Vinyl Record: A Cultural Icon

Publication: Research - peer-reviewJournal article

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In this paper, we use the case of the vinyl record to show that iconic objects become meaningful via a dual process. First, they offer immersive engagements which structure user interpretations through various material experiences of handling, use, and extension. Second, they always work via entanglements with related material ecologies such as turntables, speakers, mixers, and rituals of object care. Additionally, these engagements are complimented by a mediation process which emplaces the vinyl historically, culturally, spatially, and also politically, especially in the context of digitalization. This relational process means that both the material affordances and entanglements of vinyl allow us to feel, handle, experience, project, and share its iconicity. The materially mediated meanings of vinyl enabled it to retain currency in independent and collector’s markets and thus resist the planned obsolescence and eventually attain the status of celebrity commodity with totemic power in music communities. This performative aspect of vinyl markets also means that consumers read closely the signals and symbols regarding vinyl’s status, as its various user groups and champions try to interpret its future, protect, or challenge its current position. Vinyl’s future, and the larger expansion of pressing plants and innovative turntable production around it, largely depend on processes of cultural and status mobility. In the current phase of market expansion, vinyl’s status might be challenged by its own success. Neither a fashion cycle phenomenon, nor simple market conditions explain vinyl’s longevity. Rather, cultural contextualization of vinyl as thing and commodity is crucial for avoiding symbolic pollution and retaining sacred aura.
Original languageEnglish
JournalConsumption, Markets & Culture
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
ISSN1025-3866
DOIs
StatePublished - 2017

    Keywords

  • vinyl record , iconicity , heritage , aura, materiality , entanglement, marketplace icon