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Not every vinyl retromaniac is a nostalgic – a social experiment on the pleasures of record listening in the digital age


Abstract and Figures

Approaching current vinyl enthusiasm in late modernity, we postulate four mechanisms as possible explanations and test them by conducting a social experiment with 31 music listeners. Half of them were to play the vinyl version of a current music album; the rest were given the CD. Without participants’ knowledge, the headphone sound was manipulated, effectively resulting in a between-subjects design with ‘sound’ and ‘sensory appeal’ as independent variables and ‘emotional arousal’ and ‘nostalgia’ as dependents. Additionally, participants’ birth year was implemented as a covariate. Obtained results confirm the distinctive sound of the Vinyl as well as its sensory appeal to be both aesthetically more exciting for nowadays’ listeners compared to a CD. Furthermore, we demonstrate feelings of technostalgia to be ‘embodied’ since they only appear with ‘valid’ material media of one’s own past. In contrast, generational aura attributions emerge when handling ‘obsolete’ audio media one has not been socialized with.
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m&z 4/2016
Not Every Vinyl Retromaniac is a Nostalgic
A social experiment on the pleasures of record listening
in the digital age
Steffen Lepa & Vlasis Tritakis
Audio Communication Group
Technische Universität Berlin, Germany
Approaching current vinyl enthusiasm in late modernity, we postulate four mechanisms
as possible explanations and test them by conducting a social experiment with 31 music
listeners. Half of them were to play the vinyl version of a current music album; the rest were
given the CD. Without participants’ knowledge, the headphone sound was manipulated,
eectively resulting in a between-subjects design with ‘sound’ and ‘sensory appeal’ as
independent variables and ‘emotional arousal’ and ‘nostalgia’ as dependents. Additionally,
participants’ birth year was implemented as a covariate. Obtained results conrm the
distinctive sound of the Vinyl as well as its sensory appeal to be both aesthetically more
exciting for nowadays’ listeners compared to a CD. Furthermore, we demonstrate feelings
of technostalgia to be ‘embodied’ since they only appear with ‘valid’ material media of
one’s own past. In contrast, generational aura attributions emerge when handling ‘obsolete
audio media one has not been socialized with.
Explaining Vinyl Retromania
The past 10 years have witnessed the resurgence
of an audio medium already deemed obsolete:
The vinyl record (henceforth: the Vinyl) has
experienced an astonishing revival, with dramatic
sales increases in the US and all around Europe
lasting up until today (Nokelainen & Dedehayir,
2015). Doubtless, a part of this phenomenon
may be explained through the rise of the DJ
culture in electronic dance music (EDM) scenes.
Within these music cultures, the Vinyl has played
an important role since the early 1980s as a tactile
interface that substantially extends the degree of
artistic control in a live music mixing performance
(Farrugia & Swiss, 2005).
But obviously, given the enormous increases
in sales figures, this cannot be the whole story.
Hence, several authors from cultural studies have
interpreted the comeback of the Vinyl as part of a
larger movement of “retromania” (Reynolds, 2012)
or “analogue nostalgia(Marks, 2002) within late
modernity that is said to be the expression of a
common uneasiness of music listeners when being
confronted with the unlimited possibilities of use
and alleged “coldness” of new digital media. In the
larger picture, the current increase in vinyl sales may
therefore appear as one of the several symptoms of
a society “obsessed with the cultural artifacts of its
immediate past” (Reynolds, 2012, p. XXI) that also
finds its expression with other seemingly obsolete
analogue media technologies like film, polaroids
and cassettes (Schrey, 2014).
In this line of thinking, musicologist Mark Katz
(2015, p. 278f) has lately postulated three psycho-
socially founded aesthetic mechanisms that might
explain the resurgence of the Vinyl in the media
repertoires of nowadays’ music listeners by the
special forms of aesthetic pleasure it affords: (1)
Its distinctive sound compared to digital media,
(2) the special sensorial experience of listening to a
record compared to listening to digital media and
(3) the phenomenon of technostalgia, referring to
bittersweet feelings that are evoked when being
confronted with nowadays obsolete technologies
of one’s own past. Within the present article, we
try to verify and extend from these claims by first
reviewing the state of literature regarding each
postulated mechanism and then conducting a
social experiment to empirically demonstrate
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the existence and interplay of all three. Finally,
we also demonstrate the existence of a fourth
aesthetic mechanism that might explain a further
portion of the pleasures of record listening in the
digital age. This mechanism might be termed
(4) generational aura attribution and we close
our contribution to this special issue on media,
communication and nostalgia by arguing that
this type of ‘paranostalgia’ is actually something
that should not to be confused theoretically and
empirically with embodied technostalgia related
to media.
The Distinctive Sound of the Vinyl
With regards to technical sound quality, every
educated audio engineer would argue that the
vinyl is clearly “inferior” compared to Compact
Disc (CD) audio or modern consumer audio
codecs at high bitrates: In terms of its reproduction
capabilities, it clearly has a worse signal-to-noise
ratio and a lower dynamic range (Sterne, 2006).
Therefore, a vinyl record will never reproduce the
sound of an original music performance or studio
production as “adequate” as a CD or a digital
file. But, as Jonathan Sterne (2006) forcefully
argues, in spite of a long tradition of searching
for immediacy in media technology advancement
in terms of “transparent” media (Bolter, 2000)
and respective claims in historic and nowadays
audio technology marketing (Thompson, 1995),
as well as results from audio quality preference
tests (Olive, 2012), this type of technological
positivist argument misses the whole point of a
lot of contemporary listener’s demands: Since the
diffusion of the CD, a majority of music lovers
appears not to seek a high-definition reproduction
of some original any more that nobody apart
from the recording engineers could ever listen
to (Rothenbuhler, 2012). Instead, nowadays
listeners seem to strive for a lively experience
fitting to the overall listening context that is able
to arouse their aesthetical interest (Sterne, 2006).
In this way, the typical background noise of a
vinyl that is due to the contact between needle
and groove, might enrich the listening experience
compared to e.g. a CD in terms of hypermediacy
(Bolter, 2000): The medium adds an additional
symbolic quality to the music, which may on the
one hand be interpreted as a symbolic reference
to past times. But on the other hand, it is also
in a literal sense expressive of the fidelity of the
medium, in that the noise will change slightly
every time the record is played again.
Even without drawing on such symbolic
arguments which might appear rather “esoteric”
to some readers not being audiophiles, it can
be argued from the standpoint of empirical
aesthetic research in cognitive psychology that the
additional “noise floor” contained in the sound
of the Vinyl clearly renders it a physically more
complex and also more unfamiliar sound stimulus
compared to nowadays encountered music sounds
which are mostly based on digital audio media.
