Category Archives: technology

Twitter and More Blogging

Hello, whoever is reading this! I haven’t written a blog post for AGES. My theory is that I use things like blogging for procrastination, so I only really blog when I’m really busy. Hence, when I’m on holiday, I don’t say so much. Which is silly, because it is exactly when I can say a lot. Or photos, or whatever.

Anyway, I really want to get back into this (by which I mean blogging) and might change my focus/direction. Everything I’ve written so far tends to be quite long and thought-out, so it’s more difficult for me to write regularly. I think I’ll switch to shorter posts about pointless thoughts I’ve had rather than sticking to reviewing movies and music (because then I have to actually listen to the whole album and think of something original to say).

I also need to find more blogs and get a blogroll and whatever. Ooh! And I’m on Twitter now. I’m not sure how it will work out, since I’ve got one follower who I think has already given up on it. So, add me on http://twitter.com/apsheko so I can start a network or something.

Do I need a conclusion? Psssh, I’m not at school anymore. Fin.

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The Death of the Album

The Death of the Album” is how Elbow frontman Guy Garvey describes the iTunes music store. AC/DC’s Angus Young criticizes the service for enabling listeners to download only a certain number of musicians’ songs, rather than entire albums. But it is undeniable that the internet is changing the way music is created and distributed. Although internet music downloading has been around for ages, the growing affordability and uptake of high-speed internet and the increasing rate of computer literacy means that more people than ever can choose to download their music on the internet from services such as iTunes rather than buy it in the traditional way.

But not everybody uses paid download services. If you’re already on the internet, why pay for something you can get for free? The majority of music can be easily accessed and downloaded on programs such as BitTorrent. And naturally, this is giving the record companies grief and eating into their profits. This is considered theft of intellectual property and can (and has!) be(en) grounds for a lawsuit. But is this way of thinking about music outdated?

As I mentioned in a previous post, this way of doing it has been challenged by the likes of Radiohead (who released their latest album, In Rainbows, for free on the internet as an experiment) and Nine Inch Nails (who are allowing the modification, remixing and redistribution of their music through a Creative Commons license). As my friend James says:

“…no matter how they released their music, there was no way that NiN’s or Radiohead’s ‘experiments’ were going to fail, as they both have large established fanbases…”

I believe these baby steps taken by people who have already made it big are indicative of the future of the music industry, the traditional methods of distribution being killed off by internet piracy. But should this be seen as a threat to musicians and their ability to make a livelihood? My answer is: no- providing the system is overhauled.

The whole idea of buying music- whether as a grammophone record, tape cassette, CD or whatever- is relatively new. When you consider that the technology to record sound was only developed in the late 18th century (Thomas Edison’s phonograph cylinder) and remained quite limited (in terms of both quality and affordability) for quite some time, the concept of the album, the mass-produced recording of an artist’s music, is quite recent. Obviously musicians existed and worked before then. But this technology marked a new era in the way musicians could create and distribute music. So my argument is that the current technology marks another paradigm shift regarding commerical music.

Let me explain the way I see the history of musicians’ livelihoods: at first, musicians needed a patron, a king or wealthy lord who would sponsor them (and this is true of course for other creative artists) and commission the creation and performance of music. Then, as the middle class expanded, more people could afford to attend musicians’ performances and so the role of the patron diminished as musicians could make a living by giving public concerts to the “common people”. Later, as recording technology developed, and the majority of people had access to gramophones, tape decks, CD players and the like, the role of the patron (this time reincarnated in the record company) again increased. However, today it is possible to cheaply record and distribute music without the neccessity for record labels (as is evident if one only takes a moment to search through the great amount of free, unsigned music available on websites such as Myspace). In addition, viral marketing and networking have shown that it is possible to advertise and distribute one’s work without needing the vast resources of the likes of Sony and IMG.

