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digital music and subculture


An interesting paper by Sean Ebare on:

[...] a new approach for the study of online music sharing communities, drawing from popular music studies and cyberethnography. I describe how issues familiar to popular music scholars — identity and difference, subculture and genre hybridity, and the political economy of technology and music production and consumption — find homologues in the dynamics of online communication, centering around issues of anonymity and trust, identity experimentation, and online communication as a form of "productive consumption." Subculture is viewed as an entry point into the analysis of online media sharing, in light of the user–driven, interactive experience of online culture. An understanding of the "user–driven" dynamics of music audience subcultures is an invaluable tool in not only forecasting the future of online music consumption patterns, but in understanding other online social dynamics as well.
While focused on music, there are interesting ideas for the area of sharing in general.

Some comments: anonymity, in my opinion, is a big factor in the (exploitable, see also here) power-law behavior of virtual communities (alluded to but not explicitly mentioned in the paper with the "citizen/leech" concept among other things), and it also affects group dynamics, even, possibly, affecting producer/consumer dynamics. The fact that these networks are anonymous is almost implicit in the paper, I find it interesting that it is often taken as an axiom. Additionally, the perceived "safety" (also mentioned in the paper) given by anonymity is mostly mirage: in most cases the only thing you are achieving is partial hiding (Networks like Freenet are a different matter in this sense), and the possibility that the content might be manipulated (remember this?) or used as a trojan for something else (read: ads, viruses...) is very real and yet barely considered. These networks create a parallel universe that requires people to engage in behavior like that described in the paper, since your "identity" has to be created from the ground up. Forget music: even types of content sharing that are not in dispute are generally of this type. So what are we missing?

I think that advances in this sense will be seen in the mixing of meatspace trust/knowledge relationships with the ability to share/utilize the network, and in fact feed back into it. Cyperspace and meatspace complementing each other, not moving in parallel universes.

Categories: science
Posted by diego on February 11 2004 at 10:35 AM

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