Category Archives: Network Society

Loving Music in a World of Shifting Business Models

I love music.

I probably listen to music 4-6 hours a day, much of it while I am working.

And I am not an expert on music, digital business models, digital technology, or the music business.  I am simply a humble, passionate user.

I am worried that the “market” for music is going to evolve away from what I want.  Is downloaded music over?  Is streaming dead? Or doomed to being a loss-leader for larger behemoths like cell phone carriers or Amazon?

Ever since digital music and downloading emerged, I have been happy to pay for music.  Most of my iTunes library was built from ripping my CDs.  And as the RIAA and its business allies screamed and shouted and whinged about illegal downloads in the era of Napster, I seethed that all those freeloaders were making life difficult for me by provoking various forms of DRM (digital rights management).  For example, I couldn’t copy music from a first generation iPod from the iPod to a second computer.  I paid for the music, and now this wall of property rights was inserted in MY TECHNOLOGY.

Models evolved.  Pandora came along and at first I loved it.  But then, I realized, I wanted to be able to play the song I wanted when I wanted.  Too many hours were spent trying to “trick” Pandora into the perfect mix of alternative, folk, americana, jazz, and bluegrass.

I tied to get off iTunes with a Songbird experiment.  But something happened and it mixed up meta data and then I had songs with the wrong titles.  I am still looking for an iTunes alternative, preferably one that folds lyrics in.

RDIO came along, and I happily signed up.  $10 a month for unlimited PC streaming of anything I wanted?  Yes, please.

I learned about emusic.  Which has been around for awhile, in turns out.  I can often get songs for $0.49 or $0.79!  The model also constrains my spending to $15 a month on new music.  I listen to music on RDIO.  When I hear something I like, I pop over to emusic.com and buy it.  If I want to make a mix cd for a friend, I go into iTunes.  It all works just fine.

But emusic changed its catalog to focus only on “indie artists and labels.”  Fine.  But, really, no Indigo Girls?  So, am I back to buying from Amazon or iTunes?  Are the artists even seeing anything fair in these purchases?  Spotify et al have big revenue streams, but most of that goes to the labels, not the creators of the music.

Rdio won’t make the details of its revenue public, but Spotify took in more than half a billion dollars last year. Nevertheless, its losses grew from from $60 million to $78 million. Spotify executives say 70 percent of its revenue went to paying licensing fees. (From NPR).

eMusic, through its editorial, magazine-like portal, Wondering Sound, is trying to make music discovery and curating a service you want.  That is fine, as far as it goes, but the link from listening to buying then becomes too convoluted.  I hear a song I like on Rdio, or through its pretty good social media features, and then I have to hunt for it on eMusic.com, and if not there, maybe Amazon?  Maybe iTunes?  But pay more?  And also feel like I am no longer supporting emusic’s love-of-music ethos?  It is like buying music from Wal-Mart instead of a record store.  I _LIKE_ hanging out in the record store.

One jazz music writer covers some of the emusic changes and what it means for his tastes.

Meanwhile, vinyl is making its little comeback, even in our house, led by my music-phile son, Elijah.  Music I love, like The National, or San Fermin, or Sharon Von Etten, I’d be willing to buy and own as vinyl for the audio quality.

Why are labels so powerful still?  Because they control the back catalogs?

Why can’t there be a stream-and-purchase model?  Emusic.com has a stream part, but you are capped at like ten hours a month.  Why wouldn’t musicians seek out a label-free distribution platform so they can record music and have it available to stream, download or hard copy purchase without going through a label?  A platform that also catalyzes concert-going and other revenue streams for them?

UPDATE:  Pandora seems to have some ideas along these lines, as here Fortune describes Customer Relationship Management for artists…

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Filed under Creativity, digital culture, Future of Technology, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, management, Media, music, Network Society, Social Networks, Uncategorized

Ideas for Questions and Themes for Arianna Huffington

Today, as part of the tech/no Forum series at Bucknell, we are hosting Arianna Huffington.  I had imagine I would do some deep research on her background, her role as founder of HuffingtonPost, her role as CEO of the merged AOL-Huffington company  her ideas on the relationship between media, democracy, and profit, the death (?) of the newspaper, and so on.

Well, that didn’t happen.

Instead, I’ll have to generate some from what I have in my head (as opposed to research-based).

If you are coming to the afternoon session, feel free to read these, use these, modify these, and so on.

Business and Technology

* Is the content-for-eyeballs formula of the Internet dying?  Are advertisers not willing to pay?

* Are we at the end of an innovation burst as the Internet and mobile platforms are merging?  Is the heady period of “social media” and its rapid expansion done?

* Who are HP’s or AOL’s competitors?

