From DIY Design To Production!!!

•May 26, 2009 • 1 Comment

I remember back to the days when my neighbourhood friends and I met regularly on the weekends at the top of my street ready to race our home made go-karts. Unfortunately the races usually went unfinished as someone’s tire would go flying, another’s steering wheel popped off, or someone crashed, rendering their go-kart useless. We thought to ourselves: “if only we knew how to make a real go kart.” Well, today my childhood wishes have become a reality.

In recent times, the “rise of participatory media through the internet and networked information and communication technologies” has promoted “do-it-yourself (DIY) media production” (Flew, 2008, p 108). Websites such as:

all specialise in, and support DIY design and production. They allow users to share and discuss ideas and designs before the product they are creating comes into existence. Someone who has absolutely no idea about how to make a go-kart, for example, now has the ability to use this style of website to search through hundreds of different designs, select the right one, and build it from scratch (click here). In addition, if they notice along the way that the designs could be improved, they can discuss recommendations via the website.

As was mentioned in my first post, the term produsage, coined by media professional Axel Bruns, refers to “a decentralised system whereby multiple users contribute their combined intelligence towards the creation of new content, or the reworking and improving of existing content.” DIY websites such as those noted above are clearly examples of produsage driven environments.

Over the course of my blog posting, I have maintained a recurring theme of “new media and the music industry”, as it is of particular interest to me. One website which is conducive of a produsage environment, and which I argue promotes a DIY music culture is the ever-popular YouTube. However, I am not talking about the building of guitars or amplifiers, rather, the passing on of knowledge (the product) in the form of, for example, a guitar lesson. By simply typing in “guitar lesson”, you retrieve thousands of results. A number of people, such as MIKESGUITARLESSONS, have used YouTube as a business model. Mike, for example, has uploaded over 150 videos on YouTube that teach people how to play guitar. Each lesson represents his product, and if DIY musicians are unsatisfied or simply want to make suggestions, they can share their ideas and comments. Mike’s use of YouTube has also established him as a pro/am. As of today, he has had 11,209 subscribers and 442,364 channel views of his YouTube account, and his popularity has allowed him to set up his own personal website (click here). Mike’s clever use of Web 2.0 technologies represents a great example of how DIY culture is helping the music industry.

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Bridging The Pro/Am Divide!!!

•May 21, 2009 • 4 Comments

Just as the lines between producer and consumer have been blurred (i.e. prod-user) in the knowledge economy, so too have those between the professional and amateur (i.e. pro-am). Pro-Am’s are defined as “innovative, committed and networked amateurs working to professional standards” (Flew, 2008, p 113). Some important examples of pro-am behaviour, which I have mentioned in previous blogs, include the recent rise in citizen journalism (e.g. through blogging) and user generated content sites such as Wikipedia and YouTube. However, this particular blog will focus on the Web 2.0 application MySpace, and the profound effect it has had on the music industry in terms of bridging the pro-am divide.

MySpace is described as a “social networking website with an interactive, user-submitted network of friends, personal profiles, blogs, groups, photos, music, and videos” available to anyone worldwide (Wikipedia, 2009). So, how does this bridge the gap between professionals and amateurs?

The first point that should be discussed is that MySpace provides the perfect online milieu for pro-am musicians to establish themselves. Importantly, it is many-to-many in connectivity, “decentralized in terms of control”, user-focused and easy to use, and open in terms of technology standards (Flew, 2008, p 17). These characteristics have enabled amateurs to promote themselves like never before, as the millions of users provide the perfect potential fan base. This kind of publicity was once only available to professionals, however through MySpace, it has become significantly democratised. Furthermore, technology has become much easier to use. An activity that once needed professional training has now become everyday-citizen compatible. MySpace has employed this technology, thus allowing musicians to quickly, easily, and cheaply join the MySpace community and upload their music.

The popularity and success of MySpace music pages is clearly evident among the MySpace community and the world. The main music page maintains that there are 1,802,763 pages in the genre of rock, 2,404,495 devoted to rap, 314,315 to reggae, and many, many more (MySpace Music, 2009). Artists such as Lily Allen have employed the brilliance of MySpace, which consequently led to her success (Wikipedia, 2009). Some examples of up and coming musicians in the Brisbane region include bands Wasted on the Young and Sunflower.