This should, according to Berlyne’s (1971) theory
of art appreciation, result in heightened emotional
arousal during the aesthetical experience of
listening to music. For a general finding that
has been replicated successfully in numerous
experiments across the art forms, including music
(Marin & Leder, 2013) is that stimulus complexity
and unfamiliarity in terms of personal norms tend
to increase the felt emotional arousal in aesthetic
situations. Taken together, the symbolic liveliness
and fidelity as well as the physical complexity and
unfamiliarity of the medium’s sound should result
in an emotionally more arousing music experience
when employing the Vinyl compared to a digital
medium, which leads to hypothesis 1.
Hypothesis 1:
For nowadays music listeners, listening to the sound
of a vinyl record should result in increased emotional
arousal compared to listening to the sound of a
digital audio medium.
The Special Sensorial Experience of
Listening to a Record
With regards to its sensorial appeal, haptic
qualities and practical use, one could argue in the
first place that the vinyl is “inferior” to nowadays
digital media: It is rather large and unwieldy
which makes it impossible to be used mobile, it
has to be treated with special care, and one has
to learn and employ very special actions to put it
into work. Furthermore, a record only plays on
its own for a certain time, it enforces a certain
order of playing the titles, and title or the whole
disc cannot be automatically repeated (Osborne,
But what appears to be a list of disadvantages
from a very functional point of view can also be
perceived as an advantage from an aesthetic point
of view: It renders the use of the Vinyl something
seldom and special which requires certain special
competencies, equipment, space and patience
that not everyone can afford at every time (Katz,
2015). Hence, it requires a subject that is eager
to make the listening session a very involved and
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focused act. Or, to put it in other terms: It not
only requires, but also produces a very involved
subject, that invests a lot of time and economic
and cognitive resources in the listening (see
also Hoklas & Lepa, 2015). Another aspect
that is mentioned by Katz (2015) is the larger
and therefore more enjoyable sleeve and cover
artwork, something that was often bemoaned
from contemporaries during and after the “forced
introduction” of the CD to the music market.
A further point is worth noting: Compared to
digital media like the CD or digital files, the vinyl
is also far more tangible in a literal sense, since the
groove that produces the sound is directly “visible”
and “touchable” (Osborne, 2012, p. 2) on the
surface of the disc. This non-arbitrary relation
to the reproduced sounds themselves results
in the tangibility of the medium (Katz, 2004;
Nokelainen & Dedehayir, 2012) and an increased
level of direct control of what is happening, which
has made it so attractive for EDM culture. In this
way, the Vinyl may not only serve as a means of
symbolic distinction for nowadays music users, it
also allow[s] people to be active and influential
agents in using their equipment and playing
back music” (Nokelainen & Dedehayir, 2012,
p. 109). Taken together, using the Vinyl requires
complex knowledge and behavior on the side of
users not regularly accustomed to it. It also makes
the experience of listening to music something
comparatively harder to achieve which requires
and at the same time enables more intellectual
and practical involvement. Altogether, this may
lend the practical use of vinyl an increased amount
of excitement from the perspective of nowadays
audio media users not accustomed to it which
should lead to an increase in emotional arousal
during music listening. Similar to hypothesis 1,
we do not postulate any other specific changes
in type of the emotional experience of music,
since media related emotional effects (e.g. from
loudness or spatiality) typically relate to the
arousal dimension of experienced emotions
only (Kellaris & Rice, 1993; Lepa & Hoklas,
2015), which represents the intensity but not the
specific type of evoked aesthetic feelings (Zenter,
Grandjean & Scherer, 2008).
Hypothesis 2:
For nowadays music listeners, practically interacting
with the sensory appeal of the Vinyl and a record
player should result in increased emotional arousal
compared to interacting with any digital audio
The Phenomenon of Technostalgia
The notion of technostalgia was first put forward
by Pinch and Reinecke (2009) referring to some
musicians’ preference for old, often analogue
sound technologies, i.e. vintage amplifiers and
instruments. Bolin (2015) extended the term
to refer to any feelings of nostalgia not related
to media content but to the medium employed
itself, in other words: the “material context”
of media reception. In his view, technostalgia
denotes the bitter-sweet feelings that are evoked
when using material media that have formed
an important part of one’s media socialization
but are increasingly deemed obsolete in society.
It is often experienced as a feeling of “coming
home”, reminiscent of the etymology of the term
“nostalgia” which historically described a kind
of “home-sickness” (see also other texts in this
journal issue).
In Bolin’s view, technostalgia is “highly collective”
(2015, p. 12) and foremost a generational
phenomenon. This claim is justified by media
generation theory (Gumpert & Cathcart, 1985),
which posits the following: Resulting from their
everyday handling of certain media as part of
affect-laden family and peer-group settings in
their formative years of youth, people develop
intimate “embodied” relationships to certain
material media technologies they grow up
with. Later in life, they habitually “stick” to the
acquired media grammar”, typically even if the
associated objects are “forcefully” substituted by
newer technologies (Lepa, Hoklas, & Weinzierl,
2014). Such forms of conjunctive experiential
spaces connect people of the same generational
unit (Mannheim, 1952), who accordingly tend to
share the same nostalgia around certain media. As
it was put by Dewey (1916, p.5-6, quoted after
Carey, 1989): “Men live in a community in virtue
of the things which they have in common”. In
result, members of the same media generation
units yearn for similar time periods and miss
similar media technologies. Moreover, a sudden
encounter with the increasingly obsolete media in
everyday life may often serve as “communicative
anchor” for a nostalgic sharing of emotional
memories, also characteristically forming the basis
of common generational identity and semantics
(Aroldi, 2011).
A central argument of this paper is to stress that
this habitual relationship to certain material
media of the past does not at all ground in a form
of symbolic attribution, such as the other three
postulated mechanisms. Instead, it grounds in a
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personal practical “labour” investment with the
medium as a material tool for world disclosure,
in a continuous practical activity with materiality
through the same repetitive movements, actions
and gestures (see Bolin, 2015, p. 8). With growing
practice, this results in an embodied relationship
with the respective medium, a form of implicit
procedural knowledge that cannot be put in
words, but is automatically retrieved when being
confronted with the old apparatus.
