Want My Music? Just Ping Me

So digital music sales have stalled this year. It looks like the music industry can go back into panic mode and release their lawyers on unsuspecting college students illegally sharing tunes by the terabyte.  I’m not saying that they already have, but we all know that’s a realistic option for the music behemoths. Over the past decade they’ve learned slowly but surely the lengths people will go to hear their favorite Lady Gaga single, whether that’s flirting with accidentally downloading a virus, getting poor quality files, or being caught by the man.

How can the music industry raise the bar without tightening their grip around the neck of progress? They’ll have to embrace social networking, the very thing that they’ve been fighting against since Napster almost brought them to their knees.

Apple is trying to use their clout as the number one seller of digital music to convince the music industry to embrace such a future with Ping, an add-on to iTunes that allows people to share music. When Ping first came out in early September, it was met with very little positive reviews because it stymied social interactions. However, a recent software update has made Ping a much more social tool that will allow it to climb the ladder of Web 2.0 success.

Where will this take the music industry? Hopefully the same place iTunes and video game downloadable content (DLC) took Steve Jobs and console and PC game developers over the past 10 years, which is out of a rut. Where will this take consumers? Hopefully to a place where music is cheaper and more readily available and where new music is discovered every day. Never heard of the group who was “formerly New Zealand’s fourth most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo”? In the future, if Ping is a success, you and the entirety of your social networks will know who they are before the Lenos and Lettermans of the world can lay a finger on them.

That’s the world that I want to live in because I’m tired of grainy tracks filled with viruses…not that I would know anything about that of course 😛

What are your thoughts?


Hack to the Hills. Hack For Your Life!

Being a technological determinist isn’t easy. I get called things like “cyber-crony” and a “slave to the machine”! Well, not really, but I know you’re thinking it! When I really stop to ponder my viewpoint , my technological bias on the evolution of society is quite surprising considering my favorite movie is The Matrix. But hey, “Fate it seems isn’t without a sense of irony”. Right Morepheus? This is because I’m also of the belief that man has the uncanny ability to make technology into what he wants without having to stand in long lines at the Apple store like another drone waiting for the new iWhatever (for the record I like iStuff, but you can’t help but realize that it’s cultish).

For those who either disagree with the technological deterministic mindset, or for those who simply want to get their gadgets house-broken I recommend Lifehacker, a place for DIY enthusiasts and control freaks to share and indulge the many ways you can make technology work for you.  Sure, it may be ironic to refer to a website in order to rage against the machine (also one of my favorite bands, oddly enough), but that’s just the point. You can’t fight the system by becoming a hermit. You have to use it and understand it so that you can change it (kind of like running for office).

Maybe this is a new type of technological determinism. Progressive Technological Determinism or Ne0-Technological Determinism if you will. Who knows? Taking Marshal McCluhan literally may not be feasible in this day and age where the masses own the means of production across media to a much greater degree than they did 40 years ago due to the Internet, cheap broadband, and cheap hardware. Lifehacker is proof of the power of man and his need to tweak, innovate, and improve.

So get started and take control of your technology. Or else it just might pee all over your desk. Bad technology! Bad!

Try these hacks on for size:

Insert Commas into Saved Contacts to Force Extension-Friendly Pauses
Insync Keeps Your Files and Google Docs Synced and Backed Up

Media and the Message @InyofaceEnzensberger

I had the pleasure (not really) of reading the work of Hans Magnus Enzensberger called Constituents of a Theory of the Media (1970). Enzensberger is a pretty ingenious guy in that he affixes Marxism to communication theory and likens the mass media to the superstructure trying to keep a monopoly on the unparticipating masses/proletariat.

Is that a mouthful? Yes. Does he have a point? Sure, why not. I mean, before the Internet, it was much more difficult to become a participant in the mass media because the means of production were too expensive to own and distribute. However, this example shows where his ideas are flawed.

While raging against anything remotely technologically deterministic and announcing his deep-seeded hatred for Canadian communications theorist Marshal McCluhan, Enzensberer fails to realize that technology, and the means of production have progressed to such a degree in the past 40 years to render his points about revolutionizing media through purely social participation moot.

