doing things with voice


J.L Austin’s How to Do Things With Words is a series of lectures at Harvard that were given in 1955. Austin discusses how utterances of sentences can be part of doing an action (for example, saying “I do”) (5). When you say something like “I name” or “I do,” you aren’t reporting on a marriage “I am indulging in it” (6).  He thinks we should call these types of sentences/utterances “a performative sentence” or “performative” (6), as “it indicates that the issuing of the utterance is the performing of an action—it is not normally thought of as just saying something” (6-7). Circumstances are important in these contexts, as well as when the speaker or other must also perform certain actions (8). Austin argues that when something goes wrong after performative utterances (marriage betting), the statement isn’t false, but “unhappy” (14).  In his second lecture, he traces the six rules of performative utterance (14-15). There are also certain ways in which there are misapplications (34). (You can order someone to do something, but if you don’t have the authority, it doesn’t work, or you picking George and him saying he’s not playing (28-29)). I’m interested in the function of certain speech acts that are assertive, like lying (40), as well as the intentions behind the speech act. This is something that I’d like to explore further. Austin says, “In conclusion, we see that in order to explain what can go wrong with statements we cannot just concentrate on the proposition involved (whatever that is) as has been done traditionally. We must consider the total situation in which the utterance is issued—the total speech-act—if we are to see the parallel between statements and performative utterances, and how each can go wrong. So the total speech act in the total speech situation is emerging from logic piecemeal as important in special cases: and thus we are assimilating the supposed constative utterance to the performative” (52).  This is interesting to me because of the various influences that inform speech-acts, and how they have come to exist.  If we could talk further about illocutionary acts that would be helpful. I will keep mulling this all over!


Here are a few thoughts from Njoroge, Samson, and Rath’s “headsounds: the work of vinyl in the age of digital reproduction.”

I agree with Rath’s idea that there isn’t a hierarchy in which data and art can be assembled. The form of this piece was interesting (conversation style), and I really like the notion of pop-ups/(footnotes in the version I read) to show the dialogue that’s going on. Njoroge says it’s always the death of the vinyl. I wonder what happens when we set up this whole vinyl vs. digital argument—what kind of work does it do when we think about things this way? (And why do we have difficulty not thinking about things this way when it comes to different technologies and mediums?) Also, what about the types of people who engage in vinyl collection? What does this tell us? Njoroge says we can’t prove that new technologies will make it sound “better” and argues that experience gets lost via “the promise of endless replication and dissemination of ‘the sound’”. Ted brings up an important point about the notion of comparison—are these two things even comparable to begin with? It seems to me that vinyl, and the sound it makes when played, most frequently invokes nostalgia? I’m not sure that I agree with Njoroge’s argument that satisfaction is brought to the listener via the stylus/friction. The comparison idea still comes up in the analysis: “that sound cannot be matched”. While he brings up an interesting point about the experience as tactile, this is contained in a culturally respective sensory experience, not a universalized one. The idea of the “aura” here is interesting. In addition, when Ted says “The fan cooling a computer’s hard drive makes sound but it is not in the same way related to its production of musical sound,” I’m wondering why it can’t be musical? There are many musicians who would argue for various kinds of sounds. Rath argues that recordings are not capable if an “aura” (in Benjamin’s sense). I’m curious about the fidelity debate and its relevance in this conversation. What I like about the digital argument is its (potentially) accessible component that you bring up. It can shift who is involved with digital music and the different roles people can play. This conversation left me thinking about the role of digital, the role of different mediums for presenting music, and what the relationship is between different forms.

