(con)juncture was lawson fletcher's thought pile. Now blogging at soundofruins.net
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rattling carriages

Our (public transport) commute is primarily an affective sonic exchange/experience. When I sit on the train those times when I decide not to envelop myself in my headphones (let's not talk about this point itself, it's been exhausted), I realise the extent to which sound itself regulates, simulates, constitutes, reflects, the urban. The focus on the visual for what seems like an inordinate amount of time in urban studies neglects this, and at times it's as if (late) modernity itself were one big sound. ("The twentieth century is, among other things, the Age of Noise" - Aldous Huxley). The following is a short narrative of a train travel, and it is of course quite limited - there are many other sounds and events it fails to consider (rattling carriages, the silence between empty seats, the draft of Melbourne Central platforms, and that is to not even consider other modes of movement - think of the grinding paper noise of when those little green things stamp a date on your metcard on buses and trams, of the crunch of a tram wheel against its tracks, ...). But I digress - all aboard!

There is the de-personalised paternal voice of the ubiquitious service announcer, omnipresent across all platforms and stops, "Good morning passengers, ...", that signals your entry into the womb of public transport, the "
claustrophobic commuter's Hades" of the city loop.

This place itself has a mode of hearing all of its own, borne of the compression (?) of the tunnel, when you are made aware of the actual sounds of the train itself, with nothing else like nature to interrupt. As a child I the city loop was futuristic, adventurous, slightly unsettling, too. I put that down to the particular play of light that came about in the carriage under darkness, it seemed like a flourescent cocoon. But now I realise it was as much that suffused, technological sound of the train itself that gave me this image.

Out to the suburbs, once past Flinders St or Southern Cross (which strangely fails miserably to sound like as if you are indeed in a whale's belly, and even though it looks as such, you could further say that it fails to feel like that too, rather cold and drafty. Drafts are the scourge of internality), you are within an entirely different acoustic space. Here the train is given a chance to spray its acoustic field across the suburb-scape, and apart from what still feels/sounds somewhat sophisticated in the rise and fall of the train's speed-sound, the majority of hearings here are ones of frustration. The voice of the paternal (?) woman telling you that the next station is, the train is now arriving at, Nondescript Suburban Stop - oftentimes malfunctioning so it comes out crackled and garbled through the ancient speakers, a disquieting interruption of noise into the smoothly oiled machine of transportation, the physicality of sound that sets off grumbles and snaps sleepers back to wakefulness. Be it from these speakers too, or a far more acoustmatic disturbance, the trip is often carried along with an excessively high-pitched and quiet ringing. You almost internalise it and take it with you into your work, school, home, shopping centre. Walking does not kill it.

There is that point at which the train arrives at a stop, and in coming to a halt it lurches ever-so-slightly, leaning forward more than it logically should have and then agonisingly waiting a second or so before it falls back to where it should have been. This moment in the carriage is possibly the most nerve-racking experience of the entire trip, but 'nerve-racking' is probably not the right description - because you feel this in your being, for me it's in my back. And there is a distinct sound that accompanies this movement, subtle but also adding an extra layer of disturbance to the act. I never forget when the train fails to 'fall back' that tiny increment, and stays forward those few millimetres, milliseconds. This throws my entire day, my entire being, out of order.

And then there are those beeping doors, a sound more prominent on the older models where one must force the doors open manually (and it goes without saying that this can be compared to the new metallic box models and the rarely sighted Siemens Malfunction Master 3000s; each model is constitutive of an entirely unique sonic experience). There is something about the particular chime of this beep that has been uniquely engineered to give one the shits, but the frustration it registers itself speaks to something far more complex. Although I'm not sure what.

Maybe it's found in the wished-for automation of experience - travelling (hearing) on these trains makes one dream of a space in which nothing makes a sound, as it were, save maybe for a few slick, futuristic slides and increments. Not the crushing bodily malfunctions of these beeping doors, the broken announcing speakers. It's a wish to desert the body, which itself is a wish to desert machines, those steam-punk monstrosities that populate our world, replacing them with a perfect virtuality. And yet to cherish (or at least to hear) these beeps, this noise, even though it is a sonic imposition on our affective state, is in a sense to reassert our humanity, our physical being.