There are many ways to create, share, and re-share/tweet, or whatever. Much of it is due to social networking, but the catalyst for our newly empowered proletariat masses has more to do with technology than anything else. For example the only reason why people have changed their day-to-day behaviors is because of technology. Office meeting etiquette, prime time TV viewing, relationships, word of mouth, personal privacy, etc. have all been shaped by revolutions in technology by the likes Smart Phones with QWERTY keyboards, hulu, cheap video cameras, Facebook, and geo-location software.  And as anyone will surely tell you, correspondence using any of these technologies will mean different things depending on what you use (and also depending on who you talk to, but that doesn’t negate the fact that new technology has changed our approach to dealing with individuals and the masses as an individual consumer/producer).

Don’t believe that the medium is the message or the fact that the medium almost completely shapes the way we view things, thus making it a message in and of itself? Take this article in Wired as an firm example of why technology reins supreme. As in the article, depending on which of the semi autonomous creations of plastic and metal you choose, you’re experience will vary considerably

So what say you? Do we have more agency, or are we mostly shaped by our technology use? Before you answer, consider your interactions with your friends and family sans just a cell phone. I can see you twitching with stress already.

Constituents of a Theory of the Media

Thanksgiving Leftovers: Om to the Nom

Who needs to write about Thanksgiving recipes? All anyone ever cares about are the leftovers! Here’s a guide to properly nom on the holiday afterthoughts on any given day.


6:30 am

Single piece of pumpkin pie with Life cereal.


Pack a turkey, ham, and stuffing sandwich and sugar cookies.


Nibble on sugar cookies while making calls (maybe share with Ernesto in the cubicle directly in front of you).


Open up your packed lunch and set the microwave to waft (oh yeah, let the whole office smell your Turkey Day!).



Find a hidden sugar cookie in the bottom of your bag. Look around to see if anyone is watching. Eat it.


Fill your dinner plate with collard greens, turkey, stuffing, ham, mac n’ cheese, and sweet potato souffle.


Hit the pie, ice cream (picecream), cookies and milk.


Food coma



One final note. Just make sure you do this for the next month until Christmas. This is your training for the next holiday when you’ll inevitably stuff you face once again. It’s part of the winter holiday season, which is the culmination of another year that completes the annual ebb and flow of the American waistline:

Eat like a fat-ass until New Year’s and then work it off to prepare for the summer.

Come on people, we’re in a recession! These gyms aren’t going to make a profit by themselves.

Chrome OS: The Cloud and its Discontents

This has been big news since July, but I’ve only recently started to pay it any mind. Google Chrome, the web browser, is going to be its own operating system. This means that when you boot up selected computers you won’t see Windows XP, Vista, or 7. You’ll see Google. And from the way Google is evangelizing Chrome OS, booting your computer is going to be pretty damn fast!

Initial reactions are positive because this means that all of the Googling that you do will be squished into a much faster Operating System (OS). You can use Gmail, Google Search, Google Docs, Google News, Google Calendar, etc. without having to deal with any shitty MSN defaults.

Cloudy With a 100% Chance of Chrome

After conducting more research, things get more interesting. This OS will be featured in netbooks as opposed to fully functioning laptops or desktops (yes, I said “fully functioning”, implying my bias towards netbooks). This is great for netbook fan boys because Google is putting its faith in the core belief system of the netbook, which is that everything anybody could possibly want is online and making that available to consumers while eschewing unnecessary software makes for a better and more practical experience.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Non-profits such as One Economy Corporation offer netbooks to poor and underserved families so that they can have access to opportunities such as jobs and career building tools that were once impossible to access because of the high cost of broadband and computers. But for the non-poor, tech-saavy professional and/or student, a true netbook should freak you out because of the ever-presenet but sometimes unstable cloud.

Take for instance when Google’s servers shut down and people couldn’t use their services in:

February 2009
March 2009
September 2009
October 2009

Aside from the one in October many people, including corporations could not access anything that was shared in the cloud. In fact I wrote about one of these GFails.