As an analogy to understand this type of situated
and action-directed knowledge inscribed into
the body (see Meier, Schnall, Schwarz & Bargh,
2012, for an introduction into the research on
embodied cognition), one might think of the
feelings of familiarity and of “coming home” that
a person experiences who learned playing the
guitar during his youth, then stopped playing
for some years and is suddenly given a guitar and
asked to play a song. The encounter will not only
lead to an automatic retrieval of the way certain
chords have to be played from sensorimotor
long-term memory, but also evoke pleasant
biographical memories of past musicianship
related to this implicit knowledge. This will be
similar for all former guitar players, regardless
which song is played. In this way, phenomena
of technostalgia may explain a certain portion of
nowadays vinyl resurgence, but certainly only for
those people that have been using it extensively
in their formative years and therefore exhibit an
“embodied familiarity” with the medium.
Hypothesis 3:
For nowadays music listeners, practically interacting
with the familiar sound and sensory appeal of an
obsolete medium of one’s own past such as the vinyl
on a record player should lead to increased feelings of
nostalgia compared to interacting with non-obsolete
media forms.
Generational Aura Attribution
Finally, the paradox that vinyl sales have been
driven largely by young consumers (Palermino,
2015; Ringen, 2015; Lepa & Hoklas, 2015), who
partly do not even own turntables (Hogan, 2016;
Savage, 2016), leads us to suppose that there
must be other factors responsible for the vinyl
comeback, apart from its distinctive stimulus
qualities and the phenomenon technostalgia.
After all, as it was put by Bolin (2015, p. 8) “Can
one long for a home where one has never lived?”.
We therefore postulate that a further major
source of nowadays’ vinyl enthusiasm stems from
a process of aura attribution which is different
to the mechanism of technostalgia as theorized
above: The notion of “aura” was originally put
forward by Walter Benjamin (2006 [1936])
during the advent of analogue reproduction
media. In his view, a large portion of aesthetic
enjoyment of original artworks results from their
uniqueness and rarity that he deemed necessary
for attributions of authenticity and aura on the
side of the audience. He therefore famously
reasoned that artworks would totally lose their
auratic qualities when getting mass-reproduced.
Following Bartmanski and Woodwarth (2013),
we claim that this notion has to be interpreted
as product of the historical time frame Benjamin
was working in – a time where mass-reproduction
of artworks just began – and should insofar not be
treated as an essentialist a-historic argument about
all reproduction media. After all, economically
speaking, it is the relative rarity of an object or
service in comparison to societal demands within
a culture that explains its symbolic value (Lepa,
2015). In this line of thinking, one may argue
that from the perspective of members of digital
media culture of the 21st century, analogue
records and record players may regain the status
of “original artworks” if they are rather seldom
in the everyday repertoire and thereby fulfilling
symbolic demands that other audio media do
not afford. Hence, we reason that the aura
of a medium is something being collectively
attributed and symbolically constructed from the
perspective of collective user demands rather than
an intrinsic quality of certain media. The fact that
such demands should be reciprocally dependent
on the rest of the available media environment at
a certain historic time makes this phenomenon
also a generational issue, which might explain why
aura attributions are often theoretically mixed up
with technostalgia. But, as Bolin (2015) forcefully
argues, in opposition to nostalgia they have to be
understood more as a generational “phantom
pain”, a collective longing for something that
never existed, a kind of “paranostalgia”.
Altogether, these arguments imply that the sound
as well as the sensory appeal should lend the Vinyl
an increased amount of aura especially from the
perspective of nowadays “digital natives” (Prensky,
2001). Therefore, they should experience
heightened emotional arousal during listening to
music with a record player compared to using a
digital medium. Conversely, true former everyday
users of Vinyl from prior media generations,
while probably exhibiting a certain degree of
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technostalgia during use, are not expected to
exhibit this type of auratic feeling. For when
given the choice between a record and a CD, they
would probably rather react as quoted by Katz
(2015, p. 278): “What a pain in the ass they were.
I’d rather listen to a CD”. Therefore, we expect
a certain portion of additional emotional arousal
when using the Vinyl to emerge, dependent on
the birth cohorts of listeners. Conversely, since
we deem generational aura attribution to be a
“paranostalgic phenomenon only, we do not
expect this mechanism to also result in the specific
embodied feeling of nostalgia (see part 3).
Hypothesis 4:
For nowadays music listeners, the degree of emotional
arousal when being confronted with the sound of a
vinyl or the sensory appeal of using a record player
should be dependent on the birth year of the agent.
A Social Experiment to
Analyse and Differentiate the
Mechanisms at Work
In order to demonstrate that the four depicted
mechanisms may be likewise responsible for
vinyl enthusiasm, it was decided to conduct an
empirical study that would be able to analyse a
music listening scenario. We initially reasoned that
such a study had to measure both nostalgia and
emotional effects (in terms of arousal, since none
of the hypotheses implied changes in emotional
valence) and that it should compare the effects
of vinyl with a digital but still tangible audio
medium of a different generational appeal”,
such as the Compact Disc. In order to be able
to experimentally separate aura attribution from
technostalgia effects (due to this being a central
theoretical argument of this paper), it appeared
further necessary to somehow operationalize
“embodied familiarity vs. non-familiarity”
with the media, as theorized above in section
three. This notion led the authors to the idea of
conducting a social experiment that confronted
music listeners of heterogeneous birth cohorts
with either existing or non-existing combinations
of the sound and sensorial appeal of the Vinyl and
the CD.
Social experiments (Greenberg & Shroder, 2004)
differ from the classic approach of experimental
psychology in that they do not intend to recreate
social reality by trying to represent the most
defining proximal factors for an outcome in
the lab and varying them in ecologically valid
ways while controlling for all others. Instead a
social experiment is a kind of “practical thought
experiment” often conducted in the field or a
field-like situation that aims at working out the
interplay of hypothesized socio-psychological
mechanisms on the outcome under study by
intentionally disrupting the circumstances of
the field in ways that could never happen in
“real life”. This is done in order to understand
the defining causal mechanisms of a real-life
situation by researching subjects’ reactions to this
de-familiarization (see Danermark, Ekström &
Jakobsen, 2001).
The rationale to do so in the present case was that
the technostalgia mechanism was hypothesized
(see hypothesis 3) to base on socialized embodied
familiarity with “feel and sound” of a specific
tangible medium (such as the Vinyl playing from
a record player), while aura attribution was by
theory deemed to draw on the symbolic value
of single medium aspects regardless of personal
familiarity with the specific setup encountered.
Hence, symbolic aura attributions could also
be expected in situations, when users were
confronted with an unfamiliar, “weird-sounding”
or “weird-feeling” medium combination (e.g. a
CD sounding like a vinyl record, or putting on
a vinyl record and receiving CD sound, while
technostalgia was expected to emerge only in
situations marked by a congruence of sensory
appeal and sound in terms of confronting a long-
familiar medium.
