Bootleg culture

Pete Rojas’ article provide a good summary of the “mash-up” or bootleg culture or remixing or whatever the hip term is now. Can’t really say I agree when he talks about how easy it is now to create music except in relation to a life time of learning a musical instrument. We still have a long way to go to allowing ‘every-man’ the opportunity to express themselves in a sophisticated way musically.

While there have been odd pairings, match-ups and remixes for decades now, and club DJs have been doing something similar during live sets, the recent explosion in the number of tracks being created and disseminated is a direct result of the dramatic increase in the power of the average home computer and the widespread use on these computers of new software programs like Acid and ProTools. Home remixing is technically incredibly easy to do, in effect turning the vast world of pop culture into source material for an endless amount of slicing and dicing by desktop producers.
So easy, in fact, that bootlegs constitute the first genre of music that truly fulfills the “anyone can do it” promises originally made by punk and, to lesser extent, electronic music. Even punk rockers had to be able write the most rudimentary of songs. With bootlegs, even that low bar for traditional musicianship and composition is obliterated. Siva Vaidhyanthan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and the author of “Copyrights and Copywrongs,” believes that what we’re seeing is the result of a democratization of creativity and the demystification of the process of authorship and creativity.
“It’s about demolishing the myth that there has to be a special class of creators, and flattening out the creative curve so we can all contribute to our creative environment,” says Vaidhyanthan.

Read the full article

The Basics of Customer Experience (Mark Hurst)

Why are the basics so important? The simpler an interface is, the more people will be able to use it. And if there’s a benefit to using it (such as good search results), then the easier it is to use, the more people will use it. Multiply this by the size of the customer base online, and you have a lever that moves entire industries.
It bears pointing out that the success of the Web itself owes a lot to this principle. Well before Berners-Lee coded his first hyperlink, there was a global network of computers in place – computers which could share text, photos, music, and anything else representable in bits. There were programs to navigate this Net: FTP, Gopher, Telnet, and others. There was just one problem: it was way, way too hard for the average user to use. So practically no one used it. But with Berners-Lee’s hyperlinks, suddenly people could traverse the Net with the ease of a mouse-click. One small change in the interface – not the hardware or the underlying network – was the catalyst to the explosive growth that followed. Basics sell.
All this must seem odd to marketers who, in decades past, were taught to create the longest possible list of high-tech features… and then sell those features with lots of happytalk and faux excitement. That’s how the wireless carriers still operate, and how the search engine industries used to work, until Yahoo and Google became successful. Without Berners-Lee’s hyperlinks, imagine what technologists might be marketing today: the latest Gopher interface, “now with trans-Boolean metafiltering!”

Read the complete article

Yamaha’s digital EZ trumpet

005a.jpgCourtesy of Engadget comes this bit of news, “Yamaha has come out with an electronic trumpet that lets you avoid having to do the intense cheekwork yourself, like all that buzzing and blowing that the analogue version demands. Instead, you can eiether hum into the mouthpiece and have it convert your mumblings into trumpet-sounding melodies, play using the valves, or just use some combination of the two.” Is this the answer to my dreams? Though purists will shudder with disgust I’m all for any device that eliminates any barrier to the music making process. If this can 005h.jpgconnect to my Mac via midi and is available outside of Japan than I may just be forced to buy one. Though I suppose it has to happen some day, I just hope it’s not too good. After spending over 20 years trying to play the analogue version, to have a device remove the need for years of practice is well as depressing as it is exciting.
Yamaha’s digital EZ trumpet (MYCOM PC WEB)

The lost art of meaningful mixtapes

Mixtapes and playlists are an essential part of a balanced music lifestyle. I’ve always believed that music is a contextual experience, and the slow, careful creation of a compilation can reveal deep relationships between songs. The relationships can be shallow, like putting Usher’s “Yeah!” next to Nina Sky’s “Move Your Body,” (both are recent dance songs); or deep, like Jurassic 5’s “React” next to Incubus’s “Battlestar Scralatchtica” (both feature talented turntable work by the DJs Cut Chemist and Nu-Mark).
But the real beauty behind the making and the receiving of a compilation tape is far beyond that of the songs itself. A good mixtape facilitates a wonderfully diverse type of communication, where each selected song sings its poetry within the context of a greater meaning.

