DIGITAL AMERICA

Author Archives: Molly

Electronic Dance Music and American Culture (Phase 1)

// Posted by Molly on 04/14/2012 (12:17 PM)

Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it… Read more

Skrillex, a popular producer of EDM, at a live show

Here is the link to my final project!

My final project has morphed and evolved in the past few weeks more than I imagined it would. Initially, I wanted to explore the similarities and differences in the hippie culture of the 1960s-1970s and the rave scene that is becoming a part of mainstream culture today. While trying to connect these cultures to theories that discuss digital media, I realized that the idea might be too broad to fully explore in the amount of time that we have. Simultaneously, I learned that electronic dance music, the epicenter of rave culture, is so deeply rooted in the Internet that without the technology we have today, the genre wouldn’t exist. EDM exists through the production, sharing, and reproduction of music on the Internet through podcasts, blogs, and artists’ websites. Additionally, the blogs that the genre relies on to spread the word about new music are technically illegal because they rarely pay for their music. Many popular EDM blogs have been shut down for posting links to illegal downloading websites, an issue that has been growing in the past few years.
My research problem is to discover what EDM says about American culture and how it gets the message across. In this aspect of culture, the medium is very important and the way that music is both produced and spread is essential to understanding what it is saying. Also, I want to further explore what each DJ or producer brings to rave culture and what that will do for it in the near future.
To start my research, I interviewed a few University of Richmond students who have EDM blogs and understand how music gets from the producer to the general public. My initial questions for my research were answered in these interviews and allowed me to continue on with a little bit more knowledge of how the genre works to generate music. I learned how people with these blogs find new music from producers, obtain the music (legally or illegally), publish the music to their blogs, and how they decide what is worth the legal risk and what is not. I hoped that the last of my initial questions would be answered after observing one of the biggest EDM festivals in the world firsthand. This experience helped me understand rave culture and what aspects of it are helping American culture as well as what aspects may be a threat in the future.

Rave clothing at Ultra Music Festival

I haven’t encountered too many roadblocks since refocusing my project. One of the major roadblocks in the beginning of my research was not having the informal knowledge that I needed to fully understand the process of downloading and publishing music. Once I was able to interview a few people who could explain the initial process, I was able to understand what I was actually looking for. Another roadblock that I encountered is that the EDM that I am studying and is discussed on blogs is fairly new. There are very few scholarly articles in online journals so I had to find some reliable sources that weren’t necessarily published articles on a certain database.
My most useful supporting media for my project is artists’ and producers’ websites. From there, I am able to find additional information from their blogs, twitter, and facebooks. I am also following popular music blogs that are affected by the legislation that will be forming laws for digital media. One of the blogs, Electronic Life, is a guide to almost all aspects of rave culture and EDM.
The theoretical foundation for my project is coming from a few different theorists. Lawrence Lessig’s theories on the music industry today support the innovation of electronic music and blame the music industry for restricting culture. This theory is the foundation of the EDM genre and is the future that many of the producers hope for. Shirky’s writing on social media is applicable to the artists’ pages because they direct their fans to their other social media. Many of Poster’s theories apply to this genre of music and the idea of innovation in place of invention. Almost all of EDM exists in Poster’s “third space” that has created its own culture. Poster’s critiques of the music industry are almost exactly what many individuals involved in EDM are saying about the music industry. The theory of a consumer becoming a producer and therefore a user is also a foundation of the EDM genre. Consumers of the music often become producers because the genre has a feeling of a community and many people feel that they can participate and contribute to it. Applications such as Figure are promoting the idea of easy-to-create music. This participation changes people who were once consumers into producers and creates a cycle of contribution to the genre and the culture as a whole.
My plan for the second half of my project is to go deeper into my research of the music industry to better understand what role EDM is playing in it. I think this research will lead me to better understanding the role it is playing in American culture and where it may take it in the future. Additionally, information about copyright laws and newer laws that are being created to restrict illegal downloading will help me further understand the future of the genre of digital music.
I still have many important questions to answer such as: what will happen with illegal downloading in the future? How will these laws affect the genre of EDM? How will these laws affect both rave culture an American culture? How could ideas from theorists such as Lessig and Hansen be applied to this genre of music and make a difference? One of the biggest questions in the future of EDM is what will happen to it in the future and who’s hands will it fall into. This New York Times article explains what may happen to EDM in the future and who will try to control its growing popularity.