In early 2007, a friend and I decided to create our own MySpace Music page (Lachie + Curly) and join the ever-growing pro-am community. What was so attractive about this was the fact that MySpace was free, easy to use and it gave us the opportunity to share our music with our friends and the world. Although we have little involvement with it today, at the time it served its purpose. And if we were to take our side-project a little more seriously, I’m almost certain our MySpace page would become central to the promotion of our music.

To conclude, it can be argued that the 21st century social-economic system is one that will be based on collective, or mass, creativity (Leadbeater, 2007). The rise of pro-am production models such as MySpace, and the ability for worldwide distribution with continuous feedback through networked new media technologies, “generates a huge challenge to the established organisational order and the professions who design, control and lead them” (Flew, 2008, p 114). So, watch out big business!

Wikipedia!!!

•May 7, 2009 • 2 Comments

Wikipedia is a “multilingual, Web-based, free-content encyclopedia project” (Wikipedia, 2009). It attracted over 684 million visitors yearly by 2008 and is one of, if not, the world’s largest reference web site (Wikipedia, 2009). This discussion will centre on the effectiveness of Wikipedia as an online encyclopedia.

It is undeniable that Wikipedia is one of the most useful online tools of the digital age. It provides an abundance of information on an extremely vast array of subject matter. Articles covering anything from World War II to nail polish are presented within a free and easy to use online database. Wikipedia’s effectiveness as a research tool is complemented by the fact that it is in a state of constant flux, with over “75,000 active contributors working on more than 10,000,000 articles in more than 260 languages (Wikipedia, 2009). Articles are frequently edited, updated and expanded upon by the Wiki-community. Systems “to catch and control substandard and vandalistic edits” have also been put in place to safeguard content and ensure its accuracy (Wikipedia, 2009).

Wikipedia, however, is not without its criticisms. Despite the systems in place to prevent misleading, inaccurate and propagandistic information, there will always be loopholes. Due to the size and unrestrictive nature of Wikipedia, it is not uncommon to view pages containing either technical or conceptual errors. We’ve all experienced its unreliability, perhaps foremost through receiving assignments back with a big red line through content (Wikipedia sourced) we have cheekily decided to include. Another aspect which compromises Wikipedia’s use as a professional and scholarly source is the prevalence of ‘unfinished artefacts’ (Bruns, 2007, p 27-28). Unfinished artefacts refers to Wikipedia entries which are either unedited, unreferenced or blatantly incomplete. Some argue that these low quality articles decentre the reliability of the site as a whole, and for this reason Wikipedia is rarely accepted as a reference to academic prose.

From the perspective of the music industry, Wikipedia has become an invaluable tool and resource. Can you remember back to the big bound encyclopaedias that we once used in primary school? Now, can you remember there ever being a page devoted to your favourite band or artist, or any band or artist for that matter? Wikipedia and tools like it have revolutionised information transfer within the music industry. Fans can use Wikipedia to research information on their favourite artists without having to purchase and read through biographies (e.g. Led Zeppelin, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Muddy Waters). In addition, it helps people to understand artists’ influences and creative direction, and provides access to entire discographies. The majority of these articles also provide links to the bands official website and any other sites of relevance. Fans today have the opportunity to learn more about their musical icons and preferences than ever before.

Wikipedia’s success and usefulness is symptomatic of the modern state of knowledge. In former times, when information was not so readily accessible, the population only endeavoured to obtain information in useful and specific fields. Today, however, the ease of knowledge exchange dictates an environment in which people can familiarise themselves with a wide array of subject matter. It could be said that: whilst previously we knew a lot about a little, today we know a little about a lot.

Citizen Journalism!!!

•May 5, 2009 • 3 Comments

Citizen journalism can be defined as “the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information” (Flew, 2008, p 144). What has allowed for the everyday citizen to engage in this activity is the internet. The internet has created a platform for people to “provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires” (Flew, 2008, p 144) to anyone, anywhere in the world, freely and with ease. It is now a contemporary reality, that within the new media, anyone can be a purveyor of news and any citizen can be a journalist. This discussion of citizen journalism will be framed through an analysis of: the changing face of journalism, blogging, and the problems associated with censorship. The impact that citizen journalism has had upon the music industry will also be discussed.

Traditional notions of journalism are associated with books, newspapers, radio and TV. Non-traditional journalism (such as citizen journalism), is associated with any device that can be used to record and spread information quickly. Principally, these are the internet, mobile phones, and other similar technologies.

