Spotify – The Enlightened Music Data Despot

In the age of ubiquitous cloud computing, the rise of streaming services feels like old news. Of course we love streaming! For consumers, prices are lowers, libraries bigger, and services suddenly bespoke. What could be better?

While services like Facebook have received the brunt-end of public outrage for their use of consumer data, Spotify has managed to stay under-the-radar despite its aggressive data collection practices – which are commonplace across the “app” industry.

How has Spotify managed this? By giving users just enough value for their data in return. Features like custom playlists, API tools, and social/UI features shift public perception of Spotify from a looming corporate data farmer to an enlightened data despot.

Yet upon further inspection, I believe Spotify could be doing more for both its common consumers/users and less-common developers and amateur artists folk like me.

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The 100: Museum Edition

Prompt: It’s the year 2118. You take your class (or your kids) to the Museum of 2018. Describe what’s in it. What feels as distant from your 2118 daily life as, perhaps, the Tenement Museum does to yours? How would it represent our time and place in history?

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My museum of 2018 would be located on a spacecraft, heavily inspired by the so-bad-its-good CW show The 100.

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Human obsession with order & classification

Inventions such as animal husbandry, irrigation, writing and mathematics are  viewed as the hallmarks of early civilization. These advancements separated us from other earth species by taking advantage of our ability to self-organize and further ensure our survival.

Yet these advancements – and the many that followed – required humanity to develop a deep bias and obsession with order and classification.

Note: this post was written based on reading from Mycelium Running (Paul Stamets), A Thousand Plateaus (Deleuze, Gilles & Guattari), and Unruly Edges  (Anna Tsing).

It is also inspired by the lessons learned while playing Sid Meier’s Civilization.

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The inherent contractions embedded in efforts to combat sexism

Tonight I attended a panel hosted at the Clive Davis School titled  ‘A Celebration of International Day of the Girl’ – a discussion on music and culture in relation to gender equality. 

Led by a group of females who have diverse roles across the music industry, the panel discussed the current state of the industry and what should change to drive equality.

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Push to cross: power and access [Part 1 of 2]

You likely have seen the push-to-cross buttons scattered across various crosswalks in NYC.

The functionality and effectiveness of these buttons is often challenged, and with good reason. The primary reason is because most of them are not even connected to the system that governs the traffic lights! As originally reported by the New York Times in 2004:

 “…the city deactivated most of the pedestrian buttons long ago with the emergence of computer-controlled traffic signals. More than 2,500 of the 3,250 walk buttons that were in place at the time existed as mechanical placebos.”

Continue reading Push to cross: power and access [Part 1 of 2]

Push to cross: power and access [Part 2 of 2]

continued from part 1 here

While thousands of NYC push-to-cross buttons are inactive, there are ~150 special new push-to-cross buttons. They are called Accessible Pedestrian Signals (APDs), and they look like this:

Unlike the crosswalk buttons of old, the primary purpose of APD’s are to help blind and low-vision pedestrians navigate crosswalks more safely. They also provide a legend to the 3 modes of the crosswalk light (from a visual management perspective, this seems unnecessary if not counter productive).

From the NYC Department of Transportation (DOT), APDs are:

“wired to a pedestrian signal and send audible and vibrotactile indications when pedestrians push a button installed at the crosswalk.”

In other words, they vibrate upon touch, and also make the following audible noises:

  1. A command to “Wait” every time the button is pressed when the cross light is red:

Continue reading Push to cross: power and access [Part 2 of 2]

Super Mash Bros: The Artists of our Generation?

Note: This post is based on responses to material from The Ecstasy of Influence by Jonathan Lethem, On the Rights of the Moltov Man by Joy Garnett and Susan Meiselas, Allegory to Originality by Drew Christie, and Embrace the Remix by Kirby Ferguson

Turn the clocks back to 2011, and people are engaged in debates about whether Super Mash Bros. – the pinnacle of mashup artistry – are really making their own music or not.

It was clear the end-result songs produced by the Bros were ‘unique’ and original from either of the pieces they used. They had entirely different genres, vibes, tempos, etc. But for some it still wasn’t clear whether it was ‘original’ work just because it was unique.

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If a Kickstarter fails in a forest…

Note: This post includes analysis based on material in The Art of Interactive Design by Chris Crawford and A Brief Rant on the Future of Interaction Design by Bret Victor.

To me, interaction is indeed a feedback loop between two or more people/things that involves them taking turns sensing, thinking, and responding to each other (and, alternatively as Chris Crawford says: inputting, processing, and outputting).

However, interactions come in all shapes and sizes, and unlike Crawford, I feel that the opening of a refrigeration door fully counts as an interaction, just not a very ‘rich’ one.

Some interactions are more ‘rich’ than others, and it seems to be based on the quality with which something performs the sensing, thinking, and responding phase in the cycle. But I don’t think scoring low in one of those categories should disqualify the interaction.

Continue reading If a Kickstarter fails in a forest…

Lukewarm Media

This writing was in response to Marshall McLulan’s interview with Playboy magazine.

On an experiential level, I generally enjoy listening or watching more that reading. I am a product of my generation.

Despite this fact, I feel the order in which I listened to the two assigned works had a large influence on my opinion of the track vs. interview. As the interviewer writes: “Perhaps because the Q and A format serves to pin him down by counteracting his habit of mercurially changing the subject in mid-stream of consciousness” I personally liked the interview better.

I listened to the track during a commute to the allergist. I walked, rode on the 6 train, and waited in a waiting room during the tracks’ length non-stop. As Dan mentioned in class, the work is rather psychedelic. At first the “seemingly disparate elements are imaginatively poised, put in apposition in new and unique ways” messed with my head. However once I got used to this barrage on my sense of hearing, I found some parts boring and other parts entertaining and interesting. The track (supplemented by the Douglas Rushkoff video we watched in class) made his basic thesis clearish: the development of new technology since the phonetic alphabet have changed the way “media” (which he defines very broadly) affects and controls our thinking and, by extension, our lives.

The playboy interview solidified my confidence in what Mr. McLuhan is trying to express. The interviewer does a good job of trying to keep him focused on one train of thought, which made me realize how associative his arguments can be. He refuses to be categorized which he claims is an outdated method of thinking. After reading the interview I don’t really trust that he knows what he is talking about sometimes. He himself says “As an investigator, I have no fixed point of view, no commitment to any theory“. Including your own, Mr. McLuhan?

I’ve got more to say but don’t want to burden readers. For the purposes of this blog, I am a minimalist.

In class, ask me how Matilda (by Roald Dahl) is a counter-argument to some of McLuhan’s theories.