Write with more feeling and creativity. Stop lifeless, formalist, instrumental engineer writing.


old ads

You know the kind; commercials that originally aired in the 90s or something and somehow are still being shown intermittently on networks, like legitimately.

What is happening here? There's a specific audience reaction to this fact, a moment of viewing that is rendered strange as we recognise the inevitable history of our viewership, not as if totally suspended in the immediate present (which you'd think consumer culture would be at pains to maintain this 'ideology'? So why show old ads?).

Needs more.

young people as media producers

I know the prosaic quality of many of these ramblings is stifling, but I must persist. It's only schematics.

I suppose Jenkins is onto something with the whole participatory culture, but of course I still have marked reservations about the foundations of his arguments. Nevertheless, when I sit here and think about all my friends, myself, all I can think about is the fact that we likely produce more media than almost we consume, in real terms too (not in some 'the text is completed by the receiver' metaphoric mode). Social networks, bands, photos, videos, gig flyers, songs, journalism, blogs, etc.

Taken from a long-range viewpoint, there is certainly a generational shift in the level (and nature, but that's the difficult part) of media production by 'everyday' actors. Its implications are huge, and I'm sure there's a bunch of stuff concerning and analysing all this, but I just thought for myself to get this main point down.

Of course, yeah, it is structured by a particular media-historical moment. Namely one that tends towards production as consumption, niche markets, interactive/personalised digital technologies, a general will to self-direct, etc. All that needs taking into account in understanding this new complex, but the questions are also about its effects, not just causes.

Ah yes, creative industries - the whole QUT thing. But I'm specifically talking about dispered social actors here, not necessarily attached to particular 'industries' or corporate arrangements. It's more diffuse, more widespread. Knowledge economies. Yes, yes.

Well I've thoroughly made myself useless. But may as well put this up nonetheless.


social networking control

A great chunk from Nealon's Foucault Beyond Foucault, thanks to event mechanics:

... the intensification of biopower. In a world of cyber-work, e-commerce, distance education, virtual markets, home health care, and the perpetual retraining of flexibly specialized labor, the disciplinary world of partitioning and surveillance (the office, the school, the bank, the trading floor, the mall, the hospital, the factory) seems like it’s undergoing a wholesale transformation. As Deleuze argues, “We’re // definitely moving toward ‘control’ societies that are no longer exactly disciplinary. . . . We’re moving toward control societies that no longer operate [primarily] by confining people but through continuous control and instant communication. . . . In a control-based system, nothing’s left alone for long.” Deleuze further elaborates on the Foucaultian distinction between discipline and control: “In disciplinary societies, you were always starting all over again (as you went from school to barracks, from barracks to factory), while in control societies you never finish anything—business, training, and military service being coexisting metastable states of a single modulation, a sort of universal transmutation” of power. So, following the Foucaultian logic of power we’ve been developing here, as societies of control extend and intensify the tactics of discipline and biopower (by linking training and surveillance to evermore-minute realms of everyday life), they also give birth to a whole new form. And this emergence comes about through what Foucault calls a “swarming [l’essaimage] of disciplinary mechanisms,” through the intensification of discipline rather than its exhaustion or dissipation: “The massive, compact disciplines are broken down into flexible methods of control”. Panoptic disciplinary surveillance in the contemporary world of “control” has been taken to a new, even more disembodied and therefore efficient state; your Web browser, your DNA, your bank ATM card, your subway pass, or your credit report all suggest that you are tracked in ways that make the disciplinary or panoptic warehousing of bodily traces (like photographs, surveillance tapes, fingerprints, or blood types) seem positively quaint by comparison (67-68).

Social networks. Facebook - the demand to update, picture tagging, news feeds, 'less of' / 'more of', events, groups, markets... An infinite sorting and reunification, a "universal transmutation" that is carried out only by further atomisation and analysis of the individual's entire autobiography.

Addendum: And yet entirely social - it is a system of dividuals, a stand alone complex.


the moment of truth

It is striking just how lucid the social system can be sometimes - and these moments, particular in media, always interest me, when a particular text or object performs or illuminates, as it were, it's very conditions of existence. In 'The Mass Ornament', Kracauer notes: "The surface-level expressions ... by virtue of their unconscious nature, provide unmediated access to the fundamental substance of the state of things ... The fundamental substance of an epoch and its unheeded impulse illuminate each other reciprocally".

