Home / resources / David Novak, "The Dubbing of a New Era: Audiocasettes, Open Access, and the Dissonances of Digital Democracy"

David Novak, "The Dubbing of a New Era: Audiocasettes, Open Access, and the Dissonances of Digital Democracy"

When May 26, 2016
from 12:00 PM to 01:30 PM
Where SSH 1246
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In the 1980s, the audiocassette became iconic of new possibilities for participatory media, emerging through international “cassette cultures” that shaped the aesthetic languages and political imaginaries of popular music. At this time, cassette technology changed media landscapes on a global scale in ways that shadow contemporary claims of a digital media revolution: cassettes enabled new grass-roots networks of non-commercial music and speech, allowed individual users to reproduce, remix, and distribute their own material, and set the first substantial wave of informal music piracy into motion. It is interesting, then, at a moment when it seems that online distribution has remediated global access toward digital formats totally and forever, that this obsolescent physical medium has come back into circulation. In the 2010s, the cassette tape is simultaneously a powerful residual object of nostalgia and also subject of a “new old” media network that distributes cassettes both through mail and in person-to-person samizdat-style exchanges.  In this talk, I will consider the historical networks of cassette exchange in international mail distributions for experimental music and Noise, discuss the recent reconfigurations of cassette exchange in the United States, and connect these cases to current debates about access, ownership, and media convergence. I argue that the present-day cassette production represents an untimely threshold case for testing the emergent cultural values of participatory media with an alternative social imaginary of media publication and distribution that insists — counterintuitively to the ethical models of contemporary OA policies — on a restricted and partial platform of access to generate musical communities.


David Novak is Associate Professor of Music at the University of California, Santa Barbara, with affiliations in Anthropology, Film and Media Studies, and East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies. His work deals with the globalization of popular music, remediation, protest culture, and social practices of listening. He is the author of the award-winning Japanoise: Music at the Edge of Circulation (2013) and the co-editor of Keywords in Sound (2015), as well as recent essays and sound recordings in Public CultureCultural AnthropologyPopular Music, Sensory Studies, and The Wire. He is the founder of the Music and Sound Interest Group in the American Anthropological Association, and co-director of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music


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