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More on data processing

I argued in a previous post that listening to music was becoming less an aural experience and more a data processing task, thanks the the metadata available for manipulation through iTunes. Organizing is becoming a more primary pleasure experience than the responsiveness of our senses. Soon, we dream in spreadsheets.

Hal Foster, in his essay "Design and Crime" -- itself a play on Loos's landmark manifesto against art nouveau decorousness, "Ornament and Crime" -- explores this idea about data processing as well, linking it to the elevation of design as a product in and of itself. With the "retooling of the economy around digitizing and computing," products are "no longer thought of as objects to be produced so much as data to be maipulated -- that is, to be designed and redesigned, consumed and reconsumed." In other words orchestrating playlists and loading album cover jpegs is a personal amateur design task, something that takes back some of the way these issues are settled beforehand (the subject of this previous post). It adds life to product already purchased, potentially freeing one from having to make another purchase to get the little bump of engagement and pleasure.

Much of this relies, in the music world, on metadata controlled and supplied by Gracenote, who provides the information that allows your computer to fill in all the song titles and so on when you rip a CD to your hard drive. Their business model relies on the importance of metadata to our listening experience. But the company is not without competition. Detailed here is an open-source service looking to eradicate Gracenote and promote the idea that metadata is public domain information, a shared cultural resource that makes culture -- the public debate and shared enthusiasms for things -- possible. All that's well and good, but as metadata becomes more valuable, as it comes to supplant music as it has seemingly started to, it's likely that the incentives will be strong to brand the information, make it exploitable as a resource. Services may compete to enrich that data, jazz it up with animations (album "covers" will become little movies, perhaps) and lyrics and DVD-style extras that point out alternates or making-of historical details. And the song will be more or less forgotten at some point, presuming the celebrities involved with making it are exciting enough.

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Morrison's prose is so engaging and welcoming that it's easy to miss the irreconcilable ambiguities that are set forth in her prose as ineluctable convictions.

It's a common enough gambit in science fiction. Humans come across a race of aliens that appear to be entirely alike and yet one group of said aliens subordinates the other, visiting violence upon their persons, denigrating them openly and without social or legal consequence, humiliating them at every turn. The humans inquire why certain of the aliens are subjected to such degradation when there are no discernible differences among the entire race of aliens, at least from the human point of view. The aliens then explain that the subordinated group all share some minor trait (say the left nostril is oh-so-slightly larger than the right while the "superior" group all have slightly enlarged right nostrils)—something thatm from the human vantage pointm is utterly ridiculous. This minor difference not only explains but, for the alien understanding, justifies the inequitable treatment, even the enslavement of the subordinate group. And there you have the quandary of Otherness in a nutshell.

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A 1996 classic, Shawn Colvin's album of mature pop is also one of best break-up albums, comparable lyrically and musically to Joni Mitchell's Hejira and Bob Dylan's Blood on the Tracks.

When pop-folksinger Shawn Colvin released A Few Small Repairs in 1996, the music world was ripe for an album of sharp, catchy songs by a female singer-songwriter. Lilith Fair, the tour for women in the music, would gross $16 million in 1997. Colvin would be a main stage artist in all three years of the tour, playing alongside Liz Phair, Suzanne Vega, Sheryl Crow, Sarah McLachlan, Meshell Ndegeocello, Joan Osborne, Lisa Loeb, Erykah Badu, and many others. Strong female artists were not only making great music (when were they not?) but also having bold success. Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill preceded Colvin's fourth recording by just 16 months.

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Frank Miller locates our tragedy and warps it into his own brutal beauty.

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