Monthly Archives: December 2004

music genres and moods

One of the reasons that i loved Napster was that you could see how people labeled their music, particularly the genre. In music, i use genre like i use tagging in Gmail, and Flickr, only i’m a bit more obsessive about keeping them organized. My playlists are all automatically created based on my idiosyncratic genre labels. The labels are not for you, but for me and i don’t care if PsyChill doesn’t really exist – it’s the label that ties together things like bluetech and Shpongle.

Due to 1) my new iPod, 2) the barfing of my Mac, 3) the scanning of CDs and 4) my obsession with last.FM, i am diving deeply into my music collection to re-genrify things. It is this attribute of last.FM that is given me the greatest curiosity. Last.FM is full of people with – shall we say – “interesting” tastes. I’m sorry but there is no playlist in the world that should have Gwar and Nina Simone together. Wrong wrong wrong. And why is Elliott Smith on the top artists page of the genre Breaks? No no no.

Of course, i’m part of fucking this up. I love Elliott Smith and i love breaks. Since i am in the breaks group, my listening to Elliott Smith is affecting that genre page. This is a problem. I know better when i manually genrify my music. Elliott Smith is is the MaleNeuvoFolk genre (which is effectively equivalent to Sadcore except can also be listened to when not depressed). I would never recommend Elliott Smith to a breaks aficionado.

I’m worried that this diverse listening pattern is messing up all the data. After three days of listening to non-stop chillout, goa and breaks, i should not be getting recommendations for Rancid and Ludacris. The problem is that there’s a big gap between Beth Orton and Son Kite and i fear that trying to resolve those two listening patterns will result in abysmal results. The system should know that i’m listening with two different faceted patterns – the chill danah and the dancey danah.

When i ask a friend for music advice, i don’t simply say “give me anything you listen to.” I know better. But i would ask “could you make me a dub mix?” or “what would complement Dr Toast?” Or think about the Back to Mine series (collections based on what musicians chill out to). I want my last.FM to understand that there are moods. All of my playlists get this. All of my genrification gets this. Now it’s time for last.FM. I should be able to play everything that userx thinks makes for “coding music” or for “chill out” or for “getting ready to go out.” I want to be able to cluster my music. I want to be able to inform Audioscrobbler to only tell the genre group “PsyTrance” about things that i’ve marked Full-On, Melodic, Scando or PsyChill. Or tell them about a playlist or two. Tag the genres so that i don’t blush when i see my love of Johnny Cash appear as appropriate for other Trip-Hop fiends.

we are a stingy nation: on tsunami cluelessness

I watched six hours of tsunami news the first night, dousing myself in CNN reports. I was rubber necking, only i’m not sure if i was trying to see the tsunami wreck or the CNN wreck. I was in complete awe by the coverage, utterly angry in fact. Although there were loads of interviews with survivors, not a single survivor’s voice shown on CNN was brown. In other words, all we saw were the rich white American tourists. Reports babbled on about what would happen if America was hit with a tsunami, complete with little simulations. As the death toll rose, a special report was given from Alaska where the US last experienced a tsunami. Comparisons were made about the magnitude, the harm, the horror. Less than a dozen people were killed in that one. Reports were given about how to protect yourself from a tsunami if it were to hit New York. Dear fucking god we are a selfish nation.

So, our country was guilted into supplying more money for the relief and Bush gets on TV to defensively resist accusations that we are a stingy nation. Of course we are a stingy nation – we always have been. ::sigh::

Then i woke to the following email in a thread on a mailing list:

what i’m looking for is an organization who will take my volunteer efforts in SE asia. i’ll fly out there, no problem. i’ll perform hard labour for 2 weeks straight. but i can’t afford to get my own lodging and food. no one wants my help. anyone know of any organization that would?

First, this man’s intentions are really good – he really wants to help, but his help is constructed in a typically American way. He’s willing to give up time – one precious American commodity – but not money. But let’s think about this. He wants to go to a devastated region that is devoid of food, shelter and water. He wants to put in hard labor to help a starving, dehydrated, homeless population and he’s demanding these amenities!?!?!? You have got to be kidding me. Now, i am guessing that most of the villagers in these regions are putting in hard labor to repair their communities. And they’re doing it without food water or housing. What kind of selfish, clueless request is this? But of course, in America, we want to help with any commodity other than money. We don’t like giving money. That’s fucking ridiculous when almost every NGO and NPO needs money more than anything. They need to buy things in the local regions, help the people there. This is not just true for the tsunami relief situation, but in general.

