A book chapter I wrote with my colleague, Dr Sarah Raine, has been recently published in a collection edited by Annette Markham and Katrin Tiidenberg. The chapter, “Popular Music Reception: Tools of Future-Making, Spaces, and Possibilities of Being”, is one of over twenty essays contained within“Metaphors of Internet: Ways of Being in the Age of Ubiquity” (Peter Lang Press) and explores how popular music consumers are making sense of the online environment.
Here is some information about the book from the publisher’s website:
Twenty years ago, the internet was imagined as standing apart from humans. Metaphorically it was a frontier to explore, a virtual world to experiment in, an ultra-high-speed information superhighway. Many popular metaphors have fallen out of use, while new ones arise all the time. Today we speak of data lakes, clouds and AI. The essays and artwork in this book evoke the mundane, the visceral, and the transformative potential of the internet by exploring the currently dominant metaphors. Together they tell a story of kaleidoscopic diversity of how we experience the internet, offering a richly textured glimpse of how the internet has both disappeared and at the same time, has fundamentally transformed everyday social customs, work, and life, death, politics, and embodiment.
The abstract for our particular chapter is below. You can read the full text in the form of a pre-print proof copy on Birmingham City University’s Open Access Repository.
Since the original publication of Life Online (Markham, 1998), internet use has become what Hine (2015) summarizes as embedded, embodied, and everyday. Websites and messageboards, once experienced as definitive spaces, are now connected with other platforms. Notions of individuality and agency have become entangled with processes of corporate data collection and analysis (Amatriain, 2013; Lynch, 2016). Algorithms loom in our everyday lives, enacting their role of gatekeepers of consequence (Tufekci, 2015:16).
These developments are particularly apparent in the field of popular music, where technologies are everyday, data infrastructures culturally ‘ordinary’ (Liu, 2016), and data collection ‘nestled into the comfort zone’ of many people (Van Dijck, 2014). The growing importance of, and commercial reliance upon data by and about listeners (see Webster et al, 2016; Thompson, 2014) invites us to revisit questions of how audiences derive meaning from popular music, and how scholars can understand the processes and conditions involved with this. How are listeners negotiating this shift in their everyday lives?
Returning to Markham’s original work, we contend that digital music technologies have travelled a path from ‘tool’, to ‘place’, to ‘ways of being’ since 1998. In this chapter, we consider the use of music listening technologies as acts of agency that can be understood as a process of conscious ‘future-making’. This process includes ‘speculative, deliberate’ tool use, and allows us to suggest additional metaphors to describe people’s everyday engagement with internet technologies. We suggest the terms ‘space’ and ‘possibilities of being’. Each is difficult to conceptualise as any engagement with an imagined, speculative future occurs within platforms and systems driven by commercial and algorithmic logics: in other words, the ‘speculative, deliberate’ tool use is never completely controllable.