PhD Thesis: Folksonomy vs. Taxonomy in the Celestial Jukebox: What Does Folksonomy Achieve in Music Streaming? (University of Newcastle)

Thesis Abstract

Selected Abstracts (Conference Presentations):

#folkmusic: Hashtag Folksonomies & Approaches to Folk Music (FEECA, Aberdeen, UK)

Over many years of scholarship folk music has escaped comprehensive definition, resulting in unconnected fields of thought. A constructed polarity between nature and nurture approaches separate folk music as an evolving process and as heritage objects to preserve. This paper suggests that digital technologies approached with motivation and mindfulness hold opportunities to break down these binaries for a more holistic approach. Many online musical practices are implicitly self-documenting, allowing music to be both preserved and to change. How does this impact upon notions of folksong today? And how does the “magpie” nature of online tagging influence our approaches to musical genre? With these questions in mind, this paper specifically looks at documentation and discussion of folk music in online folksonomies, as informal, communally moderated organisation systems, with a focus on tagging. Via platforms of user-generated content, the hashtag “folk music” (#folkmusic) and its variants were monitored regularly from June 2015. Observations took into account the presence of the tags in media posts and updates on Twitter, Tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Reddit and WordPress. This paper reports on findings collected through observation and triangulated with statistical reports from Hashtagify, which tracks global data from Twitter. In this I hope to contribute towards knowledge of folk music’s ongoing discourse and its presence online as diverse objects curated and held dear both culturally and personally.


Digital Nostalgia & Remembrance of Folk Music Past (NZMS, Wellington, NZ)

From Homeric beginnings in Ancient Greece as a ‘longing to return’, or a diagnosable home-sickness, to Proust’s inspired deluge of memories, nostalgia is an effort to feel at home in the world. Consciously or otherwise, folk music is part of this plight, reiterating or imagining intimate local identities or comforting Diasporas with memories of home contexts. The nostalgia of traditional folk music present in scholarly literature associates with a sense, or fear of loss; be it loss of tradition, culture, language, land or as a result, identity. For new folk music, negotiating the influences of traditional folk music and evolving digital technologies, this anxiety of loss is amplified, but with its challenges come opportunities. Presenting on interviews conducted with folk musicians, online and physical fieldwork, as well as drawing from literature and media sources, the ubiquitous but rarely scrutinized notion of nostalgia in folk music and its use in digital mediums will be discussed. This research is part of a thesis exploring the nature of folk music in digital mediums and processes, with an emphasis on avenues opened for vernacular music endeavours on the Internet. Specifically, in this presentation I hope to contribute towards a better understanding of vernacular music online and to draw attention to the value of remix culture in the folk music paradigm, in this pivotal age of policy making for the Internet.


Wabi-Sabi Folk Music: Aesthetics, Authenticity & Simple Living Ideologies in Folk Music (MSA, Sydney, AU) 

Much of the discourse on folk music is characterised by dichotomies, such as acoustic versus amplified, old versus new, rural versus urban and preserved repertoire versus new compositions (Ramnarine, 2003). For those creating folk music today, these dichotomies are potentially problematic, because they reinforce notions of authenticity that can no longer be upheld in the digital age. The impression left by this is a discontinuity in the field for researchers, practitioners and audiences alike. Newer research favours a multiplicity of meanings for folk music and seeks contextual understandings (Keegan-Phipps, 2013), but an underlying sense of confusion still lingers. This presentation is part of a larger research project that seeks to explore how this has come to be, in relation to the use of digital technologies and what can be done about it for the future benefit of folk music ‘producers’ and ‘consumers’. Specifically, this paper reflects on themes of authenticity and aesthetics in folk music, in relation to a certain stigma surrounding the use of digital technologies. Reporting on interviews with folk musicians, industry professionals and fans, it draws on the philosophies and ideologies of simple living movements such as the Japanese Wabi-sabi, and their widespread adoption in modern lifestyles while maintaining reverence for the past. In this way, I hope to contribute to a more open-minded discourse about folk music in all its forms, and to move towards a more positive and fluid interaction between traditional and contemporary folk music practices.



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