Monthly Archives: December 2008

Conference: Modernity 2.0

urbino

Photo by Zyance, CC Share Alike

June 29 – July 3, Urbino, Italy. This is the 9th International Conference on Sociocybernetics, themed “Modernity 2.0: Emerging Social Media Technologies and Their Impacts”. From the Call for Papers:

In recent years, the Internet and other information and communication technologies have had great impacts on almost all aspects of human life, locally and globally. The extant of these impacts can be seen in the ubiquity of the use of the prefix ‘e-‘, as in e-commerce, e-business, e-government, e-democracy, e-science, e-learning, e-entertainment and so on. Thanks to the cheaper prices and ease of use of these technologies, more and more people are able to access digital contents, as part of a mass audience, and more and more people are able to create and publish content off their own initiative. The Web has moved from being a one-way communication channel extending traditional media, to a complex “peer-to-peer” communication space with a blurred author/audience distinction and new ways to create, share and use knowledge in a social way. This establishes new global fora, started by a few, and sustained by millions of local acts. This change of paradigm is currently profoundly transforming most areas of our lives: our interactions with other people, our relationships, ways of gathering, creating and disseminating information, ways of developing social norms, opinions, attitudes and even legal aspects as well as ways of working and doing business. It also raises a strong need for theoretical, empirical and applied studies related to how people may interact on the Web, how they actually do so and what new possibilities and challenges are emerging in the individual, business and technology dimensions. It is not the first time in the history of social media that a new technology becomes suddenly available to a wider group of people due to a specific social, economical and historical context.

Possible topics should include, but are not limited to:

* Local issues with respect to a particular geographical region, political entity or cultural or ethnic group;
* Global issues affecting all mankind in the 21st century;
* Emerging technologies and the link between the micro and macro levels of individual actors and social institutions, respectively;
* Social systems and economic models of the web;
* Y Generation and participation on the web (politics, business and entertainment);
* Culture, knowledge and social impact of the Semantic web;
* e-Social Science;
* Cyberculture, knowledge and local communities;
* Teaching the digital natives in networked space;
* The public/private distinction on the Internet;
* Cybernetics and Web Science;
* Social capital in social network sites (SNSs).

This should bring together some highly interesting contributions, and the location is perfect for extensive work on the narrative of modernity in the computer network age.
Conference website

The Eastern Spree Banks: A Berlin Heterotopy II

bar25

Photo by Bar 25

The banks of the river Spree in the Eastern part of Berlin are home to a diversity of clubs, music venues, art projects, and cultural practice in general. The activity in this area contributed a lot to equip Berlin with the identity it now enjoys as a global hotspot for new developments in electronic music and contemporary art.

Come 2009, the grounding for all this is in danger of being erased as the major development plan called “Mediaspree” will be enforced. Bulldozers will tear down locations like the world-famous Bar 25 if nothing happens. And a lot has already happened. A referendum was held in the districts affected by the development plan, and the vast majority cast their vote renouncing the execution of the plan. However, this did not have any legal implications for the Berlin Senate, and they are determined to go ahead with the destruction of this cultural heterotopy in the middle of Germany’s capital.

There is another online petition to save Bar 25, but there’s no reason to believe this will have a bigger impact on the decision makers than the huge public referendum.

Ironically, Berlin’s apparent attractiveness to investors in the media business is largely owed to the work that was done and the things that happened in the very area now bound to be torn down.
Check out and/or sign the petition here

The Creative “Pro”

In software for creative media production, a re-definition process is gaining momentum that was originally started by Apple’s consolidation of their top-line creative software as the “Pro” line. But what does “Pro” stand for in an economy that is on the way of making the old definition of professionalism obsolete. Professional instruments are traditionally those you can bet your life on. Transferred to the creative media industry, that makes professional instruments those that one uses to earn a living. But there’s no clear divide any more, as electronic musicians use products that used to be considered as un-professional to make a (good) living with music, while an army of amateurs invests in “Pro” products, thus funding their development in the first place.