Sample Recruitment and Group
To recruit a most heterogeneous listener
population for the planned social experiment,
an online survey on music listening in digital
everyday life” was initially advertised by snowball
emails and on social network sites addressing
music listeners from the larger area of Berlin,
Germany. The questionnaire included socio-
demographics (gender, birth year) and 43 Likert
items on personal music listening strategies slightly
adapted from Schramm (2005). Participants could
rate on a 7-point-scale (“not applicable” to “very
much applicable”) to what degree they felt that
the given statements (e.g. “I like to do something
else while listening music” / “I tend to focus on
melody, rhythm and harmonics”) were coherent
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to their personal behaviour. After obtaining
the data of n=250 participants, a principal axis
factoring (employing oblimin rotation with
Kaiser normalization) was conducted across all
listening strategy items. The Kaiser-criterion
delivered a solution that produced eight listening
strategy factors with the first four explaining
most of the item variance. After calculating factor
scores for each respondent, the n=76 participants
that had given their email address and stated that
they were ready to take part in a later laboratory
experiment were then gradually invited to do so,
the option to win a free music voucher was used
as an incentive to take part. The stepwise subject
selection strategy employed aimed at gaining
participants with high scores on a single factor
(z-score larger than 0.5) and low scores (smaller
than 0.5) on the other and likewise at trying to
balance the number of “adherents” of at least
the first four factors that had explained most
variance in questionnaire items. By adopting this
strategy, it turned out possible to gain 31 subjects
aged from 16 to 70 years with well-mixed music
listening strategies and practices to take part in
the experiment. Already before arriving at the lab,
they had been assigned to one of the later four
experimental treatments groups in such a way that
the number of “adherents of each of first four
factors was approximately the same in each group.
The rationale for this pre-test procedure was the
authors experience with prior experiments, that
randomization of treatment groups in terms of
creating groups of similar heterogeneity in music
listening practices often fails when working with
smaller sample sizes such as in the present case.
Since music listening practices seemed strongly
related to the variables under study, we decided
to perform these extra means in order to prevent
artefacts resulting from possibly insufficient
Experimental Setup
The experiment took place in a living room
scenario with a sofa, dim lighting and a hi-fi
stereo constructed in a research laboratory. The
hi-fi stereo contained a CD player (MARANTZ
CD-53 MK II) and a turntable (SONY PS-
LX231) and its amplifier’s (PIONEER A-221)
output was connected via a long stereo cable to
a pair of hi-fi stereo headphones (AKG K141
Monitor 600 ohms) that was placed at the sofa
some approximately two meters away from the
table on which the hi-fi stereo was located.
During the later listening phase of the experiment,
the investigator was staying in an adjacent
observation room from where he could observe
the participants’ actions at the hi-fi stereo. In
this room, another hi-fi stereo had been placed,
which also contained a CD player and a turntable
(TECHNICS SL-1210 MK2). Its amplifiers
(PIONEER A-221) output was connected via
passive DI boxes and a pair of long shielded cables
to the amplifier input of the hi-fi stereo in the
lab, thereby leading to the participants effectively
listening via their headphones to the music played
on the hi-fi stereo in the observation room and
not to the audio sources they were thinking to
operate (see figure 1). In order to conceal this
fact, the laboratory hi-fi stereo had been discretely
manipulated with black duct tape in such a way,
that neither the chosen input channel, nor the
cable connections on its backside were clearly
visible for participants, also the cables connecting
both rooms were well-hidden. Furthermore, since
participants had to move between the table with
the hi-fi stereo and the sofa in order to put on the
headphones after turning on a record, they were at
no time able to aurally perceive the moment when
the needle touched the record and a characteristic
peak signal would occur in the playback. Finally,
in order to prevent possible between-subjects
effects due to larger loudness differences, a level
equalization between both sound sources (CD vs.
Vinyl) was realized by additionally using a pre-
the turntable in the observation room.
Experimental Procedure and
When entering the laboratory, subjects were
welcomed by the investigator and then filled out
a computer questionnaire concerning their birth
year, gender and musical expertise. The latter was
operationalized with six binary items (having had
specialized music education in and apart from
school, having an audio engineering background,
having studied an instrument at university or
conservatorium, having played an instrument
regularly). Furthermore, they were questioned on
the intensity of their habitual CD use and Vinyl use
in the last twelve months, employing an ordinal
5-point scale (never, yearly, monthly, weekly,
daily). Afterwards, they were told the cover story
for the experiment: The study was allegedly
occupied with testing the importance of album
covers for aesthetic and emotional impressions
of music in the digital age. Depending on their
treatment group, they were either given the Vinyl
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or CD version of the album “Days of Abadon”
(2014, Fierce Panda Records/Yebo Music)
produced by the US indie rock band “The Pains
of Being Pure at Heart” and told to play the first
two titles “Smock” (2:16) and “Simple and Sure”
(3:28). They were also told to study the album
cover, to enjoy the music on the sofa and to
afterwards give their rating on their felt emotions
during listening to the second track and their
aesthetic impressions of the album cover into
another questionnaire on a computer situated at
the sofa. After this instruction, the experimenter
left the room.
Without participants’ knowledge, the investigator
manipulated the sound emanating from the
headphones for half of the subjects towards a
medium not actually operated by the participant.
This was done by watching participants turning
on the respective medium through the half-
open door and at the same time initiating their
true sound treatment by help of the hi-fi stereo
in the observation room. This effectively resulted
in a balanced 2x2 between-subjects design with
sensorial appeal (Vinyl/CD) and sound (Vinyl/
CD) as the independent variables.
After listening to the second track, participants
started to fill out a questionnaire with items
on their personally felt emotions and also
commented on their impressions of the album
cover, while the investigator entered the room and
quickly dimmed the music. Apart from several
items related to the cover story, the questionnaire
contained an 11-point scale for rating the degree
of felt arousal (“calming” to “arousing”), as well as
three 5-point (“not at all” to “very much”) Likert
items (“nostalgic”, “sentimental” and “romantic”)
taken from a German translation (Lykartsis,
Pysiewicz, von Coler & Lepa, 2013) of the Geneva
Emotional Music Scale (Zentner, Grandjean &
Scherer, 2008) that together operationalized the
degree of felt nostalgia.
After finishing the questionnaire, participants
were debriefed. As part of that, they were asked
whether they had known the album before and
if they were somehow suspicions regarding the
further aims of the experiments they had not
been told about. After collecting their answers,
they were fully informed about the experimental
manipulation, bid farewell and then left the
laboratory. The whole experimental procedure
lasted about 30 minutes for each participant.
Statistical Analyses
Initially, the scale variables for expertise
(sum-index) and nostalgia (mean-index)
were calculated. Then descriptive statistics
and bivariate correlations were calculated
for all control variables and the dependents.
