Author Archives: aallen23

The End

I really enjoyed this class. I was expecting a really boring History of Technology class and this class was anything but boring. It made me think of music in new ways than I ever have before and even gave me information that I may not need but will certainly be hard to forget, like cat brain testing.

One good thing to come out of the Cold War was modern technology. The relationship between technology and culture which is something that is always in your face. Whether you are sitting in front of a computer screen getting lost down a rabbit hole of information. Using your phone in the presence of others when you could be talking to them, a pet peeve of mine, personally. Does modern day technology cheapen or enrich your daily life? My thought on this is that there must be a balance. As with many things in this class there is not one simple answer. In many ways access to technology allows for easy access to information, on the other hand this leads to “a man sitting behind a screen”.

Carr’s idea that technology is a breakdown of the personal and private self. How you can cultivate attention by linear activities such as reading. He may be on to something there typically people who read live longer, or so I have read, somewhere. To Vannever Bush’s belief that we must MANAGE information technology in order to use it more effectively. He may be on to something too. It is rather convenient to have information at readily available at you fingertips.

There is a tension between open and contained information. Information wants to be free so it can be improved upon the more eyes the better. But it is not safe for all information to be free such as in cases of National Security or certain personal information.

Sterne’s book MP3 makes you think about the technological advance in music format, how it works and what it demands. It also made me think about evolving technology is always going to have new evolving standards and laws.

How technology is constantly tracking you. I look up baby bassinets and all of the sudden I am bombarded with multiple baby bassinet advertisements. This can be convenient when shopping amazon but also quite creepy. There are even new children’s toys that record “for improvement” purposes but at which point does this cross the privacy invasion line?

With many things in this class there are more often than not no simple answers. Some of the things we talked about in class will undoubtedly pop into my mind at random times in the future. I feel like I have been given food for thought for years to come.

MP3: The Meaning of Format by Johnathan Sterne

Johnathan Sterne writes about the history of the MP3. He discusses the telephone theory, a theory in which the auditory nerve is seen as “…a kind of electrical telephone line to the brain.” An altogether interesting theory that later resulted in attaching electrodes to the brain or partial brain of cats. The discoveries made during this cat experiment “…marked an important moment in the history of psychoacoustic research…”

I found Sterne’s “domestication of noise” part rather interesting. Instead of eliminating noise, either make it useful or irrelevant. First of all how do you come up with domesticating noise? To me this is such an odd concept you domesticate animals or food but noise? And domestication recontextualizes the other 2 majors changes of computers as sound media and overcoming subjectivity of listening. The rise of perceptual coding as the norm has to do with advancements in technology and understanding of the human ear.

In chapter 6 Sterne notes the change from music on a physical media to a digital media. The effects of piracy, unauthorized file sharing, on digital media. On one hand you have individuals that believe piracy is a dangerous thing, while on the other hand piracy is a driving economic factor for other industries. Piracy may harm the music industry but it creates more money for electronics, broadband, and other types of intellectual property. Digital file sharing seems to be no worse than people burning CD’s and mix tapes, it is harmful in some aspects and profitable in others.

This book was a difficult read for me. I understand he was trying to give us the history of MP3’s and the importance of compression in popular music and the standards in industry are practiced and how technology changes these things change to but ooooof.


Music and Psychoacoustics

There are limits to digital music production on software. There are 2 kinds of files audio files and recorded sound. MIDI files :music, instrument, digital, interface. MIDI notes from an electrical keyboard can be converted to sound like another instrument because the digital information can be remapped.

Psychoacoustics are sounds the brain does not process this originates at Bell labs with a cat experiment. Auditory masking is the effect on frequency has on another in which the a frequency gets cancelled out. Removing this unheard frequency allows for compression.

Technology offers a wider range. You can store many MP3’s in a relatively small space. This allows for a more diverse collection but at the same time the compression of the music makes it all the same level and cheapens the experience. New technology allows for music to become an asocial experience. You can also repeat the same song over and over again allowing for the same experience which would one would not have been able to do before. MP3’s do not not to be categorized there is more ambiguity, with a record collection there was more of a need to categorize and organize your collection. This organization allows for control do you organize by genre or alphabetically? In MP3’s there is no need  it is almost as if you are losing control over your collection. As Carr said technology leads to the breaking down of the personal and public self, if you can’t categorize your music that is a breakdown of control in a way.

