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  • 1.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    A Different Kind of Story Tracing the Histories and Cultural Marks of Pirate Copied Film2016In: Tecnoscienza: Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies, ISSN 2038-3460, E-ISSN 2038-3460, Vol. 7, no 1, p. 87-108Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Pirate copied objects are fiery artifacts that have caused much anxiety and debate. This article explores the cultural biographies of one particular type of such objects; digital pirate copied films. More specifically, it traces two neglected aspects of such object's life histories: their entanglement in systems of standardization and quality control, and the ways in which new types of aesthetics and narratives are inscribed (or added to) pirated audiovisual content. Paying close attention to the layered and multifaceted dimensions of digital pirate copied film, the paper approaches the act of pirate copying as a form of transfiguration, and suggests that pirated objects are much more than plain replications. By housing a multiplicity of material identities and by carrying (and being surrounded by) alternative narratives of production, the article argues that these objects intervene, disorient, and disrupt the power dynamics of cinematic circulation and ultimately serve to queer commodity spheres.

  • 2.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Close Reading Big Data: The Echo Nest and the Production of (Rotten) Music Metadata2016In: First Monday, ISSN 1396-0466, E-ISSN 1396-0466, Vol. 21, no 7Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    Digital music distribution is increasingly powered by automated mechanisms that continuously capture, sort and analyze large amounts of Web-based data. This paper traces the historical development of music metadata management and its ties to the growing of the field of ‘big data’ knowledge production. In particular, it explores the data catching mechanisms enabled by the Spotify-owned company The Echo Nest, and provides a close reading of parts of the company’s collection and analysis of data regarding musicians. Doing so, it reveals evidence of the ways in which trivial, random, and unintentional data enters into the data steams that power today’s digital music distribution. The presence of such curious data needs to be understood as a central part of contemporary algorithmic knowledge production, and calls for a need to re-conceptualize both (digital) musical artifacts and (digital) musical expertize.

  • 3.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    In Pursuit of Musical Identifications: YouTube Content ID and the Politics of Audio Fingerprint TechnologiesManuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
  • 4.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Online music distribution and the unpredictability of software logistics2019Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
    Abstract [en]

    This compilation dissertation examines the role of software in online music distribution and critically scrutinizes the increased influence of digital technologies in everyday life. In particular, it explores how software coordinates and arranges things, people, and information surrounding music and thereby exerts a logistical power that makes music calculable and governable online. The dissertation consists of four case-studies that problematize the role of software and algorithms in regulating how digital music moves. Article I highlights the role of algorithms in organizing, evaluating, and creating knowledge about artistry, article II uncovers the material, political, and technical networks that facilitate streamed music, article III scrutinizes editorial playlists and their role in packaging and containing digital sound, and article IV traces how software is designed to identify and regulate how music moves and is monetized in the online domain. These case studies draw attention to issues concerning visibility, access, ownership, control, but also—as this dissertation especially aims to highlight—the elements of surprise, unpredictability, and unsettlement that are inherent to complex software technologies.

    The research contributes to three subfields in media and communication studies: music-oriented media studies, materialist media studies, and software studies. It contributes to music-oriented media research by accounting for the role of digital technologies in organizing musical practices and thereby illustrates how algorithms and software must be taken seriously as agents that shape cultural practices surrounding music. Relatedly, the research contributes to materialist- and softwareoriented media research by continuing the tradition of paying close attention to the technical constitution of media technologies and reflecting on the power and politics of software logistics and its unpredictabilities. Methodologically, the research builds on—and advocates—a mixed-methods approach that combines the use of digital methods, media archeological tactics, and a technology-oriented ethnographic approach. In combining these methods, the dissertation illustrates the benefit of experimental and qualitative methods in the study of digital technologies and highlights the need to approach software as both an object of study and a strategic research tool.

    Theoretically, the dissertation mainly draws upon materialist and German media theory (e.g., Kittler 1990; 1999; Ernst 2012; 2016), theorizations of logistical operations (e.g., Neilson 2012; Cowen 2014; Durham Peters 2013; Case 2013; Young 2014; 2015), and theories regarding technological accidents, ruptures and unpredictabilities (e.g., Frabetti 2010; Virilio 2007; Parikka and Sampson 2009; Fuller and Goffey 2012). In doing so, the dissertation highlights how the hidden and seemingly ‘grey’ and mundane task of regulating the movement of online music online is, in fact, a deeply cultural and subject to ongoing power struggles. Ultimately, the dissertation illustrates the continued relevance of media research that critically engages with software, adopts digital and experimental methods in the study of digital technologies, acknowledges the logistical power of software, and accounts for the unpredictable events that software technologies sometimes trigger.