So where is this leading? My argument is that the next natural step in the creation, distribution and even popular conception of music will result in the irrelevance of major record labels and the destruction of the current concept of recorded music as a commodity. Because recorded music need not be a commodity. Because of the zero marginal cost of information, downloading music does not directly cause the musician to incur a loss; which is to say if I downloaded an album off BitTorrent, it would not physically reduce the artist’s profit, but only in that it would make it far less likely that I would spend money on purchasing that album.

So under the current system, we see the musicians are clearly losing out. But what if there were a new generation of musicians that did not expect to make money in this way? To give an example, I would be happy for as many people as possible to read this blog; as though I spent time and effort writing it, I am not further inconvenienced by people reading it and generally want people to read what I have written. But if for some strange reason people had to log in and pay to read my blog, I would be very angry if somebody was distributing unauthorized copies of my writing elsewhere. So the way I see it, the next generation of musicians–those who would record their music without ever stepping into a major studio, promote it on internet for free and have it available for everybody on websites such as Myspace–would be only too happy to share their music, to get as many people listening to it as possible.

But of course there is the issue of money. How will musicians make their livelihood? Well, I cannot answer that, but perhaps the future of music will lead to a growing emphasis on live music (as you cannot the experience of a live concert for free on the internet). To me, this theory of the next stage sounds lovely on paper (but then again, so did communism). The way in which it occurs will have to be seen, only time will tell, etc…

Finally, my Marxist vision for the future of music is centred on a greater freedom: because patronage demands conformity. Musicians hundreds of years ago and mainstream ones today have one thing in common: they must please their benefactors, be they lords or executives. This can be seen in Trent Reznor’s break away from Interscope Records, as he claimed that their commercial concerns and restrictions were impinging in his creatvity. In Peter Shaffer’s play Amadeus (later adapted to film), Antonio Salieri says of the role of the musician:

“We gave them processions for their strutting, serenades for their rutting, high horns for their hunting, and drums for their wars. Trumpets sounded when they entered the world and trumpets groaned when they left it!”

But Salieri suffered from great mediocrity, despite his present fame and acclaim, because the conformity demanded of him limited his creativity. So, in my vision for the future of music and the death of the album, I see musicians creating music for its own sake (and still somehow making a living!), unburdened by the suffocating demands of big business and the free sharing of recorded music: a dictatorship of the individual musician.

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More Metablogging

I thought I’d write another post about blogging, check how that Blogging Manifesto of mine was coming along (had I stuck to my ideology? or did i abandon it, swayed by worldly pleasures?). So far I’ve delivered about one of each of the following: CD review, book review, gig review and movie reviews. (A mixed bag, one of everything, to start off with). The only real technology I’ve utilised is Youtube (to give a preview of a movie) and uploading photos; but I think the real advantage of blogging that has jumped out at me is the ability to share, to publish my views.

While writing the review for Turing’s Delirium (a book that I had read some time back), I searched up some other reviews (one from the Sydney Morning Herald and another from the New York Times) just to remind myself of what happened in the book and what sort of issues were raised (no plagarism, I swear!). It struck me that a very good aspect of the internet and blogging was that a person like me could share my opinions on books and films and that people might happen to read it; whereas there would be no way in hell that would be accepted as a piece of literary criticism in one of the major aforementioned newspapers.

Ditto the photos that I uploaded of two gigs: a smaller one (a gypsy rock band in a Brunswick St bar) and a larger one (an internationally-recognized band playing in a large concert venue). Whereas in the past it would be easy to find press photos of famous bands, promotional shots, live photos taken by professionals with massive lenses standing a matter of feet from the bands; it would not be considered worthwhile to publish, say, the photography of a person standing in Row S, taking pictures with a mid-range still camera. But now, and with almost no cost, my amateur photography is available to see, irrelevant to most; but perhaps interesting to friends– or at least an interesting personal perspective.

