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Listening to music

I’ve come to the conclusion that people spend too much time listening to mp3 players.

Sure, it’s fun and nice to listen to your favourite band while you walk to school or work, but I think it has disconnected us from the environment we are in – which is a shame.  Most of the time one takes for granted the myriad sounds that make up the urban environment, we don’t pay attention to the countless noises around us and therefore we screen them out. People talking, the sound of the wind rustling through trees, the low rumble of a truck approaching, these everyday sounds we hear are worth listening to in themselves. To listen to loud music blocks it all out and creates an oblivious  individual insulated from the world around them, unable to hear a car bearing down on them or the tweet of a bird. Conversation is impossible, the individual is only concerned with themselves.

I just think it’s a shame people spend don’t spend more time just listening, rather than filling every free second with artificial noise.

Reading vs internet

My mother frequently nags me to stop playing on the computer and read a book.  I got thinking, something about the internet makes it so much more attractive to me, as a form of entertainment, than reading a book. On the computer I can catch up with friends, read news, listen to music, play games etc, and in comparison a book just doesn’t have that much appeal most of the time. Then I got thinking about the long-term ramifications of the choices I am making now, as well as the consequences of the choices that young people like me are making.

Most of the things I do on the internet are very inconsequential. When I look at my Tumblr dashboard, for instance, what I see is often a whole series of nice looking photos and ‘deep’ quotes offering some interesting perspective on life/love. Every day I religiously catch up on Twitter with all the tweets I missed. As I was lying in bed I started to think about what all the time I devote to this stuff really amounts to.  Sure, it’s fun, but I don’t really achieve anything trawling through all this stuff. I might look at an image for five seconds then move on without it having any lasting impression.

I guess it comes down to a matter of priorities. If I just want to have fun then maybe the internet is the place to do it. But if my goal is to have fun and further my horrendously incomplete knowledge of the world, then perhaps I should be reading more.  I think books have a much greater potential to leave a lasting imprint on you, for the memory of that novel or non-fiction text to stick with you. Perhaps sitting down and reading a good book will also help to extend my horrifically short attention span as well. When I’m browsing the web I’m constantly flicking between this tab and that tab and sometimes I just can’t be bothered reading long articles. I think that this form of entertainment is just training myself to process information in artificial little snippets and making it difficult for me to sit down and read a textbook when I need to for university.

Even though I’ve come to this conclusion that reading is ultimately a more productive activity, I’ve been finding it hard to shift away from spending so much time trawling the web. I think I’m almost addicted to the internet, I have this strange desire to keep up with everything, even though I always seem increasing the amount of information that I follow. I can’t help but think I’m not alone in my struggle to curtail my computer use as well, it’s probably a widespread phenomena. Are we breeding a whole generation of young people with short attention spans who pick the internet instead of reading? Ultimately though, I think it’s in my best interests to train myself to enjoy reading again and stop spending so much time on this infernal computer and the instant gratification it provides.

The Sixty One

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I’ve recently been spending quite a lot of time at The Sixty One, a site that presents an interesting way of the community interacting with music and filtering out the good stuff. I’ve written briefly about The Sixty One before, talking about how websites like it harness something in the human nature that is very receptive to encouragement and measures of progress and achievement. The Sixty One does this by using a system of levels and reputation. Users ‘heart’ songs to show they enjoy them, and then if the song does well and receives lots of hearts subsequent to one hearting it, you receive ‘reputation’. You can also complete quests, which consist of tasks designed to familiarise yourself with the sites workings. Once a certain amount of reputation is reached you go up a level, and achieving certain levels unlocks features.

Users have an incentive to find good songs, and the gems are brought to the community’s attention. The Sixty One has effectively harnessed peoples’ self interest for the greater good – through hearting tracks people are helping to filter the infinate amount of crud. What I think is fascinating about The Sixty One is that they have created an abstract and almost meaningless measure of acheivement, (‘reputation’) but one feels compelled to move up the ranks and come back to the site time and time again. I find myself proud that I have once again gone up a level, but what does it really mean?

I’ve discovered a great number of amazing bands, and the fact that these are all brought together into my ‘personal radio’ that anyone can listen to is really fantastic as well. It enables me to easily share songs through facebook as well with just a few clicks. All things considered, I think The Sixty One is a great music site, with huge potential. I think the most challenging thing about the changing face of the music industry is that there are all these great indie artists on the web, but there aren’t really effective tools for the discovery of new music. The Sixty One sorts the gold from the dirt and allows good bands to rise to the top, which otherwise might remain unheard.

You can see my profile on The Sixty One here.

Levels and experience

I was struck recently when listening to music over at The Sixty One how if you add levels and experience (reputation in this case) to anything it instantly makes it infinitely more addictive. I think there is something about the of gaining and moving up levels, a sign that you are doing well, that at some deep level reinforces the action and compels us to do it more. I think that anything that incorporates levels of achievement has an amazing power to manipulate the actions of the people that interact with it, even if that ‘level’ means absolutely nothing.

#Awaresg and the power of twitter

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The night before last I was sitting down at my computer browsing the Internet and tweetdeck and my stream was filled up with posts from @patlaw about #awaresg. If you haven’t heard about it, a Christian fundamentalist group hijacked a women’s rights group in Singapore called ‘AWARE‘ by flooding the AGM with new members and purged the organisation of it’s old members. The night I was reading @patlaw’s tweets she was  at a meeting where a couple of thousand people had turned up to pass a vote of no confidence and get rid of the new executive who weren’t acting in AWARE’s best interests. It was fascinating reading her tweets and witnessing in New Zealand what was happening in Singapore instantaneously. It almost felt like I was in the room with all those people. Then I discovered Twitterfall, a service like live search except that you don’t have to refresh the page. You just simply enter in a search term and the tweets come rolling in. I was able to read what everyone on twitter was saying about AWARE by entering in a search term for #awaresg. People were hungry, worried about their cars being ticketed, angry that the new exec had spent $90,000 in the few days they had been in power, and most of all people were fed up with waiting for the votes of no confidence to be counted.

#awaresg at that time was a trending topic, so there were a lot people twittering about it, and it struck me that Twitter is an amazing and revolutionary tool for communicating in real time about events unfolding. The very fact that I was able to read all these tweets as they were written, and almost felt like I was in the room myself was an amazing thing. Those people in room taking the time to Twitter were sharing the event with people around the world instantly. This was citizen journalism, ordinary people sharing their experiences of an event in a way so much more relevant and powerful than if it had arrived at my computer through the traditional channels of media.  I’m not saying Twitter is a replacement for traditional media, a well researched piece of journalism is invaluable, but rather a complementary tool which can offer more up to date information and from the perspective of people that are in the midst of it all. Eventually the vote of no confidence passed and hundreds of tweets erupted in an exclamation of victory. I went to bed, amazed and excited that I could feel so connected with an event so far away.

Photo by gniliep