Moments of identity: Dynamics of artist, persona, and audience in electronic music

Giovanni Formilan, David Stark*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In our account of artistic identities among electronic music artists, we point to the notion of persona as a key element in a triadic framework for studying the dynamics of identity. Building on pragmatist theory, we further draw on Pizzorno’s concept of mask and Luhmann’s notion of second-order observation to highlight the dual properties of persona: whether like a mask that is put on or like a probe that is put out, persona is a part that stands apart. Persona is an object that alter can recognize and by which ego can be recognized; but what is recognized defies the person’s complete control. We thus conceptualize identity as a multi-sided relationship that involves person, persona, and others. Building on our ethnographic research among electronic music artists in Berlin and New York, we characterize this relationship in terms of attachment between artist and persona, between artist and audience, and between persona and audience. These attachments are variable and independent from one another. The resulting model is an analytic tool to examine identity as the ongoing outcome of the three-way dynamics of such shifting attachments. We are attentive to persona because the creation and curation of online profiles have become a pervasive element in many people’s daily interactions in both social and work situations.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages30
JournalTheory and Society
Early online date7 Oct 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Oct 2021


  • attachment
  • electronic music
  • identity
  • persona
  • second-order observation


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