I’m still working through John Searle’s Speech Acts, but here are some preliminary thoughts. Searle focuses on “the philosophy of language” (as opposed to “linguistic philosophy” in his book (4). He examines characterizations and linguistic explanations, and questions the use of certain criterion (which presupposes that we have knowledge of and an understanding of the concept) (6-7). One important part of Searle’s argument is that “Speaking a language is engaging in a (highly complex) rule-governed form of behavior…My knowledge of how to speak the language involves a mastery of a system of rules which renders my use of the elements of that language regular and systematic” (12-13). I am interested in the different ways in which we participate in and perpetuate this kind of behavior through language. (It also makes me think about how new words—or words with different meanings—are introduced into this system.) Speech acts are utterances that have performative capacities and function in language. When we speak language, we are performing speech acts that adhere to the rule system Searle discusses (38). One important piece of Searle’s argument has to do with illocutionary acts that can be focused on intentions (which I’m still working on right now!) (62).


some foundational stuff


While I did get to read (and try to ingest) all of Althusser’s “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses,” I focused on the section about interpellation. In this section, Althusser discusses how individuals exist as subjects. In his example about the “hailing,” a person who is addressed becomes a subject in the moment the police flag the person down via the “hey, you there.” He says, “Experience shows that the practical telecommunication of hailings is such that they hardly ever miss their man: verbal call or whistle, the one hailed always recognizes that it is really him who is being hailed. And yet it is a strange phenomenon, and one which cannot be explained solely by ‘guilt feelings’, despite the large numbers who ‘have something on their consciences’.” That recognition here is important because it points to the act of recognition and of existence of subjects as something that always happens. He also says,” The existence of ideology and the hailing or interpellation of individuals as subjects are one and the same thing.” Althusser discusses how “ideology has always-already interpellated individuals as subjects.” He gives an example of how unborn children are always-already subjects. I am also curious about this statement about unborn children being born into/existing in a “highly structured” system: “…the former subject-to-be will have to ‘find’ ‘its’ place, i.e. ‘become’ the sexual subject (boy or girl) which it already is in advance.” This stands out to me because authors like Ann Fausto-Sterling (Sexing the Body) have discussed how intersex individuals have been forced to fit into dualisms to adhere to “normality.” Althusser and Fausto-Sterling seem to be making a similar point here regarding the ways in which existing structures and ideology assert particular expectations. This is interesting and helping me to understand some of the debates in the field, but I was wondering if there are more specific things I should be gathering from this article as connected to the voice. Is it the act of calling one’s name, or any kind of verbal recognition of the individual, what then constitutes the individual as an (always-already) subject?

Walter Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” articulates the implications for art with the developing technologies of mechanical reproduction, and reflects on the significance that this has for art in its traditional form. He also conveys the importance of the politics of art. Benjamin traces developments in technology, like photography and film, to see the impacts this has had on art itself and its reception. He engages in discussions of authenticity, particularly reflecting on the stakes of authenticity during processes of reproduction. He says,“What withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art.” The notion of aura is important to tradition/ritual, and he discusses how reproductions lack this sense of aura. I found the idea that nature and historical stances play a role in how human sense perception is organized (as well as the medium in which art is articulated) to be compelling here. I wonder about how music fits into this puzzle, as well as the role of recorded sound (something I’m sure we will talk about in upcoming weeks). His reflections on tradition, ritual, and notions of “pure” art were helpful in understanding some of the shifts that have taken place in art over time, as well as its social function. In addition, his ideas about the differences between the theater and film were interesting in the context of audience reception. I wonder how true it is, though, that the audience identifies with the camera, not the actor. And aura goes away on film? Benjamin says, “The stage actor identifies himself with the character of his role. The film actor very often is denied this opportunity. His creation is by no means all of a piece; it is composed of many separate performances.” The lack of continuity somehow diminishes the authenticity (?) or just continuous performance, and therefore the impact on the audience? Benjamin also says that the screen actor is always aware that he is facing the public/the market, and also reflects on the importance of the shifting distinctions between the author and the public (something so important in the age of the Internet). The notion of collective viewing/listening (?) experience is also something that would be interesting to flesh out in the context of music, and important when thinking about how the audience receives art in different mediums.

A side note—I have a friend who writes about art and art education, and the increased corporatization and marketization of the two. I found this article to be relevant to some of the discussions we’ve been having, since there seems to be something about the shifting contemporary culture of the art world that propels ideas of exhibit-ready artist who has learned the skills to produce art rapidly and so it is reproducible. She argues that that’s what the whole culture of art education is like that nowadays. What’s lost when this is what it comes down to?