Media and Profit

* Is it the responsibility of the media company to provide what “customers” want or what they need?  Does a media/news company create its own demand and then project that onto the audience.  “See, they want _____________ (tits, blood, murders, horse-race politics)?” Continue reading

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Filed under Business, economics, Future of Technology, higher education, Information and Communication Technology, innovation, Media, Network Society, Politics, Power, Activism, Social Networks, sociology, technology, Technology history

Nodes and Notes (I’ve Died and Gone to Heaven)

So, a Senior, who took my “Six Degrees” foundation seminar many years ago is a dancer.  She tells me she is choreographing a piece that will link the idea of connectedness and thresholds into a dance piece in March.

Specifically, she wants to express the idea that the little things we do can spread and ripple out across the world, a world bound up by far-flung networks that still have short paths.  She didn’t quite say that, but that is where she was headed.  Like, not “just the six degree effect” she said.

I’ve died and gone to heaven.  This is the perfect intersection of my love for music and for netcentric thinking.

Of course, I immediately thought of the great John Guare play, Six Degrees of Separation.  (Yeah Wendy West for directing it back at Carleton!).

She is interested in spoken word OR music.  I started an RDIO playlist of ideas.  I’ll add more.
And of course, I’ll be sure to ask the good folks at SOCNET, still the lifeblood of much netcentric talk and thought.

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Filed under Bucknell, digital culture, economic sociology, Network Society, Networks

Stoves and Service

Two bits of Bucknell News intersect with some of my interests.

First, the “Service” movement for lack of a better term continues with BU showing up at an interfaith call to service the white house.  I like how food is being incorporated thematically.  We live in an agricultural area.  Plus, wasting less is just good old fashioned American thriftiness.

In contrast, students in a spring 2011 waste audit found that about 850 pounds of food per day were being discarded in Bucknell’s main dining venue, Bostwick Marketplace. Bucknell Dining has addressed the waste issue in part through a composting program and the removal of trays, but, Fujita said, there are more opportunities to help students learn about consumption and waste.

I am not sure how no trays cuts down on waste.  People take less?

I wish there were some legal/organizational way to share unused food.  People usually say they can’t give it away due to safety regulations.  Well, then, is it possible to shield more food from being un-givable?  DO we need to shift attitudes about abundant food spreads?  Or, is it possible to have a way for recipients to agree to take on the risk of food problems in exchange for access to mostly fine food?  A way to have a middleman broker of unused food?
Second, in the general theme of experiential education that links service and this story,  we have BU students working with a local manufacturer to see a super-light-weight stove come to market.  What if this was the norm instead of the exception for our students? I don’t mean they all design objects, but that they all do a project with real world potential value before they graduate.  What would that look like?  Would it produce a generation of hackers, entrepreneurs, and “makers.”

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Filed under Hacker ethic, higher education

Primordial Ooze of Civil Society?

I always liked the phrase “primordial ooze.”  It is fun to say and the ten year old in me sees a bubbling, steaming goo that seems to defy order and good manners.  I also like it because it captures the idea of how the new emerges from the old, how complexity emerges from sets of interactions that are not supposed to add up to the emergent.

Two items from today made me wonder if we are looking at the primordial ooze of civil society.  Let me say here that by civil society I am not entering into some long-standing debate about what is or isn’t civil society.  I am looking for a term that covers the idea of collective or coordinated action of varying degrees of formality that is centered on common ground of like-minded actors.  Also, this common ground must unite people around some sense of a common good or higher purpose.  In short, human organizing motivated by “ruled” by practices that are not of formal state power nor purely economic rationality.  I am not sure if that holds up, but I’ll leave it there for now.

So, item #1.  Egypt, of course.  Like countless others, I am fascinated, hopeful, fearful, and awe struck by the events unfolding first in Tunisia and now more spectacularly in Egypt.  Through the media I have followed (Democracy Now, KCRW’s To The Point, NY time, Huffingtonpost, BBC, Guardian), there are several elements at work.  In no particular order.

* Youthful, technology-enabled activists.

* The Muslim Brotherhood

* Dissident elites (like El Baradei)

* Neighborhood watch patrols

Some of these groups seem loosely organized or rapidly scaling up and out as they absorb the tens or hundreds of thousands of newly mobilized citizens.  I imagine new organizing, new durable networks of trust and cooperation, and new alliances among the other two are a major part of the fluidity and flux.  This (to me) palpable sense of what could be captures the imagery of the primordial ooze of civil society.

Item #2: The Really Free School.  A random facebook message put me on to this (originating in theory.org.uk, home of theory trading cards).  I have not been able to explore it much, but what struck me is the basic ethos: let’s use a common space, the (Shirky-ean) low cost of coordinating, the ability of people to self-organize, and the cultural scripts of sharing knowledge and delighting in serious play.  Though not as fluid or important as Egypt, it also seems to me to get at the origins,at the primordial ooze,  of civil society in its simplicity and open-endedness.

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Filed under activism, Creativity, Hacker ethic, Information and Communication Technology, Networks, participatory technology, Protest, social innovation, sociology, technology

User Creativity, Governance, and the New Media

Ted and I have a publication out in First Monday. I have enjoyed the broad scope of the journal, and the editing process for an on-line journal is interesting.  The article is part of a special issue called “User Creatviity, Governance and the NEw Media.”  The editors are Bonnie Nardi and Yong Ming  Kow.

