Do media determine our situation?

By posing Friedrich Kittler’s (in)famous opening sentence to Gramopone, Film, Typewriter in the form of a question I hope to interrogate top-down media histories and theories.  The compact audio cassette has stubbornly refused obsolescence across the “epochs” of vinyl LP, compact disc, and mp3.  My inquiry into cassette culture will take the form of micro-ethnography–interviews with cassette practitioners at the intersection of theoretical and practical concerns, a methodology that fits perfectly with the DIY taper ethos.  I hope to explore the social practices that have sustained the cassette’s remarkable momentum, and particularly to explore its status as an alternative means of production for a variety of artists.  As the forces of modernity concentrate the means of artistic production in fewer and fewer hands, the cassette remains a viable option for outsider creative expression.  How and why? The cassette’s materiality may hold some clues.

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