Steffen Lepa – An ecological systems theory approach to the digital Mediatization of everyday music listening

As part of digital Mediatization (Krotz, 2014), a plethora of new technologies for music access, playback, collection and diffusion are conquering everyday lifeworlds at present (Lepa & Hoklas, 2015). This development happens at different speeds for different individuals, social groups and cultures and is partly limited by differing economic, technological and social constraints. Nevertheless, until now, within empirical music and media research, changes in the technological media repertoire of everyday music listening have predominantly been linked to development of either individuals or generations (Lepa, Hoklas, & Weinzierl, 2014). In order to extend the social‐scientific grip towards all social figurations of society, the paper proposes to draw on a nested ontology of the global media environment that is informed by ecological systems theory (Bronfenbrenner, 1979) and Mark Deuze’s (2012) diagnosis that there is no life outside of media. Hence, the theoretical proposal de‐centers ‘the media’: Individuals are regarded as members of several mediated environmental social systems of different degree of abstraction, scope and time flow that have emergent properties which feed back on their founding parts: On the micro‐level, individuals take part in different mediated social contexts that are based on localized settings and embodied co‐presence, such as households, workplaces, or music clubs that in turn influence them. On the meso‐level, individuals participate in and are influenced by mediated collective forms of social order that span across localized settings and do not require embodied co‐presence or formal institutionalization like virtual communities, shared media orientations or media lifestyles. The exo‐level describes mediated environmental systems that influence but do not include the lower order structures in focus and typically exhibit a high degree of institutionalization such as national media, political or education systems. The macro‐level finally describes mediated national or global cultures as aggregate units which in turn influence social behavior on lower‐order strata, too. On grounds of this basic ontology for the global (auditory) media environment, existing studies on changes in everyday music listening may be re‐interpreted as complementary devices that help with charting the structuring, interplay and long‐term development of different auditorily mediated meso‐systems and serve to analyze their underlying social mechanisms in order to understand the ongoing global changes in ‘musicking’ (Small, 1998).

Dr. phil. Steffen Lepa M.A. M.A., born 1978, is Media and Communication Scholar and lives in Berlin, Germany.

Steffen studied Psychology, Communication Studies, Media Technology and Media Studies at Braunschweig (HBK/TU) and Hannover (HMT). He received his PhD in 2009 from the Faculty of Educational and Social Sciences of the Carl von Ossietzky University Oldenburg, Germany.

Presently, he is a postdoc researcher at the Audio Communication Group, Institute for Language and Communication, Technical University of Berlin. Additionally, he holds teaching appointments for statistics, methodology and sound design at different universities. Furthermore, Steffen has realized several pedagogically inspired media production projects and B.A./M.A. program evaluation studies as a freelancer.

His research interests generally refer to how ubiquitous electronic media technologies take their part in changing human perception, learning and social life and how these processes may be adequately empirically researched and analyzed. His current key research areas comprise the different forms and psychosocial functions of every day audio media use, the design and reception of sound and music in audiovisual media, and finally the development and application of empirical research methods (advanced statistical procedures, mixed-methods, interpretive analysis methods).

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