SoundScan to SoundCloud: Good artists copy; great artists steal

The production of Hip-hop has long been tied to the availability and progression of technology. Transpiring in the Bronx of New York City in the 1970’s, harnessing turntables and microphones, Hip-hop has continued to utilise technological advancements. Technology has allowed for the emergence of Hip-hop as a widely accessible commodity, allowing for user interaction and production of an insurmountable extent.

Remix culture is the encouragement of the combination or editing of existing materials to produce a new product. It is the process whereby content production has become democratised. In terms of Hiphop, the emergence of remix culture has allowed for the rise of break beat culture, EDM and Mashups. The creation of such genres brings about the idea of ‘Technology of self’. Despite being a collaborative process for the most part, Hip-hop production allows the individual to produce content without the interference of record companies or other stakeholders. This individualisation of production elicits a particular aesthetic within Hip-hop that has become extremely popularised.

Original Podcast

In 1991, Mike Fine and Mike Shalett introduced SoundScan. This system implemented a method of tracking record sales. Through this process, we were able to recognise that Hip-hop was on top of the sales charts. Now days, Youtube and Soundcloud allow for the recording of views on tracks uploaded by amateur Hip-hop artists who participate in the process of remixing music to create a completely new sound.



Extraterrestrial Intelligence > Collective Intelligence

Distributed media allows for a completely open process of continuous collaboration in the production of information, as opposed to centralized and decentralized forms of media, which rely heavily on dissemination. Collective intelligence is the default form of participation of said distributed networks and allows for mass participation on a vast scale.

In November of 2000, NASA configured a Web site called Clickworkers, asking for amateurs to assist in the mapping of the surface of Mars. The site provided a tutorial on how to classify Martian craters and identify them on photos of Mars. NASA then aggregated this data to produce a ‘Martian-crater map’.


Original GIF

Whilst there was no financial payment for participants, over a hundred thousand people took part, accumulating more than 2.4 million identifications of the craters. The collective product of the amateurs was said to have been “virtually indistinguishable from that of a geologist with years of experience in identifying Mars craters.”

NASA’s crowdsourcing project sought to examine whether distributed volunteers were able to collectively perform mass image analysis. The project and results make evident, the power of collective intelligence and furthermore, citizen journalism and participation, in order to produce credible content.

BuzzFeed: The Democratic Revival

A theory is a supposition that has explanatory powers and attempts to provide plausible and rational reason for an observed phenomenon. When it comes to media, there is an array of theories that endeavor to explain how we communicate and discuss within the media, and how media involvement influences the outcome of said discussions. A theory that best describes this notion, by way of integrating democratic views, is known as The Public Sphere, coined by German Sociologist, Jürgen Habermas.

The Public Sphere aims to answer some of the following questions:

What is “the public” and what kinds of power does it have in a representative democracy?

-How does “public opinion” shape political power and policy?

Habermas’ Public Sphere was a place where individuals and government members could meet and produce critical debate over societal matters. This was done in physical, face-to-face meetings in coffee houses, cafes and public squares. Habermas saw the public sphere as a positive force for discussion and liaising between two opposing groups.

The original concept of the Public Sphere was a realm within social life, in which, public opinion could be formed and was accessible to all. The engagement within the public sphere, according to Habermas, was blind to class positions. This, however, was not necessarily the case, as almost all gatherings in the sphere were open only to men of the working class/ bourgeoisie, excluding women from any noteworthy discussion and also excluding lower class patrons from debate that could well have impacted them. Now days, the public sphere is open to anyone, regardless of class, race, gender, age and other such discriminatory factors.

Many Millennials would state that their public sphere revolves around Facebook and social media outlets. Whilst my public sphere is also on Facebook, I credit BuzzFeed as a significant platform, on which, social debate is circulated, being open to all and free of discrimination and seclusion. Although this particular public sphere is heavily mediated, like others, such as Insight and Q&A, both airing on SBS, it is at the forefront of increasing the accessibility of social debate. Covering topics inclusive of the LGBT community, HIV and sex, Buzz feed takes controversial topics and allows them to be discussed in an open and accepting environment, making evident the transformation of the notion of the public sphere since its founding in 1962.

Where is your public Sphere?

The Rise of Produsage: The Arab Spring

In February 2011, Egyptian President Mubarak resigned following weeks of protest against his regime. The Egyptian Revolution, A.K.A the January 25 Revolution, was sparked following “calls for protests from online youth groups.” The protests, organised solely via social media, specifically Twitter, led to clashes between security and dissidents, causing 846 casualties and over 6,000 injuries. Social media played a key role in these demonstrations across the Middle East and North Africa, which became known as the Arab Spring, effectively leading to the overhaul of governments in countries inclusive of Egypt.



In recent times, there has been a paradigm shift from consumption to production, with the term ‘Produsage’ becoming popularized. Produsage can be described as ‘the writing readers’ or ‘the viewers who picked up a camera”. It is all about giving media users the ability to produce content, and in the case of the Arab Spring, the personal use of social media in order to spark a revolution.


Orignal Meme

Social media users have initiated the transition from Monologic media, such as television, whereby the process of receiving information comes in the form of dissemination, to the use of Dialogic media, like Twitter, that allows for the transformation from dissemination to dialogue and conversation. This shift allows for such insurgent activity as the Arab Spring to spread both rapidly and successfully.



