Everything You Can Think

Yesterday there was a ripple of concern through my class when I suggested that Michigan (and other states) were looking at laws that would allow Internet Service Providers to tier their service to web sites and prorate the (new) fees accordingly.

It is not a stretch for me to think that something I have  access to now will change into a more restricted flow of information. This is exactly the experience I had with the old illegal Napster.

The file sharing there gave birth to the concept of the Celestial Jukebox. To me this meant that if someone somewhere online had an interest in some recording it would be available to me to listen to, download, burn and think about. Napster’s interface was simple, bare and pretty fast.

Today I subscribe to Napster and restrain from illegal activity online (for the most part). I’m not sure why I restrain exactly. Some of it is that I think the rules are wrongly conceived and in a warped way feel that I should advocate discussion and questioning of things without personally benefiting. Fucked up no doubt, but it’s me.

Napster’s commercial interface takes forever to load. It gives no indicator that it is doing anything while it slowly loads tons of visual graphics. It’s searches are laughably inadequate. God help you if you spell something wrong.

I am forever looking for things that Napster doesn’t have. Usually I can find it somewhere else on the web. Also, what they do have changes. When I try to access playlists from a year ago or even a month ago, I find that files that I was once able to listen to are no long available to listen to for free. Bait and switch? I suspect that it’s not that intentional, more like everything else humans touch and try to organize just the result of lack of foresight and vision. (Just my opinion by the way)

Slightly on this topic, I have also noticed how blogs get weird press. Maybe it’s partly because of the LONG PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN which is gathering strength in the US, but the sterotype that I see in the paper and hear on the radio is that bloggers are out of control. They bitch. They are unreasonable. They flame.

It makes me wonder.

I have a dream. Heh. A dream that the internet can provide a means for conversation. That means discussion of ideas without ad hominem asides or hurt feelings or anger. And with humor.

Part of what I think is going on is that words on a screen are devoid of affect.

Let me type that again: Words on a screen are devoid of affect.

O. Maybe that’s not right. The reader adds the affect. This additional reader-added-affect takes us by surprise sometimes. Hence the concept of flaming was born.

I theorize that flaming was initially someone flying off the handle half tongue-in-cheek and venting realizing they were out of control and slightly inappropriate. This might be offered in a spirit of … “I have to say this now and it’s kind of stupid. I’m being silly but this helps me. Don’t take it seriously.”

On the other end someone reads the flame who has had a bad day and is particularly sensitive in the area of the chosen venting topic and reads the words on the screen in a nasty voice in their head with emphasis that awakens their latent masochistic tendencies just enough to respond angrily. And they do. And flame wars online are born.

In class yesterday I brought up the idea that if all music is sound, and one definition of music is “organized sound”  then Ziporyn suggests in his article “Who listens if you care?” that the organizer is the listener.

This makes sense to me.

Instead of groping about for Beethoven or Mozart’s master plan for the first movement of a symphony, a listener now is apt to intuitively relate to what they are hearing initially on a subjective basis.

FWIW, Ziporyn goes on to suggest some pretty cool criteria about what makes music likable to a breathing listener:

1. the beat is good
2. the words are compelling
3. you can dance to it
4. it’s catchy
5. it has vision and imagination

He was speaking of David Byrne’s use of Cuban rhythms in a specific piece, but I extrapolate the idea that why he likes it is related to why I like pieces as well.

So to bring this back to the flaming discussion, words on a screen are waiting for a reader to organize their affect.

This is an interesting phenomenon that I don’t completely understand but do think obtains in much blogging. And not just the blogging that gets people fired from campaigns or  sneakily checked out by Human Resource people making hiring decisions or College Admission people googling prospective students.

Right now there’s a lot happening online. Who knows how long it will continue but in the words of Tom Wait:

Everything you can think of is true, 
The dish ran away with the spoon,
Dig deep in your heart For that little red glow,
We’re decomposing as we go.

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