Who owns me? And Copyrights.

Locke’s thoughts on ownership of land were if you mixed your labor with the land you would own it. His theory however was deeply flawed, he uses this theory to moralize overtaking of Indian land. The flaw in his theory though is if you work the land you own it, the Indians may have moved around as the need arose and made minimal impact on the land in which they lived but technically they worked the land. The Indian’s picked berries and plants and hunted off of the land.

Corporations are fictitious people, given a status, right of speech, and protection, is immortal and can sell itself. Around the time of the corporation, ideas become own-able things. To own an idea it must be able to transform into a physical thing. Ideas are intellectual property.  Patents are inventions in which the patent holder has exclusive ownership. Trademarks such as logos, phrases, and commercial entities. These are all things that can be copyrighted and owned. A person who creates an original work can own it for a certain period of time, currently as of 1998 it is a lifetime plus 70 years and for corporations it is 95 years from the date published or 120 from creation. With some things it is hard to validly copyright as was the case with “Happy Birthday” the copyright was found to be invalid.

You can not copyright chord progressions because millions of songs share the same chord patterns, this makes sense there are probably only so many combinations that can sound good together. Copyright law does not allow for copyright of drumbeats. You may not sample music without paying a licensing fee because it can be copyrighted. During the 70’s-80’s sampling became an inexpensive way for street artists to create new sounds with already made music. I personally think if you create a new piece of music from an old piece and they sound differently it should not break copyright because you created something new. Claude Shannon predicted this decontextualizing of music, if you remove the meaning of the previous song you can create a new one with the information.

Copyright is the opposite of information wanting to be free. Who gets to decide what should be free or not. Especially because we have learned in this class that information can be improved upon when allowed to be free but then again at what point do we give credit to the original creator. I think there is a fine balance not that I know what that is but…


Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert first published the “Encyclopedie” in 1751, during the Enlightenment. It was not the first compiled book of knowledge but it was a meant to be a comprehensive encyclopedia that categorized knowledge in a scholarly way. It consisted of 71,000 article written by members of the respective field being written about, it was a collaborative effort. Between 1751 and 1772 there were revisions and additions made. Diderot wanted to make sure this knowledge was put down for the future benefit of others. Why was this so important? How would one decide what is important enough to go into a comprehensive encyclopedia? After all it must be published to be of use to anyone.

By the 20th century the most popular encyclopedia was the “Encyclopedia Britannica”. It signaled a commitment to education and it was an indicator of social status. They were heavy, cumbersome and expensive. The encyclopedia was hard to update and some of the information was subjective, racist ideas and imperial thoughts. It was authoritative knowledge, nut again who decides what constitutes authoritative knowledge? Who should maintain this knowledge?

With the advent of the internet more people are able to have access to more information, The more that information and ideas are seen the better they can be improved upon. Richard Stallman, a software freedom activist, created a free operating system in the 1980’s for people to use. However they had to follow the 4 freedoms of software: free to run any program for any purpose, free to study and change program if need be, freedom to redistribute to thy neighbor, and the freedom to redistribute your modified copies to others. These were modeled after Roosevelt’s four freedoms. Stallman believed that if you enclosed information you restrict its dissemination. If you restrict the dissemination there will not be as many people looking and using the software trying to improve and create and better product. With GNU and Linux  people that want to use the software improve and the software continues to get better and better. Crowd sourcing requires no central authority and people can improve because they are internally motivated not because they have to or are getting paid.

While encyclopedia’s may have been the foremost place to find authoritative knowledge, they have been by far surpassed by the amount of information of the World Wide Web. The WWW can provide more than just one side of subjective knowledge allowing people to make better decisions. Sometimes this backfires however, because of the amount of misinformation of the internet.

Digital Scavenger Hunt “Boogaloo”

I decided to search for the word “Boogaloo”. The very first reference was in 1966, in The NY Amsterdam, and two in the NY Times.

The NY Amsterdam was in reference to a “Boogaloo” contest every Monday at Smalls Paradise and Tony Lawrence will present his Latin American Boogaloo party.

The NY Times article was about “No steps it’s about an attitude, You dance for release, relaxation; Terry Noel Whirling, snapping, hip in, hip out.”