Down the Rabbit Hole

When it comes to media consolidation, there is vast anxiety surrounding the diversity of media ownership, which seems to have declined both globally and within Australia. With a multiplicity of media sources it would be expected that those who control the media would also be variegated. However, when considering media ownership within Australia alone, the concentrated possession of media outlets is made evident.

Australian media mogul, Rupert Murdoch’s company, News Corp, owns 44% of the Sky Network, and some 150 national and local newspapers in Australia alone. The Sky Network also owns 50% of the Premier Media Group, which operates nine Fox TV channels in Australia. Murdoch’s companies also own stakes and shares across Asia, Europe, the US, and the Middle East. Murdoch’s ownership of such a large variety of media sources, iterates his editorial and ideological control of a large portion of the world’s media interaction, providing a, therefore, significantly one sided and prejudicial viewpoint on all news and media presented to the public.

It may be considered bold to make the comparison between Rupert Murdoch and Adolf Hitler, yet when taking into account Hitler’s use of propaganda during Nazi power and his employment of Joseph Goebbels as his ‘Propaganda minister’, we expose the correlation between the two. The journalists that Rupert Murdoch employs at his various news corporations are merely publicizing propaganda of Murdoch’s choice to the, ill aware, masses. That being said, we begin to comprehend the abuse of media power upheld by Murdoch, much the same as Hitler and the Nazis in the 1930’s, who successfully indoctrinated the German public to concur with Nazi beliefs. Whilst Rupert Murdoch is no Nazi, he is, however, subtly forcing his opinion upon those who consume the media sources he owns, therefore, engaging in Nazi behaviour of sorts.


Source: Adolf Im Whanderland – James Dyrenforth & Max Kester

With the modern world lacking in pluralism and, in an effort to subdue the apparent abuse of media power, Produsage has become a popular form of media expression as users can also produce their own media content, perhaps in an effort to overcome media consolidation and allow for self-expression. Produsage can potentially combat the mindless media consumption that we, as members of the public, endure, by way of providing an outlet for individual thought and encouragement of research in order to publish fact driven information.

So with these ideas in mind, I pose the questions, who owns and controls the media you use to access news sources and how do you know if you can you trust them?




Bieber Fever vs Fanloids

Last Wednesday, I attended, for the fourth time, Justin Bieber‘s Australian tour. As a 13 year old in 2011, I was mesmerised by the pop star, labelling him a genius. Now, as an 18 year old, I have come to realise that, perhaps, this is not the case.

An accurate depiction of my opinion then vs now:

When comparing Justin Bieber (a mainstream pop sensation), to the likes of Japanese Vocaloid, Hatsune Miku (the result of object animation), we begin to recognise the difference between craft and commodity. Justin Bieber is, very much, a result of mass production and commodification, having become somewhat more of a brand than an individual. He is surrounded by entities that exercise control to, ultimately, profit from the brand, that is, Justin Bieber himself. This trend of the ‘assembly line‘ results in the production of certainty, leaving little room for creativity and consumer engagement.



Hatsune Miku is an open source that allows for infinite customisation through collaboration, the result is the production of risk and uncertainty in the name of craftsmanship and advocation for the changing meaning of craft in a time of digital mediation.

Thus, when a product is standardised it is targeted at the masses and loses the value of craftsmanship, but when a product is customisable, it is for the individual.

Ceci n’est pas une pipe

Culminated by Ferdinand de Saussure and Charles Peirce, Semiotics is defined as the study of signs as elements of communicative behavior. It presents us with the ability to interpret the complex images encountered within the media. Through utilising Semiotics to interpret complexities, we are able to comprehend both Signifiers, of which, are encoded with messages, and Signifieds, which are understood, only after decoding these intended meanings.

Alternatively, this same idea can be explicated through denotation, that is, the literal meaning of something, and connotation, which is concerned with what is evoked conceptually. These methods allow for arbitrary signs to be understood through the possibility of more obscure meanings, in association with a particular image.

René Magritte’s, The Treachery of Images, is of utmost importance when attempting to exemplify the intricate proposition of Semiotics. Depicted, is, what seems, a foolproof image of a pipe, when in fact, it is merely the representation of a pipe. This is where the famous, ‘This is not a pipe”, originates. Semiotics, therefore, assists us in understanding this somewhat unsettling notion.



When attempting to make sense of an image, we frequently skip the denotations as they are often transparent , leaving us vying to discern the intended meaning. The knowledge of an individual may influence one to interpret an image quite abstractly in comparison to others. This notion is enhanced when exploring my personal interpretation of, a said, ‘complex image’.


Above is an image by Eric Drooker for The New Yorker, published on December 14th 2015, titled, ‘Shopping days’. The signifiers appear to be a man and a woman displaying merriment whilst grocery shopping, made evident by the trolley, of which, contains a carton of juice and some unexpected items, inclusive of machine guns. In the isle, the woman is selecting a gun whilst the man has one slung over his shoulder.

While the signifiers seem quite pellucid, it is when we take into account the Signifieds that complexity begins to arise.

I interpret this image to be a resounding comment on the constant controversy surrounding Americas contentious gun laws. This image, to me, represents how easy it is to purchase a gun, as if you were doing the groceries.

Whilst similar, my interpretation is not exact, to that of artist Eric Drooker’s explanation of his work. He questions, “What would it look like if I took America’s obsession with firearms to its logical extreme?” The image portrays the proliferation of guns and the too-easy access to military-grade weapons.

Thus, having varying knowledge allows individuals to produce different interpretations of any one image, and it is Semiotics that helps us to engage with complex images in a vast and meaningful way.