So I’ve done that so far. Still on the list is exploring Melbourne’s fascinating niches (using Flickr or something with geotagging), recording improvisations or jam sessions, political opinions (although I’ll save those for bit… don’t want to put people off too soon!) and some short stories and fiction. So though I haven’t really utilised all the cutting-edge technology or even that which I discussed in the first post, I’ve come to see the value for blogging as a medium of personal expression and publishing.

And finally, it struck me as rather M.C. Escher-esque that I started this blog with a post about blogging, at which point my mother wrote a post about blogging about blogging on her blog; which was then blogged about in another blog (hence the Escher picture at the top of this post). So (correct me if I’m wrong), that would be a blog about a blog about a blog about blogging. Convoluted, no?

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Why Blog?

The first thing I thought about when thinking about starting this blog was the question: Why blog? Of all the media (and especially of all the media available free for anyone’s use on the internet), why choose blogging? What can be accomplished, and why do people blog?

The way I see it, blogging and other internet media represent the third revolution in the distribution of technology- the first being the oft-referenced Gutenberg press which took literacy and knowledge out of the monasteries and enabled fairly regular people to own books for the first time; and the second being the advent of affordable home computers, especially word-processing and the internet. The leap from the second stage to the third is not essentially one of technology (although the development of more sophisticated web services, such as Flickr, Youtube, etc… has helped) but one of mindframe, of paradigm shift. People no longer are just able to blog, but blogging is increasingly becoming accepted as a legitimate medium of information; albeit quite different to others. At the cost of the credibility associated with major news services and other more traditional ways of geting our information, a whole new world is opened up- of personal opinion, a perspective into the lives and experiences of others and original creativity. When subjective experience and opinion is sought over objective fact, blogging becomes a medium very difficult to beat.

So then we must recognize the immense power of such a medium, giving people speech and expression like never before (even in places like China!) and helping the post-constructivists break down the meta-narrative into the voices of a billion people (give or take…). Though it is certainly the idea of blogging that is the most powerful, the technology available also increases the ways in which people may express themselves. Photographers can take photos of their home city or holidays and post them on Flickr, along with geotags (so that people may see exactly where the photos were taken); performing artists can upload audio or video recordings of themselves on services such as Youtube to increase their exposure; political commentators can by series of hyperlinks to other blogs and news services critically analyse current affairs and provide explanations, arguments and challenges to what is reported in traditional established media. All of these forms of expression can be directly embedded into blogs, providing an individual with a space in which to express themselves- in the case of writers, musicians, etc…, to publish their work for free (or close to it)!

Other than the uses of blogs outlined above, people can give their opinions on any topic, regardless of whether they are qualified to or not– however, some may argue this medium entitles and qualifies us all to give our opinions and it is the responsibility of the discerning reader to evaluate opinions and take everything with a grain of salt. People can express themselves creatively, through uploaded music or art, poetry, short stories. People can give us a look into their lives– the anonymity of the web means we may gain a glimpse into what would otherwise be closed to us. People can just make observations about topics ranging from world affairs to their own lives.

So how is this relevant to my blog? Well, I was thinking about these questions when thinking about what I should write about. We have climbed the ladder of abstraction (or have we gone down? which way are generalities?) and climbed down again to the specific (or have we gone up? I really regret bringing in the whole concept of the ladder…) to consider what is happening in this blog. Well, I see this blog as a mixture of observations, expressions and opinions. Some ideas include reviewing of albums, movies, books and gigs.  I promise (but may not deliver) to delve into the hidden areas of the city (Melbourne, Australia) and with the aid of my camera and geotagging show exactly how interesting it is. My opinions, however misguided, on various political and philsophical topics will be thrust in the face of whoever deigns to read this. It would also be a good medium for creative expression- short stories, updates on musical recordings, etc…

I’m well aware that nobody will read this, at least for now. But perhaps if I make the blog interesting enough, somebody will. So this blog has begun with a post about blogging. I’m sure that if I can find the time to do all the things I promised in the previous paragraph, at least somebody out there in the “internet” (some form of magical world?) will read it.

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