From the ever-reliable Fox:

On The Moment of Truth, the challenge is simple -- answer 21 increasingly personal questions honestly, as determined by a polygraph, and win up to $500,000. This is the only game show where participants know both the questions and the answers before they begin to play. Prior to playing, participants are strapped to a lie detector and asked a series of questions by a polygraph expert, who records their answers. At any time, between the polygraph and the televised game, participants can change their answers or walk away from the competition.

To win $500,000 participants have to tell the truth. Of course, the questions are easier when the stakes are low – but as the prize amount increases, they will be challenged to fess up to matters they might normally lie about. The touchier questions could be especially revealing because participants reveal their answers in front of spouses, relatives and friends, hanging on every word. What deep dark secret will someone divulge for hundreds of thousands of dollars?"

Of course, the truth of this program is the very truth of capitalism itself: risk your disembodied self and others in escalating conditions of return, for the ultimate goal is in fact the means; money overcomes all. "This $100,000 will be a fresh start," says the husband of the contestant who has just discovered his partner is keeping a secret from him that could potentially ruin their marriage, in order of course to make that very money. Capitalism is thus a disavowal of our selves, our relationships to others. Thanks Marx, but I've got Fox to tell me (and sell me) that now.

leisure networks

What follows is probably a way too obvious account of Village Roadshow's proposal to turn the Werribee Open Range Zoo into a theme park similar to that of Disney's Animal Kingdom, Florida. Illuminated by, of course, nothing other than Baudrillard's short essay, 'Disneyworld Company'.

Village will maintain a good deal of the animal attractions, even work it into the park's attractions (hippos in the waterslide pool?). "The idea would be simply to transform, in situ ... transforming the [animals] into extras (figurants) in their own world, metamorphosed into identical figures, museumified, disneyfied" (Baudrillard).

The $220m plan is one of now orthodox horizontal intergration - to penetrate hitherto non-media spaces and elements and reorient them as components of a pervasive electronic, interactive empire. "[Village]
, the precursor, the grand initiator of the imaginary as virtual reality, is now in the process of capturing all the real world to integrate it into its synthetic universe, in the form of a vast "reality show" where reality itself becomes a spectacle, where the real becomes a theme park" (Baudrillard).

Of course, there has always been something terribly strange about acknowledging there exists a 'slice of Africa' (I'm almost sure that's how Zoos Victoria might describe it) smack-bang on the Geelong-Melbourne highway, in the dusty plains of Werribee (at least a correspondence there - both can be arid - and isn't that itself a very telling comment from me - let's shy away from deconstructing that, however). Considering this, the 'disneyfication' of the Zoo presents a kind of secondary absurdity, the hyperrealisation of the already-hyperreal. "At Disney World in Orlando, they are even building an identical replica of the Los Angeles Disneyland, as a sort of historical attraction to the second degree, a simulacrum to the second power" (Baudrillard).

From entertainment, to education, and back again. "We are no longer alienated and passive spectators but interactive extras
; we are the meek lyophilized members of this huge "reality show" (Baudrillard).

Intergration across media industries - horizontal - to penetrate hitherto non media, turning them into components of a pervasive electronic interactive empire.

From entertainment to education and back again.


commercialising friendship

Of course friendship has always operating in a social system of exchange, but it's quite disturbing to note just how literal this becomes on social networks. The primary goal on these things seems to be to monetise one's friend network and social status, no where better epitomised than this:

San Francisco startup Serious Business, founded by 23-year-old Alexander Le and 24-year-old Siqi Chen, believes that a new genre of games could be mined from tapping into social networks.
In November, the duo created Friends for Sale, now one of Facebook’s most popular games with nearly 700,000 daily players. Users buy, sell and own their friends, as though their friends were pets or stocks. Owners can control their acquisitions, forcing them to do or say things, as well as sell them and turn a profit. Those being bought and sold are also part of the game, going up and down in value.
I remember watching some woman at work playing this thing, and it was simply creepy. How could you do this to a friend?

