Reinstate Casey Brienza!

My friend Casey Brienza has been dismissed from her post at City University, London. So she must have done something bad, right? Actually, no. Isn’t that an ‘unfair dismissal’? It is indeed – but thanks to a change in the law made by the coalition government, it is no longer possible (except under certain very limited circumstances) to bring a case for unfair dismissal to tribunal for an employee with less than 24 months’ service, which means that if you have – like Casey – been with your employer for under two years, your employment rights are effectively nil.

Casey’s a great scholar and a great teacher, and she has the support of almost all her departmental colleagues. If you don’t think that what’s happening to her is okay, sign the petition.

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Exploring genre on SoundCloud, part II

[Cross-posted from http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/vem/2014/06/exploring-genre-on-soundcloud-part-ii/]

In my previous post on this topic, I introduced a problem – how to understand the work that explicit genre categorisations are made to do by people uploading tracks to the SoundCloud audio-sharing website – and a potential solution – identifying the three categories most frequently used by each individual in a sample and studying regularities in the ways in which pairs of categories tend to pop up within the same group of three. I also presented some partial and preliminary findings in the form of a matrix comparing co-occurrences of the five genre categories most frequently used by people within an initial sample. And I either glossed over or left unmentioned a slew of problems, some of which we’ve been more successful in addressing than others at present (because these are only blog posts, and we haven’t finished the research yet). The biggest problem is the sample itself: the analysis was done on the basis of a snowball sample, when a random sample would be more appropriate. Hence the provisionality of all this. The analysis will be redone soon on the basis of a sample that will enable us to make more robust claims, but in the meantime I wanted to share our thought processes and working methods with the world because – quite apart from anything else – I’m excited about the patterns that are emerging.

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Exploring genre on SoundCloud, part I

(Cross-posted from http://www.open.ac.uk/blogs/vem/2014/06/exploring-genre-on-soundcloud-part-i/)

One of the problems you’re always going to face when studying electronic music is the need to decide what you think ‘electronic music’ means. It’s a question of genre, and as Paul DiMaggio acknowledged in one of his most influential papers, genre is at once a formal and a social concept:

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Forthcoming event (6 June): ‘Valuing Electronic Music’

Upstairs at The Lexington, 96-98 Pentonville Rd, London N1 9JB

6 June 2014
4.30-10pm
Admission free

Valuing Electronic Music is an ongoing study of electronic music and the people who value it, carried out by Daniel Allington (Open University), Anna Jordanous (King’s College, London), and Byron Dueck (Open University). Our work explores how the value of electronic music transcends economic value for producers, DJs, and audiences – and how geographical location continues to play a significant role in the recognition of musical value even where musical scenes become increasingly international (thanks in large part to websites such as SoundCloud). Such findings have implications for the careers of music-makers more generally.

On 6 June, we are holding a public event at The Lexington in Angel, Islington, featuring talks, live performances, and an interactive panel discussion with electronic music producers. Come along to find out what we and other researchers have discovered, as well as to hear some great music and to put your own questions to the people who make it. You are welcome to drop in at any time.

4.30 Doors open
5.00 Free food
5.30 Introduction
5.45 Music: Glitch Lich
6.30 Talk: Luis-Manuel Garcia
7.00 Music: Winterlight
7.45 Talk: Daniel Allington, Anna Jordanous, Byron Dueck
8.15 Music: Slackk
9.00 Panel: Chad McKinney (Glitch Lich), Tim Ingham (Winterlight), Paul Lynch (Slackk)
9.30 Thanks

The Valuing Electronic Music project combines social network analysis of online data with ethnographic interviewing and observation to understand how music-makers produce value for their own and one another’s work, especially in genres without mainstream recognition. It is currently supported by an AHRC Research Development Grant. For more information, visit our webpage at http://www.open.ac.uk/vem/

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A year in the academic blogosphere

I published my first piece to this blog twelve months ago to the minute. Has it really been that long? Yes, it has really been that long. And what have I learnt? What I have learnt is that the use for which I intended this website is not perhaps the use to which a website is best put. This is how I expressed myself in my very first post (just this once, I’ll dispense with a full bibliographic reference):
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Big data and the study of reading

By Daniel Allington and Andrew Salway

[Cross-posted from http://www.digitalreadingnetwork.com/big-data-study-reading/. Comments disabled here; enabled on the original.]