NY Times article #2 “Teaching Boogaloo fashion Otis Redding heading to the Apollo.”

“Chicago Dance Scene 1967”, article, “The Boogaloo came from Florida. It first started in NY’s Puerto Rican districts. I came from Harlem, from Rush St., from Chicago’s southside, from Philadelphia.” “… newest biggest dance since the frug and the jerk.” It is a “one two three rockbeat, Boogalooer’s feet slide gracefully.

Boston Globe 1968 Doug McClure, a white singer, invented because of foot trouble.

It is clear that the origin’s of Boogaloo are unclear. There are white singers taking credit. It can be attributed to the Puerto Rican’s. It is said to come from major industrial cities. It was it’s own style of dance with its own style of fashion as well.  It makes me wonder what popular dance styles or words we use today that future historians might look up. This was a really neat assignment.


Politicized Music and Race Relations

In the 1890’s, with the enactment of the Jim Crow Laws racial tension worsened, especially in the south. The idea of “seperate but equal” were equal was hardly equal for black Americans. Lynching’s were put on postcards and radicalized racism. In response to the Jim Crow laws, black people started leaving the south by the masses. Many went to work in industrial jobs in the north. The racial tension was only marginally better in the north. In Chicago people were racist but black people could vote and attend public school. During WWI, the workforce became integrated.

For years black artist’s music has been appropriated by white artists. These artists proffitted off of music that was originally created by a black person, simply because they are white. By the 1920’s records were marketed as “race records”. Marketed to whites or blacks. “Black Swan Records” was created in Harlem in the 1920’s it was the first only black by black self representing recording company.  Rhythm and Blues were marketed to black people, Rock to white people, and Jazz was an openly mixed genre. Artists that could fill more than one of these categories were troubling, where do you put them?

Were artists that could cover more than one genre so troubling because people did not know what to do with them or because music has been so politicized and they have created these narrow niches that people were concerned with messing with the status quo. In “Segragating Sound” Miller states, “The racial genres, on one hand, were an extension of the phonograph industry’s international campaigns. By 1920, the successes they had achieved internationally and with U.S. immigrant consumers enabled them to see African American and southern white consumers as separate niche markets.”  Miller writes about Lomax and his views that black music comes from the isolation of of black people. Especially in the case of Huddie Ledbetter, Lomax found him in prison and believed he would be the perfect example of black music because he had been isolated from “white” musical influence. Lomax played a role in getting Huddie “Lead Belly” Ledbetter out of prison to sing in folklore programs at colleges, marketing his music as “authentic African American” music.

A large part of this class has been about racial politics of music and how white Americans appropriate black music for monetary gain. Miller writes about Willie Blackwell, “He understood that recording for a folklorist could conflict with his commercial label, so he insisted that Lomax not use his real name. Both Lomax and the commercial scouts were making a living off of recording his songs.”

It almost seems to me that the racial politicization of music made racial tensions worse, while spot lighting African American music. Why can’t everybody enjoy different types of music? (I understand this type of thinking is probably a product of my upbringing) Even now music is racially politicized, not quite as much as back then but enough to be noticeable.


Displacement of People in Time and Space

In the 19th century the railroad and telegraph are 2 of the earliest examples. It used to take days, weeks to get to certain places the train made it more expedient. Telegraphs allowed for long distance communication in a much more rapid way than the “pony express”. In the late 19th century the advent of refrigerated rail cars put an end to seasonal vegetables, now you could have strawberries from sunny California during a snowy winter in Colorado. People now have wider access to foods they may not otherwise have during seasons where it used to be impossible.

Time is no longer as important as it once was. In the 1830’s every town had their own time based upon the position of the sun. By the 1880’s towns were forming time zones around train stations. In factories hours varied based upon available sunlight but with the invention of the light bulb there were no longer any need to change hours.

By 1877, Edison invented the phonograph this had the ability to playback sound that otherwise would have been lost forever. The past was no longer a temporary or fleeting thing it could be memorialized for all time. In the 1900’s films became more widely available. Films captured places and snapshots of time. By 1929, film had sound it could capture a place and sound. These inventions bring pictures and sound to people that may have not had access. Music could now be listened to in the privacy of your own home, it no longer needs to be a public event. Movies have the ability to transport the watcher to another time and place.