Afterwards, it was checked whether the non-
random grouping strategy had been successful
by testing with a MANOVA for differences in
group means of listener strategy factors as well as
Fig. 1: Experimental setup
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birth year, expertise, CD use and Vinyl use across
experimental treatments.
In order to test for the actual hypotheses,
descriptive results for arithmetic means of the
dependent variables in all treatment groups were
inspected first. Then a General Linear Model
(GLM) with the treatment factors sensorial appeal
and sound and the covariates birth year, gender and
expertise was estimated for the dependents arousal
and nostalgia. Apart from the main effects, also all
2-way-interactions for the three variables included
in the hypotheses (sensorial appeal, sound, birth
year) were tested, while gender and expertise
served as controls in the model to accommodate
for a possible remaining degree of unobserved
heterogeneity within the constructed treatment
groups. The birth year variable had been mean-
centered (M~1976) before estimating the model
in order to prevent possible bias due to multi-
collinearity when testing interactions. Finally,
to accommodate for the relatively small sample
size, standard errors for the model estimates were
calculated employing a bootstrapping algorithm
with 1000 random draws.
Sample Structure
The experimental sample consisted of 31 subjects
aged from 16 to 70 years (M=39.16, SD=14.8)
at the time of the experiment. So, people were
born between 1945 and 1999 with approximately
same shares stemming from the baby-boomer
generation (1945-1962; n=9), the generation
X (1969-1981; n=10) and the Digital Natives
(1982-1999; n=13). 48% of the participants were
female and most of the subjects had a medium to
low musical expertise (M=3.19, SD=3.7, MIN=0,
MAX=16). Treatment groups were approximately
equal-sized (see table 1). The sample members
exhibited a clearly more intensive CD use
(never=19%, yearly=19%, monthly=26%,
weekly=19%, daily=16%) than Vinyl use
(never=51%, yearly=16%, monthly=23%,
weekly=7%, daily=3%). Nevertheless, there
were no significant correlations between these
intensities and birth year (Spearmans ρ > 0.05).
Finally, there were no significant bivariate
correlations between the control variables gender,
birth year and expertise.
Arousal CD CD 6.25 2.605 8
Vinyl 7.71 1.890 7
Total 6.93 2.344 15
Vinyl CD 8.29 2.138 7
Vinyl 9.22 1.563 9
Total 8.81 1.834 16
Total CD 7.20 2.541 15
Vinyl 8.56 1.825 16
Total 7.90 2.271 31
Nostalgia CD CD 2.75 0.886 8
Vinyl 1.67 0.471 7
Total 2.24 0.895 15
Vinyl CD 1.67 0.638 7
Vinyl 2.04 0.824 9
Total 1.88 0.749 16
Total CD 2.24 0.938 15
Vinyl 1.88 0.698 16
Total 2.05 0.830 31
Tab. 1: Sample structure and group means of dependents
m&z 4/2016
Grouping Results and Treatment
In order to check whether the non-random
grouping strategy in terms of balancing music
listener types across treatments had been
successful, a multivariate MANOVA was
conducted taking the treatment variables as
predictor and the eight PCA factor variables
for listening strategies as dependents. While
the preconditions for this procedure in terms of
variance homogeneity across groups were fulfilled
according to performed Levene tests (all p > 0.1),
the estimates for multivariate effects from both
treatment variables as well as their interaction
turned out to be all non-significant (all Pillai
Traces p > 0.05). The same procedure was realized
for the variables birth year, expertise, CD use and
Vinyl use, also resulting in only non-significant
Finally, in terms of the treatment check performed
during debriefing after the experiment, it turned
out that neither of the 31 participants had known
the album before. Also, neither had noticed the
actual experimental treatment in terms of the
realized decoupling of sensory appeal and sound,
thereby demonstrating that the cover story and
the experimental manipulation had worked well.
Nevertheless, some subjects told the experimenter
that they had experienced something weird” in
the experience as a whole, without being able to
give specifics.
Descriptive Statistics for Dependent
In the overall sample, the manifest dependent
arousal (M=7.90, SD=2.3, MIN=3, MAX=11)
turned out to adhere to a normal distribution (KS
Test result p > 0.1). The same result was obtained
for the mean-index constructed nostalgia scale
variable (M=2.05, SD=0.8, MIN=1, MAX=4.33)
with KS Test result of p>0.1 and Cronbach’s
α=0.75. There were no significant bivariate
correlations between the dependents. Table 1
shows descriptive results regarding the three
dependents for the four treatment groups.
Results of Multivariate Hypothesis
The necessary prerequisites for a MANOVA analysis
were fulfilled with Box’s M=10.28, F=0.0986,
df1=9, df2=6863.933, p=0.45, and Levene Tests for
both dependents resulting in p>0.1.
Intercept Arousal 89.843 <.0001 0.803
Nostalgia 38.546 <0.001 0.637
SENSORY APPEAL Arousal 4.653 0.042 0.175
Nostalgia 3.020 0.096 0.121
SOUND Arousal 4.430 0.047 0.168
Nostalgia 2.044 0.167 0.085
birth year Arousal 1.365 0.255 0.058
Nostalgia 0.295 0.593 0.013
gender Arousal 1.603 0.219 0.068
Nostalgia 0.162 0.691 0.007
expertise Arousal 0.354 0.558 0.016
Nostalgia 1.264 0.273 0.054
SENSORY APPEAL x SOUND Arousal 0.002 0.961 0.000
Nostalgia 9.240 0.006 0.296
SENSORY APPEAL x birth year Arousal 5.662 0.026 0.205
Nostalgia 1.647 0.213 0.070
SOUND x birth year Arousal 0.864 0.363 0.038
Nostalgia 1.881 0.184 0.079
Tab. 2: Results of GLM univariate hypothesis tests (p<0.05 significant effects in bold)
m&z 4/2016
Even if multivariate testing had turned out to
be unnecessary due to the dependents not being
correlated, it was still performed to check for
overarching effects: There was a multivariate main
effect of sensory appeal with Pillai’s Trace=0.25,
F=3.54, df1=2, df2=21, p=0.047, η²=0.25,
while the multivariate main effect of sound was
estimated as Pillai’s Trace=0.22, F=2.99, df1=2,
df2=21, p=0.072, η²=0.22. No multivariate
main effect was found for birth year (Pillai’s
Trace=0.07, F=0.77, df1=2, df2=21, p=0.475,
η²=0.07), gender (Pillai’s Trace=0.08, F=86,
df1=2, df2=21, p=0.437, η²=0.08), or expertise
(Pillai’s Trace=0.07, F=0.80, df1=2, df2=21,
p=0.46, η²=0.07). Significant multivariate 2-way-
interaction effects were only found for sensory
appeal x sound (Pillai’s Trace=0.30, F=4.42, df1=2,
df2=21, p=0.025, η²=0.30), while the interactions
of sensory appeal x birth year (Pillai’s Trace=0.24,
F=3.39, df1=2, df2=21, p=0.053, η²=0.24) and
sound x birth year interaction turned out to be
non-significant (Pillai’s Trace=0.11, F=1.36,
df1=2, df2=21, p=0.279, η²=0.11).