Creating mix tapes was for me was an even of almost religious proportions. Long before cd’s. Long before mp3’s and the iPod we had the state of the art compact cassette. I remember using an ancient phonograph to play songs I dug and then record them through a condenser microphone to a tape player. Even before that my mother would bring home her real to real and we would splice together our own radio show.
Saturday or Sunday afternoons would be spent creating the ultimate mixes to share with friends. When “ghetto blasters” (what a horrendous term) became the norm creating mix tapes took on even greater importance as you then had the means of sharing your musical tastes on a great sounding portable. My musical listening revolved around mixes.
Somehow sharing a playlist doesn’t have the same impact as receiving a cassette in the mail that contains the efforts of an afternoon in front of the stereo.
The lost art of meaningful mixtapes – Daily Trojan – Lifestyle

What’s in a title anyway?

These are a few short paragraphs I wrote awhile back in response to both my constant confusion about what to call my professional self. Today I find that my confusion is no less abated. Of course nothing compares to the array of BS titles you see in larger web and non-web business environments.

designer noun person who designs
I have a problem with titles. I feel that in an environment of mutal trust and respect they are unnecessary. We just do what is necessary to do good work unrestricted by the boundries set by roles and titles.
I have only experienced that environment for mere fleeting moments. And what about people outside this wonderous environment?
Talking on the phone to a musician friend a year ago I mentioned that I was no longer performing and was focusing my attention on being a designer. He jokingly said what Haute Couture?
Titles are useful on some levels. In the country I work now they are absolutely necessary – if you don’t have director or manager in your title you seem to get no where with people. But what do I call myself? This industry has spawned an incredible array of job titles. Based on the roles I have taken here is a partial list of titles I might give myself: Art Director, Art Designer, Creative Director, Creative Lead, Educational Technologist, Facilitator, Graphic Designer, HTML programmer, Information Architect, Information Designer, Production Artist, Production Manager, Lead Designer, Lead Web Designer, Motion Graphics Designer, Producer, Project Lead, Senior Designer, User Experience Designer, User Experience Lead, Visual Designer, and Web Designer.
Does any one title apply?
For now I’ll stick with designer and deal with the jokes about creating dresses for runway models (which come to think about it, wouldn’t be so bad).

For job title fun check out: Job Title Generator and Bullshit Job Titles.

Steven Poole on sound art

“The history of recorded music is a history of creating virtual spaces. Classical CD recording, for example, places you in a prime stalls seat in a nonexistent concert hall, by virtue of the way the instrumental sections are distributed in the stereo field. Much abstract sound art is interested primarily in the structure of the virtual space itself. And then there is Cardiff’s work, which projects a virtual space – the recorded sounds of a walk through Whitechapel – on to the original space from which it was modelled. You experience two realities at once. And you can begin to play this game afterwards, imagining that the apparently random street scenes around you are carefully choreographed and soundtracked to a mysterious design.
This, perhaps, is the primary value of sound art: that it encourages you to pay attention to how you listen, and to experiment with new ways of listening. I’m not going to start sitting down and listening to CDs of traffic and iron-smelting every evening, but perhaps I will take more interest in the uncontrollable sounds around me, rather than blocking them out as unwanted noise. If nothing else, it makes waiting for a bus less boring”
Read article

The Conet Project

Found via Veer, “This massive collection of recordings of so-called ‘shortwave numbers stations’ is at once, both eerily beautiful and poignantly cryptic.” You have to listen to these very specific genre of sound creation. Who knew this whole other world existed. Fascinating and excellent material for your next remix project.
Of particular note is the the swedish rhapsody irdial featuring childrens music and voice, and the oriental language irdial where a voice is repeating the same phrase over and over “I am ..[hong kong region] Good bye doctor”.
Check out: Conet Project – Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations [ird059]


