Archive for the ‘music’ Category

Snowflaking the Sounds of Silence

January 9, 2009

silence One of the things I have learned this year is how much I value silence.  Actually that’s not quite true, what I’ve learned the value of is the ability to control the sound that surrounds me.  I often wants lots of it in the form of things like music, one of my great loves and which I usually choose to be surrounded by.  But I also like to choose to be surrounded by natural sounds such as the a following sea rolling down the hull of my sailboat, waking up as I recently did near the volcano of Mt. Arunel to the sounds of all the birds in the rain forest outside my window.  And sometimes I love the sound of the throbbing turbocharged six cylinder Cummings diesel engine as it powers Learnativity and I out of troubled seas. 

What I don’t like and have less and less tolerance for is sound sound pollution and the lack of my ability to control the sounds around me.  How about all those people who still seem to think you get a better cell phone signal by shouting into their mobile phones and seem to think we all want to know the deepest details of their latest business transaction or personal activities?  And while I love the general cacophony of the open street markets where I buy most of my food here in Central America, the food stalls are now interspersed between stalls of the ubiquitous pirated music and movie CD sellers who’s sales and marketing strategy seems to be to have a bigger speaker and amplifier system than their neighboring competitor and they are only outdone by the cars and vans driving around the streets with an even louder set of hailer speakers mounted on their rooftops blaring out advertisements and political messages. Up to a point it is ambiance and part of the culture and I love it.  And maybe it is just me but I find that I just can’t take too much of this for too long.

Some solve this problem by pushing their MP3 player or iPod ear buds deeper into their ears to keep out the external sounds and supply their own.  But for me that is too isolating when I’m walking around and is only something I enjoy when I’m on a plane or other stationary situation.

What I’m looking forward to in the future is the promise of some of the research being done various ways that we can gain the ability to control the sound around us.  One that I’ve been following for some time is the ability to create invisible and virtual vertical columns that can surround one or more people and within this column the only sound that exists is that which is allowed to pass through or is supplied.  Imagine for instance if this was provided in restaurants around each table, so you could have a different set of music that was just right for you and your dinner companion(s) and the only conversations you heard, or were heard by others was that at your table.  Or a similar setup in conferences that would enable very effective impromptu “un conference” sessions to happen within a large group space.  Start thinking about this and I think you’ll soon start coming up with more and more of your own scenarios where this would be an amazing help and improvement.

Once again the characteristics of the Snowflake Effect are exerting themselves here where we can have all those conditions and environments that are just right.  In this case, just the right sounds, or lack thereof, at just the right time for just the right people at just the right volume and fidelity.

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Carlos is a Great Snowflake

December 12, 2008

Been meaning to post this since I first heard it a few months ago on an XM (satellite radio) “Artist Confidential” interview with Carlos Santana.  I’ve long been an admirer of the man, not just the musician, and two things he said stood out to me in the interview:

“Rather than going for the light at the end of the tunnel, BE the light in the tunnel”

and when asked about being a famous personality he responded:

“Its more fun to be a person than a personality”

Now THAT is my kind of snowflake!

Exponential Change to the Same End

November 27, 2008

As I write, speak and think more about the Snowflake Effect and the use of mashups as an overarching conceptual model, the more I’m struck by how this is all a new acceleration along a very long standing continuum of human expression, communication, collaboration and learning.

What we now commonly refer to as mashups, which I’ll simply describe as taking small existing bits and pieces and putting them together to create a whole new whole, is a model we’ve been using for almost all time.  Consider for example how this can be a description of creating music, where everyone uses the same existing relatively small set of existing musical notes, chooses some number of these and assembles them in some new way to create a new song.  And how this could similarly describe the act of writing prose or poems by selecting words from a relatively small and finite set of words in the dictionary and assembling these to create new stories, poems and lyrics. 

It is worth noting that in all these cases the “magic”, the creativity, the brilliance is all in a combination of the selection of the pre-existing bits and pieces and the way in which these are assembled to create something new and different.  Maybe it is just me, but I find the simplicity of this to be profound and beautiful.  Best of all perhaps there is still no end in sigh as this model would appear to be  infinitely expandable, sustainable and scalable.