Inspection of univariate between-subject-effects
(see table 2) delivered significant main effects
only for sensory appeal on arousal (F=4.653, df=1,
p=0.042, η²=0.18) and sound on arousal (F=4.430,
df=1, p=0.047, η²=0.17). For both variables,
the experimental treatment “Vinyl” produced
substantially higher arousal values (see figure 2).
Finally, none of the control variables exhibited
significant main effects on the dependents.
Significant univariate interaction effects were
obtained for sensory appeal x sound on nostalgia
(F=9.240, df=1, p=0.006, η²=0.30, as well as for
sensory appeal x birth year on arousal (F=5.662,
df=1, p=0.026, η²=0.21). Inspection of estimated
parameters and group means shows (see figure 3),
that the sensory appeal x sound interaction may
be explained by significantly increased nostalgia
when sensory appeal and sound treatment both
were “CD”. The same tendency was observed
for “Vinyl(see figure 3) but was lower in effect
size. The observed sensory appeal x birth year
interaction, on the other hand, is explainable by
increased arousal when the sensory appeal treatment
was “CD” and participants were stemming from
later birth years (b=0.122, p=0.026).
Altogether, the GLM was able to explain R²=54%
in arousal variance and R²=46% in nostalgia
Estimated Marginal Means of Arousal
Estimated Marginal Means
Covariates appearing in the model are evaluated at the following values:
birth jear (mean-centered)= -,001290, gender=, 48, expertise=3,193548
CD Vinyl
Fig. 2: Estimated marginal group means for arousal
m&z 4/2016
Basic Results
The present study performed empirical inquiry
on four psycho-social mechanisms deemed
likewise responsible for the observable new Vinyl
enthusiasm in Western late-modern countries.
This was done by conducting a social experiment
that confronted a heterogeneous group of music
listeners from differing birth cohorts with the
task to employ one of four different audio media
setups for music listening: Two of them were the
CD and the Vinyl and their respective playback
apparatuses, while the other two represented
artificial combinations of sound and sensory
appeal from either of the original prototypical
media forms. This kind of setting allowed us to
test specific hypothesis related to influences of
materiality, media socialization and symbolic
attribution processes on aesthetic experiences in
everyday music listening. The methodological
innovative pathway was taken because we aimed
at independently demonstrating the working of
implicit embodied familiarity and symbolic
attribution effects, which would not have
been possible in a survey study or traditional
experimental approach.
Methodologically, the sampling and grouping
strategy employed to produce maximal
homogenous subsamples for each treatment
condition, as well as the cover story for
the social experiment appear to have been
successful. Additionally, the gained sample
seems representative for typical music listeners
in Germany at the present time (Lepa et al.,
2014; Lepa & Hoklas, 2015): While the CD
forms part of the habitual audio repertoire of
most participants, the Vinyl is rather seldom
used, nevertheless use intensity of both is not
directly dependent on birth year. Furthermore,
the treatment manipulation turned out to be
successful as well, in that it produced significant
effects on both measured dependents, nostalgia
and emotional arousal.
Results on Sound and Sensory
The present results of the GLM clearly confirm
Hypothesis 1 and 2. The found independent
main effects for sound and sensory appeal on
emotional arousal demonstrate that either part
of the Vinyl listening arrangement appears to
have aesthetic advantages compared to the CD
for nowadays’ listeners: Emotional arousal was
Estimated Marginal Means of Nostalgia
Estimated Marginal Means
Covariates appearing in the model are evaluated at the following values:
birth jear (mean-centered)= -,001290, gender=, 48, expertise=3,193548
CD Vinyl
Fig. 3: Estimated marginal group means for nostalgia
m&z 4/2016
always increased when either manually using the
Vinyl and or listening to it. Taken the present
findings, the viewpoint of sound studies and
empirical aesthetics that the vinyl stimulus is
unusually “rich” in terms of physical complexity
as well as symbolic referentiality and therefore
able to evoke strong emotional excitement in
nowadays music listeners appears to be more
valid than “technological positivist” views from
technical acoustics that would have predicted
aesthetic benefits for the CD due to its superior
audio quality.
Results on Technostalgia
Hypothesis 3 on the mechanism of technostalgia
could also be successfully confirmed by the
present GLM results: Only ecologically valid
media settings appear to be able to evoke a feeling
of embodied familiarity that had theoretically
deemed necessary as a precursor of nostalgic
feelings when using an obsolete but formerly
familiar medium. This is demonstrated by fact that
in the present social experiment, nostalgic effects
were found for the interaction effect of sensory
appeal and sound only. Furthermore, effects were
also only found when “really existing” media were
encountered by the participants. Additionally,
this effect was larger for the CD medium than for
the Vinyl. This might result from the fact that,
according to the descriptive results concerning
the age structure of the sample, only a minority
of the participants might have grown up with the
vinyl, while a larger portion might in fact also feel
technostalgia for the CD.
Results on Generational Aura
The present results of the GLM finally also partly
confirm Hypothesis 4. The found interaction of
sensory appeal and birth year demonstrates that
aura attribution takes increasingly place when
people are using a medium that is not part of
their everyday audio repertoire which is visible
in the comparatively increased arousal when a
CD was manually used by younger participants
of the sample, a medium that is as obsolete for
them as the Vinyl, as the descriptive results of
the questionnaire had shown. However, and
unexpectedly, the interaction effect pertained to
sensory appeal only, implying that “vinyl sound
on a CD” is maybe something so common in
nowadays music productions that it isn’t able
to produce special generation-related aura
attributions any more.
