My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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tagging music

::bounce:: OMG!!! Remember when i whimpered about how audioscrobbler should tag music? They did it!! Audioscrobbler and Last.FM finally came together as one (Last.FM) and they introduced a new interface. With the new interface, they introduced tagging. This means that you can tag any artist, song or album. They have a tag editor that lets you tag en-masse. (Unfortunately, a lot of the tagging is painfully slow and not nearly as clean and easy as things like Flickr – it often requires multiple steps before you can add a tag and i keep hanging browsers.)

This is absolutely brilliant! Music is the best candidate for tagging because there’s no authority on genre (although lots of people think they are). Genre is something that is collectively discussed and disagreed upon in almost every music community. Genres regularly split as innovations in music occur and club wars take place over particular tracks and whether it is _really_ X genre. Music genres are highly personal while simultaneously collective – communities are built based on people with similar music tastes and they collectively negotiate the boundaries of a particular genre.

Every music fiend i know bitches about the fact that iTunes only has one possibility for genre. It makes it difficult to negotiate music and you have to create hierarchies. With tagging, that is no longer necessary. Tagging allows people to negotiate music in a more sophisticated way, slicing through the genres in structures that better reflect how people conceptually organize music. Furthermore, in the case of Last.FM, it allows us to move away from streaming by person to streaming by person by their genres (or any tags really). This lets us shape how our music is perceived by others by giving us a way to control the slices.

It’s going to take me forever to tag my music (and damn do i wish it would connect back to iTunes) but i’m very very excited that Last.FM has started this process. And, please, tag your music so that i can listen to it in context!

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7 comments to tagging music

  • Ken

    By the by, any chance you’d share your AudioScrobbler profile name with us?

    Pescabicicleta

  • [hmm… I guess “with great difficulty” was not the response to “How you do spell apophenia.]

    Tagging is great and all, but last.fm’s implementation is painfully shortsighted IMHO. Unless they’re somehow reading tags from your own music files, it’s all rather ephemereal; last.fm goes belly-up, and all that metadata you’ve added just goes POOF.

    In a way, frankly, it’s sort of like Flickr. I love Flickr, I’m a paying subscriber, but… there’s no way in hell I’m tagging my stuff online. Because come the day that Flickr is no more or it becomes too expensive for me or I decide to close my account for whatever reason, all of the time I spent adding metadata to my photos would be lost to me.

    In Flickr’s defense, they recently added the ability to have keywords read from *your own photo files* (IPTC) and translated into tags. That’s much better :).

    And yes, I understand that last.fm is a radio station, not a personal music depository, so I’m not quite sure HOW they could effectively implement a meta-data’ing system that allows the meta-data’er to retain the fruits of his or her contributions. But still, I think it’s an important issue to consider!

  • joe

    The fucked up thing is that iPhoto already does “tagging”… that is you can enter keywords in for photos and then search, manipulate, etc. the photos based on the tags.

  • The best last.fm tag I have come across so far is: “songs that i sing along to but i always forget the words so i say duh duh while trying to sound like i do know the words and no one is falling for it but they keep quiet because they are embarassed for me”

    🙂

  • apophenia round-up: posts that slipped through

    I’ve been doing a terrible job at posting to M2M because i’m never quite sure what fraction of my posts belong here and what tone is appropriate. I’ve been actively posting to my personal blog apophenia and looking back, i…

  • Just thought I’d pass on a little project I’ve been working on – Shtaggle – its free and uses last.fm to get/send tags.

    Its Mac OS X (10.5 i386 only, at the mo), and in early/on-off development (I fully appreciate your lack of time due to academia 😉

    Anyway, just thought I’d let you know. If you have a chance, its at http://shtaggle.co.uk