New Media, New Work, and the New Call to Intimacy: The Case of Musicians

The presentation is part of the OsloMet Digital Journalism Focus Seminars, organised by the research group Digital Journalism.

Moderator: Oscar Westlund, professor, Department of Journalism and Media Studies, OsloMet - Oslo Metropolitan University.


The architectures and norms of new media push people toward sharing everyday intimacies they might historically have kept to close friends and family. As more people are pushed toward gig work, the original gig workers - musicians - provide an exemplary lens for exploring the implications of this widespread blurring of interpersonal communication into everyday practices of professional viability. This talk draws on her new book "Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection", plus nearly a decade of work on the tensions that musicians - and many others - must manage as social media platforms become integral to professional life.


Nancy Baym is a Principal Researcher at Microsoft in New England and Research Affiliate in Comparative Media Studies and Writing at MIT. She began researching online fan community at the start of the 1990s, when she often had to explain the concept that networked computers were used to communicate.

She’s written on how people make sense of new communication technologies and weave them into their everyday lives in her books Personal Connections in the Digital Age (Polity), now in its second edition, Tune In, Log On: Soaps, Fandom, and Online Community (Sage), and, Internet Inquiry: Conversations about Method (co-edited with Annette Markham, Sage).  She’s appeared in the New York Times, the BBC, NPR, WIRED, Mother Jones, and other news outlets.

A lifelong music fan and former independent-record store employee, her new book Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection (NYU) draws on years of ethnographic participation and interviews with dozens of artists to show how social media have – and have not – changed the relationships between musicians and audiences and what that portends for workers in other fields.

Related publications

Baym, N. K. (2018). Playing to the Crowd: Musicians, Audiences, and the Intimate Work of Connection. New York University Press.
Baym, N. K. (2013). The Perils and Pleasures of Tweeting with Fans. In Twitter and Society, edited by Katrin Weller, Axel Bruns, Jean Burgess, Merja Mahrt, Cornelius Puschmann Peter Lang
Baym, N. K. (2013). Data Not Seen: The Uses and Shortcomings of Social Media Metrics First Monday 10 (October)
Baym, N. K. (2012). Fans or Friends: Seeing Social Media Audiences as Musicians Do. Participations 9(2).