2022 Abstracts Stage 3

How Does our Experience of Art Change as Technology Evolves?

Luke Halford, 2022, Stage 3

The rise of the music streaming service throughout the 21st century stands as a revolutionary change within the world of music. Although only a small number of companies dominate control of the market, the streaming service has succeeded in becoming the world’s most favoured method of music listening. The largest and most popular service is Spotify; a multi-billion-pound corporation that will act as the representative case study for the project. Spotify offers a unique platform of audible content, which gives users access to a vast library spanning the history of music. The main appeal of Spotify sits in their provision of a more affordable, accessible, and technologically advanced mode of listening, which is available to be streamed online through digital devices. This project looks to investigate the platform through the unique application of 20th century cultural critics Walter Benjamin and Theodor Adorno. Benjamin’s work will be used to introduce how our experience of art changes as technology evolves. His theory on art’s ‘aura’, a concept relating to the presence of an original piece, which withered in the age of mechanical reproduction, will show how the move away from physical collections of music, such as vinyl, has led to a decline in authentic musical experience. Despite this, Benjamin’s work helps provide a balanced overall assessment of Spotify. This balance occurs through his insights upon how new technologies can bring about social change, particularly through the enhancement of accessibility – a useful argument in the context of Spotify’s global network. The primary conceptual focus, Adorno, will build upon the foundation set by Benjamin, through his observations on ‘the culture industry’. This term refers to the commodification of cultural goods, such as television, film and noticeably, music, that occurred at the hands of late capitalism. Adorno claims the movement comes at the jeopardy of all modern culture, as the industry looks to homogenise cultural creation to accommodate for mass production. . Overall, the project will use Adorno’s philosophy to show how Spotify exists as a modern extension of the culture industry; thus, adding to the decline of true artistic expression in contemporary music.

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