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Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music

by Maria Eriksson, Rasmus Fleischer, Anna Johansson, Pelle Snickars and Patrick Vonderau The MIT Press
Pub Date:
01/2019
ISBN:
9780262038904
Format:
Hbk 288 pages
Price:
AU$49.99 NZ$52.17
Product Status: In Stock Now
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An innovative investigation of the inner workings of Spotify that traces the transformation of audio files into streamed experience.


 


Spotify provides a streaming service that has been welcomed as disrupting the world of music. Yet such disruption always comes at a price. Spotify Teardown contests the tired claim that digital culture thrives on disruption. Borrowing the notion of "teardown" from reverse-engineering processes, in this book a team of five researchers have playfully disassembled Spotify's product and the way it is commonly understood.


 


Spotify has been hailed as the solution to illicit downloading, but it began as a partly illicit enterprise that grew out of the Swedish file-sharing community. Spotify was originally praised as an innovative digital platform but increasingly resembles a media company in need of regulation, raising questions about the ways in which such cultural content as songs, books, and films are now typically made available online.


 


 Spotify Teardown combines interviews, participant observations, and other analyses of Spotify's "front end" with experimental, covert investigations of its "back end." The authors engaged in a series of interventions, which include establishing a record label for research purposes, intercepting network traffic with packet sniffers, and web-scraping corporate materials. The authors' innovative digital methods earned them a stern letter from Spotify accusing them of violating its terms of use; the company later threatened their research funding. Thus, the book itself became an intervention into the ethics and legal frameworks of corporate behavior.


 

Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music is an ambitious, wide-ranging, and mis-titled book. Studying firms like Spotify is notoriously challenging....The result is a methodological commitment to exteriority, which pays off in the form of delightfully inventive methods that reimagine the nature of the thing we call Spotify. Thus, if I suggest that this book should be subtitled GÇ£Outside the Black Box,n++? it is no insult: its greatest contribution may be demonstrating how important the GÇ£outsiden++? is'both to Spotify's functioning and to what we understand it to be.

'Information & Culture: A Journal of History
Maria Eriksson is a social anthropologist and a PhD candidate in the Department of Culture and Media Studies at Umeå University.


Rasmus Fleischer is a postdoctoral Researcher in the Department of Economic History at Stockholm University.


Anna Johansson is an Associate Senior Lecturer in Ethnology at HUMlab at Umeå University.


Pelle Snickars is Professor of Media and Communication Studies at Umeå University.


. Patrick Vonderau is Professor of Media Studies at Stockholm University.