We’re really looking forward to running the workshop on big data and digital reading on 6 March 2014. Here is your required reading… just kidding, but we’ve selected two discussion pieces that we think could be interesting to talk about, so if you could have a look at them ahead of the workshop and post any initial thoughts below, that would be brilliant.

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Livetweets from ‘Cultural work and cultural value’

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend Mark Banks’s AHRC-funded seminar, ‘Cultural work and cultural value‘. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stay for the whole thing, missing most of Daniel Ashton’s talk (which was shaping up to be very interesting by the time I had to run off) and all of Kate Oakley’s (which was guaranteed to be interesting, but which I missed every second of). So there was one fewer tweeter for their contributions. But there was a lot of tweeting overall, indicating the excitement and enthusiasm of the event. See below; that’s the point of this post. You will, I hope, find some hints of what was said by Mark himself on the value of work, Calvin Taylor on the history of the economic/aesthetic/ethical value trichotomy, Christina Hughes on valuing in the campaign to save Birmingham’s jewellery quarter, David Hesmondhalgh on the neo-Aristotelian conception of aesthetic/cultural value, and the aforementioned Kate Oakley and Daniel Ashton on, respectively, cultural policy and the training of cultural producers.

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Cultural capital, social capital, symbolic capital: what do we gain from an economic metaphor?

In an essay written in response to Colin Mills’s (2013) critique of Bourdieu’s use of the terms ‘cultural capital’ and ‘social capital’, I discussed the use of the word ‘capital’ as a metaphor for forms of resource other than capital in its literal sense (Allington, 2013a). As I argue in that piece, such usage is by no means as unorthodox as some of Bourdieu’s critics have implied, since it dates back to the early 19th century and has entered common parlance. But it should be admitted that there is a difference between loosely figurative senses of ‘capital’, such as are to be found within the 19th century examples I drew from the Oxford English Dictionary, and the more tightly defined (but still metaphorical) sense of the word as used by some social scientists in recent decades.

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Announcement: ‘Online networks and the production of value in electronic music’

Investigators: Daniel Allington (Open University), Anna Jordanous (King’s College London), Byron Dueck (Open University)
Funder: Arts and Humanities Research Council [1]
Duration: 3 Feb to 31 July 2014

Cultural value is one of those areas in which (as the saying goes) perceptions are also realities. Thus, sociologists have argued that the production of cultural value is actually the production of a form of belief. Although popular accounts of how art gets made tend to focus on brilliant individual creators, research has highlighted over and over again that their work typically emerges from a creative milieu, in which value (or belief in value) comes into existence. This highlights the complex relationship between professional, semi-professional, and amateur cultural production, and may explain why so many cultural producers create work primarily for appreciation by their peers.

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Capital as metaphor: a few notes on usage and history

There’s a new piece on Colin Mills’s Oxford Sociology blog on the terms ‘cultural capital’ and ‘social capital’ (Mills, 2013a). These terms and others like them – such as ‘linguistic capital’ – were influentially used by Pierre Bourdieu (1984 [1979]) to describe intangible resources conferring social and often economic advantage upon those who possess them in greater measure. It seems that Prof. Mills has been attacking these terms, apparently with such devastating ferocity that those who still cling to their use have been reduced to a state of desperation. ‘One desperate last move that their defenders try to deploy,’ he writes, ‘is the old “its only a metaphor” ploy, as though that was some kind of answer.’ (Mills 2013a, parag. 1) Mills is very good at picking questionable interpretations of data apart – his open letter (Mills, 2012) to the authors of The spirit level was a thing of beauty, for example – so perhaps those of us who persist in muttering the term ‘cultural capital’ from time to time ought to be scared. But I’m not sure he’s on such strong ground here – and by an interesting coincidence, the ‘ploy’ he decries bears a distant resemblance to something I said a couple of weeks ago, in a discussion occasioned by an essay I had written on the topic of ‘cultural value’ (Allington, 2013):
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