Musical Self-Representation

Technology has branded our society in a new way. Meaning, technology has a way of creeping into our lives and we have to confide in it in one way or another. Whether it’s new technology or old; things that are a commonality constantly surround us. For example, the car used to drive from one place to another, that’s a technology that we now use as nearly a necessity. But, what about non-necessities, such as: music, entertainment, or even breathing for some people? The point is, technology is surrounding everyone, and we have a way of portraying ourselves to fit what we want others to see us as. It’s not necessarily who we are, but who we want to be, to be liked or to be accepted into this society. Throughout this blog, I will explore music as a representation of the digital self.

Different media are ways to build profiles for ourselves. Some use website interfaces, social media archives, and others use music libraries to illustrate who they are. Profiles can be formed through the music one listens to. Look at iTunes, a music library that is designed to suggest music you may like; it gives you similar artists according to what you have purchased in the past. Or even the Genius button, that when pressed it selects all the music in your library that you enjoy and places them into a playlist to listen to; songs that sound similar.

Have you thought about a date? What music would you listen to? Probably something according to the date’s music taste. How often, on a first date, do you play only what you want to listen to, as if it was one of your friends? I would venture to say not very often, especially the first date. But, why is that? We do this because we want to portray ourselves as someone who will be easily liked. By playing music that they enjoy, you are creating a personal profile of who you want them to see you as. You wouldn’t want to play Heavy Metal on a first date, even if it’s your favorite genre. This seems simple, but it could have underlying effects; maybe a second date. The music might not be a direct correlation between having another date, obviously, but it could help the date run smoother, setting the mood.

Creating a musical profile in public is another good example. Imagine driving in the summer, when pulling up to a red light, do you turn down your favorite song in respect of others, or do you turn it up to show off who you are? This might be two-sided, but I know many people who turn up music no matter what, to show off whom they are. It’s kind of a statement in a way. You represent yourself as a promotion of a certain genre of music or certain artist. You can literally hear when a car pumps down the road, with heavy bass blasting through a sound system. That person is representing their musical tastes and preferences. In a music study on people and their representations, the researcher said “intrapersonal functions encompass the uses of music as a vehicle for emotional expression”[1] This means that music can be used as a way of communicating how one wants to be seen and to illustrate their emotions.

In Watson’s Studying the Digital Self, she says “Online sites gather, authorize, and conserve present and past versions of self that document a person’s life, habits, and desires.”[2] In this essay, she analyzes the digital archives that one can characterize one’s self through. These online sites reveal whom one wants to be based on their present and past. Music works the same way; people want to show others who they are based on their musical preference. People can shape their desired self through movements of sound.

In conclusion, musical representations happen all around us, and we have come accustomed to this in our society. Whether it’s a music channel on YouTube, which recommends other music by that record label or just a mix of music you might like, or iTunes, we are constantly building our digital profile. Some make playlists of songs depending on the person they are hanging out with, it might not be music that you particularly care for, but you play it anyways to “win” acceptance of that person. It’s inevitable to build a profile, whether its accurate or someone you want to be seen as. Even music can build a persona.

[1] Boer, Diana, et al. “Young People’s Topography Of Musical Functions: Personal, Social And Cultural Experiences With Music Across Genders And Six Societies.” International Journal Of Psychology 47.5 (2012): 355-369. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

[2] Watson, Julia. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of HIGHER EDUCATION. University of Wisconsin, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.


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