AOIR Music and Sound Panel – Oct 18, 2007

This update is running quite late, but is still valuable, I think, in attempting to sustain the dialogue which was unfortunately given too short an interval at our panel on Music and Sound at the AOIR conference last week. As well, I particularly need to move among the “diaspora” of AOIR (As Nancy Baym phrased it) as, variously, splitting headaches and tons of work – both domestic and non- kept me from schmoozing to my fullest capacity. So much to do I couldn’t even attend presentations or panels that I really really needed to see (especially this one, this one and this one).

In the interest of, as I said, sustaining some dialogue about our panel, I’ll offer a brief summary from my notes, which are mainly comprised of questions that I didn’t get to ask. Where possible I’ll link to the various presenters’ webpages or blogs, and I’ll reiterate the link to my own slides with notes. Here goes:

Marj Kibby presented her paper on Myspace and bands. Having been part of a band on Myspace for several years, I came out of this talk with too many questions for one small panel. I believe her research is an excellent introduction to this sphere for the uninitiated, bringing a textual analysis directly to the live profiles of a number of her research subjects, but for a seasoned Myspace whore such as myself, there was nothing here I hadn’t already guessed. Still, my questions were numerous, as Marj’s work overlaps significantly with mine:

  • what of the myths of “overnight success” (Sandi Thom, Amy Winehouse, et al). how does the ‘gaming’ of these networks by conventional producers change the dynamics of fan-artist relations?
  • what happens when the “influences” and “genres” sections of profiles become oversaturated (as in cases where bands and fans alike list hundreds and hundreds of influences, or inappropriate genre categories)? doesn’t this degrade communication? what do fans make of this? and once certain modes of communicating identity are spent, to where does the communication of identity migrate?
  • how does one sample artists from the thousands on myspace for survey research? what strategies are there for (1) sorting through fakes, side projects, false starts, unofficial profiles, and other artifacts of the myspace ecosystem, and (2) ensuring the sample is representative of a particular slice of time in the life of the site?
  • aren’t the rules of fan/artist interaction mediated by the specificities of artists/genres/subcultures? is it the same to interact with Radiohead as with Tapes and Tapes as with SFIAS? can we make general claims about fandom based on a random sample of myspace bands?
  • how can we be assured of the value of the “long tail” value of the networks of Myspace, given the persistent power of mass chain buyers like WalMart in influencing trends in the music industry? and how can musicians monetize this in ways that subvert/get around the (parasitic or progressive?) intentions/profit of the parent corporations who provide the infrastructure of Myspace?
  • what does News Corp gain from fan/artist networks of Myspace? how are corporate goals consistent with or in contradiction with the goals of artists and fans who use the site for music discovery and sharing?

Next up, Andrew Ó Baoill presented his research into podcasting and community radio. I was intrigued by this talk, and I thought that he deserved more questions at the close of the panel. The engagement of these two worlds – community radio and the podcast community – has far reaching implications, especially for parts of the world where community radio is a primary source of news, information and entertainment for many. I’m curious about how this topic interlaces with mobile media and device adoption in developing countries, in situations where community radio is a vital communication resource, and where the adoption of mobile media outstrips that of tethered ICTs. But insufficient time prevented me from asking Andrew his thoughts on this.

Next, I presented my talk on technical micropolitics and independent music. I don’t have any questions for myself. This is just placeholder. I’m just following the timeline. O SNAP!

The last talk of the panel was by Klaus Bruhn Jensen and Rasmus Helles, tantalizingly entitled “Society Switching“. Their research into the phenomenology of sound is quite fascinating, although the talk itself seemed to be merely the tip of the iceberg. I’m particularly intrigued by the use of the concept of generativity (borrowed from linguistics) and structural-functionalism in developing their theoretical framework. I’d love to read any published work from this research (hint-hint, if you cats are reading this).

Question period followed, which included lively input from the erudite Tarleton Gillespie (who seemingly followed me all the way from 4S), panel moderator Mark Latonero and Hanson scholar Holly Kruse (whose panel I really wished to see but couldn’t due to a headache – hint hint, Holly, I want to see your paper!).

