Digital Documents and their Discontents (2 of 2)

This lecture asks ‘what is a document?’ and takes a closer look at the issues of assessing digital documents for research including authority, authenticity, information overload and information scarcity.

This lecture is based on Chapter 2 of ‘Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution’

This lecture was delivered as part of the BA in Sociology at the University of Essex, Spring 2014.

http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/

Writing a Digital History with Digital Documents (1 of 2)

Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution was the result of a three-year research project into the history of digital piracy. The project attempted to understand how media retail went from discs to downloads, accounting for individual agency, software design and the wider social changes. This lecture will provide an overview of the project and examine how the research method topic and structure all influenced each other within a social research project.

This lecture was delivered as part of the BA in Sociology at the University of Essex, Spring 2014.

http://www.essex.ac.uk/sociology/

Osborne’s Player Piano: The Post-Industrial Society and Kurt Vonnegut

“If it weren’t for the people, the god-damn people’ said Finnerty, ‘always getting tangled up in the machinery. If it weren’t for them, the world would be an engineer’s paradise.”
(Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut)

The internet (and therefore I presume the humans – or maybe algorithms – behind it) is in a furore about Osborne’s Work-for-Benefits plan. The key message of it is that those who fail to find work on the privatised back-to-work systems will be required to work in various occupations such as picking up litter, cleaning graffiti and caring for the elderly. They will do this or lose their benefits, and they will do it until they make the conscious decision not to be unemployed any more and take on one of the many jobs in this burgeoning economy of ours. If they don’t get a job, they will remain as a worker for the state. The whole thing seems a little bit Player Piano to me.

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Issues of Using Digital Documents in Social Research

A brief outline of my project ‘Digital Culture Industry: A History of Digital Distribution’ and some of the issues I faced when using ‘Digital Documents’ for my research. It’s a bit of a shallow overview of the issues and I’m hoping to get my working paper on the same topic buffed up (massively overhauled) in the next few months.

Mashups: Cultural Bricolage, Creative Consumption and ‘Information Play’

I love Mashups. The re-contextualization, the mismatching of genres, the way in which the sounds and the symbols are simultaneously both at odds and harmonic… it does something to me.

I also find them interesting as a representation of information play. Mashups deconstruct reified cultural objects. They break them down to demonstrate the underlying similarities but also to play with the cultural symbols attached to their genres and the messages in the songs. Through digitization these cultural objects can be easily manipulated, deconstructed and creatively rebuilt, creating both a new song and a new set of meanings (meanings which often will poke fun at the original symbolism).

I feel that a major part of the pleasure in Mashups is in the recognition of their component parts and seeing how they have been subverted. Recognizing the songs within the mix is fun, but seeing how they’ve been messed with is the real pleasure. This requires you to already understand the symbolism and meanings behind the songs, even if its just in a broad knowledge of the genre. Knowing that a gangster rap song is sending out signals of machismo and danger makes it all the more fun when its mixed with a cutesy tween pop song: the machismo is neutralized and the tween pop suddenly gets very very odd.

I made this video to demonstrate just how many songs can be fit into one Mashup

 

Whenever a Mashup ends up on my iPod I get this feeling that there’s more to say about them as representative of our symbol and information saturated world. They represent an attitude of irreverence for the reified products of the music industry whilst demonstrating a sophisticated intrinsic understanding of messages and symbols and how they can be manipulated. Perhaps this is the result of generations saturated by crafted branding and symbolism. They are such experts in the world of symbols that with the right tools they can claim them and reshape them as their own.

There is so much more to this topic, but I do have a day job… and unfortunately it’s not this. Back when it was my day job (PhD is a job right?) I made the Prezi (above) for a presentation to SATSU at the University of York. The ideas are a bit rough and ready, but it’s got lots of Mashup videos embedded in it and plays with some ideas if you’d like to go further.

My Book is Out Now!

Book cover: Digital Culture IndustryDigital Culture Industry:
A History of Digital Distribution

I’m very happy to announce that my book is finally out with Palgrave Macmillan.

If you’re interested in the history of peer-to-peer piracy and how it shaped digital media today this is the book for you. Covering MP3.com, Napster, GNUtella, Kazaa, Streamcast, Grokster, BitTorrent and The Pirate Bay this comprehensive history is a great read for anyone interested in the field of digital media.

….if I do say so myself.

For a more comprehensive overview of the book head over to the book page where you can see reviews and chapter summaries.

There was a lot of research that went into the book, and a lot of resources to boot. If you’d like to see some of the things I made related to the book head over to this blog post and also take a look at the resources.

Available now from…

PalgraveMacmillanwaterstonesref=sr_1_14