Overall discussion
Taken together, the conclusion of the theoretical
and empirical works in this paper is that the
currently observable revival of the Vinyl is
probably due to very different psycho-social
mechanisms working at the same time, with part
of them being grounded in symbolic and part
of them being grounded in material aspects of
the medium: First of all, for nowadays music
listeners, the distinctive sound as well as the
sensory appeal of the Vinyl appear to be both
aesthetically more exciting compared to digital
media. This is seemingly due to the increased
intrinsic complexity and richness of the
medium, related symbolic associations and, last-
but-not-least, the relative unfamiliarity of most
listeners with record players in their everyday
audio repertoires. When listening to music,
this makes the sound as well as the handling of
the Vinyl emotionally more exciting than e. g.
using a CD and obviously also lends to it certain
special auratic qualities, especially for people
not using the medium as part of their everyday
audio repertoire. Conversely, for people who
grew up the Vinyl (regardless if they employ
it in their nowadays repertoire or not), the
mechanism of technostalgia, rooted in long-term
embodied familiarity with a material medium,
may explain another portion of nowadays “vinyl
retromania”, but this mechanism obviously does
not intensify musical emotions per se. Instead it
adds a bitter-sweet feeling of longing for a “lost
home”, in other words: a feeling of nostalgia to
the listening act.
In this sense, since the present text is part
of a special issue on media, communication
and nostalgia, we feel it important to stress
that the obtained empirical results confirm
our theoretical claim put forward in the
theoretical part of this paper that technostalgia
and generational aura attribution are two very
different socio-psychological phenomena that
should not be mixed up like it is sometimes
done by authors from cultural studies like Marks
(2002), Schrey (2014) and Reynolds (2016). In
short (and in line with the arguments of Bolin,
2015): While technostalgia is a bitter-sweet
feeling of embodied resonance when using a
familiar, but increasingly “obsolete” material
medium, symbolic aura attribution conversely
increases listener’s emotional arousal when
being exposed to media stimuli that are rather
rare and uncommon in their everyday media
environments, especially for agents that have
m&z 4/2016
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Berlin, Germany. After studying musicology at the music conservatories of Atheneum and
Razi in Greece, he moved to Germany and obtained a B.A. in “Culture and Technology”
as well as an M.Sc. in “Audio Communication and Technology” at the TU Berlin. He is
member of the “Association for Friends and Supporters of Audio Communication” since
2013. His research interests lie in the fields of media perception and communication,
psychoacoustics, sociology of music listening, qualitative research, as well as applied
music and sound design.
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Steffen LEPA
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Additionally, he holds teaching appointments for digital media change, social research
methodology and applied sound design at different German universities. After successfully
finishing his M.A. studies in media, psychology, computer science and communication at
TU/HBK Braunschweig and HMTH Hannover, he received his PhD in 2009 from the Faculty
of Educational and Social Sciences at Oldenburg University. His current key research areas
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m&z 4/2016
medien zeit
Media, Communication and Nostalgia
Finding a better tomorrow in the yesterday?
Manuel Menke & Christian Schwarzenegger 2
What Do We Talk About When We Talk About
Media and Nostalgia?
Ekaterina Kalinina 6
Not Every Vinyl Retromaniac is a Nostalgic
A social experiment on the pleasures of record
listening in the digital age
Steffen Lepa & Vlasis Tritakis 16
Hills, Old People, and Sheep
Reflections of Holmfirth as the Summer Wine town
Lynne Hibberd & Zoë Tew-Thompson 31
Why? Because It’s Classic!“
Negotiated knowledge and group identity in the
retrogaming-community “Project 1999”
Jakob Hörtnagl 40
Articulating future pasts through selfies
and GoPro-ing
Ezequiel Korin 50
Experienced Mood and Commodified Mode
Forms of nostalgia in the television commercials of
Mario Keller 61
Activating Nostalgia
Cinemagoers’ performances in Brazilian movie theatres
reopening and protection cases
Tal it ha Fe rra z 72
Postcolonial Posts on Colonial Pasts
Constructing Hong Kong nostalgia on social media
Gabriele de Seta & Francesca Olivotti 83
Nostalgia Commodified
Towards the marketization of the post-communist
past through the new media
Marek Jeziński & Łukasz Wojtkowski 96
Reviews 105
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Dr. Corinna Lüthje, Rostock
Prof. Dr. Rudolf Stöber, Bamberg
Prof. Dr. Martina iele, Salzburg
Dr. Gaby Falböck, Obfrau
Prof. Dr. Fritz Hausjell, Obfrau-Stv.
Dr. Christian Schwarzenegger, Obfrau-Stv.
Mag. Christina Krakovsky, Geschäftsführerin
Mag. Diotima Bertel, Geschäftsführerin-Stv.
Dr. Norbert P. Feldinger, Kassier
Kim Karen Gößling, Bakk., Kassier-Stv.
Julia Himmelsbach, Bakk., Schriftführerin
Barbara Metzler, Bakk. BA BA, Schriftführerin-Stv.
Dr. Thomas Ballhausen
Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Duchkowitsch
Barbara Fischer, Bakk.
Ing. MMag. Dr. Johann Gottfried Heinrich, BA
Mag. Bernd Semrad
Mag. Roland Steiner
ISSN 0259-7446
... The appeal of vinyl has been partly explained by the format's human qualities, as perceived when contrasted with its more polished digital counterpart (Chivers Yochim and Biddinger 2008). Notable features include its warm sound compared to digital music's "cold sterility" (Katz 2015, 276), its fragility (Chivers Yochim and Biddinger 2008) and the "richness" of the medium (Lepa and Tritakis 2016). While streaming enables consumers to listen to and skip tracks at the click of a button (Datta, Knox, and Bronnenberg 2018), preparing the turntable, carefully removing the record from its sleeve, and contemplating the album artwork are some of the unique interactions consumers have with vinyl (Hayes 2006;Nokelainen and Dedehayir 2015;Bartmanski and Woodward 2015). ...
... While the appeal of vinyl records in the digital age has been partly explained by the physical dimensions of the medium (Hayes 2006;Chivers Yochim and Biddinger 2008;Bartmanski and Woodward 2015;Katz 2015;Lepa and Tritakis 2016;Fernandez and Beverland 2019), the wider consumption and purchase rituals associated with vinyl appear to have been largely underexplored. Unveiling consumers' nostalgia for lost practices associated with the purchase of and commitment to vinyl records, this research contributes to the "multi-layered" story of vinyl (Bartmanski and Woodward 2018) by painting a more nuanced picture of why practices associated with the medium are deemed superior to those associated with streaming. ...
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In the age of music streaming, the physicality of vinyl has never been so appealing. While studies have focused on the medium itself and the record store as a static site of consumption, this article explores lost vinyl consumption practices that traverse time and space via consumers’ nostalgic recollections. In-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 active consumers of vinyl who are members of the UK indie pop music scene using their chosen album artwork as props to stimulate discussion. The findings from the thematic data analysis reveal a trajectory of practices centered on the purchase of records and the effort of acquiring and appreciating vinyl over time. This article contributes new insights into materiality and consumption by foregrounding the role of nostalgia and temporality in shaping consumers’ long-term relationship with legacy technological objects and determining how consumption practices are re-contextualized in times of personal and cultural discontinuities.
