Macquarie University
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Palm trees, xanax, and dank memes: vaporwave’s nostalgia play

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posted on 2022-03-29, 03:46 authored by Max Alexander James Mahood
This thesis studies the online multimedia genre of vaporwave (alternatively spelled ‘vapourwave’) as a vehicle of self-expression for certain members of the millennial generation. The genre is the latest milestone in a tradition of appropriation art from a musical perspective, as well as a visual one. Vaporwave’s practitioners appropriate and recycle material to create works which evoke nostalgia for the recent past, especially the aesthetics of the late 1980s and early 1990s, early internet art and computerised graphics from the same period. The musical aspect of the genre follows similar themes, and samples obscure or forgotten music and sounds (such as TV commercials or computer operating system sounds, for example). The central question which describes the thesis is, ‘To What Extent Do Millennial Worldviews Inform Vaporwave?’ The thesis answers this question not only by understanding millennial worldviews, but also framing that understanding around vaporwave and its nostalgic tendencies. To do this, numerous media theories (such as the concept of ‘media nostalgia’ and ‘hauntology’, terms credited to Katharina Niemeyer and Jacques Derrida respectively ) will be employed to develop an insight into how vaporwave and its millennial audience views past media objects as a source for the genre and its artistic inspiration. Furthermore, the thesis considers the impact that historical events has had on vaporwave’s outlook and that promotes desire of the millennial generation to ‘return to a better time’ (such as the 1990s, when members of the generation were children) through vaporwave’s nostalgia play.


Table of Contents

Chapter I. Introduction -- Chapter II. Literature review -- Chapter III. How did we get here? Vaporwave's family tree -- Chapter IV. Vaporwave as ghostly media -- Chapter V. Conclusion -- Reference list.


Theoretical thesis. Bibliography: pages 47-51

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis MRes


MRes, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of Media, Music, Communication and Cultural Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Stephen Collins


Copyright Max Alexander James Mahood 2018. Copyright disclaimer:




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