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Doing Cultural Studies

Doing Cultural Studies
The Story of the Sony Walkman

Second Edition

June 2013 | 208 pages | SAGE Publications Ltd
"Arguably the most famous book in its field... In theoretical terms, the legacy of Doing Cultural Studies confirms that this classic read is not just about the Walkman itself, but represents a series of clear observations about the symbolic meanings of culture."
- LSE Review of Books

Why think about the Walkman in the 21st century? Can the Walkman help us understand today’s media and cultural practices? Through the notion of the 'circuit of culture', this book teaches students to critically examine what culture means, and how and why it is enmeshed with the media texts and objects in their lives. Students will:
  • Unpack the key concepts of contemporary culture, such as mobility, materiality, consumption and identity
  • Learn to think about some of the cultural conundrums of the present and their relation to the past, such as branding culture
  • Look with fresh eyes at today's media world and the cultural practices it gives rise to
  • Gain practical experience with the historical comparative method
  • Practice their critical skills with up-to-date exercises and activities
This book takes students on a journey between past and present, giving them the skills do to cultural analysis along the way. It remains the perfect 'how to' for students in media studies, cultural studies, design and sociology.

Introduction to the Second Edition
Introduction to the First Edition

What is 'Culture'?

Back to the Future: Materiality and Culture

Meanings and Practices

Meaning by Association: Semantic Networks

Back to the Future: Meanings and Associations

Signifying Practices

Contemporary Soundscapes

Back to the Future: Produsage: The Changing Relationship Between Production and Consumption?

Culture in the Age of Electronic Reproduction

Back to the Future - Benjamin v/2.0

Back to the future: Mobile Privatization?

Walk-men and Walk-women: Subjects and Identities

Back to the Future: Advertizing and Branding


Introduction: The Many Origins of an Idea

Cultures of Production, Contexts of Innovation

Heroic Individuals

Back to the Future: Technological Innovation, Heroic Individuals and Distributed Agency

Sony, Japan and the United States

Sony: Signifying 'Japan'?

Happy Accidents at Work: Enter the Walkman

Making the Walkman to Sell: Connecting Production and Consumption

Assembling for the Young Consumer: The Mothers of the Invention

Naming the Machine: Sony Grammar

Marketing and Public Relations

Back to the Future: Promotional Culture

Monitoring Consumption and Market Research

Back to the Future: Produsage Revisited

Designers as Cultural Intermediaries

The Organization of Design at Sony

Lifestyling the Walkman

Back to the Future: The Power of Software: Culture Made Malleable?

The Walkman: How 'Japanese' Is It?

Following the Walkman: Competition and Financial Crisis

Sony Goes Global and Local

Back to the Future: The Global-Local Nexus

Combining Hardware and Software: The Culture Industry

Back to the Future: Synergies and Cultural Industries


Perspectives on Consumption

Back to the Future: Perspectives on Consumption

Back to the Future: Authenticity

The Production of Consumption

The Walkman and the Production of Consumption Critique

Back to the Future: "Revolutionary" Technologies?

Back to the Future: Optimism and Pessimism in Relation to Web 2.0

Back to the Future: No sense of Place?

Consumption as Socio-cultural Differentiation

Walkman Consumption and Social Differentiation

Consumption as Appropriation and Resistance

The Walkman and Questions of Cultural Regulation

The Walkman: The Public and the Private

Walkman Use and the Blurring of Boundaries

Back to the Future: Cultural Regulation of Modern Technologies

Summary of Chapters 5 and 6

Selected Readings
Reading A: Bruno Latour: 'Technology is society made durable'

Reading B: Axel Bruns: 'Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content Creation'

Reading C: Walter Benjamin: 'The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction'

Reading D: Raymond Williams: 'Mobile privatization'

Reading E: Ana Andjelic: 'Time to rewrite the brand playbook for the digital'

Reading F: Nick Lyons: 'Scratching a global dream'

Reading G: Shu Ueyama: 'The selling of the "Walkman"'

Reading H: Thomas A. Harvey: 'How Sony Corporation became first with kids'

Reading I: Lev Manovich: 'There is Only software'

Reading J: Jonathan Zittrain: 'The Personal Computer Is Dead'

