New amateurs revisited

Popular music, digital technology, and the fate of cultural production

Authored by: Nick Prior

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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The figure of the amateur is central to both scholarly debates and cultural commentary that aims to understand how networked digital technologies have transformed the quantity and quality of cultural production. This chapter focuses on one domain where these debates play out most acutely: popular music. It interposes the figure of the “new amateur” as a motif for the transformation of ordinary capabilities among a widening segment of technologically enabled groups and individuals whose engagements are having dramatic effects on music cultures, industries, and practices. If the “old” amateur was positioned as modern professionalism’s “other,” lacking in skill or knowledge, new amateurs are changing the auspices of these terms. Their increasing centrality parallels the transformation of cultural landscapes associated with digital processes that invite critical interrogation of everyday creative agency among widening and networked populations. The chapter ends by exploring how these processes play out in a single case, that of Japanese singer, performer, and idol Hatsune Miku. Miku opens up a space for massively crowdsourced innovation based on amateur and fan practices. She exemplifies new amateurs in action and DIY fandom at its most vivacious.

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