Mladen Dolar’s “The Linguistics of the Voice” was quite helpful in thinking about the ways in which we describe the voice. As vocabulary is inadequate, we have to locate different ways of understanding, and he theorizes different dimensions of the voice. He says, “The vocabulary may well distinguish nuances of meaning, but words fail us when we are faced with the infinite shades of the voice, which infinitely exceed meaning. It is not that our vocabulary is scanty and its deficiency should be remedied: faced with the voice, words structurally fail” (539). Dolar argues that one of the central features of the voice is its intermediacy (539). Since we are social beings, we have the unsilenceable “internal voice” (540). Dolar says that compared to other sounds, “…the voice has an intimate connection with meaning, it is a sound which appears to be endowed in itself with the will to ‘say something,’ with an inner intentionality” (540). The external sounds created by the human have intention in them (like playing an instrument—the musician has the intention that the sound will convey a particular meaning). I found it interesting that we may be aware of an accent or the differences in another person’s voice initially, but that we adjust to this so that we concentrate only on the meaning from a person’s speaking (540). The voice is also fleeting (disappears once the goal of meaning is met) (541). He says, “The ideality of meaning can emerge only through the materiality of the means, but the means does not seem to contribute to meaning” (541)à Does this mean that the means of the voice doesn’t give meaning? I’m wondering about the implications of that. If we could also talk about his definition of voice, as well as the “seemingly positive substance of the voice” as connected to structuralism that would be helpful. Dolar says we can be aware of the voice through intonation (but that it can still be empirically tested, like other linguistic phenomena), voice’s individuality, and the mechanical voice, but that we can still measure these things. I like the idea of thinking that the voice is like what fastens invisible beads together in a signifier chain (546). Dolar’s discussions of the non-voice, of those things outside of speech like coughing and hiccups, was compelling because those things can just happen, and/or they can signify something. I found it interesting that Dolar refers to singing as “bad communication” (550). He argues that the voice is brought “energetically to the forefront, on purpose, at the expense of meaning” (550). Or could there be more/different meaning, in this case? The voice also has the power in singing (551). What are the implications of this? Dolar says that the voice seems to maintain the link with nature and transcend language (551). What is the outcome?

A few questions that popped up to me as I was reading:

1) Do voices really ride over other sounds and noises? (539)

2) Is silence always like death? (540)

experiments with sound

This week’s readings and experiment made me think about 20th century classical composer John Cage.  Cage was an experimental composer who is most known for his piece 4’33”  during which the musicians are instructed not to play throughout the entire three-movement piece.  The 1952 piece promotes the idea that all sounds can be music, requiring the listener to internalize the sounds of the environment as part of the musical composition. Other 20th century experimental classical composers laid the foundation for considering experimental music as art (and inspired others, like Frank Zappa and Playing Music on a Bicycle), although there are many who would argue that sounds are just noise, and definitely not art.  It’s interesting to think about what sounds can be considered “music” or “art,” as well as the accessibility factor of technology today: almost anyone can record sounds and turn sounds into music.  In terms of what sounds should be saved and recorded, how ordinary sound can be used to express a particular experience can allow for the listener to be transported to a specific place and moment in time.  I tend to have a very liberal definition of both art and music, and I think it is interesting to see people engage with these debates over time.

The mp3 has become a crucial part of contemporary debates in the worlds of sound, music, and property.  Sterne argues that the mp3 is an artifact as it is a “crystallized set of social and material relations” (826).  He argues, “a gestural, tactile form of embodiment is the requirement and result of digital audio” (827).  I thought it was interesting that the perspective of a “container technology” was typically seen as feminine.  Sofia says, “these kinds of technological objects are designed to be unobtrusive and…make their presence felt, but not noticed” (827).  The article points to the reason behind the design of mp3s as compressing audio so that audio files are easier to exchange on the internet and easier to store on hard drives (828).  I am curious if ownership of an mp3 has that same standard fulfillment Walter Benjamin says (831).  I think I would have to challenge this notion.  Does the collector of each mp3 feel the same way about it as an artist or a corporation?  I think that “collectors” of mp3s (which is really all of us, right?) take them for granted.  I don’t think an mp3 collector/human being has the same kind of attachment to mp3 because it is so freely exchanged.  It becomes just a number.


