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Sociology: People


Nick Prior

Nick Prior
Professor Nick Prior
Professor of Cultural Sociology
4.04, 4FT 21 Buccleuch Place Edinburgh UK EH8 9LN
+44 (0)131 650 3991
Research Interests
Popular culture, popular music, digital culture, cultural theory, new media, Pierre Bourdieu, urban sociology, Japanese culture, Hatsune Miku

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Thursdays 9am-11am

Office Hours

Semester Times: Thursdays 10-12


  • BA (University of York)
  • MA (University of York)
  • PhD (University of Edinburgh)

Research Interests and Current Projects


Museums and Modernity Digital Sociology

Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society

My monograph, Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society was published in 2018 (Sage) and aims to move social science-based scholarship on pop music into  contemporary territories shaped by globalised, digitalised, networked relations. Comprising seven chapters, the text explores how the advent of a range of digital technologies and processes including MIDI, smartphones, apps, Virtual Studio Technologies, Auto-Tune, video games, personal computers and streaming services, favours new types of engagements with popular music production and consumption. I have an interest in mediations of the voice and what I call electronic vocalities, as well as the changing sounds of popular music in the post-1980s period. I have spent time in Japan collecting materials related to the "world's first crowd-sourced celebrity", Hatsune Miku, and some of that work is finding its way into my writing at present. Current interests and writing projects include:  democratisation and digital technology, including the case of the Roland TB-303, SP-12 and Grime (with Paul Harkins); Bourdieu and "amateur" cultural production; STS and vocaloid music; and taste and distinction "after Bourdieu".

I've also worked on topics in the sociology of museums and visual culture, the sociology of cities and media/popular culture, as well as popular music scenes in Iceland. I have a particular interest in the cultural sociology of Pierre Bourdieu and critical conceptual accounts of the hypermodern. I have co-edited a collection with Kate Orton-Johnson called Digital Sociology (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013) which assesses the methodological and conceptual challenges faced by the discipline as it confronts digitalised social landscapes.

I am co-Editor (with Edinburgh-based colleagues Angélica Thumala and Lisa McCormick) of the journal Cultural Sociology and sit on the editorial and advisory boards of New Formations, Audio/Visual: Journal of Cultural Media Studies and Sociologia Italiana. I am a Carnegie Trust Assessor and a member of the ESRC Peer Review College. I have been an informal academic consultant for the video games company The Story Mechanics.

In 2017 I was Visiting Fellow at the University of Tokyo of the Arts (Geidai).

I served as Head of Department between 2013-2016.

I'm also an electronic musician with experience of composition, remixing, writing scores for films, documentaries and theatre. I'm interested in exploring what doing sociology with rather than of music might offer as a potential way of enriching the sociological imagination. Some of my recent compositions use audio samples taken from a series of sound walks through Tokyo as a means to explore urban soundscapes and, in particular, the location and mediation of the voice in a hyper-connected world.

Current and Previous Music Projects

Sponge Monkeys (1999-2006)
Funkspiel (2007-2010) (with Bill Walsh)
K Projekt (2011-2013) (with Sara Janssen)
Triviax (2014-present)

Current PhD Students

  • Jade Jiang: the Jazz Field in China
  • Addie McGowan: Air BnB and the City
  • Xiaoqing Wang: Fashion in China
  • Matea Senkic: Artivism, Tourism and Urbanism
  • Nicolas Zehner: Smart Cities and Economic Imaginaries
  • Damian Cheung: Electronic Dance Music in HK
  • Sicong Zhao: Networked Individualism, Social Media and Music Consumption in China
  • Jennifer Kirkwood: Elite World Schools and Global Citizenship
  • Malena Müller: Peruvian Nationalism and Fusion Music


Alex Davenport: LGBT Audiences and scripted TV (2018); Arek Dakessian (2018): Casting Nets and Framing Films: An Ethnography of Networks of Cultural Production in Beirut; Ben Twist (2018): Taking the Complexity Turn to Steer Carbon Reduction Policy; Chun-Ming Huang (2018): Taiwanese Popular Music in China; Chi-Chung Wang (2017): Youth Culture and Rock in East Asian Education; Paul Harkins: Sampling and Popular Music (2016); Harriet Kennedy: Les Bandes Dessinées and the Quebec Referendums (2016); Fiona Myers: Sociology of Portraiture (2015); Marios Kampouris: Technological Innovation and the Field of Renewable Energy (2015); Jillian Seaton: Art Security and Theft (2014); Kirsti McGregor: Gender and Web 2.0 (2013); Evangelos Chrysagis: An Ethnography of the Glasgow DIY Music Scene (2013); Orlando Villalobos Guevara: Independent Digital Games Production (2013); Sam Friedman: Comedy and Distinction (2011); Mary Fogarty: Competing Tastes in International B-Boy/B-Girl Culture (2011); Jack Burton: Fatherhood and Advertising (2011); Sarah Hill: Politics and Performance (2010); Alima Bucciantini: Objects, Aura and Museums (2009); Suzanne Schulz: Fashion Forecasting and the Fashion Industry (2004).