“SimpleTEXT is a collaborative audio/visual public performance that relies on audience participation through input from mobile devices such as phones, PDAs or laptops. SimpleTEXT focuses on dynamic input from participants as essential to the overall output. The performance creates a dialogue between participants who submit messages which control the audiovisual output of the installation. These simpletext.gifmessages are first parsed according to a code that dictates how the music is created, and then rhythmically drive a speech synthesizer and a picture synthesizer in order to create a compelling, collaborative audiovisual performance. SimpleTEXT was originally funded by a commission from Low-FiM, an new media arts organization based in the UK.”
SimpleTEXT focuses on mobile devices and the web as a bridge between networked interfaces and public space. As mobile devices become more prolific, they also become separated by increased emphasis on individual use. The SimpleTEXT project looks beyond the screen and isolated usage of mobile devices to encourage collaborative use of input devices to both drive the visuals and audio output, inform each participant of each other’s interaction, and allows people to actively participate in the performance while it happens.Our purpose with the performance is to create the possibility of large-scale interaction through anonymous collaboration, with immediate audio and visual feedback. SimpleTEXT encourages users to respond to one another’s ideas and build upon the unexpected chains of ideas that may develop from their input.
SimpleTEXT is a rare example of an interactive piece that works in crowded public spaces such as social and unruly atmospheres where heckling, irony, criticism, and sarcasm are common modes of communication. We are unaware of such a large-scale interactive piece in terms of scale of audience interaction, where the interaction is as tangible, direct, and therefore individually satisfying.”
SimpleTEXT: a mobile phone enabled performance

AudioBored & AudioBored Machine

“AudioBored is a public online audio messaging board that allows for anyone to call in, record a message, and post it to the server. Simply dial the free 1-800 number from the website and record your note. Visitors to the board can click on the sound clips and listen to all the recordings collected. Like an online bulletin board, AudioBored allows for candid opinions, thoughts, ideas, exclamations, etc… to be posted live in a shared online space as recorded audio through a phone interface.
audiobored.jpgThe AudioBored Machine allows people in a physical space to access all the messages left on the AudioBored. It is dynamic and networked, grabbing all call information as new calls are logged into the server. The machine is a physical version of a traditional online bulletin board allowing you to navigate through threads of messages (topics) as well as the messages themselves.”
AudioBored & AudioBored Machine

Made Unique T-shirts

I have been in love with the ubiquitous t-shirt just about all my life. Despite a brief period where I decided that t-shirts sans graphics were the new cool my collection has never stopped growing. “Corporate Design made me Mediocre” is a t-shirt that I can easily relate to made by a Brooklyn based shop which was founded by a couple creatives who spent a little too much time in cramped offices.
tshirt.gif “Made Unique is a way of living, a way of thinking without all the heavy philosophical stuff, it

ID3v2 spec made easy

ID3v2 is a new tagging system that lets you put enriching and relevant information about your audio files within them. In more down to earth terms, ID3v2 is a chunk of data prepended to the binary audio data. Each ID3v2 tag holds one or more smaller chunks of information, called frames. These frames can contain any kind of information and data you could think of such as title, album, performer, website, lyrics, equalizer presets, pictures etc. The block scheme to the right is an example of how the layout of a typical ID3v2 tagged audio file may look like.
One of the design goals were that the ID3v2 should be very flexible and expandable. It is very easy to add new functions to the ID3v2 tag, because, just like in HTML, all parsers will ignore any information they don’t recognize. Since each frame can be 16MB and the entire tag can be 256MB you’ll probably never again be in the same situation as when you tried to write a useful comment in the old ID3 being limited to 30 characters.
Speaking of characters, the ID3v2 supports Unicode so even if you use the Bopomofo character set you’ll be able to write in your native language. You can also include in which language you’re writing so that one file might contain e.g. the same lyrics but in different languages.
Beyond cool.
Read ID3v2 made easy

Google Audio Search

Audio content on the internet is in chaos. To reign in the chaos, and to capitalize on internet audio file assets, Google will launch an audio search engine or audio file search tool by 2006, but probably sooner.

The Four Ways that Google Audio Search Will Work
First, like current MP3 search engines, you will be able to find MP3’s (and other audio files) based on file names.
Second, the search engine will be able to hunt down semantic web information.
Third, the search engine will allow you to find songs based on the words used in the song.
Finally, the audio search will allow users to find files based on associations between songs.