For my digital audio experiment, I attempted to cut up a few different pieces and merge them together using Logic Express (which I’m still learning how to use).  A few jazz musicians and I recorded a version of Peggy Lee’s “Blue Prelude” a few months ago (.  I added a few sound effects, and layered part of a Gloria Steinem speech on “The Future of Feminism” (here).  I also experimented with speeding up the second half of the song. Here it is on soundcloud: Blue Prelude Remix.

I saw some of this as related to Haraway’s “A Cyborg Manifesto.”  She explores “Cyborg as a fiction mapping our social and bodily reality and as an imaginative resource suggesting some very fruitful couplings” (150). I thought Steinem’s speech especially connected to this idea: “I do not know of any other time in history when there was greater need for political unity to confront effectively the dominations of ‘race’, ‘gender’, sexuality’, and class’” (157). I’m interested in this concept of making “real connection” and allowing for fluidity of boundaries between groups of people.  What might help people to move beyond defined categories?  What might Haraway’s metaphor offer for feminists?

And for other senses?  Apparently smell-o-vision and other movie techniques didn’t work out so well.  Maybe people might get ready for that in the future if they become really numb via senses of sight and touch.  I predict that there will be future attempts in this arena, but right now, people aren’t ready for the full production of bodily experience from a machine.

data mining: how does it impact us?

Data mining: how our data is being used.  It also allows businesses and companies (and the government) an avenue to predict our future interests based on past trends, patterns through description and prediction.  It is a little scary for me that computers are the ones who are making this information understandable for humans—not humans.  I have to admit, I like what “Association Learning” does.  I’ve actually had a professor suggest we look for books via Amazon’s recommendation tool.  Netflix always knows.  There’s no escaping it.

When it comes to universities, I think I feel a little differently about data mining, particularly in some of the specific cases the New York Times’ article discuss.  Sure, there are benefits to looking at student data and interests, but what about the assumptions that are being made?  The article says, “Mr. Lange built a system, rolled out in 2009, that sent professors frequently updated alerts about how well each student was predicted to do, based on their course performance and online behavior.”  Wow.  There are so many implications in doing this, not to mention the ethics involved.  It’s as if students’ futures are completely pre-determined by technology, not allowing for exploration of individual interests if they don’t fit neatly into the path of a particular major.  Also, nice Betta fish analogy, Mr. Lange.  Not reductionist at all.  There are immense consequences of attempting to determine how a student will do in a particular course that privileges a notion of objective truth and makes many assumptions, not to mention the potential for technology glitches, skewed calculations, little real context about students.  From this, connections between professors and students also become calculated.  In my own college experience, I learned many things about myself by getting my butt kicked in a pre-med track, and by suffering my way through a few intro to philosophy courses.  Exploration is an essential part of the university experience.  Sure, it’s important to know background information about your students, but the predictions are what strike me as problematic in this case.  Is it appropriate for computers to be giving humans these kinds of predictions?

The Forbes essay  “How a Deviant Philosopher Built Palatir, a CIA-funded Data-Mining Juggernaut,” I found it was interesting how Karp values his own sense of privacy.  I did have a question in this article: What, exactly, is a “need-to-know” system when it comes to access to data?  Apparently according to the article there is always a trail being left by those gathering data, but that doesn’t stop the privacy invasion from happening in the first place.  What does that mean, in concrete terms, for images being captured by license plate cameras?

As David Goldberg showed us a few weeks ago, we can actually (visually) see the different parties who are following us from site to site, tracking us, our patterns, and our data.  Who are the different groups of people who gain access to our data, and what ways will they use it?  Many of these things we won’t know.  Determining “degree of membership” within Rauhauser’s “Organization, Relationship, & Contact Analyzer” was an interesting concept, and I wonder how much of this analysis is based on data and how much is assumption.  I guess that is where I see one of the main tensions within data mining.  What do we win and what do we lose by having our data accessed?  Is this technology going to be focused mostly on gangs and terrorists, or will it be used to investigate white collar criminals too?