Consider the clothing drives that are currently going on in the States. You want to ship off your $30 white branded T-Shirt. This was most likely created in an Asian country for maybe ? ten cents ?, sold to a manufacturer for maybe a quarter. You want to package this up, spend a bazillion dollars on shipping and send it back to Asia!?!? If you sent $10, at least 40 of your beloved T-Shirts could be bought. More importantly, the organizing NGOs could buy the most economical T-Shirts, support the local region’s economy and make certain that people got what they needed.

So when you think of donating blood or donating clothing, what are you really saying? You’re saying you’re too damn cheap to donate money. Money is what is needed, money is how these organizations can make certain to buy the maximum amount of needed materials and distribute them in the best way possible. Considering that time equals money, if you’ve read this far, you’ve probably spent $.50 assuming minimum wage only. Consider how much time you spend reading blogs or about the tsunami – donate that time multiplied by your hourly wage. Or, given that it’s New Year’s Eve, why not donate the amount of money that you spent today on champagne, food and party tickets.

We are a stingy nation.

music networks (last.FM and Audioscrobbler)

One of my favorite parts of the academic interim period is that i can catch up on all of the things that i have put on the queue as unacceptable procrastination devices. I sent my computer in to be fixed (damn optical drive), bought a new iPod and have been organizing my music.

Amidst this, i finally dove into Last.FM and Audioscrobbler (even later than Liz). Aside from the fact that it’s fascinating to see what all i listen to, it’s absolutely intriguing to see what others are listening to and to be able to listen to their music as “radio.” I’ve already found two new DJs that i *love*.

Music is a social tool. Most people get their music through their friends and social networks say more about music than anything else. Of course, many of my older friends are still listening to what they loved when they were in college because they no longer have access the diverse networks that introduce them to new music. And we’re not even going to begin discussing the weaknesses of radio. When Napster collapsed, my music explorations collapsed. The only thing that fixed that was a server my friends have that allows you to stream music. Folks in our crew upload music and we can all stream it. That is a fantastic way of connecting to interesting music that my friends have found. This is effectively what Last.FM is doing on a larger scale

Of course, i found songs that i liked, tried to buy them at the iTunes store, realized that they didn’t exist (because they aren’t so mainstream) and then re-downloaded LimeWire to find them. It’s frustrating because many of the CDs i listen to go out of stock relatively quickly or only have a few runs. It’s sooo important for me to find other people that have them and i’m still cranky with the RIAA for making it hard for me to find rare songs that they don’t even cover anyhow.

I’m very curious what will happen once more folks get on it (particularly youth and alternative cultures). I’m already pleased to find out that there are more than 100 psychonauts out there. This certainly looks like the type of sharing-driven social networking tools that i love.

damn AIM caps

As i’ve mentioned before, i think that it’s *ludicrous* that services cap the number of people that you can and should know. I’ve hit the AIM cap – 200 buddies. I keep removing people but there are not enough people to remove anymore – there are only 10 addresses that i can’t associate with someone. I tried to remove anyone who hasn’t logged in in a while or who i don’t actually talk to, but the reality is that AIM is my primary form of communication for work colleagues, for social connections, for geeking out. I never login without there being at least 30 people that i know online (even now at midnight in the interim period). Although i talk to only a fraction every day, i rely on the presence bits to be in contact with people regularly and have the ability to reach out when appropriate. As more people get on AIM, work interactions switch to AIM and folks like my brother start maintaining one IM address per device, the caps are going to get more and more problematic. I honestly don’t know what to do.

How are other people handling conversation caps like the AIM cap? I cannot even imagine having a cap on my addressbook, but that’s what this feels like.

the performance of the public intellectual

In my performance studies class this fall, folks presented papers on a variety of topics. I was utterly floored by the caliber of them, even those that i was not topically invested in. One of my classmates – Rudy Ramirez – presented a paper that really made me think about what it means to perform being a public intellectual. I found this discussion especially intriguing considering the role of the blogger as a pseudo public intellectual. (Yes, i know that there are huge problems with this statement that i’m just not going to take up right now.)