Read article

Experiential components create an emotional resonance

Advertising specialists and marketing managers have long tried to appeal to the emotional element. But a growing number of companies are starting to feel that designers are more tuned in.
“With a marketing person, 90 percent of the time is spent trying to do everything to shape the buying decision,” said Earl Powell, director of the Design Management Institute, a forum for industrial designers and the businesses that use them. Designers are “more committed to the user experience. That experiential component has an emotional resonance: It sticks.”
Read: When looks count the most

Emotion and Design

“Scott Adams had some fun showing how product aspects, such as quality and functionality, can be neglected when attempting to emotionally connect a product with a consumer. This line of humor is based on the premise that quality and functionality cannot coexist with form and feel. The emotional impact of products is currently receiving a great deal of press, with several newly released books and articles emphasizing the importance of creating products that not only accomplish tasks, but also ‘connect’ with users.”
Read the article

Personal Projects

It was Matt Owens who first helped me realise through his interviews and in a speech in Hong Kong a number of years ago the importance of persuing personal creative work. When I was a musician much of the “great work” that gave me the most satisfaction was unpaid and of limited appeal to many. I remember having a recital program that was full of music that gave me great challenge and interest being axed because “you will cause people to leave the recital hall”. Most of the music that I loved playing the most rarely was performed in public and certainly was never a part of a for pay engagment. It took Matt Owens to remind of this at a time years ago when I was busy with unfullfilling corporate work. Since then my personal projects are what have given me the most joy and the ability to apply new ideas and techinque to client work. The added benefit that we have as designers is that this medium allows us to share our work cheaply and easily.
For the past few years I have not spent the time on personal projects as I would like. Trying to complete a Masters degree while working can suck up alot of your energy and in a sense alot of what I did (do) at Chiao Tung was personal. Unfortunately that work hasn’t really honed my design skill. Conceptual. theoretical, research, and leadership skills have been learned but not as much hands on work as I would like.
I love the freedom that personal work brings – I don’t adhere to a process – I just work towards the end goal that I set for myself. I try to let the ideas happen and flow freely. Unfortunately free creativity with out discipline tends to lead to a great deal of wasted time. There is a lot of learning going on for sure but in these days of decreasing personal time much less gets produced. This site is a prime example of that. If I created this site like I would a client site all would be complete within a month and the content would be written on a regular basis. Instead I spend time trying new ideas, failing, and trying others. The most recent addition to this site was a the sharing of some of the projects I am and have worked on. I wanted to include work that doesn’t always get shown so completely in my portfolio and I wanted to include photographs of the work in progress. Dan Cederholm has a nice perl script to automatically create slideshows that I got to work but after thinking some more i don’t like it since it creates pages that are isolated from the rest of the site. I had thought a slide show might be more elegant than simply displaying photos as a long list on a single page. Now I am thinking the opposite. These kind of decisions are a terrific consumer of time. Perhaps the days of pure design play are over.

Chientai – Time to Know Semantic Web

Chientai is forming some thoughts on the semantic web. Some great thinking here which I will post in there entirety, unless he complains after which I will remove, just in case the company server he runs his blog on disappears forever.

“The bane of my existence is doing things that I know the computer could do for me.” — Dan Connolly, “The XML Revolution”
I do not 100% agree with his opinion. For example, the computer can record my anniversary and then order and send flowers to my wife on the very time. But I don’t think it will be a bane of my life to send the flowers by my own.
Even though that, it still tells something true. It is unreasonable to create a useful tool and you still do the jobs the tool can do for you.
If we human being want to make any progress, just like Sir Isaac Newton said, it is necessary to stand on giants’ shoulder. I think the Web is one of the giants. And what does the “stand on” mean, I think that means using, combining, integrating and recreating.
More than 10 years’ developing, the Web has gathered enormous information. People and variant systems had been cooperating to create every kind of content. It is time to think how to reuse and integrate them.
I belief that Semantic is one the easiest way to fulfill this idea. Can you imagine that internet has formed a giant tower and you want build something on it. Would you go downstairs to collect the materials you need? No, it is impossible. So you have set down some kind of mechanism to let machines (or agents) to do that for you. You have to make those materials the paths known by those machines.
To make the Web known by agents and machine-process able is “Semantic”.