Here are a few of my working definitions:

Database= a collection of data that is organized in a particular way

Relational database= data in a collection of tables; it can group data in relation to one another (sorry, I am trying to think of different words to use here but I am struggling)

SQL= Structured Query Language, a program language that manages the data of relational databases, subdivided into different language elements

NoSQL=allows for data retrieval and storage, database, simplistic, SQL-like query can also be used here.  helpful for big data because it becomes simplified.

The Cloud=where our data floats around in a real-time network.  good or bad? both.  still working on this one. we want to be in it so we can access things all the time and so that other people can have access to our things.

silences & voices

I’m still working through some of these ideas, but here are some preliminary thoughts:

In terms of text analysis possibilities, there seem to be plenty beyond presentation and representation.  We can read archives in different ways and open up new avenues for creating meaning.  Learning about stop words was helpful for some of my graphs from last week that now look like this: .  I think that looking at the frequency of words can help to connect to major themes.  (What could be the role of psychology here?)  In terms of when you might want to look at the stopwords instead of the “go” words, I think it’s hard to say.  I’m wondering about the significance of articles in translation.  I’m also curious about how the word “the” might be used as a specifier as opposed to a negligible stopword that can be excluded.

Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s Silencing the Past discusses how and when silences enter the process of historical production: “the moment of fact creation (the making of sources); the moment of fact assembly (the making of archives); the moment of fact retrieval (the making of narratives); and the moment of retrospective significance (the making of history in the final instance)” (26).  Of course Trouillot makes the assumption that there are “facts” that represent definite and universal truths.   One book that came to mind was Freedom Papers, which explores and traces five generations of a family across oceans in their journey for freedom and equality.  This book opens up many of the possibilities of archival research where there is assumed silence.  On a personal level, I am a big supporter of the power of contemporary fiction to represent past silences (as in Toni Morrison’s work, for example).

In Ann Cvetkovich’s “In the Archives of Lesbian Feelings: Documentary and Popular Culture,” discusses some forms of lesbian popular culture and connection to archives.  She argues for the importance of preserving and producing “not just knowledge but feeling” of lesbian life (110).  By allowing for a reconfiguring of the archive as a concept, the role of memory  in sexuality and lesbian life can be reconceptualized and not as neglected as in the past.  Cvetkovich argues for the surfacing of a painful past in order to continue consciousness of our history.  Also, in archiving ephemera, it seems as if preservation of the private sphere in gay and lesbian studies seems akin to second wave feminism.  Without preserving these materials, there are a certain amount of silences that would be written into archives because of the predominantly widespread and “American” notion that sexuality is to be private because it is sinful and desire should be repressed.  However, resisting documentation, as Cvetkovich points out also allows for resistance against institutions and hegemonic power.  To think that an archive can capture the entirety of feelings or lives of a particular group of people, or that it can stand for some notion of authoritative truth about people can cause harm.  It is really interesting that Cvetkovich documents the documentation process by exploring the significance of documentary film.  On the receiving end, the idea that an audience can play a role in interpretation of archives also strikes me as particularly important for those groups who have been marginalized.

I think a lot of these readings raise questions of access: who can access certain archives?  When can they access them?  Why is access restricted at times?  Who is in control of knowledge here, and what would be the possibilities if that knowledge is released to the public?  It seems that archives are created by those who advocate for their creation.  What does that mean for our responsibility as scholars?  I think that creating archives where there seem to be silences is a first step.  But, in doing that, are we somehow creating more silences?


*Trouillot brings up “the material weight of mention, that is, the sheer empirical value of the string within which any single fact is enmeshed” (54).  This is connected to what we have been talking about in terms of some of the possibilities of text analysis.  What is “the material weight of mention”?

