Tracking Gendered Streams
Keywords:Gender, music, algorithms, streaming, digital methods
One of the most prominent features of digital music services is the provision of personalized music recommendations that come about through the profiling of users and audiences. Based on a range of “bot experiments,” this article investigates if, and how, gendered patterns in music recommendations are provided by the streaming service Spotify. While our experiments did not give any strong indications that Spotify assigns different taste profiles to male and female users, the study showed that male artists were highly overrepresented in Spotify’s music recommendations; an issue which we argue prompts users to cite hegemonic masculine norms within the music industries. Although the results should be approached as historically and contextually contingent, we argue that they point to how gender and gendered tastes may be constituted through the interplay between users and algorithmic knowledge-making processes, and how digital content delivery may maintain and challenge gender relations and gendered power differentials within the music industries. Seen through the lens of critical research on software, music and gender performativity, the experiments thus provide insights into how gender is shaped and attributed meaning as it materializes in contemporary music streams.
Amoore, Louise & Piotukh Volha (eds.) (2016): Algorithmic Life: Calculative Devices in the Age of Big Data, London and New York: Routledge.
Baker, Paul & Amanda Potts (2013): “‘Why do white people have thin lips?’ Google and the perpetuation of stereotypes via auto-complete search forms”, Critical Discourse Studies, 10:2, 187–204. https://doi.org/10.1080/17405904.2012.744320
Bannister, Matthew (2006): White boys, white noise: masculinities and 1980s indie guitar rock, London: Ashgate.
Bayton, Mavis (2013): “Women and the electric guitar,” Sheila Whiteley (ed.): Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, New York: Routledge.
Beer, David (2013): Popular Culture and New Media: The Politics of Circulation, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137270061
Berggren, Kalle (2013): “Degrees of Intersectionality: Male Rap Artists in Sweden Negotiating Class, Race and Gender,” Culture Unbound, 5, 189–211. https://doi.org/10.3384/cu.2000.1525.135189
Berry, David M. (2011): The Philosophy of Software: Code and Mediation in the Digital Age, London and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230306479
Bivens, Rena (2015): “The gender binary will not be deprogrammed: Ten years of coding gender on Facebook,” New Media & Society. Published online ahead of print: http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1461444815621527 (accessed 10/04/2017).
Bivens, Rena & Oliver L Haimson (2016): “Baking Gender into Social Media Design: How Platforms Shape Categories for Users and Advertisers,” Social Media + Society, 2:4, 1–12.
Boshmaf, Yazan, Ildar Muslukhov, Konstantin Beznosov, & Matei Ripeanu (2011): “The Socialbot Network: When Bots Socialize for Fame and Money,” ACSAC, Dec 5–9: http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?id=2076746 (accessed 10/04/2017).
Butler, Judith (1990): Gender trouble: feminism and the subversion of identity, New York: Routledge.
Butler, Judith (2004): Undoing Gender. New York: Routledge.
Butler, Judith (2010): “Performative Agency,” Journal of Cultural Economy, 3:2, 147-161. https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2010.494117
Cheney-Lippold, John (2011): “A New Algorithmic Identity: Soft Biopolitics and the Modulation of Control,” Theory, Culture & Society, 28:6, 164–181. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276411424420
Cheney-Lippold, John (2017): We are Data: Algorithms and the Making of our Digital Selves, Ne York: NYU Press.
Choi, Grace Y (2016): “‘Who Run the Music? Girls!’ Examining the Construction of Female Digital Musicians’ Online Presence,” Popular Music and Society, 1–14, https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2016.1174419
Cohen, Sara (2013): “Men making a scene: rock music and the production of gender,” Whiteley, Sheila (ed.): Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender. New York: Routledge.
Dixon-Roman, Ezekiel (2016): “Algo-Ritmo: More-Than-Human Performative Acts and the Racializing Assemblages of Algorithmic Architectures,” Cultural Studies Critical Methodologies, 16:5, 482–490. https://doi.org/10.1177/1532708616655769
Drew, Rob (2005): “Mixed Blessings: The Commercial Mix and the Future of Music Aggregation,” Popular Music and Society, 28:4, 533–51. https://doi.org/10.1080/03007760500159088
Eriksson, Maria & Anna Johansson (forthcoming): “‘Keep Smiling!’: Time, Functionality and Intimacy in Spotify’s Featured Playlists,” forthcoming in Cultural Analysis, Special Issue on The Inheritance of the Digital: Ethnographic Approaches to Everyday Realities In, Of, And Through Digital Technologies.
Featherstone, Mike (2006): “Archive,” Theory, Culture & Society, 23:2–3, 591–96. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276406023002106
Frith, Simon & Angela McRobbie (1991): “Rock and sexuality,” Frith, Simon & Andrew Goodwin (eds.): On Record: Rock, pop and the written word. London/New York: Routledge, 371-389.
Fuller, Matthew (2003): Behind the blip. Essays on the culture of software, Brooklyn, NY: Autonomedia.
Gadir, Tami (2016): “Resistance or Reiteration? Rethinking Gender in DJ Cultures,” Contemporary Music Review, 35:1, 115–129. https://doi.org/10.1080/07494467.2016.1176767
Galuszka, Patryk (2015): “Music Aggregators and Intermediation of the Digital Music Market,” International Journal of Communication, 9, 254–73.
Gavanas, Anna & Rosa Reitsamer (2013): “DJ technologies, social networks and gendered trajectories in European DJ cultures”, Attias, Bernardo, Anna Gavanas & Hillegonda C Rietweld (eds.): DJ culture in the mix: Power, technology, and social change in electronic dance music, New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 51-77.
