On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Archive for the ‘history’ Category

The decade in popular music

In art, history, music on October 16, 2009 at 10:23 am

Apart from the material, social and technical reasons for change pointed out in this blog, I would like to take this opportunity for venturing further into what might constitute a zeitgeist in contemporary music.

This posting has a twin posting on the mp3 blog Solid Bond In Your Heart, where I am listing my 100 favourite tunes of the last 10 years.

Materially, we can already conclude that the last ten years have seen the partial death of the album, the definitive death of the CD single, the rebirth of the individual song, an increase in the sheer loudness of music (“loudness war,” effectively decreasing the dynamic range of music), and the birth of new, Internet-based music communities and distribution platforms often bypassing traditional record industry modes of manufacturing, marketing and “plugging” records. But we have also seen a range of stylistic and aesthetic formations during these last ten years. Here are some of them.

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Pitchfork’s social history of the mp3

In history, media ecology, mp3, music on September 3, 2009 at 9:39 am

Glad to see that in the midst of the current journalistic torrent of end-of-decade lists, Pitchfork is publishing two great, rather long analyses. One on the decade in pop, and the other one – of interest for my own research project – a social history of the mp3.

Were the past 10 years in fact the first decade of pop music to be remembered for its musical technology rather than the actual music itself? asks Eric Harvey, in his balanced and very well-considered article. He touches on many of the interesting tendencies that we can spot in today’s technocultural landscape: The historical parallels between for example 7″ records and mp3s (not only did they renew the focus on individual songs, they radically challenged the major labels’ cosy position in the marketplace); Evan Eisenberg and the reification of music; the exponential proliferation of tastemakers flooding the Internet in the form of mp3 blogs; the transparency of the whole music-making, hype-spinning machinery where everyone is supposed to be her own publicist and stylist; and not least Henry Jenkins’s “convergence” thesis, where there is a dire need for fans to play a new role and for the value of music to be re-appropriated.
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The Pirate Bay: Commercial acquisition in a media-historic perspective

In file-sharing, history, marketing, media ecology, p2p, politics, post-piratical, Sweden on July 1, 2009 at 9:18 am

On June 30th, 2009, The Pirate Bay announced that they are to sell their trademark and website to the Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X, with the proviso that said company can raise the 60 million SEK (€5,5 million) needed. If it is true that the purchase will come to pass, it will be a very interesting development in terms of media history.

This is a translation of my editorial published on Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

As a PhD student writing my thesis on Swedish file-sharing, and with a general interest in digitization as a material and historical process, I instantly thought of two observations, rooted in media history:

(1) First of all, it shows that unrestricted file-sharing need not be antithetical to capitalism. In fact, it can be argued to be as much a product of capitalism as tabloid newspapers, pyramid schemes, and ring tones.

So-called “illegal” file sharing sites and services often have a latent commercial potential, right from the beginning. The Pirate Bay has for a long while been financed by advertising and merchandise sales, for example.

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1999 > 1968 ?

In history, politics, post-piratical on April 29, 2009 at 12:14 pm

The politics of the net contain the remedy to its own inherent populism. These politics are arguably more about an “us-against-us” than an “us-against-them”.

The net is boiling and the sentence against The Pirate Bay has raised the temperature. Online civic mobilisation is bubbling throughout Europe, regarding the possible amendments to the EU Telecoms Reform Package which can guarantee better rights for everyday users, in the face of increasing commercialisation, segmentation and regulation. As the political mobilisation regarding all this has swelled very rapidly over the last months, in Sweden it has recently been suggested that this online civil movement is beginning to reach some predictable states, where self-appointed spokesmen and pre-written party manifestos appear. This is a translation of my response to those suspicions, recently published on the Swedish debate site Newsmill.se.

Something is in the air. Spring is blooming, online as well as offline. However, the roots of today’s online political mobilisation are arguably found in the digital revolution of 1999 rather than in the political turning point that was 1968.

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The supposed link between unrestricted file-sharing and declining CD sales

In content analysis, file-sharing, history, media ecology, mp3, music, p2p on April 24, 2009 at 6:57 am

Some excerpts/cut-outs from my thesis. This one is an overview of that worn old question: Is there a link between falling CD sales and file-sharing, and in that casewhat does it look like?

Regarding the link between file-sharing and falling CD sales, there are various studies having different conclusions. A general conclusion is that CD sales started dropping simultaneously as unregulated file-sharing began to rise (initially with Napster in 2000).

However, a direct causal link is hard to establish, since there are so many other factors that could serve as an explanation to this drop: Changing consumption patterns (with the ascendance of video games, DVD:s, hardware etc. as new expenditures); shrinking profitability from CDs; a decline in the number of new titles; a cyclical slump after the boom of the 1990s; decreased diversity of radio playlists; and so on. Read the rest of this entry »

Some notes on Internet and media history

In history, media ecology, politics on December 4, 2007 at 12:53 pm

…an overview of some current issues in the online world, intended for the UG course in Media History and Politics, Goldsmiths College.

A worldwide communications network whose cables spanned continents and oceans, it revolutionised business practice, gave rise to new forms of crime, and inundated its users with a deluge of information. Romances blossomed over the wires. Secret codes were devised by some users, and cracked by others. The benefits of the network were relentlessly hyped by its advocates, and dismissed by the sceptics. Governments and regulators tried and failed to control the new medium. Attitudes to everything from newsgathering to diplomacy had to be completely rethought. Meanwhile, out on the wires, a technological subculture with its own customs and vocabulary was establishing itself. (Tom Standage, The Victorian Internet, p. 1) Read the rest of this entry »