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[Commlist] CFP--Feminist and Critical Race Approaches to ‘Culture’ in Music Streaming Services--Society for Ethnomusicology Conference
Wed Jan 15 12:02:22 GMT 2020
*Call for Papers*
*Panel Proposal for the Society for Ethnomusicology Annual Meeting*
*Ottawa, Canada October 22-25, 2020*
*Feminist and Critical Race Approaches to Analyzing the Emerging Role of
‘Culture’ in Music Streaming Services*
Panel Organizer: Darci Sprengel, University of Oxford
Discussant: Kyra Gaunt, University at Albany
In September 2018, Spotify launched its ‘Global Cultures Initiative’,
which it insisted would make it a ‘leader’ in the field of audio
streaming by moving the platform beyond its traditional focus on North
American and European musics to ‘promote and advance culturally diverse
music’ (Spotify Newsroom 2018). As Spotify expanded to other regions,
however, it met pushback from local rivals. For example, Anghami (‘my
tunes’ in Arabic), founded in Lebanon in 2012 and known as ‘the Spotify
of the Middle East’, claims to meet better the needs of Arab listeners.
It boasts alternative algorithmic technologies with unique abilities to
combine international and local sounds in ways it asserts listeners in
the Middle East and Arab diaspora want to hear, making Anghami’s
distinctly local knowledge its ‘sonic brand’. These trends indicate that
music streaming services differentiate themselves not through the music
they provide, but through the techniques they employ to mediate between
users and music catalogue (Goldschmitt and Seaver 2019).
This panel investigates how notions of ‘local knowledge’ and ‘cultural
specificity’ are at the forefront of this consideration.It questions how
multinational corporations and the AI technologies they develop employ
‘culture’ and to what ends. This is a critical consideration given the
music industry’s problematic history in cultural appropriation and in
perpetuating essentialized tropes of ‘cultural difference’ to market
non-Western music. As scholarly analysis of the ‘World Music’ industry
has demonstrated, these marketing techniques rely on racialized tropes
that lead to unequal treatment of non-Western artists and persist even
with the development of new sonic technologies (known as ‘World Music
1.0’ and ‘2.0’) (see for instance Erlmann 1996; Taylor 1997; Feld 2000;
Bohlman 2002; Novak 2011). For instance, as ethnomusicologist Kyra Gaunt
has recently demonstrated, new media technologies such as YouTube
perpetuate many of the same inequalities of old media, including the
appropriation of black music and dance to the disproportionate benefit
of large corporations and white audiences (Gaunt 2015).
Using feminist and critical race approaches to digital media, scholars
such Safiya Umoja Noble, Lisa Nakamura, Kyra Gaunt and others have
uncovered the seemingly invisible ways online platforms and AI
technologies reinforce oppressive social relationships and racial
profiling, deepening inequalities along lines of race and gender in the
‘real’ (as opposed to virtual) world (Nakamura 2002, 2007; Gaunt 2015,
‘Music, Misogynoir’ unpublished paper; Noble 2018). More research is
needed on how context-based recommenders, an emerging technology that
uses algorithms to recommend new music based on location, are formed
through AI infrastructures that may perpetuate similar biases. By making
assumptions about listeners based on ethnicity or location, or
privileging the dissemination of some music over others, do these
technologies signal the emergence of a ‘World Music 3.0’ or do they
enact a different logic altogether? Addressing this question contributes
to the fields of ethnomusicology, media studies, and the digital
humanities by demonstrating how online /listening/ practices may be a
new frontier, not only in psychographic data mining, but in the
development of online infrastructures that enact what Noble calls
‘algorithmic oppression’ (Noble 2018).
This panel seeks papers that address (but are not limited to) the following:
* The branding, technologies, and marketing techniques employed by
regionally focused music streaming platforms in the Global South,
especially as they may compare to large, multinational platforms
such as Spotify.
* How users and musicians in particular communities/locations utilize
music streaming platforms, including how regional platforms are
situated within or engage local music scenes.
* The role of ‘culture’ and ‘difference’ in the marketing and
development of music streaming services, and how these notions
engage inequalities of race, gender, sexuality, geography, and so on.
* The role of listening in the development of algorithmic
infrastructures, including what psychographic data emerges when
technologies ‘learn’ how users listen.
* What ethnomusicologists, and an analysis of music streaming
platforms, might have to contribute to discourses on race and
technology pioneered by scholars of color.
* The possibilities and limitations for developing an /ethnographic
/feminist and critical race approach to digital technologies,
including ways to expand the scope and reach of emerging digital
humanities methodologies through digital ethnographies of online
listening, or a critical consideration of the limitations of such an
Please send a title, 250-word abstract, and short bio to Darci Sprengel
(darci.sprengel /at/ music.ox.ac.uk) <mailto:(darci.sprengel /at/ music.ox.ac.uk)>by
*February 5, 2020*.
Bohlman, Philip V. 2002. /World Music: A Very Short Introduction/.
Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Erlmann, Veit. 1996. ‘The Aesthetics of the Global Imagination:
Reflections on World Music in the 1990s’. /Public Culture/ 8: 467-487.
Feld, Steven. 2000. ‘A Sweet Lullaby for World Music’. /Public Culture/
12 (1): 145-171.
Gaunt, Kyra D. 2015. ‘YouTube, Twerking, & You: Context Collapse and the
Handheld Co-Presence of Black Girls and Miley Cyrus’. /Journal of
Popular Music Studies/ 27 (3): 244-273.
______. ‘Music, Misogynoir, and Technology as a Weapon’. Unpublished
paper, available at: https://albany.academia.edu/KyraGaunt
Goldschmitt, K.E. and Seaver, Nick. 2019. ‘Shaping the Stream:
Techniques and Troubles of Algorithmic Recommendation’. In /The
Cambridge Companion to Music in Digital Culture/, edited by Nicholas
Cook, Monique M. Ingalls, and David Trippett, 63-81. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press.
Nakamura, Lisa. 2002. /Cybertypes: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity on the
Internet/. London: Routledge.
______. 2007. /Digitizing Race: Visual Cultures of the Internet/.
Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Noble, Safiya Umoja. 2018. /Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines
Reinforce Racism/. New York: New York University Press.
Novak, David. 2011. ‘Sublime Frequencies of New Old Media’. /Public
Culture/ 23 (3): 603-634.
/Spotify Newsroom/. 2018. ‘Discover Hits from Around the World with
Spotify’s Global Cultures Initiative’. 28 September.
Taylor, Timothy D. 1997. /Global Pop: World Music, World Markets/.
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