Recent Publications

'New Amateurs Revisited: Popular Music, Digital Technology and the Fate of Cultural Production', in Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology, John R. Hall, Laura Grindstaff and Ming-cheng Lo (eds), Routledge, 2019, Second Edition.

'Spatiality, Sociality and Circulation: Popular Music Scenes in Reykjavík, in Sounds Icelandic, edited by Þorbjörg Daphne Hall, Nicola Dibben, Árni Heimir Ingólfsson and Tony Mitchell, London: Equinox, 2019.

Popular Music, Digital Technology and Society, Sage, 2018.

'On Vocal Assemblages: From Edison to Miku', Contemporary Music Review, 36, special issue on Music and Mediation, edited by Professor Georgina Born, 2017.

'Editorial Statement: Tracing, Making and Locating Cultural Sociology', with Lisa McCormick and Isabelle Darmon, Cultural Sociology, 11:1, 2017: 3-11.

'Sociological Imagination: Digital Sociology and the Future of the Discipline', with Kate Orton-Johnson and Karen Gregory, special Section on Digital Sociology. The Sociological Review, 2015.

'Beyond Napster: Popular Music and the Normal Internet', Sage Handbook of Popular Music, edited by Andy Bennett and Steve Waksman, Sage, 2015.

'"It's a Social Thing Not a Nature Thing': Popular Music Practices in Reykjavík, Iceland", Cultural Sociology, 2015, 9(1): 81-98.

'The Plural iPod: A Study of Technology in Action', Poetics, Vol.42, Issue 1, February 2014: 22-39. (With a short presentation and discussion of the findings at The Conversation).

Digital Sociology: Critical Perspectives, edited with Kate Orton-Johnson, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013, including "Introduction" and "Afterword: Mediating the Digital". Order here.

'Ground Zero', 'Original Accident', in The Virilio Dictionary, edited by John Armitage, Edinburgh University Press, 2013. Order here.

'Bourdieu and the Sociology of Music Consumption: A Critical Assessment of Recent Developments', Sociology Compass, 7: 3, 2013: 181-193.

'Musiques Populaires en Regime Numerique: Acteurs, Equipements, Styles et Pratiques', Réseaux, 30: 172, 2012: 67-90.

'Speed, Rhythm and Time-space: Museums and Cities', Space and Culture, 14:3, 2011: 197-213.

'Critique and Renewal in the Sociology of Music: Bourdieu and Beyond', Cultural Sociology, 5:1, 2011: 121-138. Reprinted in The Routledge Reader on the Sociology of Music, John Shepherd and Kyle Devine (eds), Routledge, 2015.

'The Rise of the New Amateurs: Popular Music, Digital Technology and the Fate of Cultural Production', in Handbook of Cultural Sociology, John R. Hall, Laura Grindstaff and Ming-cheng Lo (eds), Routledge, 2010.

'Software Sequencers and Cyborg Singers: Popular Music in the Digital Hypermodern', New Formations, 66, Spring 2009: 81-99.

'OK Computer: Mobility, Software and the Laptop Musician', Information, Communication and Society, 11:7, October 2008: 912-932.

'Putting a Glitch in the Field: Bourdieu, Actor Network Theory and Contemporary Music', Cultural Sociology, 2:3, 2008: 301-319.

Recent Conference and Seminar Papers, Performances, Interviews, etc. (since 2010)

* Denotes invited talk

* Electronic Music Performance and Paper: 'On Vocal Assemblages: From Edison to Miku', Sociology Seminar Series, University of Edinburgh, December 2017.

* 'How to Study a Singer Who Doesn't 'Exist': The Case of Hatsune Miku', Lakeland University, Tokyo, November 2017.

* 'Bourdieu and the New Amateurs', Institut für musik pädagogische Forschung, Delmenhorst, Germany, September, 2017.

* ‘"It Doesn’t Take a Human to Sing a Good Song": Assembling the Layers of Hatsune Miku", Graduate School of Interdisciplinary Information Studies, University of Tokyo, July 2017.

* 'On Vocal Assemblages: From the Microphone to Miku', University of Tokyo of the Arts, June 2017. Followed by a performance of three electronic music scores: "The Voices of Akihabara", "Jihanki" and "Tokyo After Hours".

* 'Vox Pop: Towards a Sociology of the Voice', NCCU, Taiwan, May 2017.

* 'Miku, Method and Assemblages', NTNU, Taiwan, May 2017.

