DECENTRALIZED MEDIA AND DISCERNMENT
EPISODE 9 MUSIC IN PHASE SPACE
The Leaf Group , one of the biggest producers and distributors of online video produces 100s of 1000s of videos on topics that are solely determined by a proprietary algorithm that crunches data on popular search terms, keywords and their current rates on search engines, and information about how many web pages already cover the topic. If a topic is ‘hot’ and not yet covered, The Leaf Group commissions an army of freelance video makers, at $20 per video (!), to quickly produce short clips on the topic, e.g. on ‘how to heel-flip on a skate board’ etc.
“AOL’s new chief plans to combine algorithms, marketing partnerships and cheap freelance writers in order to turn the stale web property into a vibrant online content factory pumping out stories to fit the zeitgeist…” — all for the sole sake of taking advantage of the Google-page-ranking system i.e. to subsequently yield more advertising dollars.
With both examples, the idea is simple: to produce a huge a and hyper-distributed amount of fast, short — and above all — ultra-cheap content that is a perfect fit with the hottest and most expensive keywords on the web, today, so that the maximum advertising rates can be achieved at all times. In other words, this ‘content’ only exists as a way of garnering advertising revenues based on keyword popularity — hardly what I would consider ‘adding value to the content ecosystem’ ;)
In music, recommendations are already generated largely by software algorithms and data-crunching recommendation engines; Google’s page-ranking system relies entirely on machine-intelligence, of course, and Twittercounter’s top 1000 list is, of course, generated solely by data feeds — not by human editors.
Techcrunch’s Arrington talks about the end of crafted content. Wired calls Demand Media a factory that stamps out money-making content. The Inquisitor talks about how this kind of approach is turning the web into an obese mess. The Washington Post sums it up, rather gloomy: “these models create a race to the bottom situation, where anyone who spends time and effort on their content is pushed out of business.”
The Ballad of James Jesus Angleton
He was the first head of Counterintelligence at the CIA. Think about that. Counterintel. The first head of Counterintel at the CIA. He went completely insane, like schizophrenic all the way down. Absolutely, completely insane because that’s what happens when that’s your relationship to your environment. Obviously the KGB was trying to infiltrate the CIA well, how do you know? How do you know when the individuals you’re interacting with are themselves hypersophisticated agents who are actually privy to things you are not privy to or are trying to disrupt your own understanding of reality. We’re all James Jesus Angleton now and if you are in that field, you’re in trouble.
Okay, so that’s the context. That’s the context of this problem, we’ve got a double whammy. On the one hand, we’re rapidly approaching a level of challenge that is way beyond anything we’ve ever considered possible, much less dealt with. On the other hand, we have to innovate a level of understanding that is adequate to it which is something we’ve never even begun to contemplate, much less develop. And finally, on the omnipresent and always ironic third hand, we’re doing so in the context of a war on our capacity to do that, that is profound and exhilarating. So that’s actually the situation.
Every single person that likes to eat fast-food still knows the difference between Wendy’s and a nice meal: yes, it’s more expensive and it takes longer but it’s a much better experience, and it makes you feel better. Fast food chains simply co-exist with ‘real’ restaurants of all kinds, everywhere — and that’s what we will have in the content industries, too. If you want to make a quick buck by starting a fast-food franchise, go ahead. I, personally, don’t like to eat fast food, nor would I enjoy running a McDonald’s franchise so I will go a different route.
There will always be people who are willing to pay for better, deeper and more ‘serious’ content, and, in my opinion, increasingly so (mostly because of the trend towards mobile content consumption) — we just need to find new, web-native models of getting paid for content and translate the value of attention into tangible $. Yes, this is a real challenge, today, but new ways are emerging that will indeed provide plenty of resources for the continued creation of high-quality content. Let’s have some imagination.
Music can shape and define our moods. Music helps us to think, exercise, smile, vent frustration, or even express depths of love never imagined. Music enhances our joy when we are floating an inch off the ground and music can be our only friend and counselor when we are in the depths of despair. If this is true how do we determine how the music that surrounds us is being used? How do we discern if a song is being used for noble or debased purposes? Or at an even more basic level what criteria do we use to determine the quality of music? How do we know if a song is good or bad in a technical sense?
Understanding is the ability to judge well. or you could say its perception in the absence of judgment with a view to obtaining spiritual direction and understanding. Distinguishing Understanding from judgment First, it’s important to draw a line between “judging” and “discerning.” What’s the difference? In a couple of words: humility and love. Judging carries with it condemnation, and separation from its subject; it becomes a “me/them” comparison, a superior-to-inferior attitude. When you judge people for what they say or do, you place them beneath you. You lose perspective of who you are.
Understanding, on the other hand, recognizes a behavior as not for me — but does so out of a realization of your heart’s own constant struggle with life. It shows compassion toward its object, still clinging to good. After all, justice is an indispensable ingredient of love, which craves the best for the one it loves.
Understanding is an often difficult exercise, because it requires to free oneself from the sophisms that can encumber the vocabulary, or from the superficial side of certain affirmations. Understanding allows recognition by early perception . Understanding is a fundamental quality in religious spirituality: here, the word means the ability to recognize the action of liminal conciousness in everyday life. Indeed, Ignatius Loyola , founder of the Jesuits professed that all human decision is the place of an encounter with God.
