Noise over signal

Phonography culture as participatory

  • Jason W Luther Rowan University
  • Patrick Williams Syracuse University Libraries
Keywords: records, vinyl, participatory culture, fandom, music, analog, formats, collecting, material culture, phonograph

Abstract

While participatory culture has been of special interest to scholars for nearly three decades, much of the focus has centered on digitally networked contexts. The digital age has indeed transformed our approaches to listening to music and how we operate as fans of music; these approaches can weave together the new and the old, and are enacted among a variety of spaces, objects, and relationships. We explore how the re-emergence of one such object in the digital age — the LP — has produced social arrangements that perhaps excavate older listening practices but do so in ways that have been affected by the mediascape more generally. We offer the concept of phonography culture: a term that emphasizes the social practices of those who not only curate and collect vinyl records but communicate through them in participatory activities including listening parties, vinyl nights at local bars, Facebook groups, and sites of e-commerce. We share the case study of Record Nite, a semi-regular gathering of phonography culture participants, who take turns playing one side of an LP on a given theme, revealing in their fandom and reveling in and encouraging that of others. Over the course of an evening, ten to twenty friends connect over their own “noise” — their experiences, histories, and knowledge of artists, albums, and genres—while simultaneously listening to LPs together. These phonographic, cultural interactions are revelatory because they draw our attention away from individualized and digital listening, which isolate signal, and make space for social and aural noise. That noise is infused with fandom and participation, as well as elements of memory, meaning making, and nostalgia.

 

NB: The article contains sound examples. In order to listen to embedded audio files, you must first download the pdf file and then open it with Adobe Acrobat.

References

Austin, J. (2017). Spinning Popular Culture as Public Pedagogy: Critical Reflections and Transformative Possibilities. Birkhäuser Boston.

Bacon-Smith, C. (1992). Enterprising Women: Television Fandom and the Creation of Popular Myth. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Bancal, D. (2016). Opération What.CD : 12 Serveurs Saisis Chez OVH et Free. Retrieved March 2, 2019, from https://www.zataz.com/operation-what-cd-serveurs-saisis/

Barney, D., Coleman, G., Ross, C., & Sterne, J. (Eds.). (2016). The Participatory Condition in the Digital Age. Univ Of Minnesota Press.

Bartmanski, D., & Woodward, I. (2015a). The Vinyl: The Analogue Medium in the Age of Digital Reproduction. Journal of Consumer Culture, 15(1), 3–27. https://doi.org/10.1177/1469540513488403

Bartmanski, D., & Woodward, I. (2015b). Vinyl: The Analogue Record in the Digital Age. London; New York: Bloomsbury Academic.

Bennett, S. (2018). Intermixtuality: Case Studies in Online Music (Re)Production. In S. Bennett & E. Bates (Eds.), Critical Approaches to the Production of Music and Sound. Bloomsbury Publishing USA.

Borgerson, J., & Schroeder, J. E. (2017). Designed for Hi-fi Living: The Vinyl LP in Midcentury America. MIT Press.

Bury, R. (2018). We’re Not There: Fans, Fan Studies, and the Participatory Continuum. In Click, M. A., & Scott, S. (Eds.). The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom. Routledge.

Coppa, F. (2014). Fuck yeah, Fandom is Beautiful. Journal of Fandom Studies 2(1) 73-82. https://doi.org/info:doi/10.1386/jfs.2.1.73_1

Delwiche, A. A., & Henderson, J. J. (2013). The Participatory Cultures Handbook. New York: Routledge.

Duffett, M. (2013). Introduction: Directions in Music Fan Research: Undiscovered Territories and Hard Problems. Popular Music and Society, 36(3), 299–304. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2013.798538

Duffett, M. (2014). Introduction. In M. Duffett (Ed.), Popular Music Fandom: Identities, Roles and Practices. Routledge.

Grønstad, A., & Vågnes, Ø. (2010). Coverscaping: Discovering Album Aesthetics. Museum Tusculanum Press.

Haber. R (n.d.) The Study at Rose.Rabbit. Lie. Thrillist. https://www.thrillist.com/venues/the-study-at-rose-rabbit-lie-89109

Hagood, M. (2019). Hush: Media and Sonic Self-Control. Duke University Press.

Hills, M. (2014). From Dalek Half Balls to Daft Punk Helmets: Mimetic Fandom and the Crafting of Replicas. Transformative Works and Cultures, 16. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0531

Hoebink, D., Reijnders, S., & Waysdorf, A. (2014). Exhibiting Fandom: A Museological Perspective. Transformative Works and Cultures, 16. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0529

Jenkins, H. (1992). Textual Poachers: Television Fans & Participatory Culture. New York: Routledge.

Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the Challenges of Participatory Culture: Media Education for the 21st Century. Chicago: The MacArthur Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.newmedialiteracies.org/files/working/NMLWhitePaper.pdf

Keltie, E. (2017). The Culture Industry and Participatory Audiences. Springer.

Krukowski, D. (2017). The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World. New Press.

Moist, K. M. (2013). Record Collecting As Cultural Anthropology. In K. M. Moist & D. Banash (Eds.), Contemporary Collecting: Objects, Practices, and the Fate of Things. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

Morris, J. W. (2017). Platform Fandom. In M. A. Click & S. Scott (Eds.), The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom (pp. 356–364). Routledge.

Palm, M. (2017). Analog Backlog: Pressing Records During the Vinyl Revival. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 29(4), e12247. https://doi.org/10.1111/jpms.12247

Paz, E. (2015). Dust & Grooves: Adventures in Record Collecting. Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale.

Petrusich, A. (2014). Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records. Simon and Schuster.

Radway, J. A. (1984). Reading the Romance: Women, Patriarchy, and Popular Literature. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Rehak, B. (2014). Materiality and Object-oriented Fandom. Transformative Works and Cultures, 16. https://doi.org/10.3983/twc.2014.0622

Reynolds, S. (2012). Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past. Faber & Faber.

Santiago, A. (2016) Bring Your Own Vinyl Nights Attract Collectors and Listeners. Austinot.com. https://austinot.com/byov-bring-your-own-vinyl

Sax, D. (2016). The Revenge of Analog: Real Things and Why They Matter. PublicAffairs.

Shuker, R. (2010). Wax Trash and Vinyl Treasures: Record Collecting as a Social Practice. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd.

Shuker, R. (2014). Record Collecting and Fandom. In M. Duffett (Ed.), Popular Music Fandom: Identities, Roles and Practices (pp. 165–185). Routledge.

Spitznagel, E. (2016). Old Records Never Die: One Man’s Quest for His Vinyl and His Past. New York, New York: Plume.

Stanfill, M. (2019). Exploiting Fandom: How the Media Industry Seeks to Manipulate Fans. University of Iowa Press.

Sterne, J. (2012). MP3: The Meaning of a Format. Duke University Press.

Sterne, J. (2016). Analog. In B. Peters (Ed.), Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture (pp. 31–44). Princeton: Princeton UP.

The State Of Discogs 2018. (2019). Retrieved March 4, 2019, from https://blog.discogs.com/en/discogs-year-end-report-2018/

Thompson, M. (2017). Beyond Unwanted Sound: Noise, Affect and Aesthetic Moralism. LOCATION: Bloomsbury.

Winters, P. E. (2016). Vinyl Records and Analog Culture in the Digital Age: Pressing Matters. Lexington Books.

Published
2020-01-22
How to Cite
Luther, J., & Williams, P. (2020). Noise over signal. SoundEffects - An Interdisciplinary Journal of Sound and Sound Experience, 9(1), 20-37. https://doi.org/10.7146/se.v9i1.116688