Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Moments of Identity Event

Moments of identity. Artists and their aliases in electronic music

A talk by David Stark and Giovanni Formilan

Date: 23 January 2019, 15.30-17.30

Location: R0.03 Ramphal Building


In many creative fields, distinctive identities are shaped around named personas – pen names in literature, stage names in the performing arts, aliases in music. More than just responding to the need for artistic recognition, these personas also serve as test devices to navigate the complexity and unpredictability of one’s presence in the creative journey. Drawing evidence from the underground electronic music scene, a field where both genres and aliases proliferate, we outline dynamics of anonymity, visibility, and engagement that surround the use of aliases. We identify nine ideal moments in which the relation among person, persona, and audience gives temporary shape to the creative identity of the artist. Representing a part of the artist, the alias is projected apart from the artist and, through this curious distance that anticipates expectations and demands feedback, creative identity develops as a process of ongoing curation.

David Stark is Professor of Social Science at the University of Warwick and Arthur Lehman Professor of Sociology at Columbia University. His book, The Sense of Dissonance: Accounts of Worth in Economic Life (Princeton University Press 2009) is an ethnographic account of how organizations and their members search for what is valuable. Ongoing projects include experimental research to examine how ethnic diversity disrupts conformity and deflates price bubbles; network analytic studies on team formation in creative fields; and research on how the social structure of attention shapes valuation.

Giovanni Formilan joined CIM as Research Fellow in May 2018 from the University of Bologna, where he received his PhD in General Management. His current research interests involve the dynamics and patterns of cultural innovation, the construction of professional identity, and the study of trajectories in the field of creative and cultural production. His most recent publication (co-authored with S. Ferriani and G. Cattani) looks at the application of social sequence analysis to the study of creative trajectories.