Zachary J. McDowell
Publication year: 2016

Through examining the phenomena of the musical mashup against the backdrop of the contemporary American legal and economic situations, this work explores the complicated role of digital technology in contemporary cultural production and how it helps to constitute an agency of the contemporary digital subject, oriented towards participation and access. This research comes together in four parts, first weaving together against an understanding of the cultural and technical background as well as the legal and social backdrop that helped to birth the mashup, setting the stage for understanding the different powers at play. Secondly, through considering the construction and determination of culture and cultural production through media in the first instance this work puts those backgrounds into a framework of understanding how these different power structures influence culture. Third, through an understanding of how the mashup functions culturally via these power structures it begins to reveal some of the influences and how they have begun to take hold. Finally, I question what it is that these experiences and technical media are doing within this larger framework that is already controlled through aging and outdated legal and economic frameworks, outlining a framework that helps to understand the architectural determination of the mashup within contemporary society and why this phenomena persists despite legal and economic pushback. Through this exploration I argue that these technologies are turning the subject against these legal systems and towards sharing cultures as the experience with digital technology undermines legal stipulations.
This work makes new contributions to understanding not only the role of digital technologies in cultural production, but also the role of digital technologies in the formation of the modern digital subject. Blending cybernetic theory, contemporary media studies, cultural studies, and continental philosophy, this work makes headway toward understanding the complexities of the modern cybernetic subject and how technology plays a role in determining the horizon of opportunities.