Searching & Text-Analysis

Intertwingularity is more than just a fun word to say; the concept behind it is quite compelling.  The idea that there are no “subjects,” and that knowledge is one giant mass, is something that makes the possibilities of the web incredible and completely overwhelming.  The idea behind Intertwingularity is that topics can’t be categorized and divided in a clear-cut way and instead that knowledge is interconnected, overlapping, etc..  What do we do about this when it comes to the web?  Give up on categorization.  Nope!  Although sometimes I think the world would be better off without categorization, but if this were true, I don’t know how I would 1) conceive of things and 2) search them on google to learn more about them.

One basic idea I found interesting when it comes to text-analysis is that “The number of times we perceive something in a text, whether consciously or not, the more influence it has on our reading.”  Obviously there are stakes in analyzing the frequency of words and contexts in texts, but I am very curious about how the subconscious reading of words influences us.  I like that the “corpus analysis of meaning” section of this website pushes beyond frequency and into word usage and context.  It also walks you through how to begin creating a research question based on data from text-analysis. It’s nice that there is also cultural context that is taken into account.  The process goes through variants for different words as well.  This is incredibly helpful when it comes to breaking down research components involved with digital humanities, and how to understand the ethics of this kind of research, writing, and representation.

For my corpus, I compiled the lyrics from Amy Winehouse’s three albums, and played around with some of the tools found on Voyant.  Here is what I got on Cirrus, one of the cites I found through Voyant: Amy Winehouse Lyrics  Much of this is preliminary, and I am still working on how I can use these tools to gather and compile data in a more meaningful way.  From some of these graphs I can see how frequently the word “man” is used, for example.  By walking through some of the processes mentioned above, I can imagine new possibilities for understanding this data.  Here are some of the helpful charts and tools from Voyant: Amy Winehouse Data Charts.  Knots is also interesting because it allows you to see potential connections, tangles, and angles that come out of a corpus: Amy Winehouse–Knots  I particularly like this visualization on this page as a new way to see things.  In think about what corpus to choose, I thought of google books as connected to some of my research.  Google books has a section that shows by size the frequency a “significant” word appears in text: Angela Davis’ Blues Legacies and Black Feminism  I will definitely be using some of these tools for my final project to take a closer look at the frequency of these words in lyrics while also taking into context the historical time period, biographies, music, politics, economics, etc.  I intend to use “full texts” of songs in order to do this analysis.  This will give me a way to look at frequency of artists use of particular words and also over time as well.

Page & Brin’s ideas about PageRank describes the process through which Web pages can be rated “objectively and mechanically, effectively measuring the human interest and attention devoted to them.”  I’m still a little bit confused about the role of backlinks in the PageRank process and their connection to bias in the filtering process.  One thing I’m curious about is how new features of search engines like “current location” operate in the process of filtering out results in searching.  I thought PageRank acting as a kind of a “peer review” process was interesting as well.  Understanding hubs and authorities is also helpful in this context.  While I certainly don’t really understand all of the math behind it, the concepts in Kleinberg are useful.  This will be good to unpack a little further tomorrow 🙂

Amy Winehouse Lyrics

“A Pirate Nation”

“Democratic tools gave ordinary people a way to express themselves more easily than any tools could have before.” –Lessig p.  33


Lawrence Lessig’s Free Culture: How Big Media Uses Technology and the Law to Lock Down Culture and Control Creativity (project: here) discusses questions of culture, technology, piracy, and property.  In using the phrase “free culture,” Lessig makes the argument that we have a say in how culture is produced and circulated.  He describes free culture as a balance between “anarchy and control” (xiv).  He argues that the internet has had an incredible impact on the way culture is made, which perhaps is viewed as a pretty standard now, but probably looked different back in 2004 (Lessig 7).  I think Lessig’s distinction between “commercial culture” and “non-commercial culture” is an interesting one because it highlights the importance of capitalism in our society and in the processes of culture production (7).  I wonder if this kind of labeling opens up all possibilities for how we understand culture of the internet, culture on the internet, and culture created by the internet.  Lessig focuses on something not-so-surprising: corporate interests in connection with “property” and through many different angles. With these corporate interests having the power to create, mold, and influence policy (and having the finances to fight these laws when necessary), we see a legacy of restriction in the circulation of creative works.

