The Vinyl Record: A Material Object Attains New Urgency

Johanna Mumm

Student thesis: Master thesis


In times of increasing digitalisation in our modern world it is an interesting phenomenon that the vinyl record, as in a material object that has been declared obsolete and dead numerous times, experiences accrued interest from consumers, industry and academia. The study of material culture reveals that we are defined by a dynamic relationship with the material objects that surround us. The particularity of the materiality of the object matters in terms of the kinds of relationship we can build with it. A vinyl record engages a lot of our senses, has the ability to store cultural as well as personal heritage and can transport notions of authenticity and lifestyle. The particularity of the materiality of the vinyl record allows for experiences that shape our relationship with it. Those experiences start way before the music is playing in the way that we acquire it, to the artwork on the cover or the atmosphere that we deliberately put ourselves in when preparing to listen to a vinyl record.
Experiences are the relational link between the object and the subject. Experiences are personal because no two people engage the same in terms of emotions or intellectually. Understanding this is a crucial step towards understanding the value of both, the material object but also the experiences that are staged with it. The more meaningful experiences we have with a given object, the more valuable it is to us. The meanings around them emerge through associations and patterns of usage with them but those meanings change and can diminish or grow over time as much as the objects themselves change over time and through usage. While we cannot form this kind of relationship with an interchangeable digital music file, we can form a personal, meaningful and significant relationship with vinyl records in such a way that their economic value is replaced by a personally inscribed value.
With the digitisation, music stepped away from the haptic and visual objectification and the resurgence of vinyl can be understood as a function of that process. In a new-found intimacy between digitalisation and materiality, we value both for their particular qualities because of the other, rather than feeling the need to choose one over the other.

EducationsMSocSc in Management of Creative Business Processes , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages142
SupervisorsRobin Holt