Tag Archives: digital

RIP MySpace

The music industry has been changing for years, but the last couple of years have brought an even more accelerated rate of change for it. The way music lives online has changed beyond everything not to mention the way people interact with it. A few years ago unless a band had a site, all you could do was purchase or steal its music, or become the band’s friend on MySpace. Fortunately these days are over and we can gradually see more and more ways of meaningful ways of interacting with artists and fellow fans online. From LastFm to SoundCloud, things are getting more and more interesting.

To start from the consuming part of the society, or fans, as some like to call them, Spotify has become a major player on the scene. In the countries where it is available, Spotify has probably eradicated the need for buying or stealing music. Unless you’re chasing a niche artist, you can pretty much bet on finding what you’re looking for on Spotify and listening to it for free so long as you’re online and in one of the countries where it is available in its non-premium mode. If you want to get rid of the radio-like advertising and have it offline, you can just give them some money every month and live happily ever after.

My recent two favourites in the music scene are 8tracks and SoundCloud, 2 quite different online services. 8tracks is one of the simplest and least marketed and yet one of the most rewarding music services online you can find. 8tracks is all about man-made mixes – you can create mixes and listen to those made by other users. Once you’re finished with one, the site will swiftly redirect you to another mix that is compatible with what you were listening to before. You can create your own mixes with your own music or the music already in the 8tracks system via the ‘network’ option.  You can search through genres, songs, artists or specific users, who they follow or who is following them. Yes, the following is very Twitter-like capability, except that instead of people’s blurbs you get music mixes that you can favourite or star the songs you like best. All in a really simple and elegant way that doesn’t nag you to pay or click on things. So far my definite favourite for discovering new music!

SoundCloud is probably the most innovative and versatile beast out there though. They’re not for the most part preoccupied with serving to the consumers, but are more focused on providing solutions for the creators of music. SoundCloud allows you to upload music and share it with everyone or those you want to share it with, but that’s just a part of it. SoundCloud has created a super-easy and embeddable way of putting music on your blog, on Twitter, just about anywhere you’d like it in fact through an audio widget that allows others to leave comments on particular bits of the tune. All this is trackable by those who upload it, whether it’s you or an artist managing a newly released track.

So yeah, sorry MySpace, but the friending and events sections just aren’t that hot these days.

[Image courtesy of .neha]

More is more

add090525_1_560

I like to apply the rule of ‘less is more’ in many aspects of my life, but I can’t help noticing that every day takes us deeper and deeper into a world where ‘more is more’. The perpetual stimulation and, as some may call it, distraction, leaves us with so many things zipping through our minds per day, per hour, even minute that a commitment to a single task seems far from possible for most (Did you not just get a Twitter notification, email, text, phone call?). According to Virgin mobile, 1 in 5 people will interrupt sex to answer a phone call. Most sleep with their phones constantly on and those with smartphones will often check their email before getting out of bed in the morning, with 6 in 10 Blackberry users checking their email in bed on a regular basis. Furthermore, ‘four out of 10 said they kept them nearby as they slept so they could hear incoming mail. A similar proportion said they had replied to emails in the middle of the night. A further 37% responded to emails when they were driving.’

Digital and in particular social media has enabled many phenomenal communication channels as a result of which we seem, and I believe are, better connected both across borders and with our real close social networks. I don’t believe that the nature of human relationships has changed due to the Internet, I believe it has merely enriched our relationships and given us more freedom and choice in how we develop and maintain them. The only possible problem this richness may cause to human relationships is the fact that today we probably deal with more relationships at a time than ever before which leaves less room for each of them. One could claim that our relationships have thus become more shallow, but again, that is a grand generalisation and a personal choice that people can make by themselves. What digital has given us is merely more choices in how we interact with our environments. 

Oh, the choices we, and our children will have to make. How many friends will you manage to talk to this week? Will you call your parents? Will you catch up on you favorite blogs by the end of the week or spend time outdoors instead? Which information and with what restrictions will you put on you Twitter, Fb, whatnot? These are just a few of the decisions to make for most of those engaged in digital. The distraction or rather multi-tasking might not be a bad thing; it might make our minds more flexible and thus capable of processing more information at a time allowing us a greater capacity of experiences within a given unit of time. The neurological changes might make us into a different kind of a human over the next generations, which is a part of evolution, whether in the right or not direction. 

