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Summary of Moving Forward

Updated May 11, 2022
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Summary of Moving Forward essay

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In the article “Moving Forward: A Feminist Analysis of Mobile Music Streaming”, the author, Ann Werner, discusses mobile music streaming. She also examines the use of two smartphone applications, Spotify and VKontakte and how they operate on a mobile device while someone is listening on the move in public space. Werner begins her article with a short story of how these apps are impacting her life. Werner states that since mobile devices were introduced, they have shaped our culture.

Some people use their smartphones to listen to music while moving through a public space or commuting to work. Others write emails, play games, and write social media posts. While still others text, are making phone calls and so much more. Werner believes that smartphones are a combination of previous media technologies, but are also completely different devices with its own functions and design.

The author goes on to explain how she will perform a feminist analysis of how mobile music listening is shaped by, and shapes, gender, space and emotions in streaming on the move. Her goal in writing this article is to explore how culture and media practices are tied to the material power imbalance. Werner starts her argument by discussing subjects, space, and emotions. She believes that cultural practices, such as listening to mobile music, are within contemporary feminist theory. Werner considers Doreen Massey’s understanding of space. She discusses that space is not an additive of a developmental approach.

Massey believes that space is not the sum of its stories, pointing toward development or progress, but instead argues that space is open, which is a recognition of the difference in space and the potential there. The space of a music streaming service provides human and non-human interrelations, constant change and plurality. Thus saying that space is unfinished and always becoming. Werner hopes that by explaining that mobile music streaming is a cultural practice that molds subjectivity through symbolic and material processes in space with human and non-human agents, her readers will pick up on her hints that it is not the same for everyone.

Werner uses focused group interviews to approach music experiences. She found that enjoying music while moving in public space and being emotional with music were common and important experiences. Werner believes that happiness, as an emotion, shows us what we value. It also shows us how power functions effectively in culture and society. Questioning this happiness from a feminist critical point of view is to kill joy. Werner proceeds to question the joy and effects of mobile music streaming.

Because Werner is a music researcher and a devoted consumer of popular music, listening to music in public space was also not new to her. However, prior to her autoethnography study done for a research project in 2012, she had not used Spotify and VK. She believes that having so many people she knew shared the space she listened to music in. She also thinks that the lack of children in her life did the same. Werner goes on to discuss the function and design of the apps. When using them, she found that VK was clearly inspired by the organization system in the interface of a computer.

On the other hand, Spotify visually reminded her of iTunes. Werner discovers that, although both apps have search functions, they work differently. VK divides searches by how popular a song is and its duration while Spotify’s division of artist was ultimately based on naming. Werner also states in her article that both apps claim to provide the user with suggestions of what to listen to. Both apps suggestions are based on what the user has listened to in the past along, but VK also makes suggestions based on what is popular. On the other hand, Spotify also bases suggestions on what the user’s friends are listening to.

Werner discovers that on both apps assume that there is only one user per account, so if, for example, you share your account with your children the suggestion will become slightly schizophrenic. Werner believes what people have listened to will shape what they will listen to in the future. As the choices of music and representation of them are embedded in gendered and racialized genre classifications the becoming also shapes culture patterns of power and difference. Werner continues her argument by stating that when she listens to music on the move, two emotions stand out: happiness and anger. She believes, however, that these are not the only emotions that she felt while streaming music but claims that these emotions deserve attention because they were prominent and they oriented me in the particular cultural practice.

Werner states that the key to understanding music listening in public space is the experience of making public space your own space by adding audio that is familiar to you. Werner claims that fulfilling forward motion and feeling happy while streaming music says something about the normative subjectivity. It is good to move forward, to be happy, to run and to work; therefore, Werner believes that when mobile music streaming changes public space into a happy space, it is not representing the user’s individual management of moods, but what is valued. In conclusion, the author believes that music streaming is an emotional practice in public space which affects the body’s movement as well as subjects being moved by feeling.

Werner explains that the feeling of happiness in mobile music streaming moves one forward in space. Anger, on the other hand, is induced by failure and makes movement and achievements come to a halt. Thus saying that mobile music streaming either motivates and encourage people to move forward, run faster and do better. Or it can stop people, create a space to reflect and be angry. Werner states that happy mobile streaming leads to embodiment, but people with failed streaming experiences and anger over them halts this progress and causes uncomfortable feelings which provides a possible space for alternative directions. The author believes that wider implications of her article are that the importance of mobile music streaming may not lie in the music chosen, the software, or the listener, but in the practices and discourses shaping the lives of people streaming the music.

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