Whilst pundits often characterise social networks as (harmless, at least no more than offline) hang out spaces for youth, I'd suggest they might want to be a bit more critical of just what sort of social frame these sites provide/delimit.


music boxes

Someone should do a media archaelogy / material cultures / sound studies / etc. study of the music box. Has it been done already? Further elaboration of issues is required...


old thoughts on the album

Around a year ago, on Myspace, a young man offers some thoughts on the album which he now considers misguided...

[...] This was my first time hearing Softlightes, and after seeing them I decided to buy the album to try recapture something of that night.

[...] I have a pathological drive to buy albums. I'll buy one off the merit of a single song, or even a hazy recommendation from a friend or reputable-ish source (eg. Menomena was courtesy of Pitchfork). Some might say this is a waste of money, I disagree. In fact I cherish my inability to not buy albums.

This is because the difference between buying an album and picking and choosing via mp3s, singles, radio and/or Myspace equates to a greater schism in how one views the practice of listening to music as a whole, even music itself. Before I explain, I'd like to qualify that I'm definitly not shitting on people who choose the latter modes of accessing music, the mere fact you're into it however it gets to you is good enough and I cannot possibly hate on anyone who enjoys music, in any style and any format. Having said that, I'd like to proceed to contradict this inclusive sentiment.

The listener that prefers to pick and choose relates to music very much as yet another object in the endless array of commodities available to us. In this mode, music is viewed primarily in terms of "what can this do for me? How can I be entertained, made to dance, feel good, etc?" I remember reading an article somewhere that clearly articulated this point – in it the writer was arguing in favour of mp3 culture, as it ostensibly served the interests of the savvy and time-poor music listener. Something along the lines of "why should we fork out our hard-earned $30 for an album that only has one or two songs we like on it anyway, when we can download these for f-all?" Assuming that all the music-buying public felt exactly the same way, the writer then went on to proclaim the death of LP discs in favour of bands releasing only digital singles in response such demand.

From this one can gather a overwhelmingly consumerist approach to music – in fact at one point I remember the price of a track being mathematically calculated ($30 / 12 = …) – in which value for money is the overriding concern. Rather than willingly subject themselves to an artist's entire vision as contained within a single album, they are quite happy to pick at the surface, scratching only for a good beat, catchy hook, etc. Arguably this sort of thing has been gathering ever since the advent of recordable media – in fact, in its evolution a tendency towards fragmentation and 'you decide' can be traced. Vinyl records allowed users to manually skip over or choose a particular song; tapes also allowed this but much more clumsily (perhaps partly why I'm drawn to them); cds took it a step further with digital skipping and forwarding; mp3s completely divorce the song from a physical anchor and allow endless and effortless schizophrenic selection.

The listener who is willing to listen to, enjoy, an album in its entirety is far more involved in experience of music. Rather than moving the music themselves, they are subjecting themselves to manipulation by it. Allowing an entire album - often conceived by bands to act as a conceptual or musical narrative whole - to pass itself along their ears the cd buyer is taken by the music. Rather than simply being a matter of convenience, or a stopgap between home and uni on the train, they permit music to dictate their arrangements, in fact often passing up other experiences for it.

I'm well aware that a cd buyer is, in the final analysis, still heavily embroiled in the evil empire that is the music business, seemingly a lot more so than mp3 listeners are. The album-buyer is in thrall, and at the mercy of, the market which provides the very material for listening. They rely totally on larger corporate structures and supply chains to find what they need. In fact, they often contribute more to the pockets of corporations than the artists they're obsessing over. Whereas the mp3 listener (I hesitate to say buyer, because, well… you all know file-sharing's illegal right?) is sticking it to The Man, bypassing corporations and going straight to the source (in media studies this is gayly called 'disintermediation'). Plus they're finding the music they want, man, the most obscure and interesting shit.