* 'Sociality, Circulation and Spatiality: Music Scenes in Reykjavík, Iceland', NTNU, Taiwan, May 2017.

* 'The Disappearance of Hatsune Miku: Or, How To Study a Singer Who Doesn't Exist', University of Oslo, Department of Music, September 2016.

* ‘Vocal Sonorities, Assemblages and Mediations’, Music and Arts in Action, University of Exeter, April 2016 [keynote lecture].

* ‘Some Thoughts on Music Scenes’, Faculty of Music, University of Iceland, April 2016 [keynote lecture].

* 'From Iron Cage to Digital Bubble via the Zombie Apocalypse: Mobile Listening Devices and the City", Faculty of Music, University of Oxford, January 2016.

* 'Music Consumption as an Assemblage', Creativity and Technology Workshop, University of Cambridge, April 2015.

* 'On Vocal Assemblages', Department of Music Seminar Series, University of Edinburgh, April 2015.

* 'Game Masters: Artification and the Worlding of Indie Games', Artification Workshop, Cite Internationale Universitaire de Paris, February 2015.

* 'Some Remarks on Radio Voices: With and Without Organs', keynote lecture, Mediation / Mediatization, Department of Musicology, University of Copenhagen, August 2014.

'Vocaloids, Virtuality and Vocality: The Case of Hatsune Miku', ISA World Congress, Yokohoma, Japan, July 2014.

* 'Music in 1s and 0s', Division of Musicology, University of Lund, Sweden, June 2014.

* 'Exploring Electronic and Digital Vocalities', Music|Digitisation|Mediation, University of Oxford, July 2013.

* 'The Plural iPod', Infrastructures of Digital Culture, Open University, June 2013.

* '"It's a social thing not a nature thing": Popular Music Practices in Iceland', School of Management, St. Andrews University, June 2013.

* 'Goffman and Gaming: Lessons for Narrative, Story and Immersion', StoryLabs Workshop, The Story Mechanics, Tern TV, Glasgow, May 2013.

* 'The Plural iPod: A Study of Technology in Action', Department of Sociology of Music, University of Music and the Performing Arts, Vienna, Austria, March 2013.

* 'Scenes, Fields and/or Networks: The Case of Reykjavik", Social Spaces of Music, CRESC, University of Manchester, February 2013.

'Why Reykjavik? Understanding Cultural Density', IASPM Norden, University of Roskilde, Denmark, November 2012. 

* 'The Birth of Digital Pop: Music and Technology in the 1980s', National Taiwan Normal Univesity, Taipei, September 2012.

* 'Fast, Slow or Rhythmical: The Museum's Dialogue With The City', National Taiwan Normal University, Taipei, September 2012.

* Interview for M3 music event, Maastricht, April 2012.

* 'Digital Formations of Popular Music: Producers, Devices, Styles and Practices', Music Sociology Symposium, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, March 2012.

* 'Oops...I Did It Again! Theorizing Contingency in Popular Music', Cultures of Popular Music Seminar Series, Griffith University, Brisbane, Australia, March 2012.

* 'Why 1983? Digitalization Goes Pop', Pecha Kucha, Glasgow School of Art, June 2011.

* 'Modernité du numérique?', Plenary Lecture, Artistic Work and Creativity in the Digital Era, University of Avignon and the Vaucluse, France, May 2011.

* 'The Success of Failure: Reflections on Mistakes, Accidents and Errors in Music', University of Exeter, SocArts Symposium, May 2011. 

'Unbinding Cybermedia: The Case of Lost', with Kate Orton-Johnson, BSA Annual Conference, London School of Economics, April 2011.

'Thinking Music Sociology After Bourdieu', European Sociological Association, Arts Research Network, University of Surrey, August 2010.

* 'Laptops in Popular Music', ANR Seminar, Les Artistes et Regimes Numerique, L'Institut Sciences Sociale et du Travail, Paris, France, June 2010.

* 'Digital Formations in Music: People, Devices, Styles and Practices', From Helmholtz to Hard Drives: Music's Material Legacy and Digital Future, Faculty of Music, University of Cambridge, May 2010.

'Snap, Crackle and Pop: Re-writing Popular Music Studies Through Contingency', Musicology in the Third Millennium, Sibelius Academy, Seinajoki, Finland, March, 2010.

Topics interested in supervising

My research interests span the broad field of culture but I have a particular interest in popular music, contemporary media, including the relationship between digital technology and popular music production, changing forms of cultural expertise, technological mediations and everyday practices. I would welcome proposals from research students with interests in the sociology of culture, but particularly in the following four fields: 1) Popular music, technology and contemporary sonic cultures. 2) Digital culture, media and "new" media. 3) Cultural theory, particularly the cultural sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. 4) Japanese popular culture and music.

If you are interested in being supervised by Nick Prior, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Sociology