Document Actions

You are here: Home Online Magazine promote & commit Ambivalent Sounds

Ambivalent Sounds

Sociology students have created an audio guide to the Platz der Alten Synagoge

Freiburg, Sep 25, 2019

The Platz der Alten Synagoge in the center of Freiburg is a meeting place for young and old, a venue for culture and politics, and a memorial to the Jewish house of prayer, which was destroyed by the Nazis. In the past year, the square has also become a place for sixteen sociology students to do research work. In a seminar on the subject of “urban space” the group tackled the question of whom public space belongs to, taking the square as its example. This has given rise to an audio guide, which anyone who is interested can use to learn information about the square for free.

Popular and full of energy: the Platz der Alten Synagoge has become a meeting place for young and old. Photo: Thomas Kunz

Developing a research idea, preparing the results and of course incorporating the theoretical relationships: in two semesters, participants in the seminar have realized all the stages of a qualitative research project. “The empirical research training in the form of a workshop aimed to give the students a holistic experience,” explains Dr. Christine Kimpel from the Institute of Sociology. In other words: the students put their theoretical knowledge into practice, for example, by transforming their topic into suitably designed research, conducting and transcribing interviews with users of the square, writing up observation records and analyzing the data.

Six aspects

Twelve students decided not to do the traditional term paper, and instead summarized their results in a 45-minute audio guide, which introduces the Platz der Alten Synagoge by looking at six aspects. It combines background information with original interview recordings and thus also gives a voice to people who are little heard normally. The project was supported by the Förderverein Alumni Freiburg e.V. Now, anyone who is interested can download the audio guide for free and use it, for example on their smartphone.

Freiburgers use the location to read, relax or chat. Photo: Thomas Kunz

Freiburg’s communication and media association supported realization of the audio guide by giving guidance on the use of audio-visuals. “There were several workshops where the students were able to develop their media skills and learn more about conducting interviews or sound editing. They were also made more aware of how to prepare scientific information to suit a target audience,” says Kimpel. Other advantages she says were broadening their horizons and learning about useful time and project management tools.

A polarizing location

What conclusions did the students draw? The field research showed that public spaces are still important to people, even in the digital age – although individual opinions frequently differed. “The Platz der Alten Synagoge is a polarizing location and lives by its ambivalence. People appreciate its open layout and lively character,” explains the course leader. “But at the same time, there is criticism that the openness makes everyone visible to anyone. Down-and-outs and street artists stated that they don’t feel welcome there.” As an example, Kimpel refers to a stunt cyclist, who said that he was not allowed to perform in the square.

Contribution to public discourse

There was also disagreement about the memorial nature of the location, which recreates the floor plan of the former synagogue in water: some objected to the architecture and the children playing there, others were more understanding. “The opinions expressed in the audio guide show that public spaces reflect both society and the interplay between built, lived and imaginary space,” explains Kimpel. “However, points of view can change. Some students used to take the square for granted. But now it is part of their history, their relationship to it has changed too.” In this sense the audio guide can also be seen as a contribution to public discourse that invites its listeners to make their own impressions of the place.

Kristin Schwarz

Download the audio guide