... Previous research has explored the impact of music format, specifically vinyl or CD, on emotional arousal and nostalgia (Lepa and Tritakis, 2016). Participants were asked to listen to a song and provided with the information that it would play from either a CD or a vinyl record. ...
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While vinyl, compact discs, and even eight-track tapes were traditionally promoted to consumers as producing superior sound, the introduction of compressed digital music, such as mp3s, was markedly different. Initially, one of the primary selling features of digital music was convenience and portability rather than sound quality. Recently, vinyl music sales have experienced a substantial resurgence. Waveforms from vinyl represent recorded music more accurately than compressed digital formats and have the potential to produce better sound. Even so, most music listeners do not reliably listen to music on audiophile quality high-end equipment. For this reason, we believe one aspect of vinyl sales is the expectation that vinyl quality is superior. In this study, we sought to isolate the contribution of expectation to perceived sound quality. Participants were asked to listen to a selection of music on either vinyl or mp3. Some participants were told that they were listening to vinyl when the musical selection was an mp3, while others were told they were listening to an mp3 while actually listening to vinyl. A multivariate analysis through a Canonical Correlation Analysis established that expectation of music format quality drove post-listening evaluations.
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The ongoing shift in media studies from an occupation with audio media and sound to an occupation with auditive culture implies new theoretical and methodological perspectives which focus on the complex relationships between people and media technologies. The paper shows how the praxelogical sociology of knowledge in the tradition of Karl Mannheim may be fruitfully applied to the empirical investigation of audio-cultural practices. Therefore, the concept of conjunctive transactional spaces that systematically accounts for materiality is theoretically introduced and then applied in an exemplary analysis of qualitative interviews. Exemplified by the record player and its use by contrasting members of different generations, we reconstruct how music media orientations are formed in the reciprocal interaction of the material affordances of audio media with the social practices of their users. As it turns out, these orientations also structure later encounters with new or ›reawakened‹ technologies, even if having been ›attuned‹ in earlier socio-historic contexts
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Based on a brief analysis of a scene from the contemporary TV series Californication, Dominik Schrey discusses ‘analogue nostalgia’, or the longing for what is assumed to be lost in the ongoing process of digitisation, which in turn accounts for the widespread romanticising and fetishising of analogue media by the contemporary media culture. Specifically, Schrey examines why aspects once considered a disadvantage of or problem with analogue media are now enthusiastically celebrated. He draws upon Jonathan Sterne's questioning of the ‘metaphysics of recording’ and the ‘double logic of remediation’ as put forward by J. D. Bolter and Richard Grusin to uncover the causes of this retrospective revaluation of analogue media's drawbacks and various noises.
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One component in the generational experience strongly related to media is the intimate and often passionate relation that is developed towards media technologies and content from one’s formative youth period: musical genres and stars, as well as reproduction technologies such as the vinyl record, music cassette tapes, comics and other now dead media forms. Passion, however, is a dialectic concept that not only refers to the joyful desire and intense emotional engagement of cherished objects but also includes its dialectic opposite in the form of pain and suffering. This passion, it is argued in the article, is activated by the nostalgic relationships to past media experiences, the bittersweet remembrances of media habits connected to earlier life phases of one’s own. Taking its point of departure in generational theory of Mannheim and others, this article analyses a series of focus group interviews with Swedish and Estonian media users tentatively belonging to four different generations. Based on the analysis of these interviews, it is suggested that passion and nostalgia are produced, first, in relation to old technologies, second, in relation to childhood memories and, third, at the limits of shared intergenerational experience, that is, at the moment when one realises that one’s own experiences of past media forms cannot be shared by younger generations, and especially one’s own children.
This book traces the evolution of the recording format from its roots in the first sound recording experiments, to its survival in the world of digital technologies. Each chapter explores a different element: the groove, the disc shape, the label, vinyl itself, the album, the single, the b-side and the 12" single, the sleeve. By anatomising the object in this manner, the author brings a fresh perspective to each of his themes.
A group of 18 high school and 40 college students with different expertise in sound evaluation participated in two separate controlled listening tests that measured their preference choices between music reproduced in 1) MP3 (128 kbp/s) and lossless CD-quality file formats, and 2) music reproduced through four different consumer loudspeakers. As a group, the students preferred the CD-quality reproduction in 70% of the trials, and preferred music reproduced through the most accurate, neutral loudspeaker. Critical listening experience was a significant factor in the listeners' performance and preferences. Together, these tests provide new evidence that both teenagers and college students can discern and appreciate a better quality of reproduced sound when given the opportunity to directly compare it to lower quality options.
Within the last 100 years, everyday music listening has undergone several changes in terms of the material audio technologies employed. From the gramophone to nowadays streaming multimedia gadgets, a lot of media devices and services have emerged and disappeared. Nevertheless, many older appliances still populate our media environments today and are also still used. This questions the idea of newer technologies simply substituting the older ones. But how and why do people combine different technologies dating from different epochs in different social contexts of their everyday life? And is there really a major ‘turnover’ in music listening as it is sometimes implied by research on single new digital audio technologies? In order to get some ‘ground truth’ concerning the complex patterns of current everyday audio technology use, we employed the media repertoire approach: Representative survey data from 2000 German participants on various types of media technologies employed in 2012 for habitual music listening was gathered and then typologized by latent class analysis resulting in six distinct dominant audio usage patterns. By comparing class profiles in terms of its members’ birth cohorts, two historic major turnovers in audio media use were identified, one seemingly taking place already within the 1980s, and another one evolving right now. Complementary biographic-episodic interviews with selected repertoire class members helped to better understand the biographical genesis of the underlying practice types. In a nutshell, our results deliver an empirical ‘background image’ for social research dealing with the uses of specific audio media in the everyday.
Recent discussions of music listening practices have given priority to the digitalisation of sound and the role of digital music players in changing the form, medium and possibly even the content of listening. While such an emphasis is warranted given the rapid uptake of digital music consumption, it is also the case that vinyl records are currently the fastest growing area of music sales. Moreover, within particular music listening circles, the vinyl record is approached as an auratic object. In this paper, we explore the vinyl’s persistence on the market and its rekindled cultural prominence. Using the frameworks of cultural sociology, combined with insights from material culture studies and cultural approaches to consumption within business studies and sociology, we explore the reasons why vinyl records have once again become highly valued objects of cultural consumption. Resisting explanations which focus solely on matters of nostalgia or fetish, we look to the concepts of iconicity, ritual, aura and the sensibility of coolness to explain the paradoxical resurgence of vinyl at the time of the digital revolution.