@itri:::8:30~18:00:::: Time to Know Semantic Web

Sound Installation Art Systems

I have been looking for a software or development environment for music/sound installation art. In Hsinchu I feel a little isolated without any interactive artists to bring me up to speed. No places for training either. Via MacIntouch I was informed that Symbolic Composer was updated and it sounds pretty wild.
“Symbolic Composer 5.1 3D is a tool for making music with MIDI, providing a programming language for musicians based on Lisp and an expert system for music composition. It includes the MCL Common Lisp interpreter for customizing the system, over 1000 music algorithms, 300 microtonal world-music and theoretical scales, tools to explore using “advanced fractal and chaos mathematics to determine compositional elements,” and much more. The new version adds complete VRML2 support (including documentation and tutorial), making it possible, for example, to compose music based on 3D forms or design 3D spaces based on music.”
I have already purchased an i-cubex system with it’s software editor. For someone who has been extremely midi adverse for years, it’s quite a big leap to immediately understand this system. But it should be worth the effort – the sensors are amazing and the upcoming bluetooth version is something I looking forward to trying. None of this is cheap though and if I lose my current sponsor I will be hard pressed to be able to afford to try it all. The first step is to get it to work with Reason then move onto Visual programming languages like Max/MSP and if time Processing.
This is all part of the project Sme(n)ms with an initial exhibition date of December 1 of this year.
MRAC Publishing – Symbolic Composer

Choosing a website design (Stuff)

Rather interesting analogy – though a bit far removed for those of us living in the greyness of urban Aisa.
“The relationship between design and information is similar to that of landscaping and gardening – you are essentially working with the same material but are applying established principles to deliver a superior result.
The challenges presented in transforming a plain enclosure into a delightful garden, similarly, are not unlike those of turning images and information into an online experience.
While not wanting to belabour the analogy, landscaped gardens and immersible websites share another important characteristic – they are planned to be experiences, not simply places to display plants or information.”
Read the article

What is Interaction Design? (Ivera)

Going through some research articles I had collected I cam across a nicely written press release from Interaction Design Institute Ivrea. I love the final two paragraphs from this piece:
“Interactive technologies need a new kind of design, a fusion of sound, graphic and product design, and time-based narrative. Developing this new kind of design will lead to a new aesthetic: one of use and experience as well as of form. Function and information (and perhaps entertainment) converge.
In the combination of communication and interaction design the real needs and possibilities to improve human existence are given a central place.”
Lovely. I’ve included the whole page for safe keeping. Full credit goes to the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea.

Read more

Eyetrack III (how average web users view web pages)

Poynter’s latest eye tracking study revealed an interesting observation that runs counter to much current practice and commonly held belief’s.
“Dominant headlines most often draw the eye first upon entering the page — especially when they are in the upper left, and most often (but not always) when in the upper right. Photographs, contrary to what you might expect (and contrary to findings of 1990 Poynter eyetracking research on print newspapers), aren’t typically the entry point to a homepage. Text rules on the PC screen — both in order viewed and in overall time spent looking at it.“(emphasis mine).
Read:Eyetrack III – What You Most Need to Know

Interfaces for Staying in the Flow (acm)

More on flow. I talked about this earlier in a previous entry. Again, reading Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s popular book about what he called “optimal experience” is worth the effort. This particular article discusses design user interfaces that are most conductive to allowing users to get in the flow.
“Psychologists have studied “optimal human experience” for many years, often called “being in the flow”. Through years of study, the basic characteristics of flow have been identified. This paper reviews the literature, and interprets the characteristics of flow within the context of interface design with the goal of understanding what kinds of interfaces are most conducive to supporting users being in the flow. Several examples to demonstrate the connection to flow are given.”
Read: Interfaces for Staying in the Flow

Creativity techniques

“… listed (are) a number of creativity techniques to help with creative thinking. Like most tools these creativity techniques all have their good and bad points. I like to think of these creativity techniques as tools in a toolbox in much the same way as my toolbox at home for DIY. It has a saw, spanner, hammer, knife and all sorts of other things in it, they are all very useful, but you have to pick the right tool (creativity technique) for each job. We will try and provide a little guidance along with each tool to let you know whether it’s best used for cutting paper or putting in nails.”
Read: Creativity techniques and creative tools for problem solving

