Thursday, 19 March 2009

Slow, slow day today. Just eaten what feels like my fifteenth meal of the day and rehearsed a little, trying to organise new tape sounds into some sort of seamless output. Took a bicycle ride earlier in the sunshine down Sonnenallee, through Hasenheide (I will still not visit it at night), and back along Karl Marx Strasse. Coffee, emails, sit down to write.

A friend alerted me to an interesting SEED article celebrating 20 years of innovations around hypertext that led to the core processes at the heart of the internet - the initial explorations a move towards sharing information between various digital documents on various computers. The article posits that the internet is in its infancy and certainly the whole notion of the semantic web, OS being integrated into internet, the ascent of open source mindsets (the hard/software is there of course) and mobile devices will, in the next year or so, remind us of that fact.

(As an aside, do you remember the first time you asked so, what is the internet, exactly? Mine, computer room at school, someone able to relay to me the score of an England football match which was being played away. Without a radio. Is it like a big encyclopedia, that keeps get updated by someone on a computer?)

The SEED article links in nicely with my activities of the past day or so – trying to get some exposure for the new record. Nothing earth-shattering, just hoping a few new, interested listeners will be able to engage with the odd little sounds emanating from my Berlin apartment. But how to find them? Interesting that the SEED piece talks about paradigm shifts in publishing. Within science this has led to mass collation of information, but also dilution with few standardised methods of verifying the findings available.

Within music, this has also happened with the proliferation of net-labels, mp3 aggregators and mixsites. However, the tide is turning, and the mass of content available has led to an evolution in music journalism in which it is merely no longer enough to write incisive or knowledgeable articles on the latest set of Rough Trade releases, all replete with standardised review cover and numbered press release. The real denizens of culture are those relentlessly hunting through their emails submissions and networks' recommendations. Reviews are now left to shops, who themselves are taking on the mantle of creating webs of influence between artists; what we want are discoverers.

Within science, SEED tells us, it is becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate science from opinion. (There are, of course, many that would state that this discrepancy does not even exist.) For years, I have grown up with record labels mimicking science in this sense, labels as the establishers of taste, as the mark of cultural approval, struggling against the dissent of purchasers. Now, it appears, is not the time for science, but opinion. SEED suggests “people have not yet learned how to evaluate the mass of information online” and yet in many fields they have.

Already networks have moved beyond quantitative measures (numbers of friends) and towards qualitative expectations. Twitter works because it works – your interests and friends shape your information feed; those that are not discerning enough are soon overloaded. There is no stigma surrounding efficiency – the length of the tweets and the directness of the input/output turn, in a way, opinion into fact. You can shape your information via networks or keywords, the hallmarks of Web 2.0. The selection process - omitted in much of the internet's previous information-gathering - is the verification, it is the peer review. There are no longer facts and opinions, but rather trusted opinion and background noise. Review has fallen by the wayside, digests no longer belong to journalists that dare to call themselves innovative. Within the cultural realm, we need discoveries.

Irrelevant perhaps, this rambling I undertake between science and music, but not necessarily. Interdisciplinary progressions, specifically in revenue streams, are shaping the internet and are proving models for the hauling up of disciplines that have fallen behind online. Culture online will shape the evolution of science online. Let us see how the publishing industry deals with book piracy; who will Pirate Bay textbooks? How will this affect journal publications, the production of new acadmic texts? The breaking down of old modes of exposure, bastions of archaism & data silos promotes the need for discoverers once more. The review is dead.

But of course these hurried thoughts omit much, as the sun dips behind the rooftop, throwing the canal outside into cold. Can it be that the Grass Mud Horse has lived its final hour? If the changes hastily iterated above (without reference, substantiation or apology) are viewed as accidental, as incorrect, as I heard 'industry' bosses claiming on stage at Popkomm, then the house of cards will fall. The above is political change, a corduroy revolution (soft, linear, not dictated to by fashion?) in itself. Knowledge is power, repeat to fade.

The Grass Mud Horse tells us that an adolescent joke, through the internet, can be politicised into an act of fearsome dissent, even by parties distanced from the original conception (stand up New York Times). This is something The Guardian should be wary of. Having endured months of Brown bashing, it appears someone has had a word in their shell-like – odious articles everywhere about young Labour futures, the leader's integrity, collective responsibility. Did they suddenly realise they were driving rational people towards the Conservatives? Dissent, it appears, is not without its consequences and information is nothing without trust.

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