Please do chime in if you were a presenter or in attendance and didn’t get to sound off in the limited F2F session that we had. Otherwise, I’m busy trying to mentally connect all of this with Henry Jenkins’ ideas about the moral economy of Web 2.0…back in a minute or so…

Technical Micropolitics and Musical Amateurs

I presented at AOIR today as part of a panel on Music and Sound. Here’s the PDF of my talk, complete with notes.

I did this with an extreme headache, and a growing sense that I need to, as my friend and colleague Flo articulated it the other day, “coccoon” myself in books again for a while. Assez des conférences maintenant!

panel 2 panel

4S PlenaryI’m back from Montréal, having had a good but curt time in la belle province. 4S (image of the plenary at R, more available here) was, to be honest, hit and miss; some panels were dull as television, and some others were painful to watch due to speaker-unpreparedness. Sometimes I wonder about the fine line between sociology and fannying about.

However, I saw some great presentations, too. I very briefly met Ron Eglash and Tarleton Gillespie, who’ve both written recent must-reads in my area, and got an earful of value out of their panel on appropriating technology. I also took in some interesting debate about bioethics, particularly as regards the personhood or patenthood (I’m making that expression up of course) of genetically modified organisms. And while these debates sorely lacked any real progressive ethical opinions about animal welfare (about which I tried to chime in but was squarely edged out of the ring by the ushers of positivism masked as dispassion), they were certainly stimulating conversations. At least, that was my reading of the situation…The most important question that I came out of the conference with, pertinent to my research, that is, was, “is music like other forms of knowledge? can we study it in the same way scientific knowledge is studied?” If I follow this path, it would situate my dissertation research squarely between fan/amateur studies and STS. I’ll tentatively suggest those as comprehensive areas and start exploring from there, I think.

Anyway, I’m rambling without naming names. One of the best outcomes of this conference is that I seem to have overcome my fear of flying. Out of the three flights it took to get there and back, I endured about two hours’ worth of turbulence without so much as stiffening up. It was fun again, like when I flew as a kid – sort of like a low key amusement park ride.

And now, AOIR…the command centre is built, the stations are being assigned, parties are being canceled, and the internet research community is about to swoop down on our unsuspecting, digitally-divided city. I’m still pulling my presentation together, but it should generate the feedback I need at this early stage of research. Hope to see some of you there!

AOIR 8 update

AOIR Program coverHere’s another update on AOIR 8, happening Oct 17-20 in Vancouver. The Program (cover featured at right) is complete and off to the printers, room assignments have been made, and things are generally getting all keyed up around here.

There’s quite a range of papers and panels happening – too much to summarize in one post, and certainly too much for one person to attend them all. It’s the same pattern we observe with the VIFF (happening as we speak), which, partly due to my involvement in AOIR (though for myriad reasons), I’m unable to attend this year. If anyone catches anything exceptionally good, toss me the IMDB link and I’ll hunt for it later.

Also – now that the bulk of my work on AOIR is out of the way, I can put a bit of time into organizing the 50 Parties thing. So, here’s another shoutout to ppl who might be interested in pitching in, who missed the call the first time. If yr on Facebook, add this event. And make your promises (and break ’em) on the 50 Parties wiki. I’d like to have people throw pies at each other.

If you’re a local venue that’d like to host 50 Parties, and can hold around 200 or so nerds, then get in touch with me directly (jeanh at clicknoise dot net) to discuss yr terms. We’ve got a DJ or two lined up already, and we’ll have a whole whack of academic and tech people from out of town looking for something fun to do between panels.

Also – if anyone could drop me a hint on a good local source for those fake cream pies that get thrown in politicians’ faces (see the image below for an example of how this works), I’d be appreciative enough to buy you a beer at the event. Cheers!

Chretien gets pie in face

Step One: sidle up at public grip n’ grin

Step Two: remove fake cream pie from pocket

Step Three: briefly show upper surface of pie to target politician

Step Four: mash it in his face

Step Five: run like hell. the security guards will think it’s an act of terrorism.