Torrent Tracking on Open Networks 101

Today is Northern Voice (I’m presenting tomorrow, but today is the unconference, most of which I hope to catch!), but right now I’m riveted to my laptop (poring over comments about torrent tracking) before I head out to UBC. Really good back n forth over at Nicholas Weaver’s Random Thoughts regarding claims as to whether it’s actually possible to block torrent traffic (more over at Copyfight). I’m convinced such tracking measures can be circumvented and that torrent sharing can’t be stopped. These debates seem to reaffirm this position, notwithstanding drilling into the tech nitty-gritty.

To repeat – the web is an Open network. Strategies to Close it go against its grain, and are stupendously impractical if not impossible.

Next Nature :: cyber-implants running amok, and branded butterfly GMOs

Wow. Mieke Gerritzen gives a very provocative presentation on “Next Nature” – which, in its prophetic look at nature and culture combined, is one part Haraway, two parts Latour.

Is the Lift Conference always this interesting? Gerritzen breathes from the same bong as Ray Kurzweil. Who’da thunk it?

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!

4S, Montreal

Production-consumption continuumI’m blogging this from the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) conference in Montréal. We (Roy Bendor, Jack Post, Peter-Paul Verbeek and I) just completed our panel on Bruno Latour (“Translating Latour”) and I’m now in a very interesting panel about “Problematizing Technological Appropriation”. My first impression is that it’s a great complement to my presentation on digital music and Latour/Hennion, which I’ve attached as a PDF here (PDF, 364 K, with notes!).

The theoretical work around appropriation has really flowered since I first stepped into this space in 2004. It’s interesting – and reassuring – to witness so many theorists constructing diagrams of production/consumption that echo, build upon, and totally dwarf in profundity the one I first proposed then (at right). I’m referring to the work of Ron Eglash – who has constructed a continuum of production and consumption that accounts for appropriation, power and marginality. Cool stuff – I should be reading this.

Other than that, I’m running on a third wave of sleep denial therapy induced by (1) a sleepless redeye flight on the same day I taught for a ten hour day, (2) compressed conference schedule (2 within 2 weeks), and (3) baby’s sleeping schedule. I’ll sleep after my head is over-full with musings on the ethics of cloning, toppling streetcars in the 19th century, the programmable web, Yahoo Pipes and postphenomenology. What dreams may come?

Rainbow Connections – or, It’s Beginning To And Back Again

In Rainbows25 minutes early, my Radiohead download activation code is emailed to me. Ten years ago, I bought my first Radiohead CD (OK Computer).

OK Computer comprised a significant portion of the soundtrack for a prolonged and significant breakup I was going through at the time, one ending a 7 year relationship (7-9 depending on who you talk to). Alright, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space was a better record, and got more spin out of me at the time anyway, but this is a story of mirror images, spaced approximately ten years apart. If it’s any good, In Rainbows could become the soundtrack for what is thus far the happiest time in my life – happily married with a beautiful 3.5 month old daughter who babbles constantly and really enjoys singalongs, and professionally getting somewhere (not sure where yet, but it bodes interestingly).

I didn’t own a computer in 1997. Well, I had a 386 at my desk, but it was more of a curiosity, and didn’t connect to any internets. So I had no computer in the sense of what a computer is now. The computer I now own is involved in many (though not all) aspects of my life, including these internets we share. I’m presenting at a conference called 4S in a couple of days about the computer’s imbrication with networks of musical practice and listening.

I’m presenting at 4S, which is taking place in Montréal, which is in the Province of Québec. A trip to Québec in 1996 was the inciting incident for the breakup I went through ten years ago. Keeping with the dictum ’nuff said, ’nuff said. Just pointing out the mirror images: happy/sad, computer/no computer, OK computer/No Way computer (vis à vis the politics of DRM-free music as Refusal).

In Rainbows is pretty good, well into the third song. Pretty. Actually, there are moments that recall, albeit very subtly, the aesthetics of another cool pop record from 1997, Stereolab’s Dots and Loops. I probably can’t explain that one, nor include it in my hall of mirrors. I have been watching a lot of Godard lately, if that’s somehow connected.

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.