Sam de Boise, Senior Lecturer, School of Music, Theatre, and Art, Örebro University
Áine Mangaoang, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Department of Musicology, University of Oslo
Ellis Jones, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, RITMO Centre, University of Oslo
In the 2000s, there was a widespread anticipation that the internet would realise a democratised ‘participatory culture’, with music at the frontline of this revolution. Scholars and commentators alike anticipated the deinstitutionalisation and disintermediation of music, in a way that might bring music closer – in terms of both texts and infrastructure – to the lives of more people. Those hopes regarding participatory culture have diminished substantially, as much online music activity has been ‘re-institutionalised’, particularly in the streaming sector. Indeed, the internet in general is no longer generally seen a democratising tool, even beyond of the cultural sphere. And yet, the internet remains home to a huge variety of non-professional music cultures. The aim of this group session is to consider the opportunities and limitations of online musical participation today, in terms of its cultural democratising capacities.
This panel brings together research on musical participation that relates to three different notable aspects of networked technology and democratisation today. The first is political fragmentation and radicalisation, a phenomenon that the internet, and media platforms specifically, are widely understood to have exacerbated. The second aspect is accessibility and (dis)ability – an area in which online platforms were anticipated to bring substantial gains, both in terms of participation and representation. The third aspect is copyright and content moderation, in the context of an online landscape increasingly characterised by interdependency between new media and legacy media, rather than the free-for-all ‘remix culture’ much-theorised in the 2000s. These themes – fragmentation, accessibility, and moderation – are all subjects that have been important concerns in shaping tech policy and online governance in general in recent years. Approaching them from a musicological perspective demonstrates that, for better or worse, the hopes for online musical participation continue to be tied to broader political trajectories of digital media.
Masculinism and music online
Sam de Boise (Örebro University, Sweden)
Masculinism has experienced a global resurgence since 2010. This has been fed by so-called ‘culture wars’, economic recession and the ability to organize online. In this paper I will suggest that online discussions of music have not only been part of this cultural backlash but also acted as a vehicle for engaging people in wider discussions of extremist ideologies. Music discussions, as an integral part of online masculinist communities, thus provides a unique resource for such movements to expand their membership through an affective amplification of particular far-right ideological positions.
Methodologically, this paper will draw from a content and critical discourse analysis of 1173 posts, discussing music in masculinist online forums. It will look at how discourses about music, as well as judgments of what is defined as ‘appropriately masculinist’, music circulate within the forums and are amplified through interaction with other forum users. Crucially, the paper will suggest that discussions of music in these online spaces reinforce masculinist ideologies as well as relating notions of inherent male superiority to a wider range of musical aesthetics than has been detailed in previous research on right-wing movements.
Sam is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Music, Theatre and Art at Örebro University in Sweden. His research is focused on issues of gender equality in the music industries at large, as well as questions of the intersections between music and masculinity. He is the author of Men, Masculinity, Music and Emotions (Palgrave 2015)
Beyoncé, YouTube, and d/Deaf culture
Áine Mangaoang (University of Oslo, Norway)
Music is habitually perceived as an exclusively auditory phenomenon, and frequently defined as audio-centric. Within music studies, literature on hearing loss and deafness is noticeably scarce. Indeed, widely held assumptions are that deaf culture is one without music — a community silent to the experiences of sound. Media have been instrumental in shaping how hearing people perceive deafness and Deaf culture, from often negative portrayals in Hollywood cinema to more progressive approaches in television shows and documentaries. Scholars have hoped that new media platforms like YouTube would provide once marginalized communities with untold opportunities for media representation, participation, and agency.
Beyoncé embodies the very notion of a twenty-first century multidisciplinary artist. For an artist like Beyoncé, perhaps it is no surprise that music is a quintessentially audio-visual experience that goes beyond an imagined segregation of the senses. Beyoncé’s public announcement of her visual approach to music then speaks to the common belief that music begins and ends as an auditory phenomenon. “I see music,” she argued, promoting 2013’s visual album, Beyoncé. “It’s more than just what I hear.”
Over this past decade, thousands of amateur, user-generated videos featuring an individual or group interpreting Beyoncé songs into recognized sign languages have appeared on YouTube. My paper considers the ‘visual turn’ in popular music, examining how and why Beyoncé’s musical oeuvre has inspired d/Deaf and hearing individuals to create this extensive catalogue of Beyoncé signed songs. I explore how YouTube’s platform might provide an ideal conduit for the (re-)mediation of the art of signed songs, while simultaneously problematizing issues faced in attempts to devise inclusive and exhaustive interpretations of Beyoncé’s music through visual signs. Ultimately, these performances transform and recontextualize music and music video for deaf and hearing audiences respectively, and reveal the limitations of an exclusively phonocentric approach to music.
Áine Mangaoang is Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Musicology, University of Oslo. She is author of Dangerous Mediations: Pop Music in a Philippine Prison Video (2019) and coeditor of Made in Ireland: Studies in Popular Music (2020). www.ainemangaoang.com
Mashups, musicians, and majors: the politics of participatory culture today
Ellis Jones (University of Oslo, Norway)
At the time of its emergence in the mid-2000s, many scholars and commentators saw mashup – a musical form based on re-combining recognizable samples into new works – as emblematic of the digital age. Mashups were enabled by easy-to-use production software and, more importantly, the global distributive capacity of online networks, and as such became linked to hopes (and fears) that the internet would bring about a radical re-working of relations between ‘everyday’ creativity and the cultural industries, especially in the realm of copyright.
This anticipated democratisation has not been borne out. Drawing on survey and interview material, this paper shows that the experience of mashup producers today is characterised by frustration, as automatic and algorithmic ‘content ID’ systems often intervene to take down music that is perceived as copyright-infringing. This paper examines this frustration in relation to two key claims of participatory culture: firstly, that processes of social authorship would receive greater acknowledgement and secondly, that major labels’ hold over distribution and publishing would be greatly reduced. These aspirations have not been brought to bear and, consequently, mashup producers’ ethical perspectives on these music industry stakeholders today generally tends towards seeking compromise and reconciliation.
Ellis Jones is a postdoctoral research fellow at RITMO, University of Oslo, and during 2020 he is also visiting postdoctoral fellow at Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario. His research focus on the relationship between popular music and the internet, and in particular on the politics of ‘indie’ and ‘DIY’ music in that context. His book DIY Music and the Politics of Social Media is published by Bloomsbury in January 2021.