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Meta-listening

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Tuesday, Jun 20, 2006

If you ever wanted to broadcast to the world the music you are listening to, Mog, a new social networking site, is just for you. It takes the “what I’m listening to now” feature from blogs and other social sites and makes it the premise for a whole network by automating the process of tranferring what you play in your media player to a text list you then associate with your profile. Add a coy photo of yourself doing something quirky, and voilà, you become a DJ without anyone having to actually sit through and listen to all the stuff you’ve played. Now we can just consume it instantaneously as a list and assess by its conformity with our own lists whether we can get any ideas from you about what we might want to hear. (It seems inevitable that this would mesh with Soulseek, so that recommendations derived from likeminded listeners can be immediately downloaded to your own machine—in fact this sort of service would make more sense as a Soulseek plug in.) It’s meta-listening; consuming and enjoying lists of music instead of music itself. It’s perfect for when you’ve exhausted all the useless lists in Blender and Mojo and Spin and all those other music magazines. Now you can generate your own lists spontaneously, and pour over other people’s like they’re the I Ching,looking for a direction, a sign.


When I stumbled across this (again via BoingBoing; I’ve got very limited scope today) I thought about signing up, but then realized I probably didn’t want strangers sifting through the dirty hamper of my Recently Played list. I don’t think it would be of any use to anyone—too random—and I’m not sure I would want to automate the serendipitous process by which I tend to discover music now. Such a service implies there is a quota of new music one should discover on a regular basis, but if that’s so, I’ve far exceeded it, I think. I set up a playlist in my iTunes of stuff I’ve never played, and it would take several solid days to listen to them all. At this point, all I can muster is meta-listening: I’m more impressed by the time statistics than the music itself. I’m excited by processing the songs like data, sorting it like spreadsheet figures. When I get my tags updated I’ll be able to compile my collection of songs about love from 1967 and 1977 with a few mouse clicks. Then I could get a list of country songs with lonely, contemplate those results; then I could produce a list of all my songs that are under a minute, check that out. There’s no end to the sorting, why bother listening when you can sort? Mog seems like yet another way to reduce music to manipulable data, but it takes it to the next level by adding the surveillance angle. It helps confirm that listening to pop music is now secondary to using the names of bands as a proxy for one’s own personality in trying to bond with strangers online. It’s still alluring to me, that easy way out of defining oneself by what one likes rather than what one does. But what am I doing lately? Fastidiously maintaining my music archive for the benefit of absolutely no one. Maybe I should sign up.

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