On October 23rd, Media@McGill's Jonathan Sterne will be presenting a paper at the Center for Cultural Analysis at Rutgers University. It is entitled Format Theory:
Today, more recordings exist in mp3 form than in any other form in the world. What difference does it make? Arguments about sound quality abound in scholarship and the popular press, but much less has been said about the format as itself a cultural phenomenon. This is not entirely accidental, as scholars are more often in the habit of conceiving of technology in terms of hardware. In this paper, I consider the historical significance of format as a defining feature of recent audio media history, and argue that the history of the mp3 reveals otherwise hidden dimensions of 20th century audio history.