The Meaning of a Format
Duke University Press, Hardcover, 9780822352839, 341pp.
Publication Date: July 2012
MP3s are products of compression, a process that removes sounds unlikely to be heard from recordings. Although media history is often characterized as a progression toward greater definition, fidelity, and truthfulness, "MP3: The Meaning of a Format" illuminates the crucial role of compression in the development of modern media and sound culture. Taking the history of compression as his point of departure, Jonathan Sterne investigates the relationships among sound, silence, sense, and noise; the commodity status of recorded sound and the economic role of piracy; and the importance of standards in the governance of our emerging media culture. He demonstrates that formats, standards, and infrastructures--and the need for content to fit inside them--are every bit as central to communication as the boxes we call "media."