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School of Languages, Linguistics and Film

Dr Ed Katrak Spencer, DPhil (Oxon)

Ed Katrak

Lecturer in Digital Cultures

Room Number: ArtsOne Building, Office 1.01A
Office Hours: Office Hours: By Appointment


My research and teaching concerns digital culture (including internet subcultures), popular music, and political division in the age of social media. My work engages with questions such as:

How has music been weaponized in the age of social media and right-wing populism?

What difference has the internet made to conspiracy theories and conspiracy cultures?

Why does net-native music such as dubstep and hyperpop become involved in cultural politics?

How are musical memes born, transformed, monetized, and misappropriated?

How are racial identities reflected, refracted, and reimagined through musical media and online discourse?

Together with Maria Perevedentseva, Joana Freitas, Jenessa Williams, and Stim Gamble, I am co-founder of the Music and Online Cultures Research Network (MOCReN).

Methodologically, I am an advocate of digital methods that serve critical ends; radical forms of collaboration and interdisciplinarity; and the continued importance of close reading in the age of ‘Big Data’ and AI.

I have received expert comment requests from The Independent (for a feature article about ‘#FreeBritney 2.0’ conspiracism and fandom) and from The New York Times (concerning music celebrity conspiracy theories more broadly) as well as from Off-Chance (for a piece about hyperpop, (post-)irony, and nostalgia for the 1990s).

I teach the undergraduate modules ‘Music, Power and Politics’; ‘Digital Culture and Society’; ‘Cultural Encounters in Theory and Practice’; and ‘Culture and Language’.

I am Director of Student Experience for SLLF and Resident DJ / Tea Boy for TTTT (Tunes, Tea & Talk Tuesdays). 


As well as supervising final-year dissertations on the Liberal Arts programme, I teach the following undergraduate modules:

LIB5054 Cultural Encounters in Theory and Practice

LIB5203 Digital Culture and Society

SML4006 Culture and Language (Liberal Arts stream)

Music, Power and Politics

I am also in the process of devising a final-year module relating to wellness culture, spirituality, and conspiracism in the digital age.

My teaching aims to foster digital methods skills and content creation skills as well as critical thinking. Typical assignments include group data sprints relating to a specific social media case study as well as video essays and traditional essays.

Pedagogically, I champion a students-as-researchers paradigm and a coursework-to-online-content pipeline.


Research Interests:

My research interests include music-related online conspiracy theories; right-wing populism and cultural politics; the weaponization of internet memes; the cultural history of the internet; electronic dance music in the age of social media; posthuman rhetoric and racism in the age of generative AI.

I am currently working on a monograph titled Dubstep and its Demons: Musical Trolling in the Age of Internet Memes. My book tells the story of dubstep and its online mediation from its origins in South London during the early 2000s up to the so-called ‘Second Coming’ of the US music producer Skrillex in the early 2020s. The central idea of musical trolling concerns the ways in which internet-mediated music often choreographs division rather than connection in the digital age. The book also offers a corrective within the study of electronic dance music culture by focussing on dark and sobering aspects of this world that are rarely addressed in academic work (including online-offline misogyny and racial disparities).

I am also co-editing a book with Christopher Haworth and Daniele Sofer titled Music and the Internet: Methodological, Epistemological, and Ethical Perspectives (Routledge). The book proposes that data literacy and media literacy are now more important for music researchers than traditional musical literacy. Our contributors collectively advance an interdisciplinary field of research that is now rapidly gaining momentum.

Prior to my appointment at QMUL, I was Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Manchester on the AHRC project ‘Everything is Connected: Conspiracy Theories in the Age of the Internet’, where I investigated Beyoncé-related online conspiracy theories as well as Illuminati talk in the subreddit r/conspiracy over the course of 2008–2023. I also led a data sprint at the University of Amsterdam’s Digital Methods Initiative Winter School examining open source conspiracism in the era of Black Lives Matter.

As Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham on the AHRC project ‘Music and the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music’, I examined postracial rhetoric in electronic dance music web fora as well as the cultural politics of hyperpop and its Gen-Z LGBTQ+ fans. I also co-organized the international conference ‘Information Overload? Music Studies in the Age of Abundance’, an event that initiated dialogue between music streaming scholars and Glenn McDonald (principal architect of Spotify’s recommendation algorithms). 


Edited Books

(under contract). Music and the Internet: Methodological, Epistemological, and Ethical Orientations. C.   Haworth, E. K. Spencer & D. S. Sofer (Eds.). New York: Routledge.


Journal Articles & Book Chapters

(accepted, in press). When Donald Trump Dropped the Bass: The weaponization of dubstep in    musical trolling practices, 2011–2016. Twentieth-Century Music.