Ramirez’ paper – Authorizing Activism: Arundhati Roy and the Performance of the Public Intellectual – discusses the topic through the life of Arundhati Roy (who is a most amazing public intellectual). It’s a fun read if you enjoy this kind of thing.

Of particular interest is the lit review discussion about the collapse of the public intellectual and the rise of the pundit, whereby professional standards are at issue as well as a concern that narrow expertise does not necessarily imply moral authority. All of this is highly relevant to the blogging community.

[I will take some of these issues up more later when i can think more straightly. Still, i wanted to offer the paper to those who are bored at work waiting for New Year’s.]

i’m home

Two felines sat at my door with a foul expression, clearly upset that i was gone for so long. Or perhaps i’m projecting my guilt. The holidays have been wonderful – time with friends and family, gluttonous food and culture. But i’m really glad to be home and now it’s time to get back into high gear.

I will be blogging some of the backlog even though my need to understand the tsunami’s effects are trumping all other activities. Information on how to help is being posted at Tsunami Help.

on being shunned by libraries

On the MEA mailing list, there was a discussion about this article: Students shun search for information offline. Generally, the article takes the stance that students are lazy and assume everything online is true. I’m not going to deny those claims, but i want to offer an alternative story.

I was first kicked out of a library in the 2nd grade (for reading inappropriate material for my age… “Flowers in the Attic” was not an appropriate “chapter book”). By middle school, i despised the library, having been kicked out many more times for talking, chewing gum, more inappropriate reading and what-have-you. There were rigid hours, limitations on what you could read and access. The library to me was a controlled space with authoritarian dictators. I was shunned by the library and i shunned it in return.

I’m in graduate school in a former librarian school. My advisor was a head librarian. I’m still afraid of the library. I visited the Brown library twice – to give out donuts naked. I never visited an MIT library and i have never been inside a Berkeley one either. I’m still afraid of the library. I visit the NYC Public Library to sit on its beautiful steps. I believe in the value of libraries, support efforts to rejuvenate them and make them public space. I’m still afraid of the library.

Combined with my book fetish, my fear of libraries has resulted in both a severe addiction and a very acute ability to navigate material online to determine its validity. I order articles when i need them and ping professors for digital copies of their papers. Doing research online away from the controlling eye of a librarian makes me feel far safer, far more willing to explore new areas. Being always online, i’ve learned to figure out what makes something valuable and how to trace it to a source (and i lurve lurve lurve things like Google Scholar and Amazon Book Search).

I have no doubt that students are not equipped to do research. Then again, i think that our schools are pretty fubared, but that’s a tangent. I am not convinced that it is as simple as getting folks to get offline though. For starters, this invalidates the security of information exploration that these folks know. Instead, how can students be taught to value lots of different perspectives that come in lots of different mediums and how can they be given the skills to understand the different mediums? How can the value of offline sources be coupled with online tools? In this way, i’m definitely of the ilk that believes in cultural studies, media students and a deep understanding of the relationship between information.

Computer-Human Interaction Workshops

The workshops at CHI this year are fantastic. The conference appears to be expanding its notion of what constitutions interactions between technology and people/society (away from the 1-1 computer/human paradigm that was often emphasized).

I’m debating between applying to:
W1. Engaging The City: Public Interfaces As Civic Intermediary
W18. Designing Technology for Community Appropriation

[It should be noted that there are lots of other workshops that might be applicable to various readers of this blog so do check it out if you’re so inclined. The deadline for workshop applications is January 3 which is a complete bitch.]

Extremities: a play about rape

I went to see a terrifying play last night – Extremities:

Set in present-day, Extremities is every woman’s worst nightmare come true… with a twist. During an attempted rape, a woman captures her attacker and proceeds to torture him. Her roommates return home and struggle to determine who is guilty of a crime, the woman or her would-be rapist.

It’s a benefit for SFWAR – San Francisco Women Against Rape and it runs through this weekend. It’s the kind of play that makes you really uncomfortable but you’re super glad you saw it.