Music, taste and digital data

I’ve been trying to think about how digital data of different sorts can be used to find out about music cultures. One of the strands of this work attempted to think about the by-product data created by the music site Last.fm. Here is an abstract for a piece called ‘The Hidden Dimensions of the Musical Field and the Potential of the New Social Data’. It was co-authored with Mark Taylor and has recently been accepted by Sociological Research Online. It should be out soon. The journal is open access and free to publish (which is important with all the open access talk around at the moment). I’ll post a link when it is published:

This article seeks to highlight what might be thought of as the hidden dimensions of the musical field and explores the potential of digital by-product data for illuminating the aspects of musical taste and preference that are difficult to see with traditional social science methods. It suggests that the limitations of existing field analysis create what might be thought of as darkened areas of music consumption that may remain outside of the gaze of the interested social scientist. The paper briefly discusses some of the analytical problems associated with this lack of visibility. In response this article focuses upon the specific example of Last.fm and looks to make use of the by-product data that this particular website accumulates about individuals’ everyday music listening practices. From this specific example the article provides some substantive observations about the contemporary musical field and uses these to offer insights into the potentials and limitations of using by-product data in the analysis of (the musical) field. This article specifically questions the boundaries drawn around genre in the study of field, and looks at how these might be reported upon in alternative ways using new forms of data.

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