The University of Southampton
University of Southampton Institutional Repository

Crafting online identities: Active and reflexive identity work on Spotify

Crafting online identities: Active and reflexive identity work on Spotify
Crafting online identities: Active and reflexive identity work on Spotify
The development of on-demand music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora, have transformed the dissemination and consumption of music. These networks provide open forums for listening, sharing, rating and recommending music. They have the ability to shape music consumption in ways not previously encountered. These online music streaming services not only offer instant, ubiquitous access to vast catalogues of music, but they also have the potential to influence what music users listen to and the ways they consume it. By collecting a vast amount of user data on music choices, listening habits and interactions, computational techniques, in the form of recommendation algorithms, can recognise and predict the similarities and differences in musical preferences of an entire user database. These recommender algorithms help structure the large and diverse array of possible song choices, but they also have the ability to influence the music that individuals are and are not presented with on an increasingly personalised basis.
Music has traditionally served as a powerful resource for identity work, allowing individuals to construct, manage and perform who they are and who they want to be. What do these online music streaming platforms with integrated recommendation systems mean for our identity work? Do they have the potential to shape our identities as they do our music consumption? Drawing ona mixed methods approach and focusing on Spotify, the market leading music streaming service in the UK, this thesis contributes to existing scholarship on music consumption in an online context. Extending current knowledge, primary research focuses on users to explore how music streaming platforms can enable the effective construction and performance of online identities. Through the triangulation of online survey responses, online observation and semi-structured interviews, I investigate the types of identity work achieved through feelings of psychological ownership, the curation of online music libraries, playlists and public and private streaming choices. Spotify also has the potential to shape identity work. A diverse array of data points collected during engagement with the platform become reassembled into what Haggerty and Ericson (2000) refer to as ‘data doubles’. These data doubles are perceived as online mirrors to human identity that are subsequently used to determine the music choices that users are and, perhaps more importantly, are not presented with.
The research contributions that this thesis makes are highly important considering the modern world we live in today, where qualitative, non-numeric aspects of daily life are increasingly becoming datafied, smart devices are ubiquitous and always-on mobile Internet access is prevalent. This thesis therefore sheds light on the role of the platform and its technologies in crafting online identities, exploring how Spotify attempts to reflect a user’s identity through profile construction and personalised recommendations. It considers how processes of self fashioning through music can be mediated and shaped by the technology of recommender systems. These platforms do not only reflect user identity. Unlike much of the existing literature in data studies, which addresses concerns over online surveillance and algorithmic control, this thesis presents users as data activists who appropriate platform affordances and adapt them to their benefit. This research therefore explores the power and agency exerted by both the user and the system. Understanding this reciprocal relationship allows for new insights into online identity work.
University of Southampton
Brough, Clarissa
eed78d4c-504b-4705-a4db-bb781127dc92
Brough, Clarissa
eed78d4c-504b-4705-a4db-bb781127dc92
Brooks, Laura
4b254837-1e36-4869-9695-17000b6c5ff9
Mues, Christophe
07438e46-bad6-48ba-8f56-f945bc2ff934
Roth, Silke
cd4e63d8-bd84-45c1-b317-5850d2a362b6
Stras, Laurie
b1021221-b68d-4a48-bf3c-890e5a63438a

Brough, Clarissa (2022) Crafting online identities: Active and reflexive identity work on Spotify. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 368pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

The development of on-demand music streaming platforms, such as Spotify, Apple Music and Pandora, have transformed the dissemination and consumption of music. These networks provide open forums for listening, sharing, rating and recommending music. They have the ability to shape music consumption in ways not previously encountered. These online music streaming services not only offer instant, ubiquitous access to vast catalogues of music, but they also have the potential to influence what music users listen to and the ways they consume it. By collecting a vast amount of user data on music choices, listening habits and interactions, computational techniques, in the form of recommendation algorithms, can recognise and predict the similarities and differences in musical preferences of an entire user database. These recommender algorithms help structure the large and diverse array of possible song choices, but they also have the ability to influence the music that individuals are and are not presented with on an increasingly personalised basis.
Music has traditionally served as a powerful resource for identity work, allowing individuals to construct, manage and perform who they are and who they want to be. What do these online music streaming platforms with integrated recommendation systems mean for our identity work? Do they have the potential to shape our identities as they do our music consumption? Drawing ona mixed methods approach and focusing on Spotify, the market leading music streaming service in the UK, this thesis contributes to existing scholarship on music consumption in an online context. Extending current knowledge, primary research focuses on users to explore how music streaming platforms can enable the effective construction and performance of online identities. Through the triangulation of online survey responses, online observation and semi-structured interviews, I investigate the types of identity work achieved through feelings of psychological ownership, the curation of online music libraries, playlists and public and private streaming choices. Spotify also has the potential to shape identity work. A diverse array of data points collected during engagement with the platform become reassembled into what Haggerty and Ericson (2000) refer to as ‘data doubles’. These data doubles are perceived as online mirrors to human identity that are subsequently used to determine the music choices that users are and, perhaps more importantly, are not presented with.
The research contributions that this thesis makes are highly important considering the modern world we live in today, where qualitative, non-numeric aspects of daily life are increasingly becoming datafied, smart devices are ubiquitous and always-on mobile Internet access is prevalent. This thesis therefore sheds light on the role of the platform and its technologies in crafting online identities, exploring how Spotify attempts to reflect a user’s identity through profile construction and personalised recommendations. It considers how processes of self fashioning through music can be mediated and shaped by the technology of recommender systems. These platforms do not only reflect user identity. Unlike much of the existing literature in data studies, which addresses concerns over online surveillance and algorithmic control, this thesis presents users as data activists who appropriate platform affordances and adapt them to their benefit. This research therefore explores the power and agency exerted by both the user and the system. Understanding this reciprocal relationship allows for new insights into online identity work.

Text
Crafting Online Identities_CBrough - Version of Record
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.
Download (3MB)
Text
Permission to deposit thesis_Clarissa Brough
Restricted to Repository staff only

More information

Published date: April 2022

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 471860
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/471860
PURE UUID: 4032bc68-ca9e-4733-88f0-40885237ec99
ORCID for Christophe Mues: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-6289-5490
ORCID for Silke Roth: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-8760-0505
ORCID for Laurie Stras: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0002-0129-2047

Catalogue record

Date deposited: 21 Nov 2022 18:05
Last modified: 22 Nov 2022 02:37

Export record

Contributors

Author: Clarissa Brough
Thesis advisor: Laura Brooks
Thesis advisor: Christophe Mues ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Silke Roth ORCID iD
Thesis advisor: Laurie Stras ORCID iD

Download statistics

Downloads from ePrints over the past year. Other digital versions may also be available to download e.g. from the publisher's website.

View more statistics

Atom RSS 1.0 RSS 2.0

Contact ePrints Soton: eprints@soton.ac.uk

ePrints Soton supports OAI 2.0 with a base URL of http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/cgi/oai2

This repository has been built using EPrints software, developed at the University of Southampton, but available to everyone to use.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.

×