"Finland became the forerunner of understanding and accepting digital culture in general and the Demoscene in particular as cultural heritage. Right before the Easter weekend the Finnish Heritage Agency announced, that the Ministry of Education and Culture listed the Demoscene on proposals from the National Board of Antiquities and the Intangible Cultural Heritage Expert Group as national cultural heritage of humanity together with eleven other cultural practices." Superb.
07 October 2019
Last night I came across a Lime e-bike, dead on its side in a disabled car-parking space. I set about rescuing it, thinking that its conventional home, annoyingly littering the pavement, would be less bad.
As soon as I picked it up it started beeping, loudly. Then a computery woman’s voice began saying, “Please unlock me to ride me or I’ll call the police!”
I set the bike upright on its stand but the beeping and the verbal warning repeatedly alternated. I continued walking home, quickly, while the once quiet street was filled with the alarming noise, which slowly faded as I turned a corner. Maybe it’s still going.
Somewhere deep at the intersection of “everything is tech” (tech, the all-consuming industry, rather than technology), “everything is a service” (and thus somebody else’s property you pay to rent), and “everything is increasingly awful in order to service a minority” (in this case: the owners of the bike, frankly, who are interested in preserving their property whilst acquiring new customers).
We joked that the future was rubbish because we still don’t have a jetpack; it is, in fact, more rubbish (and made up of more rubbish) than we perhaps could have imagined. We are all Joe Chip.
10 July 2019
I’ve greatly been enjoying A History of Music And Technology from the BBC World Service. It’s an eight-part series in conjunction with the Open University, available through the World Service’s “Documentary Podcast” (which syndicates recent documentary programmes). My friend Andy tipped me off to it, and it’s just wonderful.
Presented by Nick Mason, it casts an eye over the role of technology in 20th century music. To do so, it doesn’t just focus on the technical or artistic angles; it also takes time to look at economies of manufacturing, the nature of innovation, and the role business plays; lots of overlaps into STS in the best possible way.
It also manages go deep enough into all its topic areas to be satisfying, picking interesting interviewees – especially from the archive – and telling good stories. The Telharmonium pops up in both Electronic Music Pioneers and The Hammond Organ, for instance, and I enjoy the focus it places on ‘recording’ and ‘the studio’ as topic areas.
Episode 2, Electronic Music Pioneers, is particularly striking. It looks at early electronic music – covering the Theremin, the WDR, and so forth – but manages to retain focused by announcing early that The Synthesizer and The Hammond Organ are going to get their own 50-minute programmes – so it’s freed up to talk about the foundations for later innovation, rather than ramming it all together. (The show on the Hammond is a particularly fine one, looking at the way that instrument developed life and culture outside and contrary to what Laurens Hammond had intended for it).
Yes, there’s a bit in the episode on the electric guitar about the role of the guitar in a culture of increasingly electronic music that has a familiar, wooden clang… but by and large it’s a self-aware series that acknowledges the biases implicit through musical history.
Deep, meaty, and rewarding; I recommend listening before it goes off air. Individual episodes are here to be listened to:
"The new thing won’t be better, you just aren’t aware of all of the ways it will be terrible yet."
I am at the point in my career where I nod along at _all_ of this, often with real experience. It maps neatly to my current experience of moving lots of things to simpler technologies (text files, flat HTML, and glue-of-your-choice).
These are very good – and clearly stated.
"This is how we used to develop in the last decade, hitting reload on different browsers on different operating systems and adding special cases to our code until everything looked and worked okay. Eventually a consistent platform emerged." Yup. Yet another downside of the future-is-services: it's also a mess, and everyone just seems to be _coping_ rather than offering alternatives.
Cracking cultural analysis of technology from Phillip Sherburne – a huge dive into the nitty-gritty of autotune and its impact across music and around the world. Deep and nuanced.
"Specifications and bureaucracies live forever." Or: why a Solid Rocket Booster is the width of a Roman chariot. This is good.
Cracking piece of… technology history and perspective, I guess, from Mike Johnston: a history of the 35mm film frame size, the things that threatened to unseat it, the ways it bounced back, and the ways other inventions embedded it in history. A really good Total Perspective Vortex of the history of a technology.
"The problem is that photography has always been a technical pursuit and the mediating technology required to make a photograph has always threatened to overwhelm it. To quote Donald Kuspit, 'Technology is the last valiant attempt to discredit and devalue the unconscious…. The unconscious is the bête noire in a scientifically and technologically managed world, which is why it must be killed or at least ostracized.' The endless upgrade cycle, the more and more laborious and tedious mastery of imaging software, the solid belief in technical improvement and control as a means to achieve success, all of this leads one further and further away from any possibility of making original or authentic work. This is the bind of the technology treadmill. What it gives, it also takes away. So in digital photography we have an inherent pitfall in the photographic process married to the culturally dominant fixation with technology and control which are themselves obstacles to the unconscious, the very source of creativity itself."
Fantastic quotation and comment from David Comdico over at TOP. I feel this applies hugely to electronic music, too.
This is a great set of posts on embedded software and, in particular, getting started with STM Cortex-based chips. Will be returning to this to read it through properly.