Category Archives: digital culture

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

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

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

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

Blogging and Democracy of the blog media- 2nd Guardian Column

I think the title for my Guardian Column (they don’t seem to update the site) is “Our Online Selves.”  That can be improved.

Here is the second installment.

“The End of Culture and Truth?”

I am a blogger.  Eight years ago, saying this might have conjured up someone doing something disdainful with their finger and nose, or some fascinating example of a field position in some strange British idea of a sport.  But now, most people recognize that I maintain a web-published journal or log (“blog” is a contraction of Web-log).  Why would I or anyone else write publish a personal journal on the web?  Who do we think we are, anyway?  Great unwashed masses clogging the for a with our swollen egos.  Like so much on the Internet, from the amusing video of Mentos and Diet Coke (google it!) to archives of Saturday morning cartoon characters, the common response is “Who has the time?”

A friend of mine, a professor, told me off-handedly: “I don’t read blogs.  I don’t have time for anyone’s unfinished writing.”  I was spluttering with annoyance at such a narrow perspective of blogs and blogging.  I have kids so I get the “no time” complaint.  But unfinished writing?  Surely he has heard the idea that no writing is ever finished meaning that all his favorite classics were also “unfinished writing.”  Who knows what undiscovered Shakespeares and Toni Morrisons are out there?  I think what he really meant was that he preferred writing that had already been vetted by some authority.  He wanted a seal of approval.

Continue reading

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Filed under digital culture, Information and Communication Technology, Living Web, Media, technology, writing

My first Guardian column

I suppose for my first column (anywhere) some sort of inaugural words are called for.  Let’s start.

With the arrival of the Internet as a major form of interactive communication, we have seen an avalanche of new types of communication.  From websites, blogs (an online journal- web+ log=blog), video sharing (YouTube), social networks (Facebook.com), to the newest virtual worlds (Second Life), the breadth and depth of these forms of communication is, for me, exciting, over whelming, disturbing, and, ultimately, unavoidable.  As much as you can not imagine going without a telephone, or the postal service, or written language, these newer forms of digital communication are here to say and will have all kinds of impacts on how we collect, share, and distribute information.  Information is the backbone of all relationships, and, so, also of communities, societies, and culture.

One of the benefits of all these digital goodies is that you, the consumer, have a wide degree of what you choose to see, to watch, to ingest.  Sweeping generalizations aside, lets zoom in on the details.  Let me be a tour guide for you through this teeming landscape of media and information.  That is a mouthful.  Is there a better term?  President Bush offers up “the Internets.”  Or his sidekick, Senator Stevens (AK) famously lectured his colleagues about how the Internet is a “series of tubes.”[JC2] The internet doesn’t really do the job o describing what is out there.  Its like describing the auto industry as roads or the economy as money.   The internet, roads, and money are all simply ways to get from A to B.  The exciting stuff, the pulse of culture, politics, discovery, and life are all the As and Bs.  So, the world of information is the digital jungle, the metaverse, the infoscape, or where-we-are-headed (albeit at different speeds).  Cyberspace has emerged as an alternate term ad I’ll stick with it for now because it implies a destination, not a mode of transport.

We have a good sense of how people move around in cyberpsace.  For the record, that is about 73% of us.  The US still has the greatest degree of Internet use, even if the foreigners are kicking our butts in everything from manufacturing to mathematics.  No one out gadgets the average American.  Yet.

Anyway, the Pew Internet and American Life Project (http://www.pewinternet.org) has been doing some insightful research into what we are up to with all of our on-line hours (32/month, according to Nielsen Online; that’s nothing compared to world-leading Israel, at 58 hours per month according to comScore.)  The good Pew folks look at how assets (your computer, your connection), attitudes (do you want to take a sledge hammer to your machine?), and actions (what do you do?) jointly can define the various types, species, of denizens of the infoscape.  They have this nifty quiz (online, of course) you can take to identify yourself (http://www.pewinternet.org/quiz/quiz.asp).  It takes about 10 minutes. Continue reading

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Filed under digital culture, participatory technology, sociology, technology, writing

Lively- big players move into VW field

Google has its own virtual world simulator.  Lively.  Read about ita t terra nova blog.

I made a room ( a cafe!) and an avatar.  My avatar looks like one of my smug students chewing gum.  Blech.

I couldn’t seem to walk, only scoot by clicking on a different spot and then the ava just **zip** appears there.  For some reason it reminded me of a 3D version of the old text adventure games like  Hitchhiker’s Guide or (??) Zork.

Ok, thats my review after five minutes.  It was easy to download and set up.

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Filed under digital culture, virtual worlds

Lessig talk on ‘hybrid economy’ March 27 || Bucknell University

I am encouraging all of my former Capstone (“Rise of the Network Society”) students to attend this one.   Lessig is an important voice discussing the pratcical and poitical implications of the overalps between technology, culture, law, and also politics.

As the press release states, Professor Eric Faden, who is bringing Lessig, is a client due to his creation of A Fair(y) Use Tale which explore issues of copyright protection.

Looks good!  Hope you can make it!

News: Lessig talk on ‘hybrid economy’ March 27 || Bucknell University
Lawrence Lessig, the renowned copyright and intellectual property rights author and Stanford Law School professor, will present a talk titled, “Remix — Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy,” on Thursday, March 27, at 7 p.m. in Bucknell University’s Trout Auditorium.

The talk is free and open to the public.

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Filed under Creativity, digital culture, economic sociology, Government, policy, Political Economy, Scholars, technology

The Big Question and lots of answers!

 The Big Question

Strangely addictive.   They have questions form anyone, especially young folks.  Different experts post an answer.  Its like a hybrid wikipedia-britannica.

My fave is “How long would it take you to ride a chicken around the world?”

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Filed under digital culture, humor, Living Web, participatory technology, Research