So yes, more is more, but the trick within all of this possibility is not to spread your experience, your life, too thinly. The world of the increasingly ubiquitous more requires more discipline both in our daily behaviour and attention. The small choices every day can be driven by the same logic as paying attention to how to deposit of your recycling – everything mixed together might just not be the best option. Where you start is another question, perhaps not checking your email at night and getting some sleep instead could be one of them. 

For related articles, please read:

Benefits of Distraction at NYT

Rules for balancing technology and relationships at Timesviou

Illustration by Glen Cummings/MTWTF  

(Photo: John Day/Getty Images)

The new and the better

Us Now is a fantastic documentary created by Banyak Films. Exploring new forms of social organisation and the empowering of the individual, the video provides excellent insights into new possiblities of the digital sphere. Linux, Couchsurfing, Mumsnet, Meetup and Zopa are just some of case studies presented alongside an interesting debate of the future of political and social change.

Digitall


I have written before about the sharp contrast between the speed of digital innovation and the speed of educating the public on the advantages it brings. Digitall is an initiative based on one to one digital mentoring that supports people over 45 in gaining more knowledge about computers and the net. The mentors are volunteers between 18 and 25 and meet the mentees  for 1 -2 hours a week for up to twelve weeks at selected IT centres. Although one of the aims of the program is to bring generations closer together, I don’t really understand why they don’t allow people over 25 to participate; one would think they’d only get more volunteers if they were more flexible on the age issues.

Digitall is a part of a larger network of mentoring and volunteering initiatives called TimeBank. TimeBank acts as an umbrella organisation connecting charities, volunteering, business and mentoring initiatives. Opportunities range from community projects to refugee, drug addicts and child support. If you don’t know what you’d like to do or try to do, you can just register, tell TimeBank about your interests and they promise to inspire you with relevant opportunities.

Emotional Cities

splash

Emotional Cities is a an award-winning interactive project connected with large buildings in Stockholm and Seoul. With a concept similar to that of WeFeelFine, Emotional Cities asks its users to express their mood on a scale of 7 varied smiley icons that correspond to a range of colors. The installations consits of the colors projected onto buildings with lights according to the  various moods reported by the inhabitants of the two capitals and users around the world.

emotional-cities-green

The project was created by a Stockholm agency Farfar which collaborated with artist Erik Krikortz to create Emotional Cities. The project developed code to allow registrants to display their emotional state on their computers or on their Facebook profile, join groups, keep a mood diary or just check out the moods of cities around the world. Based on the pictures from their blog, the installations seem to have visited Paris and might return to more cities in next winter (brrr!).

[Image courtesy of Emotional Cities]

Is the new all too exclusive?

Technology is the most prominent route of development in areas ranging from medical treatment to online media that give us online shopping, easier ways of keeping in touch with other people and better access to information. They simply make our lives more convenient. The internet is not only spreading through the world, but also through various platforms that will soon allow us to control objects and optimise the energy efficiency of our homes. Internet banking, shopping online and being able to find information instantly are all becoming a commodity to those knowing how to take advantage of the relevant media, but what about the rest of the society?

Societies in developed countries are rapidly aging and more and more people are and will be alienated by the new ways that things are done via the digital sphere. How many times have you had a parent or a grandparent ask for help using devices as simple as mobile phones? I can count on one hand how many people over 60 I know that can use texting. Technological innovation is changing us, our societies and helping us move forward in many ways, but one could argue that the ones who need convenience more than any other group are the ones least often among the beneficiaries.

I would abstain from characterising the older population as simply not capable of adjusting to the digital sphere – I have seen enough people my age who aren’t web-savvy or able to take full advantage of their increasingly software- and hardware-equipped mobile phones.There are too few initiatives to increase social participation in new technology solutions for older people. Whether through providing alternative interface or simply better customer service and information, we should strive to develop new ways to introduce the new ways of communication and services for the older members of our societies. So how do we make this happen? There is now an resource site called co-pilot committed to exploring the intersection of art, technology and social change that currently focuses on the needs of older people. We’ve got to start someplace.