Another thing about the cloud and with netbooks is that, as a student, I don’t feel as if Google docs is robust enough to provide me with a “lite” alternative to a bulkier Microsoft Office package. I can’t deal with the slow, hard to maneuver, painfully-unable-to-export-in-the-format-that-I-want, cloud-happy code written into Google Docs. It’s great for collaboration, but to be honest I usually copy and paste things from Word. The same goes for Excel and Power Point. Maybe Google Wave is different, but I don’t know — I’m not special enough to have been invited.

One last thing about the cloud being the major component for a netbook with the Google Chrome OS.

I’d love to see the cloud as something that wasn’t as vaporous and misty as it already is. Working for a company that uses GWhatever for just about everything, having a GCrash was a big GFail that resulted in hours of a loss of GProductivity, which got people GPissed.

I don’t want to have to be in the cloud and look down at the Earth below praying that my footing stays solid. Give me an external hard drive and a much better way to utilize Excel, Power Point, and Word, and you just may have a netbook customer out of me. But you better catch me soon because once I get the money to buy a Mac, I’ll be gone faster than you can say:

Google: Error; Server Error: The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request. Please Try again in 30 seconds.

Or even worse, “The webpage cannot be found: HTTP404”

Personal Note

It’s been about 6 weeks since I last updated this blog. That’s really bad on my part. I apologize to the 8 or so random daily viewers who stumble across the site looking for a way to make a black and tan. You guys really like when I talk about beer. Maybe this is a sign that I should start listening to the stats, or err umm…viewers because you guys are people…yeah. So yeah, let’s not have that happen again. Perhaps my next post will be about beer.

Watching People Watching Immersion

My Video Project on Watching People Watching Immersion

My Video Project on Watching People Watching Immersion

In my Simulation and Immersion class at good ole GTown, I was tasked with discovering what immersion looks like. No, we’re not talking about bathtub voyeurism.  We’re talking about immersion as a state of mind.

A great example of this, which I based my project on, is from photographer Robbie Cooper. His photographs depicting children playing video games makes us think about  how the virtual can be very much a apart of the real, which becomes even more apparent when you watch his video using the same subjects from these photographs.

Robbie Cooper Pic

He was able to gather such great footage because he implanted a hidden camera directly into the center of the television being watched by his subjects. Also, the subjects gave permission to be photographed/filmed (or at least their parents did, because they all look underage).

With my project, rather than recreating Cooper’s experiment by filming the immersed, I chose to fall a bit further into the rabbit hole in order to discover what it looks like when people are watching those who are immersed while being involved in play. Did your brain explode? let me explain:

When someone is moving their fingers while watching someone play Guitar Hero or Rock Band, or when someone  groans  or cheers while watching an athlete score a goal, this is when pleasure and immersion transfer from the player of a game to the audience. What’s interesting about this is that many people react to others reacting to stimuli (play) in different ways. Some stand still, others watch the person involved in play, and some don’t even watch the person at all and choose to watch the screen instead.

The project speaks to the Magic Membrane where, according to Edward Castronova, play is permeable and can happen out side of the Magic Circle where play is said to exist in a finite space. Castronova says that turning WOW gold into real money is an example of this.

This also speaks to Jean Baudrillard’s idea of the Simulacrum as a fake space that is created within the real world but is considered real to the people who inhabit it (think of the people who inhabit Disney World in Orlando)

Brining this back to my interest in social networking and virtual participation, you can see with these projects that there is a thin line between the real and the virtual, and its becoming thinner every time connecting with technology can be accomplished indirectly through others’ interactions with technology (Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, etc.).

So if you haven’t already clicked on the image at the very top of the page, here is a link to my project. I hope you enjoy it.

Jumping on the Foursqaure Bandwagon

Time to jump on the bandwagon. Foursquare, the real-life achievement oriented, barhopping, smart phone friendly web 2.0 creation is taking over a city near you. With 23 cities total (21 in the US and 2 international), and 1.35 million dollars of investor moola to throw around, this New York-based Internet startup is going to be on many a phone in the coming years.