Lessig explores the concepts of “piracy” and “property” throughout Free Culture.  I like the fact that his aims align with his methodology.  He makes these ideas accessible to members of the public, and writes in a way that is casual, down-to-earth, and interesting. I like that Lessig contextualizes piracy and his other major concepts through his use of metaphor and examples before attempting to unpack his analysis.  He historically the idea that all these other forms of media, including radio, cable tv, etc. were all born of a kind of piracy.  The idea of our law limiting itself to American works is telling for the story of nation embedded in the piracy narrative (Lessig 63).  THIS IS AMERICAN PROPERTY (with laws borrowed from the English.)  The debates about “piracy” are interesting to think about in both the historical and contemporary senses, and from the American perspective.  Lessig traces these ideas to Europe, which made me think of classical musicians.  Composers like Beethoven and Mozart have traditionally learned (and produced) music via the imitation of previous composer’s works, and built off of the works of others as well. Lessig makes an interesting point about performances of Shakespeare’s works.  It is ridiculous to think of a clearinghouse that must Shakespeare’s works at this point in time.  When profit is involved, things always get complicated.  Ideas about piracy and property in certain films (concepts which Lessig discusses when thinking about different types of “piracy”) can be found in Chuck Tryon’s Reinventing Cinema: Movies in the Age of Media and Convergence.  This book explores fan practices in response to movies and media, among many other things.  Tryon points out, “In fact, while studios initially regarded many fan practices, such as making movie remixes and posting them on YouTube, as potentially a threat to profits, most major media conglomerates have grown to embrace such activities, correctly seeing them as reinforcing, not challenging, the processes of exchange” (Tryon 9).  For a film class, we read this book the same week we watched and analyzed The Matrix.  Out of curiosity, I typed “Matrix Mashup” into YouTube to see what sorts of results I would get.  The results for that search alone totaled 1,410 videos, many with hundreds of thousands of views.  Popular mashup trailers included combinations of The Matrix and the film Inception.  What strikes me about this new era of fan practices is that they have become so widespread and accepted that their force may be difficult to challenge on any level.  Contrary to what one might think, massive companies now embrace these fan practices as promoting a culture surrounding a particular film.  I wonder about the ways in which companies will use (attempt to harness?) and translate this power for further commercial use and monetary gain.

As I was reading Lessig’s book, I kept thinking that I don’t want to be a “Read-Only” consumer of culture.  Maybe I should go back to trying to write some songs, I thought.  So that’s actually what I tried to do.  For the licensing exploration, my partner and I finally decided to attempt to collaborate on a song.  We were really just tossing ideas around (don’t judge too harshly!) , and here is the result: Sunday Afternoon Cure.  Sound Cloud makes it pretty easy to do creative commons licensing.   I chose their licensing option (Creative Commons) because it allows people to Share (“to copy distribute and transmit the work”) and to Remix (“to adapt the work”).  You want to remix this silly little reggae ukulele jazzy song? Suuuuuuure go ahead.  This license also has the following conditions: Attribution (“You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work))”, Noncommercial (“You may not use this work for commercial purposes”), and Share Alike (“If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one”).  The “With the understanding that” section outlines some of the other rights and conditions of the license.  I like this license because it allows ideas to move around, but I guess there is still a little “credit” built in these kinds of licenses.

I like how Creative Comments poses their “About” section  I think there are many people who are pro-open source, open-access (especially because it is being done illegal so frequently anyway).  The idea that one needs “free legal tools” in order to display content (even original ideas) strikes me as being so ingrained in American tradition, with a huge emphasis on property and the law.  It is interesting to think about open source, open-access as a growing movement as well:  “The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized.”  How can we truly become more democratic?

A final note:

Lessig says, “The best of the blog entries are relatively short; they point directly to words used by others, criticizing with or adding to them.  They are arguably the most important form of unchoreographed public discourse we have” (41).  I’m still trying to make my blogs better, and I think I’ll try to stick to this formula.