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Internet Culture Then and Now

// Posted by Molly on 04/07/2012 (12:25 AM)

I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author… Read more

I found a collection of videos on one of WIRED Magazine’s blogs called Underwire. This particular blog on WIRED.com describes itself as “Working the Wired culture beat, from movies and music to comics and the web.” Last week, author Angela Watercutter posted a few videos made by web editor Jo Luijten. The videos are of what Luijten imagines the social networking sites and video games of today would have looked like in the 80s and 90s. I think these videos are funny, informative and a great way to wrap up a semester of exploring digital America. The videos are meant to show progress in web culture as well as to preserve the memory of an earlier, less advanced internet. In order to create the videos, Luijten had to create a program to mimic what he believed an older version of these websites would look like. Ironically, he wouldn’t have been able to create the videos about a fictional past without modern technology. Here is a link to Jo Luijten’s video, “If Facebook were invented in the 90s.

 

 

After watching a few of Luijten’s videos about social networking sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, I realized that we are part of a generation that will barely remember the days of AOL, floppy disks and dial-up internet. My reaction to these videos is similar to watching a home video of my younger sisters and thinking, “they grow up so fast!” From the image quality to the few extra seconds it takes to load a page in “If Facebook were invented in the 90s,” I began to recognize how normal today’s internet has become to me. An unclear picture seems obnoxiously old fashioned and it frustrates me when a web page takes over a second to load. Normalcy is a photo on my computer as crystal clear as seeing the image in real life and an instantaneous change when I click on a link.

 

 

For something that has become such a significant part of our daily lives, we rarely remember that the Internet has just recently grown to be what it is today. I cannot imagine going back to Luijten’s Facebook of the 90s and feeling excited about the idea of it, if it were the way it is in the video. However, I quickly remembered that in the 80s and 90s, future social networking sites were the unknown that propelled the constant innovation and desire for improvement. Curiosity and imagination made internet culture what it is today. Though it is difficult to fully grasp the progress we have made from the 90s to the internet we know today, it is even more amazing to think about what will happen to web culture in the next 20 or 30 years.

Our generation looks back on Luijten’s fictional videos much like a child looks back on the toddler version of itself riding a bike with training wheels. It is mind-blowing to think that we will one day look back on our bike-riding selves, free of training wheels, happy with Facebook, Angry Birds and Twitter, and think: “Remember the days when we couldn’t drive!?”

 


Categories: Discussion, Uncategorized

“I share therefore I am”

// Posted by Molly on 04/03/2012 (11:31 PM)

My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to… Read more

My friends and I accuse each other of being attached to our phones on a daily basis. Someone is always asking someone else to repeat a sentence, or an entire story, that they missed when they were paying attention to a text. I’ve never understood what is so addicting about my cell phone or why other people seem to share the addiction, but I am well aware that a problem exists. Cultural analyst Sherry Turkle , has been studying technology and how it changes our lives for decades. In her TEDtalk she discusses how communication through a device, such as texting on a cell phone, has changed who we are. I have read articles and heard other people talk about ideas that are similar to Turkle’s, but her TED talk was by far the most interesting and easiest to relate to of them all. There were several statements in her talk that made me rewind, listen again, and think: “That is exactly how I feel.”

Turkle discussed the emotional attachment we have, not to the physical device, but to what it provides. One of the most interesting portions of the talk was when she discussed the “three gratifying fantasies” that texting creates.

1. We can put our attention wherever we want it to be
2. We will always be heard
3. We never have to be alone

The third fantasy was most interesting to me because Turkle elaborated on that idea and explained that constant connections through our technology create the illusion that we are never alone. Though this seems like a comforting fact at first, she explained that if we never feel alone because of our cell phones, we feel lonelier when we are actually alone. Our inability to be alone becomes a deeply rooted issue that forces us to confront the problems in our relationship with technology.

There were many points in Turkle’s argument that, like the aforementioned, startled me and made me realize that I possess this troublesome relationship with technology. Further proving her point, I took comfort in the fact that I was not alone and that almost everyone I know with a cell phone shares my problem.

 

 

I think this is one of the most important TED talks for our generation to watch because it addresses some issues that are serious, but fixable. Towards the end of her talk, Turkle makes it clear that she is not suggesting we turn away from our technology or view it as an enemy. She suggests that we act as we would if we were trying to fix any dysfunctional relationship: put in some quality time and effort to sort out the problems.

Do you agree that these problems exist between our technology and us? Do you think they are as fixable and Shelly Turkle suggests they are? If these problems exist, could they develop into emotional weaknesses for future generations?