Gillespie Tarleton (2014) “The Relevance of Algorithms”, Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo J. Boczkowski & Kirsten A. Foot (eds.) Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality, and Society, Cambridge & London: MIT Press, 167–194.
Haraway, Donna (1997): Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan©_Meets_OncoMouse: Feminism and Technoscience. New York: Routledge.
Hayles, Katherine (1999): How We Became Posthuman: Virtual Bodies in Cybernetics, Literature and Informatics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. https://doi.org/10.7208/chicago/9780226321394.001.0001
Introna, Lucas D & Helen Nissenbaum (2000): “Shaping the Web: Why the Politics of Search Engines Matters,” The Information Society, 16:3, 169-185.
Jeffries, Michael P (2011): Thug life: race, gender, and the meaning of hip-hop, Chicago: Chicago University Press.
Kitchin, Rob (2017): “Thinking Critically about and Researching Algorithms,” Information, Communication & Society, 20:1, 14-29. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2016.1154087
Kjus, Yngvar (2016): “Musical exploration via streaming services: The Norwegian experience,” Popular Communication, 14:3, 127–136. https://doi.org/10.1080/15405702.2016.1193183
Lamere, Paul (2014): “Gender Specific Listening,” Music Machinery, Feb 10: https:// musicmachinery.com/2014/02/10/gender-specific-listening/ (accessed 10/04/2017)
Leonard, Marion (2007): Gender in the Music Industry: Rock, Discourse and Girl Power, Aldershot, England: Ashgate.
Maasø, Arnt (2017): “Music Streaming, Festivals, and the Eventization of Music,” Popular Music, 1-22, https://doi.org/10.1080/03007766.2016.1231001.
Mackenzie, Adrian (2006): Cutting Code: Software and Sociality, New York: Peter Lang.
Mager, Astrid (2012): “Algorithmic Ideology,” Information, Communication & Society, 15:5, 769–787. https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2012.676056
Manovich, Lev (2013): Software Takes Command, New York: Bloomsbury.
Modell, Amanda (2015): “Mapping the Music Genome: Imaginative Geography in Pandora Internet Radio and the Genographic Project,” Media Fields Journal, 10, 2-13.
Morris, Jeremy W (2012): “Making Music Behave: Metadata and the Digital Music Commodity,” New Media & Society, 14:5, 850–66. https://doi.org/10.1177/1461444811430645
Morris, Jeremy W (2015): Selling digital music, formatting culture, Oakland, California: University of California Press.
Nakamura, Lisa (2002): Cybertypes: race, ethnicity, and identity on the Internet, New York: Routledge
Nylund Hagen, Anja (2015): “The Playlist Experience: Personal Playlists in Music Streaming Services, Popular Music and Society, 38:5, 625–645.
Olofsson, Jennie (2015): “‘Did you mean: why are women cranky?’: Google – a means of inscription, a means of de-scription?,” in Svensson Patrick & David Theo Goldberg (eds.), Between humanities and the Digital, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Parisi, Luciana (2013): Contagious architecture: computation, aesthetics, and space, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Pickering, Andrew (2011): The Cybernetic Brain: Sketches of Another Future, Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press.
Pough, Gwendolyn D (2004): Check It While I Wreck It: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public Sphere, Boston: Northeastern University Press.
Railton, Diane (2001): “The gendered carnival of pop,” Popular Music, 20:3, 321–331. https://doi.org/10.1017/S0261143001001520
Rogers, Richard (2013): Digital methods, Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press.
Ruppert, Evelyn, John Law & Mike Savage (2013): “Reassembling Social Science Methods: The Challenge of Digital Devices,” Theory, Culture & Society, 30:4, 22–46. https://doi.org/10.1177/0263276413484941
Seaver, Nick (2014): “On Reverse Engineering: Looking for the Cultural Work of Engineers,” The Atlantic, Jan 28: https://medium.com/anthropology-and-algorithms/ on-reverse-engineering-d9f5bae8712 (accessed 10/04/2017).
Seaver, Nick (2013): “Knowing Algorithms,” Media in Transition 8, Cambridge, MA: http://nickseaver.net/papers/seaverMiT8.pdf (accessed 13/04/2017).
Straw, Will (2013): “Sizing up record collections: gender and connoisseurship in rock music culture,” Sheila Whiteley (ed.): Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, New York: Routledge.
Sundén, Jenny (2015): “On trans-, glitch, and gender as machinery of failure,” First Monday, 20:4: https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v20i4.5895 (accessed 13/04/2017)
Thrift, Nigel (2008): Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect, London & New York: Routledge.
Wajcman, Judy (2007): “From Women and Technology to Gendered Technoscience,” Information, Communication & Society, 10:3, 287–298. https://doi.org/10.1080/13691180701409770
Werner, Ann & Sofia Johansson (2016): “Experts, dads and technology: Gendered talk about online music,”International Journal of Cultural Studies, 19:2, 177–192. https://doi.org/10.1177/1367877914555463
Whiteley, Sheila (ed.) (2013): Sexing the Groove: Popular Music and Gender, New York: Routledge.
Whiteley, Sheila & Jennifer Rycenga (eds.) (2006): Queering the popular pitch, New York: Routledge.
Copyright (c) 2017 Maria Eriksson, Anna Johansson
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.
Copyright for all manuscripts rests with the author(s). The editors reserve the right to edit manuscripts. Contributors are responsible for acquiring all permissions from the copyright owners for the use of quotations, illustrations, tables, etc. Each author must, before final publication fill, in a publishing agreement provided by LiU E-Press.
Since 2021 Culture Unbound uses a Creative Commons: Attribution license for new articles, which allows users to distribute the work and to reform or build upon it without the author's permission. Full reference to the author must be given. For older articles please see each article landing page.