Please surf over to the First Monday site to read the paper, “Developing Virtual Worlds: The Interplay of Design, Communities, and Rationality.”

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Filed under digital culture, higher education, organization studies, organization theory, Second Life, virtual worlds

The Need for Social Science in Climate Change

A recurrent theme I find as I look out at the world and human affairs is that many problems are not wanting for technical or know-how fixes.  Moreover, large scale change or differences over time or place often seem to turn on small differences in application or implementation.  This is more than a generalized idea of tipping points.  More specifically, I mean that small scale points of interaction or articulation between components of human systems can matter.  This is especially true in the case of collective action problems.  I like to tell my students about how idiotic it seemed that at my kids’ school, no one ever pulled all the way up into the drop off zone effectively doubling the number of sets of cars that could pull up (since they would go to half way point and stop).  A crossing guard was even standing there.  A year later, new guard is in place who waves people forward.  Voila, problem solved.  My day starts with less fuming and cursing.

A recent article in Nature addresses the need to understand human systems, the stuff of social sciences (especially everything besides neo-classical economics since we have to deal with networks and aggregations of people.  Sorry about that.).  Ameliorating climate change is a massive collective action problem.  The article quotes a sociologist:

The answer, like the problem, has to be wide-ranging and global, says Jeffrey Broadbent of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, who also studies how societies affect their environments. “Its only solution lies in a level of global cooperation that humanity has never seen before.”

This wake-up call will hopefully spur more activity around looking at how networks of interaction, influence, and collective identity formation, sucha s between cities, regions, or countries, are the substrate on whcih policy takes place.  Understanding this, a crucial task, is the goal of the COMPCON project.  Boradbent at UMN is one of the sociologists involved.  They are currently collecting cases studeis and network data to look at what happens to fill the gap between know how and implementation for climate policy.  Let’s hope the answers come soon enough to keep Champagne production in France and not closer to Wales.

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Filed under climate change, Network Society, Networks, organization studies, Research, sociology

Great Fashion+Hacker Blog

A student of mine for her final project creatded a blog about recycled fashion.

Ditch or Stitch!

Great name!

Happy reading.

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Filed under Creativity, digital culture, Hacker ethic, higher education, Information and Communication Technology

Long Tail Debates

Wish I had more time now to review this:

Long Tail Stops Wagging.

Matt Stoller over at Open Left argues that this means that technoutopian libertarian dreams are dead and there is a necessary role for government.

Maybe.  I have never read enough of the Long Tail arguments to have a Strong opinion, but I do want to point out that there maybe radical inequality in revenues between a Google or Facebook and other web services that aim to make a profit.  In fact, a long tail is premised on that.  But, the question was whether a business can survive in the long tail, as opposed to have equal revenues.  If you have the head and not tail then you have an oligopoly which was never the merit of the long tail.

Finally, aggregators seem complicated.  They get a little revenue from a massive volume of transactions, but if those transactions are distributed to a number of smaller players (ebay, Amazon marketplace, emusic, and so on), then you may have a viable market where one did not exist before- again, it is about viability, not equality.

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Filed under digital culture, management, organization theory, technology

On-line reputation(another media inquiry)

I got _another_ media inquiry.

Summary: How does on-line reputation matter?  What can you do if your reputation is being trashed?

Hmmm. It is interesting how many of these queries seem to be “how-to.”  There is the famous case of the Facebook suicide, but such stories do more to illustrate our fears than capture the reality of most people most of the time.  My first thought to protect your reputation is to have a reputation worth protecting.

You might ask Greta Polites and Eric Santanen also.  (In my department.)

I have this book and have not read it but it seems relevant.

http://www.wordofmouthbook.com/

It must be possible to spend a lot of time surveilling   one’s on-line profile.  “Google myself” is a verb and a state of mind.  How is the “me” I know being seen in cyberspace?  But I think if you obsess about it, it says more about you than the world.  Judging by the generally low level of negative feedback on eBay transactions, or in Amazon ratings, or in other open reputation systems (by open, I mean where any user can comment on an identifiable user).  As opposed to the Hobbesian dog eat dog world we often imagine, when we look at most interactions, even on-line, it is kind of boring in the sense that most people are OK and not trying to cheat others for gain or trash them for a sick kind of fun.  There are of course a few exceptions.

For those times when you are worried about how you are being presented, I would think about the audience before reacting.  If an employer or consulting prospect is concerned or I think they can see negative comments, offer up your own list of recommenders for them to contact directly.  Offer several.  This would mean more than written letters.  If the negativity comes from anonymous systems, you can delicately point out that such attacks are not very reputable and cowardly.  On systems like LinkedIn, have people who will speak on your behalf noted so that a prospective contact can link to them easily.  Include contacts form multiple jobs over your career.  If those people are not on, take this moment to be a technology maven and encourage them to sign up.

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Filed under Information and Communication Technology, Network Society, participatory technology, Social Networks, technology, writing