What we all need to do now — collectively as a species — is build the institutional capacities to make sense of big data on a regular basis. Having a biased meshwork of corporate media outlets won’t be sufficient. Neither will the “democratized” independent people in the grassroots who have shown us how biased they can be in their own worldviews as they interpret the world to serve themselves. The deep truth about decentralized media is that a great deal of moral integrity and analytic skill is needed to make sense of the world in our complex media environments today.
These cultural capacities are desperately lacking today. This is about connecting the dots, revealing system-level patterns, and searching for root causes. It is about collaborating across perspectives to make sense of a complex social world. The analysis we share here is meant to convey just how richly complex this kind of work will need to be in the future. We have merely scratched the surface of what is needed moving forward.
Understanding can at first approach come closer to intuition. Intuition is a mode of knowledge, of thought or judgment , perceived as immediate. The field of intuition is wide: it concerns both knowledge proper (representation of the world) that feelings (on things) or motivations (to act). It is defined in many ways in philosophy as well as in psychology. Intuition would be a quick way of assessing a situation by relating it to similar situations already known.
However, intuition , which is an immediate and individual awareness, can lead to errors of appreciation. Descartes affirmed that “there are no other ways open to men, to arrive at a certain knowledge of the truth, than the obvious intuition and the necessary deduction” (XII ° rule). In the context of the emergence of modern science ( Galileo ), this proposition might seem common sense. Yet our conceptions of the world have evolved since the XVII century , this assertion of Descartes may not apply in all contexts. In particular, is any intuition obvious to other people than the one who feels it in terms of their own experiences and perceptions , which are necessarily subjective?
The empiricists , particularly in England, granted traditionally great importance to the experience (see experimental method , Robert Boyle , etc.). Any intuition must therefore be verified from several sources. Understanding must therefore call upon different modes of reasoning . It is even more precise that it is shared and debated
WAR ON MEDIA
Yeah, no question. It is a comprehensive existential conflict that must be won. And here’s the thing you hear the phrase like, “if you go to war with monsters be wary, lest you become a monster yourself”? Something along those lines. This is the where we have to have enough understanding that we can actually enter into this war, without becoming monsters ourselves. And we have to actually have enough capacity to recognize what it is to create a boundary, without entering into struggle.
Far, far too many people allow themselves to just enter back into infection when the liminal event opened. I don’t care what mechanism you use to enter into sensemaking, and I’ll use an example I don’t care if you read The New York Times or watch FOX News, these are both straightup viruses. Everything that comes out of them is reducing your understanding. The tone, the facial expressions, the body language, the , the expectations, the assumptions, the invitations to entering into a relationship everything that comes out of these is a virus, is destructive of your understanding.
Now, if you recognize that, you can enter into a relationship with them in a fashion that is effective. Meaning you can observe them, you can know that you’re not entering into collaboration with them, you’re watching something that is in evidence of hostility and learning how to respond to it skillfully. You can do that and that is actually, by the way, very important. I have a set of sensors that I have out in the world that I observe and spent time on to be perceptive of what’s happening in the world.
But, you know, I’m not letting it in to my psyche I have boundaries on what is true and what’s not true. That’s unfortunate because that’s really hard and of course that means the field almost everybody is exposed to a field that is pulling us out of understanding and putting us into conflict that even further move us from our understanding.
And it is not simple. It’s really sophisticated and you guys remember that the war on sensemaking that has been going on since at least the 1940s, which means our understanding of propaganda, and our understanding of human psychology, and our understanding of messaging, and our understanding of mind control and I mean that in the strong and weak sense is amazing and we don’t actually have any idea how sophisticated it is.
So why did I say there was good news? Well as it turns out, there is actually really good news. It’s interesting actually.
The problem is exponential and as it turns out, the essence of exponential is collaboration. Okay that’s not obvious unfortunately, it would be nice if it were obvious. Let’s see if I can find a way to make that a little bit more clear.
Musical preferences are biased toward culturally familiar musical traditions beginning in infancy, and adults’ classification of the emotion of a musical piece depends on both culturally specific and universal structural features. Additionally, individuals’ musical memory abilities are greater for culturally familiar music than for culturally unfamiliar music. The sum of these effects makes culture a powerful influence in music cognition.
People tend to prefer and remember music from their own cultural tradition. Familiarity for culturally regular meter styles is already in place for young infants of only a few months’ age. The looking times of 4- to 8-month old Western infants indicate that they prefer Western meter in music, while Turkish infants of the same age prefer both Turkish and Western meters (Western meters not being completely unfamiliar in Turkish culture). Both groups preferred either meter when compared with arbitrary meter.
Bimusicalism is a phenomenon in which people well-versed and familiar with music from two different cultures exhibit dual sensitivity to both genres of music.In a study conducted with participants familiar with Western, Indian, and both Western and Indian music, the bimusical participants (exposed to both Indian and Western styles) showed no bias for either music style in recognition tasks and did not indicate that one style of music was more tense than the other. In contrast, the Western and Indian participants more successfully recognized music from their own culture and felt the other culture’s music was more tense on the whole. These results indicate that everyday exposure to music from both cultures can result in cognitive sensitivity to music styles from those cultures.
