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

Progress Report: We Have a Spike in the System

Don't look in the closet

Just updated the videos on how peer-to-peer networks work to Youtube videos. Now they are available in glorious HD, with surround sound, 4D vision and an immersive simulator technology that makes you feel like you really are there…. in a diagram of a network architecture. Well the HD is cool I suppose.

Also having not checked my stats for the site in a while I was pleasantly surprised to see I reached a new daily peak of visits this week. I have no idea why there was such a spike as apparently all visitors reached the site entirely on their own (without an outside link or google search). Ego me wants to presume my website was cited in some high class lecture and then all the students simultaneously loaded it up on their iPads as in this fantasy the University is horrendously well funded.

However realist me also knows that not all visits to a website are human, and it may just have been a case of the spiders; a phrase which gives me the jibblies.

I have my Viva in precisely seven days, which is rather terrifying. A viva is essentially a time when you, after slaving for three years over a tome of 100,000 words, are questioned on it relentlessly by two very clever people. It’s the academic equivalent of the realising-you’re-naked-in-the-classroom nightmare; they may as well be picking holes in your soul.

Finally in other news I’m currently knocking out book proposals to a variety of publishers to see if I can’t get my history of digital distribution published. Responses so far have been positive so you never know I might be shamelessly hawking my book on here in a years time, we can only hope.

Historical Research Online – Prezi

I had a few requests for access to the presentation I used to deliver my paper at the OII Symposium last week; so here it is in its wizzy glory.

You can use the arrow keys to move back and forth through the set path (the structured way) but also drag around to make your own way through it. Also if you go to ‘More’ you can go full-screen for better viewing.

Enjoy!

Oii: A Decade in Internet Time

I’m in Oxford at the moment at the Oii Symposium ‘A Decade in Internet Time’. It’s been a lot of fun, I got to present my research have some great feedback from interesting people. The paper I presented is available on the SSRN and you can grab a copy if you like. The conference still has a few days left so I’ll try and cobble something insightful (passable) together when I get home.

Links

My Paper: Internet Archives and Documentary Analysis: Writing a Messy Sociological History