The rise of non-traditional journalism challenges the linear notion of the paper and the reader. Given the greater interactivity between all people and the news, it could be argued that the conventional journalist is dead. Kevin Kawamoto (2003, p 208) argues that, “In this age of digital media, where allegedly anyone can be a publisher, the designation of journalist is increasingly being called into question.” The death of the conventional journalist has perhaps coincided with the birth of the “blogger.”

Dictionary.com defines blog as, “an online diary; a personal chronological log of thoughts published on a Web page.” Essentially, blogging, often referred to as citizen journalism, allows everyday people the opportunity to make their own news, and offers web users the chance to read it. The greater increase in technological literacy indicates that there will be a large increase in the production and use of blogs. It is therefore reasonable to assume that blogging will have an even more profound impact on the transfer of news in the future.

Those in favor of blogging would argue that it is the most democratic thing to even happen to news. Large companies like CNN and Reuters no longer have a monopoly like they used to. In fact, bloggers have been known to often highlight the agendas and problems within the conventional media. This greater accountability can only be aiding the search for objective news.

However, a problem that many associate with blogging is the inherent difficulty in filtering online content. This raises questions of ethics, given now, that through blogs; almost all people have the power to defame a particular person, an entire race, or marginalized groups. The issue of filtering also raises arguments over censorship, something which citizen journalism has greatly decreased. It is a complex and layered issue, but overall, in our nation which upholds democracy, censorship is not accepted positively. Therefore the lack of restriction upon web based writing can be considered favourable.

The rise of citizen journalism has also had a positive effect upon the music industry, by allowing for the exposure of a greater number of artists. Within the new media, contemporary artists are able to produce and transfer their product at a relatively small cost. Bands are now granted the capacity to professionally network around the world and have access to niche fan bases that the internet has created. The rise of blogging has also allowed for a wider audience to discuss and become involved in the music of particular artists.

The growth of citizen journalism has undoubtedly had a profound impact upon the transfer of information. This impact has not only been positive for conventional journalism, but has also greatly aided up and coming music artists. Kevin Kawamoto (2003) summarises the influence of citizen journalism in contemporary society, “Today, anyone can be the publisher.” 

Produsage!!!

•April 23, 2009 • 4 Comments

Produsage is a concept developed and coined by media and communications expert Axel Bruns. It refers to a decentralised system whereby multiple users contribute their combined intelligence towards the creation of new content, or the reworking and improving of existing content. This system can be accessed by anybody and changed by anybody.

Traditionally, society has been confined to the industrial model where products move in a hierarchical fashion (producer to distributor to consumer) with little to no input from consumers. Today, however, these lines have been blurred: “users of products and services … are increasingly able to innovate for themselves’ and, through digital networks in the knowledge economy, these innovations can be distributed, shared, and improved upon by user communities” (Flew, 2008). Digital networks have empowered all participants with the ability to be users as well as producers (produsers) of information and knowledge (Bruns, 2007).

Some important examples evident in the digital world today include websites such as YouTube and Wikipedia, as well as more social sites like Facebook or blogs. However, because my interests lie in the area of music, I will discuss further a more recent and relevant example of produsage; that being the program Ableton Live 8. Live 8 allows users to share their music over the web, providing a “simple and intelligent solution for online musical collaboration” (Ableton, 2009). Users can even set their own access permission to avoid people stealing their music and plagiarising their ideas. The basis behind this program is to provide a platform where users can create their own music and share it on the web for other artists to download and build and extend upon.

One aspect of Ableton Live 8 that has a negative impact on the success of its produsage environment is that its main target audience is keen amateur musicians. Other websites like YouTube appeal to a much wider demographic, thus creating a thriving produsage environment.

Knowing little about the efficiency of the program myself, I decided to scan through numerous blogs and came to discover that the general consensus regarding Ableton Live 8 is very positive: “Version 8 enhances the Ableton vision of creative, real-time digital music with a wealth of new techniques, effects and most-wanted workflow improvements”, it is “a favourite with live performers” (soundslive, 2009). Furthermore, “The new Plugins, Instruments and the workflow additions really pay off the price for the Update” (Zettt, 2009). However, some find the price of the program to be a major deterrent. One user, after testing a trial version of the program stated, “I do have a problem with the price of the upgrade…$189 upgrade … I love the program, don’t get me wrong, but the price may keep me in Live 7 for a while longer” (Hogue, 2009).

After completing this blog, I felt the need to ask, out of personal interest: What impact, if any, do you believe programs like Ableton Live 8 have on the music industry, particularly with regard to recording?