Structural cues that span all musical traditions include dimensions such as pace (tempo), loudness, and timbre. Fast tempo, for example, is typically associated with happiness, regardless of a listener’s cultural background. A particular timbre may be interpreted to reflect one emotion by Western listeners and another emotion by Eastern listeners.
Japanese listeners accurately categorize angry, joyful, and happy musical excerpts from familiar traditions (Japanese and Western samples) and relatively unfamiliar traditions (Hindustani). Simple, fast melodies receive joyful ratings from these participants; simple, slow samples receive sad ratings, and loud, complex excerpts are perceived as angry. Strong relationships between emotional judgments and structural acoustic cues suggest the importance of universal musical properties in categorizing unfamiliar music.
Categorization of unfamiliar music varies with intended emotion. Timbre mediates Western listeners’ recognition of angry and peaceful Hindustani songs. Flute timbre supports the detection of peace, whereas string timbre aids anger identification. Happy and sad assessments, on the other hand, rely primarily on relatively “low-level” structural information such as tempo. Both low-level cues (e.g., slow tempo) and timbre aid in the detection of peaceful music, but only timbre cued anger recognition. Communication of peace, therefore, takes place at multiple structural levels, while anger seems to be conveyed nearly exclusively by timbre. Similarities between aggressive vocalizations and angry music (e.g., roughness) may contribute to the salience of timbre in anger assessments.
Enculturation is a powerful influence on music memory. Both long-term and working memory systems are critically involved in the appreciation and comprehension of music. Long-term memory enables the listener to develop musical expectation based on previous experience while working memory is necessary to relate pitches to one another in a phrase, between phrases, and throughout a piece. Despite the powerful effects of music enculturation, evidence indicates that cognitive comprehension of and affinity for different cultural modalities is somewhat plastic.
Telos: identifying the intention of the people in their actions. Teleology as a Musical Behavior
Telos could be defined as viewing actions in terms of their ultimate end or goal. It has also been subject to a variety of critiques. Susan McClary has provided perhaps the most direct address. She understands such end-oriented approaches to musical structure — indeed, tonality itself — as rooted in male sexual imagery,
I admit that for a long time, viewing music in terms of telos was my default position. A phrase begins and I immediately start listening forward, anticipating the upcoming cadence. For a great many pieces (especially uptempo numbers I still think this is a very valuable and revealing way to understand music. But I’ve also come to know pieces where anticipation doesn’t seem to play as large of a role, but that, for a long time, I would understand musical telos now as a kind of behavior that an individual piece may exhibit to varying degrees.
I think it would be interesting to investigate what kind of musical signals would cue us into hearing music in terms of telos. I think this could enrich how we view music, allowing us to have a more nuanced view of music and its relationship to momentum of various kinds. The principal innovation of… tonality is its ability to instill in the listener an intense longing for a given event: the cadence. It organizes time by creating an artificial need… After that need is established… tonal procedures strive to postpone gratification of that need until finally delivering the payoff in what is technically called the “climax,” which is quite clearly to be experienced as metaphorical ejaculation. (Feminine Endings, 125)
Whatever one’s stance on McClary’s interpretation of tonality as male oriented, I think she very correctly points out that we are most comfortable interpreting tonal music in teleological terms. So perhaps we could understand telos as a kind of behavior a piece engages in when teleological effects are desired, and not when other kinds of effects are desired. Perhaps by investigating what musical features signal a teleological orientation, we could even speak of degrees of teleological orientations. It can become a shade or a color that a piece has, one that can undergo shifts and mutations as a piece unfolds. This intuitively seems right to me, but I’d love to hear what others think!
Consciousness has been described as one of the most mysterious things in the universe. Scientists, philosophers, and commentators from a whole range of disciplines can’t seem to agree what it is, or why it is that the whole rich panoply of human experience seems to emerge from a lump of squishy grey matter in our heads. Consciousness is a spectrum.
A Buddhist proverb formulates the adage that “a knife can not cut itself, while Auguste Comte ensures that no one “can […] go to the window to watch himself in the street”.
A significant lacuna in academic and scientific studies of consciousness is a description of how it actually feels to be here. The study of consciousness has proved to be extremely elusive when using the traditional third-person methodology of science. Any description of qualia — by definition lived, subjective experience — seems to necessitate the admission of first-person data, which has hitherto been the province of the arts. If the problem of consciousness is nothing more than the attempt to capture the mechanism and experience of being a person, then each of us can appeal to only one authority for an answer.
Music may be a key in understanding how we are aware that we are aware. Some cultures do not even have a word for music, as it is a unity with dance and ritual. This is especially with the concepts of movement in music assimilation, the learned and inherent mimicking memory neurons. Indian classical music both emanates from and is able to instill deep states of consciousness, and that it is discursively grounded in ideas about consciousness consistent, even if not coterminous, with concepts from longstanding philosophical traditions.