Saturday, April 02, 2011

Crowdsourced music

Imogen Heap's latest composition has a creative take on music in the digital age. Making extensive use of social media she has encouraged audience involvement in her latest work 'Lifeline' by incorporating the sounds and words sent to her. Now you could be picky and say that this is just a sophisticated marketing ploy, an easy way of gathering material and highly dependent on free contribution rather than open participation - but that would be unfair. The whole process springs from a different way of looking at the world, and one that reminds me of Colin and Michele's idea of mindset 2.0. In essence there's a distinctively new relationship between producer and consumer here, and a radically different take on where ideas come from and who owns them. Crowdsourcing is an interesting way of describing this because it leads us to ask for more precision in determining who the crowd is in the first place. The crowd here isn't 'the public' but it is 'a public'. It's not everyone, but it could be anyone. Similarly the crowd is not the audience but it may be part of the audience. No, the crowd is composed of a fluid coming and going of people who are part of a transient and distributed network - inhabitants of what Gee calls an 'affinity space'. There are clearly some resonances with other emerging social and political groupings, but I suppose the distinctiveness is around leadership and authorship (or ownership). Heap's achievement is, after all, still hers albeit with a little help from her friends, but it's framed by new ways of thinking about things, new practices and shifting networks of connection. Sell our sounds back to us, Imogen, or set them free: that's the question.

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