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Title: Regulating dissemination : a comparative digital ethnography of licensed and unlicensed spheres of music circulation
Author: Durham, Blake
ISNI:       0000 0004 7230 3780
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2018
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This thesis examines the transformations of music circulation and consumption brought about by new media platforms. Specifically, it shows how the social and technical design of online music platforms link the consumption of music immanently to its circulation. The thesis makes contributions to ethnomusicology, media studies, and digital anthropology, as well as to the study of music's technical cultures. It is based on a comparative ethnographic study of music circulation and consumption within two field sites: the commercial streaming service Spotify and the extralegal, unlicensed peer to peer platform 'Jekyll'. Governance comes to the fore in both sites: the study shows how practices of music curation, collection and consumption are regulated by the technical design of these platforms. Surprisingly, music consumption and circulation on Jekyll generates a variety of social relations, including pronounced social hierarchies. This is far less apparent on Spotify, due to the platform's individuated mode of address. The subjectivities of online music consumers are mediated by both their personal histories and by the broader technical genealogies of the platforms they use. The thesis illuminates the mutual interdependencies of the licensed and extralegal spheres, two domains often portrayed as not only separate but antagonistic. It also provides insight into the hybrid modes of exchange that generate digital music platforms. Through examining the entailments of circulatory participation, the study offers new insights into digital polymedia and to labour, exchange and governmentality online, as well as providing nuanced understandings of the ownership and collection of music in digital environments. Moreover, it advances new concepts to identify core aspects of digital music cultures, namely 'circulatory maintenance' and 'circumvention technology'. The thesis shows overall how Spotify and Jekyll are not merely emblematic of emergent consumption practices engendered by new media, but are bound up in the mutual co-creation of culture, engendering novel musical subjectivities, practices, socialities and ideologies. The complex musical, technical and social assemblages formed around music circulation online point to the affective potentials of music itself, producing inalienable attachments to the objects through which music is formatted, experienced, and circulated.
Supervisor: Born, Georgina Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Ethnomusicology ; File-sharing ; Digital Ethnography ; Streaming