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Information Overload? Music Studies in the Age of Abundance

Deadline for Submissions (250-word abstracts plus 100-word bio): Friday 7 May 2021

Email Address for Submissions: muscon2021 -at-

Conference Dates: 8-10 September 2021

Keynote Speakers: Robin James (UNC at Charlotte), Nick Seaver (Tufts University). More Speakers TBA.

Conference Website with Full CFP & Info:

Venue: University of Birmingham (UK) and Online

For those investigating any musical activity after about 1994, the main sources of research data will not be print archives or discrete media – they will be World Wide Web media. The Internet Archive, the web’s library, today holds over 525 billion archived web pages, while API and post-API archiving initiatives make social web platforms accessible as research databases. At first glance, no other archive is more inclusive in terms of whose voices it represents, and none more comprehensive in terms of the insights it provides into the thoughts, desires and musical tastes of ordinary people.

Yet there is good cause to be sceptical of claims to a more ‘democratic’ archive in an age of surveillance capitalism. Contrary to early hopes that the internet would bring about greater egalitarianism, Shoshana Zuboff argues that the political economy of contemporary digital communications is characterised by ‘radical indifference’ in the service of maximising data flows. The harms that algorithms perpetuate through biased and incomplete training data suggest that visibility within the archive remains strongly patterned according to race, gender, prosperity, ability and geography. Intersecting with these concerns is a question of how the superficial ‘abundance’ of stories to be told about music in the last twenty-five years impacts on questions of historical theory.

With this conference we seek to gather researchers who are interested in the epistemological, methodological, ethical, and disciplinary problems that arise when studying music in the age of abundance.

Organising Committee:

Christopher Haworth, Danielle Sofer, Edward Spencer 

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