On the transformation of everyday culture in an era of liquid modernity

Posts Tagged ‘aesthetics’

Avatar 3D as cinematic milestone

In aesthetics, economy, media history, movies, philosophy, politics, review on January 7, 2010 at 7:41 pm

Good action movies tend to put their CGI-generated finger on some sort of zeitgeist. James Cameron’s Avatar does, as it not only currently makes the prime example of 3D cinema as media technology, but also contains some telling clues to current philosophical, economic and political debates.

In terms of media history, 3D cinema will probably entail a rebirth of the whole Hollywood experience; particularly the screening as an event, a unique experience. This will especially come to show later in 2010, when Alice in Wonderland premieres as a Tim Burton-directed 3D movie.

The big 3D premiere of 2009, James Cameron’s Avatar, was in some ways a brilliant experience. Sure, we were expecting critical doses of trustafarian cod-spiritualism and new age (similar to the Matrix trilogy’s “Zion”). We were expecting overly evident metaphors and a lot of Messianic hubris – but so is the nature of the genre. Those things aside, it is as driven and inspired a story as Terminator 2 or the first Matrix movie ever were. Read the rest of this entry »

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The decade in popular music

In art, history, music on October 16, 2009 at 10:23 am

Apart from the material, social and technical reasons for change pointed out in this blog, I would like to take this opportunity for venturing further into what might constitute a zeitgeist in contemporary music.

This posting has a twin posting on the mp3 blog Solid Bond In Your Heart, where I am listing my 100 favourite tunes of the last 10 years.

Materially, we can already conclude that the last ten years have seen the partial death of the album, the definitive death of the CD single, the rebirth of the individual song, an increase in the sheer loudness of music (“loudness war,” effectively decreasing the dynamic range of music), and the birth of new, Internet-based music communities and distribution platforms often bypassing traditional record industry modes of manufacturing, marketing and “plugging” records. But we have also seen a range of stylistic and aesthetic formations during these last ten years. Here are some of them.

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I fought a loudness war

In aesthetics, art, everyday life, media ecology, music, philosophy on October 5, 2009 at 9:17 pm

One of the most striking features of popular music in the last decade has been the “loudness war”. The music we listen to has become increasingly louder in the last 20 years, as it is now music industry standard to try and make the soundwaves contained within a sound file as maximised as possible, in terms of loudness.

By a combination of extreme compression of the dynamic range and make-up gain, the sound range is boosted to a more uniform level, removing the peaks and troughs that would normally separate a quieter verse from a pumping chorus. (Read more about it here and here.)

As this is the normative aesthetic nowadays – “it has to sound like this” – the sociology of music should really sharpen its ears and point them in this direction. It is extremely interesting in terms its philosophical implications. So, let us delve deeper into the aesthetic implications of loudness below!

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Differing attitudes towards Spotify

In file-sharing, GUIs, marketing, media ecology, music, p2p on February 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

The discourses around the newly-launched music streaming service Spotify show how Internet users are split into two rather different groupings in their stance towards commercial services like this one.
Just like the American sociologist Danah Boyd has observed a quite distinct split between Facebook and MySpace users respectively, one can observe a similar difference between those embracing and lauding Spotify and those who do not.spotify

The one observation that has said most about these circulating discourses is the following article from Wired magazine. Here, the comments actually says everything about the two rather disparate attitudes we see among Internet users towards Spotify.

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Information aesthetics: revealing the mindset of both the programmers and the users

In GUIs, media ecology, social networking sites on October 30, 2008 at 4:49 pm

This posting is about information aesthetics and usability, and how it comes to mirror not only the corporate approach to communication behind the interfaces, but also seems to suggest an intended user type, having a lifestyle or sets of user preferences attached to it. I use two examples: Yahoo and Facebook.

Brief introduction
Usability negates the idea of aesthetics being secondary to functionality: With computer interfaces, aesthetics is central to the functionality itself. There is no separation. Usability is applied aesthetics. One could ask if this make us more aestheticised, more sensitive to interfaces, and less sensitive to what is mediated; the medium being the message, to paraphrase Marshall McLuhan.

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