(accepted, in press). Web-based Ways of Listening: Reinventing Empirical Musicology in the Age         of Social Media. In F. Gribenski & C. Cannone (Eds.), New Methods and New Challenges in           Empirical Musicology. New York: Oxford University Press.

(accepted, in press). The Divisiveness of the Bass Music Drop in the North American Festival         Setting. In H. Rietveld & T. Young (Eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Dance         Music. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.  

(2023). From Contagion to Imitation: On bass drop memes, trolling repertoires, and the legacy        of Gabriel Tarde. In H. Rogers, J. Freitas, & J. F. Porfírio (Eds.), Remediating Sound:          Repeatable Culture, YouTube and Music (pp. 51-71). London: Bloomsbury Academic.          

(2022). Music to Vomit to: The dubstep drop, the bass face, and the sound of the social web. In      M. Ryynänen, S. Ylönen, & H. Kosonen (Eds.), Cultural Approaches to Disgust and the       Visceral. London: Routledge. Link to open access online version.

(2020). Touching Sounds: Re-examining audiotactile affect with reference to ASMR YouTube content and musical production practices. In J. Dack, T. Spinks, & A. Stanović (Eds.),     Sound Art and Music: Philosophy, Composition, Performance (pp. 70-92). Newcastle: Cambridge             Scholars Publishing.   

(2017). Re-orientating Spectromorphology and Space-form through a Hybrid Acoustemology.           Organised Sound, 22(3), 324-335. doi: 10.1017/S1355771817000486.


Reports & Scientific Letters

(2023) [First Author]. How Real is the Illuminati? Investigating Open Source Conspiracism in           the age of Black Lives Matter and Vigilant Citizen(s). Report on Digital Methods      Initiative            Data Sprint Project (University of Amsterdam). Online.

(2023). Science and Global Conspiracies. Issues in Science and Technology, 39(4) [A response to    research by Marc Tuters, Tom Willaert and Trisha Meyer]. Online.


Research Blogs

(2022). On Internet Subcultures & PC Music (Part II): A Reappraisal. University of Birmingham Blogs > Music and the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music. Online.

(2021). On Internet Subcultures & PC Music (Part I): A Review. University of Birmingham Blogs > Music and the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music. Online.

(2020). Towards a Digital Sociology of Musical Memes. University of Birmingham Blogs > Music and     the Internet: Towards a Digital Sociology of Music. Online.  


Book Reviews

(2020). Review of Joe Muggs and Brian David Stevens, ‘Bass, Mids, Tops: An Oral History of        Soundsystem Culture’ (MIT Press, 2019). Dancecult: Journal of Electronic Dance Music Culture,           12(1), 85-88. doi: 10.12801/1947-5403.2020.12.01.12.


I welcome enquiries from people wishing to undertake doctoral research. The following list of possible research areas is indicative not exhaustive:

  • Conspiracy Theories, Popular Culture, and Cultural Politics Online.
  • Analysis of Music-related Online Opinion Data.
  • Music Fandom in the age of Social Media.
  • TikTok (Content, Platform Affordances, User Behaviour, etc.).
  • Generative AI, the Human Voice, and Race.
  • Electronic Dance Music Cultures.
  • Hyperpop, Gen-Z, Subcultural Theory, Queer Theory.
  • Wellness Content, Spirituality Content, and ‘Conspirituality’ Online.

Public Engagement

Expert Comment Requests & Feature Article Invitations

(2024). Expert comment request from The New York Times for a feature article on music celebrity          replacement conspiracy theories and the 2024 US Presidential Race.

(2023). Expert comment request from The Independent for a feature article about the         ‘#FreeBritney 2.0’ phenomenon vis-à-vis music fandom and conspiracy culture.

(2023). Expert comment request from Off-Chance for a piece about hyperpop, nostalgia, and          (post-)ironic music consumption online.

(2023). Invitation to write a feature article for The Conversation about hyperpop and Gen-Z   LGBTQ+ social media users.

(2018).  Invitation to write a feature article for The Oxford Magazine about Stormzy’s Cambridge   Scholarships and Kanye West’s MAGA hat.


Knowledge Exchange Events & Public Talks

(2021).  Between Sound and Concept: Listening with the CCRU. Coventry Biennial of Social, Political,           Critical Art 2021. Coventry: Shopfront Theatre. [Livestream co-ordinator & engineer].

(2019). Why Does Musical Taste Evolve? Lincoln Leads Seminar. Oxford: Lincoln College.



(2010). Discussion on BBC Radio 3 during ‘Varèse 360’ broadcast (with James Murphy and       Martin Handley).


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