Mark Higgins (University of Bristol, UK)


Dubstep music first took shape in South London as part of a very localised musical and cultural heritage. It was informed by overlapping continua of UK-based musical practices, and was nurtured within the limited bounds of two specialist club nights and a Croydon record shop. During the 2000s, though, the genre was subjected to very different paradigms via the digitally accelerated exchange of ideas and the evolving capabilities of creative audio tools, causing the music to mutate beyond recognition. Through the findings of a netnography, this presentation explores the influence of digital technology on dubstep music’s evolution. The Web contains significant evidence of evolving technologies and creative approaches, and in this paper I use the online activities of American dubstep artist Moonboy as a representative case study.

Through this case study I examine the technological changes since the mid-2000s that have influenced both music creation and the exchange of ideas. This tells us an intimate story about the influence of technology on culture, and the way that an advancing “technoculture” is represented by certain musical styles. While technology has always been a factor in the realisation of dubstep music, my netnography reveals the ways that over time technological rather than geographical paradigms took precedence in the “sonic vision” of music creators.

By showing the means by which technology has become an increasingly significant actor in the realisation of dubstep music, and also touching on the evolution of the genre’s visual language in the hands of translocal “interpretive communities”, this paper tackles questions about the role of digital technologies in musical activity and the balance of agency between social and technological in changing cultural phenomena.