Categories: Discussion, Uncategorized

The Possibility of US Involvement in an anti-piracy treaty

// Posted by Molly on 03/20/2012 (6:30 PM)

Copyright laws in the United States are tricky things to understand, especially in a digital age. Some aspects of the laws are stricter than others, while some have loopholes that many young adults know and use. With sites such as… Read more

Copyright laws in the United States are tricky things to understand, especially in a digital age. Some aspects of the laws are stricter than others, while some have loopholes that many young adults know and use. With sites such as Megaupload being shut down and piracy laws being modified, we are watching as new laws take shape and as the government decides what will be available to us in the future. In an article published in Wired, David Kravets reports on possible new restrictions on sharing and using information on the internet. An international treaty called the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement is an anti-piracy treaty that is similar to one that already exists in the United States. Currently, there are no countries that have ratified this treaty but it has been up for discussion in the past, and is being brought up again as a serious possibility. You can find the article here. It is definitely worth reading and goes into more detail than I am able to. Though at first glance the treaty seems distant and improbable, it is gaining support and Congress has been discussing it as a real possibility. Because the United States already has a Copyright Act that comes with a $150,000 per infringement penalty, much of the issue is whether the government will want to change this and, if the international agreement is different, whether that will deter the government from agreeing to it. The process is not simple and there are many sides to the debate, but one thing that is undeniable is how important it is to stay informed on the possibility of the treaty. Sean Flynn, an American University, Washington College of Law intellectual-property scholar was quoted in Kravets’s article.

“The reason it is a big deal, because this is what this agreement does, it tells domestic legislatures what its law must be or not be. These type of agreements are the most important to go through legislative approval and go through a public process and commenting on what the norms are of that agreement. The reason, it locally restricts what the democratic process can do.”

This agreement is important to learn about, follow and take a stance on in the future. With legislation changing and the government revising to stay with other countries, it will be interesting to see what side the United States chooses to take. What do you make of this agreement? Do you think other countries will be quick sign it, or will the United States lead the way? What will this mean for the future of intellectual property and copyright law?

There is definitely a lot to wrap your mind around on this issue and it will be interesting how much publicity this agreement will get in the mainstream media and outside of publications such as Wired.


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Video: Fair(y) Use Tale

// Posted by Molly on 03/20/2012 (11:37 AM)



 

This video was put together to explain Copyright Law and Fair Use, and to demonstrate how Fair Use can work. The concept of Fair Use is… Read more

 

This video was put together to explain Copyright Law and Fair Use, and to demonstrate how Fair Use can work. The concept of Fair Use is pretty confusing, as is the video because it is taken from so many different places. However, after reading about the laws and having a basic understanding of them, I thought this video was pretty cool and informative.


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Robots working with Robots

// Posted by Molly on 03/02/2012 (1:16 PM)

I started watching Vijay Kumar’s TED Talk presentation about tiny robots that can fly because I thought it sounded futuristic and really interesting. I didn’t think they would be advanced enough to do more than the toy helicopter I… Read more

I started watching Vijay Kumar’s TED Talk presentation about tiny robots that can fly because I thought it sounded futuristic and really interesting. I didn’t think they would be advanced enough to do more than the toy helicopter I bought my father for Christmas last year, but I was willing to hear him out. The science behind the tiny flying robots was too much for me to comprehend, but Kumar discussed how the robots could be used in real world situations. It reminds me of the documentary Why We Fight because it seems like an idea that is really worth pursuing for both the military and government. The flying robots are small enough to explore spaces that humans would not be able to fit in. Kumar gave examples of a robot acting as a first responder, identifying potential threats in a building, damage, and biochemical leaks. I was reminded of Why We Fight because our military is constantly working on ways to obtain information and carry out military commands without putting our own soldiers in danger. By utilizing these flying robots, the US government could save money on the equipment that soldiers need to explore buildings, search for people, and identify possible dangers. Most importantly, the robots could save lives by lessening the danger of exploring the unknown in a foreign country.

 

Vijay Kumar holding a robot

The robots become even more valuable when they work together because they are able to cooperate with each other to carry out goals. The technology was modeled after ants that were able to carry an object by sensing both each other and the object without formally communicating. In the talk, Kumar shows videos of the robots carrying larger objects together, flying in formation, and even building a simple structure by programming the robots with only the blueprint of the finished product. Though the robots would be expensive and require a lot of time and attention to properly train, I believe they would be well worth it. Kumar concluded his TED Talk with a music video of the robots playing instruments and working together to perform a song. Though his presentation ended on a lighter note, I think he opened his audiences eyes to the possibilities of this technology and how valuable it could be in the future.