This would seem to signal a contradiction – I'm arguing that cds are a more meaningful and worthwhile form of listening yet they're inextricable from the music business, traditionally seen as corruptor of music's purity and authenticity. I'm stuck in a 'top-down' relationship, dictated to by structures. Whereas mp3 listeners are going 'bottom-up' – accessing culture on their terms. Well, fuck it, I'd rather be in the clutches of the music business (which is coextensive with albums) than relate to music superficially, fleetingly and selfishly. Because whilst I may be profiting record companies more than I'd like to, I'm still perpetuating the development of artists and albums, and the structures that foster them, even if they sometimes constrain them as well. Mp3 listeners are possibly doing more harm than good, even if they are still paying for a few singles from iTunes their dismantling the prospect of musicians consolidating their development and having the opportunity of having more than simply three or four killer singles heard.

Because that's one of the best things about listening to cds – the discovery of tracks that would otherwise escape your attention.
[...] If I hadn't gone on a whim and bought Animal Collective Feels because of the cool cover, I may never have heard Purple Bottle or any other song from their back-catalogue which I have since delved into.

So fuck approaching music as another 'dead object' (Thom Yorke's word for a commodity) existing only for my immediate gratification. In short, fuck mp3s. Hail being enraptured for 50 minutes, being overtaken by sound, even just finding another good song. In short, long live the album!


  • Valorisation of the purity of old media
  • Album as a facsimile for live experience
  • Album as artifact vs. mp3 as commodity
  • Wholeness vs. fragmentation
  • Physical break instituted by mp3
  • Rock vs. pop


Preliminary sketchings on the rise of music blogging.

Is indie developing at a 'breakneck' pace? Or is this a logic of consumption simply masquerading as one of production? It accrues mass cultural capital via audience power on 'new' media (blogs, small print mags, social networks), with fans meticulously detailing the very minor movements forward in musical progress in the genre as a whole. A kind of snail genealogy of the genre. This in turn promotes a certain logic of musical consumption that is ceaseless and exponentially quickening, forcing the hand/ears of listeners to keep up. Blogs provide the means with which to do this, thereby completing the circle.

Blogs as the new 'A&R' - wtf is the value of employing promoters when audiences will do it for you for free (or least for advanced promo copies or files)? Never is there a 'disintermediation' in new media (in which the concatenation is defined "music" and "listener", a pure immediacy - cough cough bullshit). Instead, ever increasingly complex forms of reintermediation, often in a strange way via the very fulcrum of the audience itself. The blogger is ambivalently placed between producer and receiver, but that doesn't automatically reify her status as a kind of 'participatory culture' vanguard, but rather reinserts her into the power differential with a surface of democratic listening.

(cont) Blogs and the 'two step flow' model - I remember being told early on in my communications studies that the 'two step flow' model originally devised by Lazarsfeld in the 40s - whilst offering the first break in 'mass' theories, moving toward a less deterministic 'communication' - was a crudely defined, far too basic theory. Yeah I suppose it is, but the example of music blogging at least (possibly socio-cultural aspects of web 2.0 in general) ask us to re-evaluate this theory, of course absorbed within a larger cultural model of communication but now with renewed prominence. Because as far as digital music (and really, that is 'music' full stop now) goes, the two step flow model is completely explanatory: opinion leaders (bloggers) mediate between the media and the wider audience (listeners, people who use rss feeders). 'Black Kids are great' says blogosphere - band blows up. Or then have I just intervened into my own theorisation there? Because they only thing blogger hype really substantiated in relation to these guys was more fucking hype - seeing them play a number of undeserved shows at industry showcases and then generally fizzling out. Is it that this promotional discourse only refracts(?) directly back into more promotion, rather than moving units? Figures would be good.

So what we've basically got is a new communicative process in which the imbalance between producer and receiver is only ostensibly corrected by fan chatter, rather reinscribed back into the system, even if at a more distributed, decentred level.

email archives

A national email archive has been announced, a kind of quotidian social record:
  • wholly unnecessary?
  • "Quite often the details of daily life are more revealing than the thoughts of a famous person" - governmentality, the everyday.
  • bit-rot - it will be digitised and paperised.
  • conversation vs. epistolary/business functions - recognition of these dualities between oral and print forms.
  • spam as a cultural form.
  • co-presented by Windows Live Hotmail (TM) - channel-providers as philanthropists.

new economies

Social networks = sales pitches.

Multimedia CVs.

Crowdsourcing resourcing.