  • 5.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    The Editorial Playlist as Container Technology: Notes on the Logistical Role of Digital Music PackagesManuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
  • 6.
    Eriksson, Maria
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Unpacking Online Streams2018In: APRJA, ISSN 2245-7755, Vol. 7, no 1Article in journal (Refereed)
  • 7.
    Eriksson, Maria
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Fleischer, Rasmus
    Stockholms Universitet, Institutionen för Ekonomisk historia och Internationella relationer.
    Johansson, Anna
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    Snickars, Pelle
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies.
    Vonderau, Patrick
    Department of Media and Communication Studies, Martin Luther University Halle, Germany..
    Spotify teardown: inside the black box of streaming music2019Book (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    An innovative investigation of the inner workings of Spotify that traces the transformation of audio files into streamed experience. Spotify provides a streaming service that has been welcomed as disrupting the world of music. Yet such disruption always comes at a price. Spotify Teardown contests the tired claim that digital culture thrives on disruption. Borrowing the notion of "teardown" from reverse-engineering processes, in this book a team of five researchers have playfully disassembled Spotify's product and the way it is commonly understood. Spotify has been hailed as the solution to illicit downloading, but it began as a partly illicit enterprise that grew out of the Swedish file-sharing community. Spotify was originally praised as an innovative digital platform but increasingly resembles a media company in need of regulation, raising questions about the ways in which such cultural content as songs, books, and films are now typically made available online. Spotify Teardown combines interviews, participant observations, and other analyses of Spotify's "front end" with experimental, covert investigations of its "back end." The authors engaged in a series of interventions, which include establishing a record label for research purposes, intercepting network traffic with packet sniffers, and web-scraping corporate materials. The authors' innovative digital methods earned them a stern letter from Spotify accusing them of violating its terms of use; the company later threatened their research funding. Thus, the book itself became an intervention into the ethics and legal frameworks of corporate behavior.

  • 8.
    Eriksson, Maria
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    Johansson, Anna
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    "Keep Smiling!": Time, Functionality and Intimacy in Spotify’s Featured Playlists2017In: Cultural Analysis, ISSN 1537-7873, E-ISSN 1537-7873, Vol. 16Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    As one of the world’s largest online music providers, the streaming service Spotify has a profound capacity to shape everyday realities through digital technology. This article explores how both openness and control are embedded in Spotify’s ways of delivering recommended playlists to users. After analyzing over 500 pre-designed playlists, we argue that Spotify’s music recommendations evoke individual freedoms and flexibilities, at the same time as they prescribe normative temporalities, neoliberal subjectivities, functional approaches to music, and monetizations of intimacy. Such tensions between freedom and control speak of the dual inheritance of the digital and its potential to both liberate and constrain human action.

  • 9.
    Eriksson, Maria
    et al.
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Department of culture and media studies. Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    Johansson, Anna
    Umeå University, Faculty of Arts, Humlab.
    Tracking Gendered Streams2017In: Culture Unbound. Journal of Current Cultural Research, ISSN 2000-1525, E-ISSN 2000-1525, Vol. 9, no 2, p. 163-183Article in journal (Refereed)
    Abstract [en]

    One of the most prominent features of digital music services is the provision of personalized music recommendations that come about through the profiling of users and audiences. Based on a range of “bot experiments,” this article investigates if, and how, gendered patterns in music recommendations are provided by the streaming service Spotify. While our experiments did not give any strong indications that Spotify assigns different taste profiles to male and female users, the study showed that male artists were highly overrepresented in Spotify’s music recommendations; an issue which we argue prompts users to cite hegemonic masculine norms within the music industries. Although the results should be approached as historically and contextually contingent, we argue that they point to how gender and gendered tastes may be constituted through the interplay between users and algorithmic knowledge-making processes, and how digital content delivery may maintain and challenge gender relations and gendered power differentials within the music industries. Seen through the lens of critical research on software, music and gender performativity, the experiments thus provide insights into how gender is shaped and attributed meaning as it materializes in contemporary music streams.

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