Record Collecting in the Digital age
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To do this, I examine three key capacities of vinyl record collections in evoking autobiographical memories, maintaining personal histories and anchoring a sense of the past. The significance of personal record collections and collecting practices was investigated in a series of semi-structured in-depth interviews with a group of self-identified record collectors. The sentiments of the collector in describing their collecting can be found to reveal their acquisitions as transactions within the spheres of commodity culture and the gift economy, articulating the renewed appeal of vinyl records in the digital age.
This perspective of the social meanings and media practices surrounding vinyl records in the digital age highlight the formats significance in understanding the complex trajectories of media history. User Menu Login. Open Access Repository. Download Statistics.
This signifying ability is afforded by the considerable material presence of the vinyl record cover and the collection within domestic spaces. In addition to social display, one interviewee explained how their collection invites a historical perspective of their own evolving musical tastes:.
Vinyl Collecting in the Digital Age
Eddie, Culture and taste are revealed as dimensions of the self through the collection, revealing a trajectory of continuity and change over time Bartmanski and Woodward DeNora In addition to this retrospective view of personal musical development, Eddie also revealed how interpersonal connections come to become associated with records in his collections through the gift economy:.
I have a couple of records that friends have bought for me, and that in itself I find is really nice — its someone that cares that you are into music and knows some bands that I respect and that I am into. Often, we will chuck it on and listen together. Eddie Bundled up in the relationship between musical taste and the collection, records received as gifts from friends demonstrate the nurturing or affirmation of social bonds which may be then further solidified through shared listening experience Brown and Sellen These social connections embedded within record collections and can be understood further through the inheritance of a collection as it is passed down by familial generations.
Simon Records inherited from a deceased family member occupy an eminent position within the collection as items infused with the social life, bearing the material traces of past ownership. Moreover, collectors may forge a sense of permanence as the collection exists beyond their own lifetime Marshall Importantly, the collection maintains a connection between the interviewee, their late father, and a sense of the past as a form of memorial.
In this way, the economic value of the collection gives way to its priceless sentimental and memorial worth for the interviewee, situating the inheritance of the collection clearly within the realm of the gift economy. The worth and value of record collections as projects of identity and signifiers of the past can be further understood when interviewees were asked to consider the loss of their collections. One interviewee remarked on the loss of a collection in terms of invested time, effort and embedded sentimental worth:. And if there is something with heritage or sentimental value around a particular record then they are gone as well.
Dominic, The investment of time in curating and pursuing additions to the collection is a key part of the satisfaction associated with collecting. It is one of the features which has come to differentiate record collecting as a marker of music fandom and expertise in a digital age of instantaneous gratification and access, facilitated by streaming. Here, the value of the record collection in signifying musical fandom and identity is differentiated from sentimental worth, clearly highlighting the unique and diverse appeal of vinyl records as a collectable object in the digital age.
Beyond socially significant and identity affirming capacities of vinyl records, records may also serve as a memorial cue, conjuring specific episodic memories from the life narrative of the collector. One interviewee recited an encounter with a favourite band, prompted by a record cover adorned by signatures:. Interviewee: Yeah, the signed one is my favourite to look at.
Aesthetically pleasing. It holds more value in my subjective categorisation. More sentimental value. I met the people that produced it and I got them to sign it for me. Elliot, This use of records as memorial cues was common for a many of the collectors interviewed, with one interviewee purchasing a specific record as a memento or souvenir with the intention of later recollection:. I know I said that I buy vinyl to listen to, but this one was more to support them and to have a cool memento, because they are cool guys and I got to open their launch show. Interviewee: It takes me back to the weeks leading up to the release, listening to the awful Spotify master, playing the release gig itself.
I feel like my collection is something that I'm going to keep for a long time - I can see myself looking back in years and having a chuckle. Simon, In this sense, vinyl records may serve an evidentiary function for the collector in a similar fashion to a souvenir, inviting reflection on past experiences from the owner and providing material proof of the experience when recounting to others.
This artcile has explored not only the resurgent position of vinyl records as a legacy music format, but the ways in which record collections can serve as sites of identity, memory and personal history. The role of materiality in media practices has been significantly transformed in the wake of cloud-based streaming services and has seen the vinyl record regarded as a highly collectable and unique physical media format in the digital age, capable of orienting the identities and social lives of music collectors.
As transactions within the gift economy, interviewees articulated the sentimental worth of their collections in affirming social bonds and familial connections.
In this way, the enduring vinyl record is illustrative of the ways in which media history cannot be characterised as a simple trajectory of technological supersession and obsolescence, but as a complex system of evolution and redefinition of media practices, materiality and social meanings. Appadurai, Arjun.
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In the digital age, vinyl still has a pulse | Impact Magazine
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