Reading K: Rey Chow: 'Listening otherwise, music miniaturized: a different type of question about revolution'

Reading L: Lev Grossman: 'Iran´s protests: Twitter, the Medium of the Movement'

Reading M: Tim O´Reilly: 'What Is Web 2.0'

Reading N: Mirko Tobias Schäfer: 'Bastard Culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production'

Reading O: Lain Chambers: 'A miniature history of the Walkman'

Reading P: Vincent Jackson: 'Menace II society'


In today's world, with economy the central tenet of contemporary culture and popular culture and finance inextricably linked, this exemplary Walkman study will be a template and a source of inspiration for scholars who appreciate the materiality of culture and continuity between production and consumption.
Barbara Czarniawska
Professor of Management Studies, University of Gothenburg

This publication provides a welcome opportunity to return to a classic text of cultural studies pedagogy and to apply its insights to contemporary issues of culture, media and identity and their connections to the production and consumption of technology. The combination of the original Walkman case study with useful 'back to the future' sections provides a great opportunity for students to reflect on the cultural meanings of smart phones, social media and user-generated knowledge.
Dr Richard Elliott
School of Media, Film and Music, University of Sussex

Arguably the most famous book in its field, Doing Cultural Studies: the Story of the Sony Walkman is the text that lead to Cultural Studies becoming a respected and accepted discipline throughout the rest of the world.... Any 21st century observer might object and ask, somewhat perplexed, “who owns a Walkman nowadays?”... 16 years after the first edition, the authors can now write in a comparative fashion between two eras: ‘Comparing the cultural practices associated with the Walkman with the practices related to modern Web-based mobile devices reveals both continuities and changes in the ways such technologies have been represented, identified with, produced, consumed and regulated, and the way they have been discussed in the media as well as in academic debates within the cultural and social sciences’ (p. xii).


In theoretical terms, the legacy of Doing Cultural Studies confirms that this classic read is not just about the Walkman itself, but represents a series of clear observations about the symbolic meanings of culture... This fundamental reading on Cultural Studies should be read not only by students and scholars in this particular field, but by students in a variety of domains including sociology of culture, political economy of culture, popular music studies, media studies, and marketing. Non-scholars will also be able to follow it and appreciate its numerous ideas. Most importantly, those who read this book’s first edition many years ago must read this enriched second edition as it remains timely and relevant for today, in its accurate understanding of how we, collectively, identify and consume culture. The now forgone era of the Walkman serves as a useful comparison about how some things seem to change or can remain the same in subtle ways. That is what academic books are made for.

Read the full review here

Dr. Yves Laberge, LSE Review of Books
Associate fellow at the Groupe de recherche EA 1796, ACE, at the Université de Rennes 2, France

Book combines quite interestingly the analysis of a specific cultural phenomenon with elementary knowledge from the described field. It helps to connect contemporary issues with tradition and recognized authors within cultural studies. I recommend it.

Dr Michal Michalski
The Institute of Cultural Studies, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan
April 23, 2015

The book is highly interesting but essentially focused on media studies rather than on a more linguistic approach to the study of intercultural differences and similarities. Although I recommended some of the readings to my students, this is the main reason why I did not adopt it as a main coursebook.

Dr Carmen Maiz-Arevalo
Filologia Inglesa I, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
December 14, 2014

This is a fabulous update of a classic text in cultural studies. I will definitely be utilizing it in a range of future courses.

Dr Zack Furness
Communications, Penn State Univ-Greater Allegh
November 6, 2014

Intersting take on a cultural phenomenon

Dr Sue Thorpe
Psychology , Newcastle University
August 15, 2013

Valuable text with contemporary issues identified and well addressed

CHILDHOOD STUDIES, Canterbury Christ Church University
July 11, 2013

Some really useful case studies and readings are included in this text.
Really accessible material.

Dr Barbara Mitra
Media & Cultural Studies, Worcester University
July 11, 2013

The selected readings are great discussion starters and serve as a great introduction to some key thinkers!

There is something quite eery about the fact that the current cohorts of students barely remember the walkman at all and my impression is that produsage is variably engaged in, most notably because of huge variance in ICT training.

Dr Grainne Ketelaar
Department of Nursing, Letterkenny Institute of Technology
July 2, 2013

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