Processing spam: Conducting processed listening and rhythmedia to (re)produce people and territories

Carmi, Elinor. 2018. Processing spam: Conducting processed listening and rhythmedia to (re)produce people and territories. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (Processing spam: Conducting processed listening and rhythmedia to (re)produce people and territories)
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Abstract or Description

This thesis provides a transdisciplinary investigation of ‘deviant’ media categories, specifically spam and noise, and the way they are constructed and used to (re)produce territories and people. Spam, I argue, is a media phenomenon that has always existed, and received different names in different times. The changing definitions of spam, the reasons and actors behind these changes are thus the focus of this research. It brings to the forefront a longer history of the politics of knowledge production with and in media, and its consequences. This thesis makes a contribution to the media and communication field by looking at neglected media phenomena through fields such as sound studies, software studies, law and history to have richer understanding that disciplinary boundaries fail to achieve.

The thesis looks at three different case studies: the conceptualisation of noise in the early 20th century through Bell Telephone Company, web metric standardisation in the European Union 2000s legislation, and unwanted behaviours on Facebook. What these cases show is that media practitioners have been constructing ‘deviant’ categories in different media and periods by using seven sonic epistemological strategies: training of the (digital) body, restructuring of territories, new experts, standardising measurements (tools and units), filtering, de-politicising and licensing.

Informed by my empirical work, I developed two concepts - processed listening and rhythmedia - offering a new theoretical framework to analyse how media practitioners construct power relations by knowing people in mediated territories and then spatially and temporally (re)ordering them. Shifting the attention from theories of vision allows media researchers to have a better understanding of practitioners who work in multi-layered digital/datafied spaces, tuning in and out to continuously measure and record people’s behaviours. Such knowledge is being fed back in a recursive feedback-loop conducted by a particular rhythmedia constantly processing, ordering, shaping and regulating people, objects and spaces. Such actions (re)configure the boundaries of what it means to be human, worker and medium.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Spam, Processed listening, Rhythmedia, Sound, Media, Foucault

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


31 March 2018

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 May 2018 11:04

Last Modified:

07 Sep 2022 17:13


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