As I’ve been writing and speaking about more and more, the true power of mashups will be realized as we come to understand it as an overarching conceptual model which can be applied to almost anything and not “just” a technology or data application. For example the mashup model can and is being applied to as diverse a set of areas as maps, software, manufactured goods, music, video, people and organizations. 

I’ll be posting and exploring more details on mashups and their role in enabling the Snowflake Effect in future postings here and on Off Course – On Target.  In the interim I’d encourage you to consider how our pursuit of this continuum of human expression is now accelerating with the transition from a text dominated age to an age of rich media that includes visualization, audio, graphics, simulations, models and video. 

To help stimulate some of your thinking and creative juices I can strongly recommend that you read some of Kevin Kelly’s recent perspectives on all this such as his Nov. 21st article in the New York Times “Becoming Screen Literate” and his summary thoughts in his “book in progress” site called The Technium on “Screen Fluency”.  Kevin continues to be an unending source of inspirational and thought provoking ideas and perspectives for me and I think you will find his writing to be VERY much worth your while.

One is the Biggest Number?

November 3, 2008

In our TWiST (This Week in Snowflake Talk) conversation last week Erik and I got to talking about scarcity and particularly the scarcity of control.  In our context scarcity was in reference to the reduction in control of authorities, suppliers, experts, publishers, producers, and the like. Erik mentioned for example how as a professor he has less and less control over his students.  We are seeing other examples all around us such as how producers and publishers of things like music and entertainment are having less and less control over our access to and use of media such as music and video. 

However I also look at this from a different perspective and see how control is becoming more abundant and being  ‘snowflaked” in that it is rapidly migrating towards the individual.  Consider the degrees to which each of us is in control of when, where and how we listen to the music for example or the powers you now have over viewing television content. 

Seems to me that ONE is becoming the biggest number of all as the Snowflake Effect takes hold and the focal point becomes each individual snowflake.  Let’s just keep in mind that as control shifts so too does responsibility.

WYSIWYG evolving to WYNIWYG

October 22, 2008

As yet more proof of the growing presence and prevalence of the Snowflake Effect I continue to find more and more examples of things shifting from static to dynamic and mass produced to mass personalised.  One of these is more than an example in that it is a trend itself and is nicely summarized as the transition from WYSIWYG to WYNIWY. 

WYSIWYG (often pronounced wizi wig) is one of the longest and oldest acronym’s I can recall and in case you’ve forgotten this stood for What You See Is What You Get and represented a very powerful and significant change that took place with the advent of things like desktop publishing, graphical interfaces and is still running strong today, though we rarely think about it and just take it for granted. 

However what is coming next, and has already started is an even larger, more pervasive and more powerful trend that exemplifies the Snowflake Effect and that is what I believe Gartner first started calling WYNIWYG; What You Need Is What You Get.  (to be pronounced winni wig?)  WYNIWYG is all part of the overall Snowflake Effect and particularly dependent upon our ability to address context.  Detecting and capturing context is not trivial and is already creating a large range of technology that is being referred to as contextual computing. As these capabilities become available Snowflake solutions will improve as they factor in the conditions and circumstances of any given situation to come up with a “just right” or unique solution that match the unique situation.  Using music as an example, WYNIWYG would enable you to be listening to music that was just right for you at a particular moment by its match to the context of that unique moment including things such as the mood you are in, time of day, the conditions around you, others you are with, etc. 

One of my favorite scenarios for this is to imagine music that enhances the performance of marathon runners.  This would involve the selection of just the right music for an individual runner at just the right time in the race by taking into account all the context of things like the condition of the course, cardiovascular rates, stride, energy level of the runner, etc. and then playing just the right song or part of a song that would help the runner achieve their best overall performance in the race.  From what I understand about marathon running at one point this could mean helping to calm the runner down, pump them up, maintain a stride, etc. and would vary tremendously not only for each runner but for each race and point within the race.  Non trivial to be sure, but not very difficult either utilizing just our current capabilities with things like the running shoe based connections to music players.

Think about it.  Classic Snowflake Effect to me.

Garcia on uniqueness

October 7, 2008

JerryGarcia Don’t remember where I first heard him say it but this quote from Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead fame has always stuck with me:

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”

Jerry and the Grateful Dead were snowflake exemplars to be sure.