Robots flying together

 

I think in 10 or 15 years, this kind of technology could replace some of our soldiers, save money on military expenses, and become a safer and more effective way of carrying out missions in other countries. What do you think our government would think about replacing soldiers with these robots? After hearing President Eisenhower’s speech in Why We Fight, do you think he would have the same ideas about these robots as our government today?


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Are Americans sheltered from the news?

// Posted by Molly on 03/01/2012 (11:51 AM)

Last week, Phylicia posted about Time Magazine’s US cover and how it compared to covers of the international editions. I saw this clip from The Daily Show and thought it further proved the point of the photo comparison from last… Read more

Last week, Phylicia posted about Time Magazine’s US cover and how it compared to covers of the international editions. I saw this clip from The Daily Show and thought it further proved the point of the photo comparison from last week. I think this video shows what other countries think of American media, but how do you think it makes Americans feel? Do you think Americans even realize that we are getting “softer” news than other countries? Do Americans behave in a way that makes the media think we can’t handle the harsh truth?

You can watch the clip here:

Jon Stewart- Time Magazine US Edition

 


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Google’s HUD Glasses: Rumor or Reality?

// Posted by Molly on 02/28/2012 (12:43 PM)

 

From 12-hour road trips to five-minute walks around the corner, I use my iPhone map for almost every journey I embark on. Its ability to show me either a satellite image of where I am or point out… Read more

 

From 12-hour road trips to five-minute walks around the corner, I use my iPhone map for almost every journey I embark on. Its ability to show me either a satellite image of where I am or point out landmarks like a road map, allow me to navigate like a pro. However, it is the map’s ability to combine the two features that makes it so valuable. The hybrid feature of the map also exists online through the use of Google Maps. And soon, it may exist literally right before our eyes.

 

Screen shot of Google Maps features

In Roberto Baldwin’s article on Wired.com, he explains that more evidence has been found to back up the rumors of Google’s HUD glasses. HUD stands for head-up display and the rumored glasses would look like designer sunglasses, yet allow the wearer to see more than a tinted view of the world. The HUD glasses would show what a normal pair of sunglasses would show with an overlay of information about the objects that someone is looking at. The HUD glasses would put the hybrid ability of the iPhone map right in front of the wearer’s eyes. Though there has been confusion about where the information would appear (either in a small screen in the corner of the lens or directly on the lens of the glasses) it is agreed that the glasses bring about some safety concerns for the wearer. Especially if the information were displayed across the actual lens, the viewer’s focus would have to shift back and forth, making it difficult to perform simple tasks such as walking and driving. Though distracting, this type of display would be futuristic and according to Baldwin, “much more sci-fi.” The glasses would include “augmented-reality data overlays” about streets, landmarks and even people.

 

How the display could look

There have been rumors of the creation of these glasses and Google’s recent search for a “special projects” front-end software engineer and a designer for local, mobile and social apps only propelled the rumors further. Aside from obvious safety concerns, there are other questions that may come up if the glasses are released and become popular. The technology would be extremely advanced and accessible without a computer or a Smartphone, creating a device that seems like futuristic spy wear. If street signs and landmarks were all that appear on the screen of these HUD glasses, they would be no more than a more mobile version of an iPhone app. However, if the glasses continued to advance and were able to give information on passersby- a possibility that has already been discussed- the technology may begin to invade the privacy of others. With these glasses, you may be able to learn a lot more about a person than they would normally want to tell. You may be able to drive by a home and know whom it belongs to, if people are in it and even where in the home they are. While potentially hazardous for the user, these HUD glasses may also become a dangerous invasion of privacy for the public, especially if they are in the hands of a dangerous person. Do you think these glasses would become popular if they were in fact released at the end of 2012? Are there other risks that experts have not considered, both for the wearer and the general public?


Categories: Uncategorized

Do You Know Your Neighbors?

// Posted by Molly on 01/31/2012 (10:52 PM)

 

While reading Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture and posts about hippie culture, I began wondering how it is possible to embrace your community and utilize a neighborhood without moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere… Read more

 

While reading Fred Turner’s From Counterculture to Cyberculture and posts about hippie culture, I began wondering how it is possible to embrace your community and utilize a neighborhood without moving to a farm in the middle of nowhere and shutting off all of your electronics. Facebook and other social networking sites have helped connect people from all over the world to form an online community, but what if you just want get to know your new neighbor who walks past your house every day? For that, there is a new website called Yatown.