Roots of Popular Music

The arrival of slaves from Africa, many were from West Africa, brought a people to the America’s with a unique cultural and musical influence. For white American’s to openly enjoy African music would have been taboo. Around the time of the Civil War, minstrel shows became quite popular. They appealed to many white American’s as a way to satirize African slaves and politics. They were over the top and exaggerated portrayals of slaves and free black men, that perpetuated racial stereotypes. Once PT Barnum asked a black janitor to fill in for the white “black-faced” minstrel performer and brought down the house, however if the white audience knew that the performer was really a black man they would have been furious. This is such a cultural dichotomy to me. If you despise something or someone so much why would you imitate it? Why dress up as a black man, play African style music and dance? To me it seems a way to be able to openly enjoy a culturally taboo style of music and lifestyle. By the 1900’s black men could participate in minstrel shows but they would still wear “black-face” make- up. This is also the beginning of white appropriation of African music and culture for political and monetary purposes.

Minstrel shows did many things culturally. The banjo an African instrument became a folksy instrument of white Appalachian people by the 20th century. It made fun of Africans in a way to keep them oppressed and looked down upon. They were seen as uneducated, raggedy, and happy in their “station” in life, which was no where near the truth. It put African music out in the world and celebrated it in someways. Minstrel shows drew more attention to being “white” or “black”. It allowed for other ethnic groups to pretend or play down their ethnicity because they were lighter than many Africans. Such was the case of Al Jolson, a Jewish man from the D.C. area, he put on black-face and while doing the minstrel show about the deep south he never knew it allowed him to pass for white. He was actually a friend to many African Americans and they did not view his behavior as appalling. It satirized the politics of the time. And pushed gave white people a way to enjoy African music in an allowable way. Minstrel shows created boundaries and broke them at the same time.

Popular and dance music accent on the 2 and 4 beat in the African tradition as opposed to the 1 and 3 beat in the European marching band style. One of my favorite sayings from this class is “white people clap on the wrong beat, Southern white people are less likely to clap on the wrong beat, and black people clap on the right beat.” It explains so much about the stereo type white people can’t dance.

The Internet and personal computers

The ARPAnet was a packet switching network, funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, ARPA. ARPAnet was used to transmit programming information across lines between MIT, Stanford, Xerox, and Ft Belvior. It was the first packet switching network to use TCP/IP and became the foundation of the modern day internet. TCP/IP stands transmission control protocol/ internet protocol, this protocol breaks the switching packets into smaller pieces (like Shannon’s work) and then makes sure they are put back together at the receiving end in the correct order. The ARPAnet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. There is no central headquarters, this allows for rerouting of information if one point is attacked or down. CERN also uses the ARPAnet. Tim Berners-Lee while at CERN comes up with the World Wide Web, he wants to find an easier way to share information between scientists. He finds a way to use his hypertext protocol with the TCP part of TCP/IP and a domain naming system and you have the WWW.

Douglas Englebart advances these ideas even farther. After receiving his PhD in Electrical Engineering at the University of California, he patents the “mouse” for the P.C. and in 1968 he concludes that you could use a screen, such as a tv, with a mouse as a computer. You could use hypertext programs to link to other programs, these should no longer be closed systems. Englebart goes to Xerox park where they want to expand on his ideas. At Xerox park they come up with command line prompts, and input. In 1975 they develop G.U.I, the graphical user interface. The G.U.I. is all the options we use with our mouse we are familiar with now days such as the scroll down menu, windows etc.

In 1976 an Apple inventor gets a tour of Xerox and 5 years later they produce the first mass marketed personal computers. By 1993 NCSA released the graphical interface “Mosaic”. In 1994 “Netscape Navigator” is out and prettier graphically than Mosaic.

What began as a closed network, led to an open network in order to share information. This goes to show information “wants to be free”. In order to continually develop and improve technology it must be shared and viewed by different people with different ideas.

The development of the internet and personal computers has made sharing information effortless but at what cost? It reduces social interaction, there is also greater access to false or misinformation. Is it like Carr believes that technology is breaking down the personal and public self? Sometimes I think yes, for example the amount of online bullying and “public”shamings. Sometimes I think no because it allows such great access to things in which I may not otherwise have access to.