and sensory ethnography. Milena has worked extensively in educational research on game-based learning and computational literacy, formerly as a post-doctoral fellow at the Institute for Research on Digital Learning at York University. Milena has a background in acoustic ecology and works across the fields of urban soundscape research, sonification for public engagement, as well as gender and sound in video games. Current research projects include sound ethnographies of the city (livable soundscapes), mobile curation, critical soundmapping, and sensory ethnography. Check out Milena's Story Map, "Soundscapes of Productivity" about coffee shop soundscapes as the office ambience of the creative economy freelance workers.
Milena is a former board member of the International Community on Auditory Displays, an alumni of the Institute for Research on Digital Learning at York University, and former Research Think-Tank and Academic Advisor in learning innovation for the social enterprise InWithForward. More recently, Milena serves on the board for the Hush City Mobile Project founded by Dr. Antonella Radicchi, as well as WISWOS, founded by Dr. Linda O Keeffe.
- PhD Simon Fraser University (Education)
- MA Simon Fraser University Surrey (Interactive Arts and Technology)
Peer-reviewed / Journal articles / Chapters / Books
- Droumeva, M. & R. Jordan. (Eds.) (2019). Sound, Media, Ecology. Oxford, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Droumeva, M. & I. McGregor (2019). Sound Stories: A context-based study of listening to augmented soundscapes. Interacting with Computers, Oxford University Press, 1-12. doi: 10.1093/iwc/iwz024
- Droumeva, M. (2018). From Sirens to Cyborgs: The media politics of the female voice in games and game cultures. Feminism in Play. Eds. Kishonna Grey, Gerald Vorhees & Emma Vassen. Palgrave Macmillan.
- Droumeva, M. & Murphy, D. (2018) A Pedagogy of Listening: Writing with/in Media Texts, in Soundwriting Pedagogies, Eds. Courtney S. Danforth, Kyle D. Stedman, & Michael J.Faris. CCDigitalPress.
- Droumeva, M. (2017). The Coffee-office: urban soundscapes for creative productivity. BC Studies Journal, Soundscape section
- Jenson, J. & Droumeva, M. (2017). “Revisiting the Media Generation: Youth Media Use and Computational Literacy Instruction” E-Learning and Digital Media, 14(3-4), SAGE.
- Droumeva, M. (2017). Soundmapping as Critical Cartography: Engaging Publics in Listening to the Environment. Special Issue of Communication and the Public. pp.1-17. DOI:
- Droumeva, M. (2015). Curating Everyday Life: Approaches to Documenting Everyday Soundscapes. M/C: Journal of Media and Culture, Vol 18(4).
- de Castell, S., Droumeva, M. & Jenson, J. (2014). Building as Interface: Sustainable Educational Ecologies. MedienPädagogik, 24. Zurich University.
- Droumeva, M., Andrisani, V. & J. Schine (2010) Emerging Voices: Extending the Canadian Perspective. Soundscape: Journal for Acoustic Ecology, 8(1).
- Droumeva, M. (2011) An Acoustic Communication Framework for Game Sound – Fidelity, Verisimilitude, Ecology. In Ed. Dr. Mark Grimshaw. Game Sound Technology and Player Interaction: Concepts and Developments, London, UK: IGI Publishing.
- Interview by Sara Lenzi and Valeria Caputo. (2020). Future life, future sound. The Sound Outside project, Soundesign blog.
- Conversation with Am Johal (2019, Aug 21). Listening to the World Around Us. Below the Radar podcast. SFU Woodwards and 312 Main.
- Droumeva, M. (2018, Nov 3). Voice makes us Human, Except When it doesn’t: Sounding out Sexism in Videogames. TEDxSFU Speaker Series: Uncharted. Vancouver, BC, Granville Island Stage.
- Droumeva, M. (2018). Voice and Gender in Games: What can we do with spectrograms, Media Commons, March 9, 2018
- Droumeva, M., Evans, K., Fertado, N., and R. Bangert (2017). It Gets Worse…The Female Voice in Videogames. First Person Scholar.
- Droumeva, M. & A. Trammell (2015) Sound and Sexuality in Videogames. [Podcast] Sounding Out! Blog.
- Droumeva, M. (2015) How Design Thinking can Inform your Pedagogy. InWithForward Blog / Publications.
