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Power users and retro puppets - a critical study of the methods and motivations in chipmusic

  • Anders Carlsson
Publishing year: 2010
Language: English
Document type: Student publication for Master's degree (two years)


The thesis interviews people who produce chipmusic - a music style that evolved in the 1980s from the use of computers and game consoles that featured primitive digital sounds. It has seen a renaissance in the past decade and is commonly understood as an act of nostalgia or a reappropriation of technology. The aim of the thesis is to achieve a deeper understanding of how and why people make chipmusic by interviewing ten active musicians. The purpose is to develop concepts that can explain how chipmusicians adapt to and move away from fundamental features of digital media, and what meanings they ascribe to it. The main topic of study is thefore how individuals talk about their music, but this is combined with in-depth studies of the media that they use, and the cultures that they work in. As such, it is a cross-disciplinary approach inbetween computer science and social science.
The results show that chipmusicians describe their media in terms of limitations. They tend to talk about how software interfaces condition their work rather than hardware platforms. There is a common desire for individual transgression, mostly in relation to software interfaces and culture and not the underpinning platforms. The focus on interface contradicts the popular understanding of chipmusic as a consequence of hardware platforms. Four broader discourses are identified and described as anti-nostalgia, control, hacker aesthetics and digital economics.


  • Social Sciences
  • interface
  • aesthetics
  • nostalgia
  • demoscene
  • hackers
  • soundchip
  • chipmusic
  • platform studies
  • 8-bit
  • transgression
  • immersion
  • hauntology


  • Peter Dahlgren (professor)