Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Stephen B. Groce (Director), Douglas Clayton Smith, Jennifer Walton-Hanley

Degree Program

Department of Sociology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Music is everywhere. From formal occasions to a person’s morning run. Music is available on cell phones, computers, in religious ceremonies, at concerts and venues. Music is seen by society to be important and a person’s choice of music can be used to present an identity. The question considered in this article is how people talk about music and how they present identity through their discussion. The current study examines eight focus groups of three actors instructed to simply talk about music. The discussions were recorded and analyzed in a conversation analytic style to identify the structures of the conversations and how these were used to present and regulate identity. Participants also provided background information about their music preferences and experiences as well as their goals in managing their self-presentation. The results of the study focus on the general question of “What kind of music do you listen to?” and how participants managed their answers. Particular attention is given to actors’ management of opportunities to create an in-group identification and avoid inference rich categorization. This study focuses primarily upon different ways this can be managed. Examples include three part list use, storytelling, subgenre specifications, and the use of phrases like “I listen to all kinds of music.” It is argued that these devices can be used by an actor to present themselves as a member of the current in-group while avoiding being categorized in a possibly negative way based on their music choices.


Communication | Interpersonal and Small Group Communication | Music | Social Psychology and Interaction | Sociology | Sociology of Culture