Other Publications

Conference Proceedings: Towards a Theoretical Approach for Analysing Music Recommender Systems as Sociotechnical Cultural Intermediaries

8th ACM Conference on Web Science, Hannover, Germany, May 23-25.

Jack Webster, Susan Halford, Nicholas Gibbins and Brian J. Hracs (2016) (PDF)


As the rate and scale of Web-related digital data accumulation continue to outstrip all expectations so too we come to depend increasingly on a variety of technical tools to interrogate these data and to render them as an intelligible source of information. In response, on the one hand, a great deal of attention has been paid to the design of efficient and reliable mechanisms for big data analytics whilst, on the other hand, concerns are expressed about the rise of ‘algorithmic society’ whereby important decisions are made by intermediary computational agents of which the majority of the population has little knowledge, understanding or control. This paper aims to bridge these two debates working through the case of music recommender systems. Whilst not conventionally regarded as ‘big data,’ the enormous volume, variety and velocity of digital music available on the Web has seen the growth of recommender systems, which are increasingly embedded in our everyday music consumption through their attempts to help us identify the music we might want to consume. Combining Bourdieu’s concept of cultural intermediaries with Actor-Network Theory’s insistence on the relational ontology of human and non-human actors, we draw on empirical evidence from the computational and social science literature on recommender systems to argue that music recommender systems should be approached as a new form of sociotechnical cultural intermediary. In doing so, we aim to define a broader agenda for better understanding the underexplored social role of the computational tools designed to manage big data.


RESEARCH REPORT: A significant minority: Mexican Seniors in Tourist REsorts

Bryan H. Massam, Brian J. Hracs, Rodrigo Espinoza & Connie Ko (2016) (PDF)


Attitudes, opportunities and circumstances largely determine the well-being of each individual and they sit, wonder and wait; in due course when nature intends they die. Such is the natural order of all humans as sentient beings. It is a journey nobody can avoid so why not travel with equanimity? In what ways is aging a private journey? Perhaps it is a journey shared with a spouse, partner, family, friends and strangers or traveled alone. Is it a journey that is controlled to some degree by the state and institutions and practices of the society-medical, cultural, economic and social? This project is an exploration of some of these issues in a specific context, namely with respect to selected individuals we classify as aged i.e. over 65 and hence eligible for some financial assistance from the state... 


RESEARCH REPORT: Tourism in Mexico: Many Faces

Bryan H. Massam, Brian J. Hracs & Rodrigo Espinoza (2015) (PDF)


Tourism is a major human activity in the modern age with significant impacts in many countries. Almost 1 billion people travel each year to a foreign destination and experience life in another place. Those who see tourists have a variety of feelings regarding the merits and problems associated with having strangers in their midst. Tourism is an important feature of life in many places in Mexico and a critical element in the economy of the country...

Book Review of 'Economic Geography: An Institutional Approach’ by Roger Hayter and Jerry Patchell

Brian J. Hracs (2013) The Canadian Geographer 57(1): e14 (PDF)

Research Report: Lived Experiences

Bryan H. Massam, Brian J. Hracs & Rodrigo Espinoza (2012) (PDF)


Economic geography encompasses a diverse range of real world phenomena and dynamic theory that is constantly shaped by new scholarship and lively debate. Synthesiz- ing this material into a single text is a daunting task but this is what Hayter and Patchell set out to do. The book is designed as an introductory text for first and second year university students and aims to provide a solid foundation for more advanced studies. Unlike other economic geography textbooks, Hayter and Patchell offer a distinctive Canadian perspective and systematic institutional interpretation of economic geography...


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This report considers the difficulty of measuring quality of life from the perspective of the life of an individual. It examines the role of responsibility in determining who can alter QOL; for example, a public policy or individual initiatives. The authors suggest ways to collect, display and interpret empirical data about the lived experiences of a sample of individuals in four countries (Canada, Mexico, Poland and Sweden). This data set is used as a test case to elaborate a new methodology on measuring QOL. In their analysis, the authors also identify issues with a number of well-being measurements and then apply their own lived experience survey analysis. 

PhD Dissertation: Working in the Creative Economy: the spatial dynamics of employment risk for musicians in Toronto

Brian J. Hracs (2010) University of Toronto (PDF)

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Drawing on sixty-five in-depth interviews with musicians and key informants in the music industry, this dissertation documents the intersections between technology, work and space. In particular, the analysis highlights the ways in which the new creative and spatial freedoms, associated with independent music production, are accompanied by intensified competition and employment risk, which musicians experience in an increasingly individualized way. Surviving in the current marketplace requires independent musicians to perform a range of new tasks and exhibit a higher degree of professionalism. Accordingly, the research outlines some of the reasons why some musicians are rejecting and reworking traditional bohemian lifestyles, spatial patterns and risk mediation strategies.

Research Report: Building Ontario’s Music Economies

Brian J. Hracs (2009) The Martin Prosperity Institute (PDF)



The goal of this report is to demonstrate the opportunity cities in Ontario have to attract, incubate and retain musical talent at a time when the structural and spatial landscape of the global music industry is in flux. This report argues that changes to the music industry, in the wake of new digital technologies, and a declining market for recorded music is leveling the playing field for cities and allowing new locations to compete with the established centers of music production. 

MA Thesis: Culture in the Countryside: a study of economic development and social change in Prince Edward County, Ontario

Brian J. Hracs (2005) York University (PDF)

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This thesis examines the effectiveness and transferability of culturally-driven economic development strategies between large urban centres and small rural municipalities. It uses a case study of Prince Edward County (PEC), Ontario. This rural community is located within two hours of Toronto and has experienced some success reversing its recent economic downturn by promoting culture and cultural industries.