So, as the hard, essential definition of professionalism doesn’t seem to hold in this realm, the “Pro” in so many software products seems to signify something else: The image of the straightforward, no-frills professional, the one that “gets things done” with just the right tools for the job. With an abundance of complex creative tools at hand, a demand is created for straightening out the creative process, for something to help actually finish a project – just like the glorified “professional”. Maybe that dream is what so many of us buy in a “Pro” product.

Finally: Build standalone applications in Pd

pd_standalone

At last, a long-awaited feature surfaced in the latest releases of the ‘extended’ version of Pure Data (Pd), the open source programming environment that’s a close cousin of Max/MSP: Exporting patches as standalone applications.

Sure, this was possible before if you knew how to compile the necessary files and write your own scripts, but now, at least on Mac OS, it’s as easy as the push of a button. And I’m sure that will make a big, big difference for a lot of Pd builders. Hopefully, we’re going to see more and more Pd-based applications appear, that people without any experience in Pd can use straight out of the box.

It’s unclear when this feature will be available in the Linux and Windows versions of Pd, but if you’re on a Mac, just download the latest Pd autobuild.

Quantizing MySpace: The Online Musician’s Currency

Profile Views

Whenever certain qualitative criteria for the assessment of a product or a service are not enough to justify (or determine) its value, generalizations occur. This becomes blatantly clear in the way numbers on MySpace pages are being observed. Right now, MySpace is the most important source of information among industry artist managers, bookers, and music journalists. There are essentially three important numbers these people look for, and their meaning has become very powerful. But what can they really tell us, taking into consideration how easy it is to manipulate any quantitative measure on the internet.

The first number one looks at when checking out a MySpace page is typically the count of Profile Views. Up until now, this has established itself as the single most important measure when it comes to getting something via a musician’s MySpace presence. This seems to link directly to the attention an artist is able to generate, and thus can be used to determine their value for a company or an event. It’s a generalized measure like a currency, because no qualitative assessments of the musician’s artistic qualities have to be taken into account in order to determine this very abstract “value”.

The state of this currency in the Indie scene at the moment: Everything less than 10,000 Profile Views: not worth bothering. Between 10k and 20k Profile Views: still poor, but may have the chance to grow. 20k – 40k Profile Views: the broad midrange. 40k – 60k: the upper midrange. 60k – 100k: pretty good for Indie measures. 100k – 200k: really good for non-mainstream. Above 200k: Already a big name.

These numbers and categories evolve, of course. Older profiles have an advantage simply because they’ve had more time to accumulate Profile Views. Therefore, it can pay to keep an eye on the development of Profile View numbers. A musician with 10,000 views getting 500 new people per day interested in his music may be more worthwhile to work with for a company than an artist in the 40k-60k range attracting only 15 new views per day. 

Thus, it’s also very interesting to see how often a new song the artist put on his MySpace page gets played right after deployment. But be careful: There are tools out there to manipulate this number. So don’t take it too seriously. Likewise, the number of friends (third number) an artist has are more a measure of his or her activity on MySpace than a real account of popularity. This is because many people don’t even check who exactly wants to be added as their friend, and again there are software tools out there that can automatically generate lists of people on MySpace you may want to add as friends, and you can then send them a mass mailing with an add request. Although not as manipulatable as the number of plays of a song, this does make it possible to have a huge number of “friends” on a profile that may have never heard the music. 

It is going to be interesting to see where MySpace is heading in the near future. If it wants to build on its status as a keeper of the Online Musician’s Currency, it will have to take measures against inflation – and deflation, of course, which may come with a lack of attention for the platform as a whole. Although this may not be about the music directly, generating generalized “value” doesn’t have to be a bad thing, even for an Indie musician. It allows to reach across artistic and cultural borders, and find out what’s “out there” that might be worthwhile to get in touch with.