So what is Foursquare? It’s a location-based website where you can “Check-in” to different locations in order to build up points and earn badges. Sounds lame you say? Hear me out.

It’s Friday night in Washington DC. You take the Metro from Silver Spring to DuPont Circle and go to Buffalo Billiards to hang out. In doing so you make a trip over to the fountain to relax and then head back home. Sure you had a great time, but with Foursquare you just earned Mad Points that night.

There are rules to checking in though, which are explained in Foursquare’s help section. One of the most notable is that you won’t earn any points during normal work hours (M-F 8am-4pm) unless you discover a new place or provide them new info on a location that hasn’t been entered into the system. I like this because it encourages being adventurous and shuns the lame folks who’d rather stay in and watch Gray’s Anatomy on a Thursday night *shiver*.  So yeah, that lunch with your co-workers doesn’t count. Sorry Jon from Accounting.

Foursqaure turns a fun night into a competition that makes it even more fun to be out with your friends. It’s almost like how your mind works when you play fantasy football. More achievements = more points. You can even become the mayor of a location if you check-in enough times. I mean, you’re talking to the mayor of the Silver Spring Metro and Mayorga Coffee Factory here *ahem* *ahem*.

So what do these points and mayorships get you? Nothing right now. The point is to be able to use the service with your buddies to talk up how you scored more points than them in a single night (or week). When they check-in you can even see where they are so that you can be there too (that gets you more points as well). It’s a social networking site, so it pays to be social.

The creators of Foursquare, Dennis Crowley, Naveen Selvadurai, and Harry Heymann are playing around with ways to reward players in real life for their efforts, but to me this is problematic because if people start getting discounts for being mayors, users will start blasting the system with bogus check-ins to earn more freebies.

Another caveat is that this all works under the honor system. Foursquare has no idea whether I’m actually going to these places. I could just be sitting at home all night putting myself all around the city, earning points, badges, and mayorships without anyone being the wiser. Some people may actually do this because that’s how they have fun, but the folks at Foursquare are banking on the fact that the people who do this are going to get tired of it and won’t have as much of a drive to check-in as those who are actually going out and having fun in the “real world”.

Foursquare apps

This leads me to one last caveat. Having an Android phone or an Iphone makes checking in a lot easier because each of these phones has a Foursqaure application that will give you access to their services without much hassle (such are awesomeness of apps). Using other Internet-enabled phones is a bit trickier because you have to go to their websites, which takes a lot longer. Those who don’t have a data plan can text in their location, but I’m going to bet that most people don’t do this at all because the service isn’t as interactive, and if you come to a spot that doesn’t exist in the system it’s impossible for these users to enter the new location, thus defeating the purpose of the game (Foursquare is relatively new to the scene and I’ve had to enter new locations on the fly many times).

The good news for Blackberry users without an app to call their own is that the folks at Foursquare say that an app made especially for them is on the way. Yay!

I would also suggest that Foursquare take note from the Yelp team and hire city community managers. These CM’s can organize Foursquare nights where members can earn more points barhopping on the nights being lead by a city’s respective CM. This way, if people know that they can earn more points by not cheating, they’ll be more likely to come out, get involved, and have a good time. Businesses will love this too because this means more revenue for them. Also, can you say publicity? Think about it.

In the end, Foursquare is very smart. They’ve created a system where normal shmoes like you and me are willing to advertise for other businesses for the sheer pleasure of earning points and being crowned mayors. We don’t mind making other businesses more popular because we want to share our experiences and get our friends to come along with us in our late night revelries. If sharing virtual drinks has become the most popular application on Facebook, if Yelp is slowly wheeling Zagat into a retirement home, and if scholars are using Wikipedia to start their research (after looking at citations of course), then it’s no wonder that our Web 2.0 culture of Stumbling, Digging, and sharing has lead us to this new form of entertainment that has created a hybrid legion of techy-fratboy-nerds bent on pwning their respective cities.

Foursquare, you are t3h 4w3som3s0rz br0!

If you want to jump on the bandwagon too, connect with me on Foursqaure.

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