Yatown was co-founded in 2010 by Christopher Nguyen, a former engineering director at Google, and Jerome Park, creator and leader of the Enterprise Appliance Partner team at Google. The website allows users to post on virtual bulletin boards and share information about their community. Information is posted about local deals, events, and news. Users can also ask each other questions or start posts about general topics. The website brings neighbors together to form a closer-knit community without isolating them in a commune. Below is a screen shot of Yatown:

 

In Ali’s post, “The New Hippie,” there is a video about a commune in rural Virginia where people work to keep the community going. This simpler way of life in which 20 people live together in a single house is completely different from a suburban neighborhood. One man in the video spoke about his life outside of the commune saying, “I lived next door to somebody for four years and never knew who they were.” While some people would be happier in a commune, others would just like to know their neighbors. People with different political ideas, religious beliefs and ways of life can sign onto their computers and share information with each other, while still keeping their private lives to themselves.

Though many hippie communes are still functioning and thriving, websites such as Yatown are also on the rise. For people who want a closer and more exclusive community than Facebook, but want to live separate lives from their neighbors, an online community that connects people who are geographically close to each other is often the answer.

I signed on to Yatown to see if people in my hometown were using it. I found that not only were people posting in a general town group, they had divided into smaller groups based on what part of town people live in. It takes only 10 minutes to drive from one side of my town to the other so to see it divided into such specific neighborhoods was truly amazing. Yard sales were advertised, questions were posted about good places to hold fundraising banquets, and there was a feeling of a close-knit community.

Are websites such as Yatown the new way to network? Would you feel comfortable meeting your neighbors online before you met them in person? Can you really achieve a sense of community through a website?

A neighborhood is defined as a district, especially one forming a community within a town or city and the people of such a district. If we begin to find our neighbors online and establish a relationship before knocking on their door, are we still able to build a strong community like the hippies of the 1960s and 1970s wanted?


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What is so Pinteresting?

// Posted by Molly on 01/19/2012 (11:19 AM)

A website called Pinterest (a combination of the words “pin” and “interest”) was created in 2009 and was listed in Time magazine’s “50 best websites of 2011” in August 2011. (The article can be found here.) I discovered the… Read more

A website called Pinterest (a combination of the words “pin” and “interest”) was created in 2009 and was listed in Time magazine’s “50 best websites of 2011” in August 2011. (The article can be found here.) I discovered the website after I heard many of my friends rave about how addicting it was. I found it both odd and alarming when my friends told me they often caught themselves wanting to stay home and “pin things” rather than socialize in real life. When I tried to create a Pinterest account I learned that the website required an invitation to join, a feature that I still don’t quite understand. I sent my friend a text message saying “Send me a pinterest invite,” and five minutes later I was pinning and repinning things on the website. For anyone who has never heard of Pinterest, I found a youtube tutorial here:

I had no idea how to categorize Pinterest, so I looked it up on Wikipedia and learned that it is “a vision board-styled social photo sharing website.” In my opinion, Pinterest’s popularity is due to its broad description. Wikipedia states, “The mission statement of Pinterest is to connect everyone in the world through shared tastes and the “things” they find interesting.” People can “pin” absolutely anything they want. For example, a 27-year-old woman who I know from my hometown is a newlywed and has a one-year-old daughter. She has boards titled, “DIY Crafts,” “Wedding,” “Kid Things,” and “Recipes.” On the other hand, my 18-year-old sister’s friends have board titles such as “Dream House,” “Fun Quotes,” “Diamonds,” (A board filled with pictures of diamond rings) “Man Candy,” (celebrities and male models) and my personal favorite “Skinny Betch,” (pictures of models, motivational quotes about exercise, and workout outfits) Though it is possible to organize one’s life through pinterest, it is also possible that one’s time may be better spent actually going to the gym rather than pinning about it.
I looked through a few screenshots of Pinterest and found this one to give everyone a better idea of how it looks and how it is organized.

While exploring Pinterest and its reviews, I was reminded of Mark Hanson’s theory that people can both produce and consume material on the Internet. He says, “The explosion of user-generated digital “content” has refocused the function of computational media from storage to production.” In the past, the Internet was used to store information and do tasks that a person may not want to do on their own. Today, websites such as Pinterest allow all members to share inspirational “things” in hopes that others will enjoy them. Photos that link to family recipes, tips on home decorating or ideas for crafts spread the emotional aspect of these activities as they become popular on Pinterest. This spreading of photos and websites that contain real feelings and emotions allow people to share whatever they are feeling with the world. Does this spreading of emotional experiences cheapen the real thing? Would you feel comfortable sharing a family recipe or story on Pinterest that was passed through generations? Could websites such as Pinterest be used in place of social experiences, for example: sharing an interesting magazine article with a friend?


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