On Monday, we submitted a report of our preliminary findings to the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project. Research is still ongoing, and we’re planning an ambitious follow-up study. The report is not available to the public yet – and in any case, the whole thing ran to 69 pages, plus covers etc – but here’s a taster.
Sometimes we just want to get a simple overview of the types of things people are saying. In the case of our SoundCloud analysis, we want to know what people are saying about each other’s tracks.
We’ve made use of http://www.wordle.net/ word clouds to get an overview: what words are people typically using in comments on SoundCloud? Are they positive? descriptive? critical? irrelevant?
Wanting to find out what was typical SoundCloud behaviour – as opposed to what our case study users were doing – we took a random sample of 150000 SoundCloud accounts earlier this year and downloaded their profile data, plus the profile data of everyone they were following (plus some other stuff, but that’s for another time). One of the things we did with this data was to construct a social network graph showing ‘follow’ relationships at city level: every time our computer program found that a sampled user self-identified with city A followed a user self-identified with city B, it created an ‘arc’ (represented with an arrow) from city A to city B. We then combined all the arcs so that instead of, say, 2000 arcs from city A to city B, there would now be a single arc with a ‘weight’ of 2000. We then imported this data into Gephi, sized the nodes representing cities to reflect the total weight of all the incoming arcs, positioned them with the Force Atlas algorithm, and used the Louvain community detection method to identify ‘clusters’, where a cluster is a group of nodes that are better connected to each other than they are to nodes from outside the group. And here’s the result, with five colours to represent the five clusters.
To remind you of what you experienced – or to taunt you with what you missed – here is a selection of photographs from the Valuing Electronic Music free public event, taken by Jake Davis of HungryVisuals. Wish you’d been there? We wish you’d been there too. Maybe next time!
Free food, free music, free everything!*
We’ve just presented the Valuing Electronic Music project at the 5th International Conference on Computational Creativity, in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The talk was streamed live and is now available as a video:
In my previous post on this topic, I introduced a problem – how to understand the work that explicit genre categorisations are made to do by people uploading tracks to the SoundCloud audio-sharing website – and a potential solution – identifying the three categories most frequently used by each individual in a sample and studying regularities in the ways in which pairs of categories tend to pop up within the same group of three. I also presented some partial and preliminary findings in the form of a matrix comparing co-occurrences of the five genre categories most frequently used by people within an initial sample. And I either glossed over or left unmentioned a slew of problems, some of which we’ve been more successful in addressing than others at present (because these are only blog posts, and we haven’t finished the research yet). The biggest problem is the sample itself: the analysis was done on the basis of a snowball sample, when a random sample would be more appropriate. Hence the provisionality of all this. The analysis will be redone soon on the basis of a sample that will enable us to make more robust claims, but in the meantime I wanted to share our thought processes and working methods with the world because – quite apart from anything else – I’m excited about the patterns that are emerging.
The (first?) Valuing Electronic Music public event took place on 6 June upstairs at the Lexington on Pentonville Rd in London. Which means that exactly seven days ago to the minute, I was standing in front of the mixing desk with Anna, wondering just how much longer I could credibly put off jumping onto the stage and introducing the whole thing. Thank you so much to everyone who made it happen (especially Glitch Lich, Winterlight, Slackk, Luis-Manuel Garcia, and our brilliant event producer, Josh McNorton), and to everyone who came along. Also to the people who spread the word, without whom so many fewer people would have come along. And thank you to the AHRC, because of whom the event was free.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll start uploading podcasts based on the event itself and on last month’s workshop.
One of the problems you’re always going to face when studying electronic music is the need to decide what you think ‘electronic music’ means. It’s a question of genre, and as Paul DiMaggio acknowledged in one of his most influential papers, genre is at once a formal and a social concept: