Talk: Keeping it Real? Vinyl Records, Digital Media, and the Future of Independent Culture

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Michael Palm

May 4, 2018 @ 3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

2135 Social Sciences and Media Studies

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Feedback loops abound between digital media and contemporary vinyl culture. The majority of record sales occur online, the download code is a familiar feature of new vinyl releases, and turntables outfitted with USB ports and Bluetooth are outselling traditional models. The manufacture of records cannot be digitized; however, as with most commercial culture today, vinyl traffic is driven by algorithms and thrives on social media. Furthermore, the ascent of streaming over the past five years has boosted record sales, creating both-and markets for “flow” and “publication” media, distinguished by Raymond Williams as being accessed or acquired by consumers. Contemporary vinyl culture demonstrates how digital media can play a vital role in any community organized around a shared appreciation for cultural forms and formats, analog or otherwise. Eschewing nostalgia for records as (merely) a reprieve from digital saturation, in this talk Palm argues that scholars and supporters of independent culture should decouple the digital from the corporate.

Michael Palm is Associate Professor of Media and Technology Studies in the Department of Communication at UNC-Chapel Hill and Affiliated Faculty in the Department of American Studies. His book Technologies of Consumer Labor: A History of Self-Service was published by Routledge in 2017. His current book project is a cultural studies account of vinyl records’ revived popularity, informed by labor ethnography along records’ contemporary supply chain.

Sponsored by the Interdisciplinary Humanities Center; the Carsey-Wolf Center; the Center for Information Technology and Society; the Film and Media Studies Dept.; the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music


May 4, 2018
3:00 pm - 5:00 pm
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