The MusDig research programme addresses the ways in which music and musical practices are changing worldwide under the impact of digitisation and digital media. Looking at both the developed and the developing world and examining changes to art, popular and folk musics, the programme offers an ambitious anthropological and musicological portrait of the ways in which the digital world has affected music, with both empirical and theoretical dimensions.
The ERC funding provided the unusual opportunity for the programme to include eight ethnographic studies of music – including primarily online studies (examining the culture of music in online spaces). The different studies give the project a large-scale comparative scope that has greatly influenced the outcomes of the research. This would not have been possible without the ERC funding and the response-led application process. The ERC grant supported a scale of ethnographic research, involving a large research team with the time necessary to carry out the programme, that is not generally available. Situated within the crossover interdisciplinary area between the humanities and social sciences, the programme is also of a kind that is rare in the University.
The MusDig programme has published numerous scholarly papers on the individual ethnographic projects as well as publications that combine and compare research findings, including a special journal issue. A major edited book will be published giving the main overview of the findings, and a further edited book specifically addresses the programme’s comparative findings on the changing relations between music and intellectual property (based on research in Kenya, Cuba, India, the UK and other countries). A further journal special issue embeds the MusDig research in wider theoretical discussions in musicology, anthropology and science and technology studies.
As someone who both received an ERC advanced grant and chaired and sat on ERC grant panels, Georgina Born suggests that ERC grants are innovative and extremely important to research at Oxford and more widely in the UK. The opportunity for applicants to propose a ‘big idea’ to the ERC and be rewarded funding on that basis is extremely productive. The ERC supports individual smaller applications as well as large-scale projects, and its special support for interdisciplinary research is particularly valuable, for example encouraging major research projects at the borders between the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences – something the main UK research councils are not well structured to support. Despite the need for further progress in the area of gender equality, the ERC has also made a particular difference to ambitious women researchers at all stages of their careers who have been given the opportunity to apply for funding to run large-scale research groups. This is likely to be making an enormous difference to their individual career trajectories as well as building the capacity of senior women researchers within the UK and internationally.