- Droumeva, M. (2015) Sensory Postcards: Using Mobile Media for Digital Ethnographies. EthnographyMatters.
- Droumeva, M. (2015). Why There Will Never Be Instagram for Audio. Canadian Association for Sound Ecology (CASE).
Listening to the City: Livable Soundscapes and Urban Planning
In 1977 R. Murray Schafer, a then-SFU professor in the fledgling Communications Department, along with a small group of researchers, embarked on a project of sound and listening to the urban environment: a project that initiated the fields of acoustic ecology and soundscape studies. In the following decades, inquiries into sound have proliferated and cut across countless areas including environmental concerns, social issues, media and communication studies, and more recently - the anthropocene. Sound studies - a term more recently introduced by Dr. Jonathan Sterne - represents a way of approaching research by asking: what can sound tell us about our culture, our environment, our society? Many, including our own Canadian theorists of communication, have celebrated engaging sound as a way of disrupting narratives bound up in visualist, modernist culture. This SSHRC-funded project, "Liveable Soundscapes" combines sensory ethnography and digital media to explore listening as intervention into city life, urban planning, and the experience of sonic livability in relation to economic, geographic, and social inequalities. In 2020 our project won the SSHRC graduate storytellers' award with an audio work prepared by Stacey Copeland and Brett Ashleigh. Listen to "Sound is Not a Waste Product" here:
Part of Milena's research in urban soundscapes is a particular focus on artisinal coffee shops as spaces for work/leisure in the new creative economy. See here a Storymap interactive collection of some of most popular "coffices" in East Vancouver, hosted on ArcGIS: Soundscapes of Productivity.
Gender and Sound in Games
Media tropes such as the horror movie scream, the "valley girl" up-speak, and most recently the vocal fry have established themselves both as gendered archetypes of female voices and as forms of policing the inclusion of women in public media. A marked absence in this emergent conversation are female voices and "feminized" sounds in games: by virtue of being sound "effects" they draw on and solidify some of the most deeply entrenched gendered norms of sound design and voicing. Is it any surprise then that female public voices in the culture of video games garner some of the most vitriolic and misogynist responses? The bigger question that this project asks is, how are the power dynamics of voice, including silencing and speaking out reflective of and constituted by the actual media representations of women’s voices, "feminized" sound effects and soundscapes that are part of game texts and the gaming experience. In other words, what can attention to game sound illuminate about the replication of gendered representations across different media and media ecologies? This case study project on the battle cry - a sound effect that evokes specifically gendered, at times racialized and (over)sexualized connotations. Following a transmedia history approach, we've looked at iterations of the battle cry across three iconic series in the genre of fighting arcade games: Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Soul Calibur. This Refig SSHRC-funded work is described in a short education video (see above) and you can read more about it here, as part of First Person Scholar, an academic gaming blog. See also Milena give a TEDxSFU talk on the same topic here.
Sonification for Public Engagement
Milena's latest work in sonification is a collaboration with computational (and sound) artist Brady Marks and it engages with a critical topic of importance: the #metoo movement on Twitter. The #metoo sonification you’ll hear below draws from a public dataset spanning October 2017 to the early Spring of 2018 obtained from data.world. Individual tweets using the hashtag are sonified using female battle cries from video games; the number of retweets and followers forms a sort of swelling and contracting background texture. The dataset is then sped up anywhere between 10x and 1000x in order to represent perceivable ebbs and flows of the hashtag’s life over time. The deliberate aim in this design was to convey a different sensibility of social media content, against Twitter’s zeitgeist and the affective behavior of “contagious” events, and in so doing to interrupt habitual and disposable engagements with pressing civic debates.
Sonifying Air Pollution in Canada (2017-2018)
This project explores the use of sound to communicate socially and environmentally significant data in ways that both complement and critique the increasingly popular role that infographics and data visualization have in disseminating information to the wider public. Sonification involves the conversion of data to sound, a practice that has so far been deployed in fairly specific scientific and professional contexts with a specialized listener in mind. Emergent and especially artistic work, however, suggests that sound may afford unique ways of representing large-scale data in ways suitable for raising public awareness of important current issues. This project aims to explore the unique ways in which sonification operates in the context of environmental communication, with a particular emphasis on issues surrounding climate in cities across Canada.