The Art of Noise

“Ancient life was all silence. In the nineteenth century, with the invention of the machine, Noise was born. Today, Noise triumphs and reigns supreme over the sensibility of men. For many centuries life went by in silence, or at most in muted tones. The strongest noises which interrupted this silence were not intense or prolonged or varied. If we overlook such exceptional movements as earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, avalanches and waterfalls, nature is silent.
Amidst this dearth of noises, the first sounds that man drew from a pieced reed or streched string were regarded with amazement as new and marvelous things. Primitive races attributed sound to the gods; it was considered sacred and reserved for priests, who used it to enrich the mystery of their rites.
And so was born the concept of sound as a thing in itself, distinct and independent of life, and the result was music, a fantastic world superimposed on the real one, an inviolatable and sacred world. It is easy to understand how such a concept of music resulted inevitable in the hindering of its progress by comparison with the other arts. The Greeks themselves, with their musical theories calculated mathematically by Pythagoras and according to which only a few consonant intervals could be used, limited the field of music considerably, rendering harmony, of which they were unaware, impossible.”
Read: The Art of Noises

Why Is That Thing Beeping? A Sound Design Primer (ba)

“While a composer or sound designer�s concerns can seem esoteric to the visually oriented design world, we can engage these team members on some familiar territory when we need to work together. In composing sounds, the basic parameters of good design and process always apply. These parameters will be key in learning how to incorporate new sounds and new team members into a project.”
Read: Boxes and Arrows: Why Is That Thing Beeping? A Sound Design Primer

Tasks 2.0 where art thou

Ok. It just arrived – quickly after I sent a message via his contact form. I’ll edit the following text later.
I have been using the free-ware version of Tasks, a hierarchical, web-based personal task manager, for over a year now and despite some glitches I have been more than pleased. The developer Alex King released a far more polished multi-user version, TasksPro at a reasonable cost and later an update to the single-user version, Tasks 2.0. Having decided to purchase a Tasks 2.0 license I was looking forward to installing it over last weekend.
At this point I should be writing a glowing report about Tasks but alas despite having paid for the license last Friday I have yet to receive the download link. The form does say it may take up to 48 hrs to receive said information, why that is exactly we are not told, but after 96 hrs with nothing more than a confirmation of billing – no link. Sunday I even sent a polite e-mail to the developer asking if there was a problem. No reply from him.
There could be a logical explanation. I am using a Taiwan credit card which could cause problems due to either the ineptitude of the Taiwan bank or simply a longer than usual payment. I would assume the payment went through as no problems were mentioned on my receipt. The e-mail containing a link could have been caught as spam by the two spam filters I use but I supplied two e-mail addresses, one of which has no filter at all.
I have faith that this is just a slip-up, that this isn’t a story of lousy customer service nor yet another internet scam. The developer’s (Alex King) web site and software are excellently crafted but it’s these small details (answering e-mail and sending out paid for product on a timely basis) that can either make or break a good experience. How you handle these glitches can win or lose you a customer. It will be interesting see how this works out.

Circles and lines

In the west, we are indoctrinated to adopt the view that everything moves in straight lines – if you want to accomplish something, pick your objective, make your plan, and then set out in the direction of your objective. Stay focused on that objective – always – and don’t let anything divert you from your course. This is the best way to reach your objective.
Well, forget all that, when you come to Thailand (or – maybe all of Asia). Thailand doesn’t work in straight lines – it works in circles. The way to proceed is to pick an objective, and start out in that direction. Then, when life starts pulling you off your course, don’t fight it – go with the flow. Define the momentum that is carrying you – in a direction you didn’t even intend to go – and figure out how to harness it, and reinforce it, and derrive success from it . Eventually – incredible as this may seem – the “circle” of life will sooner or later probably deposit you smack on top of your ORIGINAL objective, but arriving there from a totally unexpected direction.

Web development mistakes

A great article at Berea Street on some of the most common mistakes that experienced web professionals tend to make. A couple on this list really hit home with me which I will echo here:
(too much) Visual thinking
Treating the web as WYSIWYG – starting off by focusing on how things look instead of thinking about structure first, and presentation later.
Lack of semantics
Non-semantic markup. Basing the choice of which HTML element to use on the way most graphical browsers render it by default, instead of on which meaning the element has.
Read: Web development mistakes: 456 Berea Street