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Archive by March, 2008

Notes on Deeves’s “Beats of Boredom,” by Eduardo Navas

Image still of “Beats of Boredom” by Adams Deeves

The music video “Beats of Boredom” by Adams Deeves has been circulating among online video sites for some time now. Some sites where it can viewed include I-am-bored, Vimeo, and Youtube.

The video was created with clips of a man who finds himself at home with nothing to do. He does what most people who are bored would do: watch TV, eat a not so healthy snack, and then do some cleaning. The originality of “Beats of Boredom” is in the way the sequences are edited, which are built on top of each other rhythmically as new moments of the boring afternoon are introduced. The end result is a music video of an instrumental song clearly influenced by hip hop and variations of house that ordinarily would go unnoticed, were it not for the fact that the sounds were produced with household items.

The video starts with a series of water drops, then the man plays with a small radio, cut to the sound of a tea kettle, then the man scrapes a toast, sits and eats in front of the TV, wondering what to do; then he slaps his right hand on his right leg: once, twice–then hits his chest with his fist, and snaps his fingers; then he opens and closes the zipper of a sofa pillow to mimic the sound of a record being scratched, then he slaps the pillow, creating a similar sound to a base drum; and repeats the whole process. At this point we have the basic rhythmic structure of the music composition in place, and it is a matter of adding other elements on top.

Other activities include placing a CD player in a stereo system, turning on a printer, scratching a jacket’s sleeve with his index finger, going to the refrigerator to look for something to eat, then opening what appears to be a beer bottle; then flipping the pages of a closed note book with his thumb–and turning on and off a vacuum to make the sound of a DJ quickly cutting the sound level on a mixer.

At the end he is asked by a woman who comes into the apartment “What are you doing?” He replies “what?” she repeats, “what are you doing?” he replies, “nothing.”

This video shows how material activities attain value, which in this case consists of careful repetition of sound recordings from an uneventful day. A slap does not mean much if performed once, but when repeated it becomes a vehicle of representation. When this is recognized as a creative possibility, a second, third and fourth slap could follow, and this is the basis of rhythm. Repetition of activities, whether in music or other areas of culture, is necessary to create value–or more simply meaning. Repetition becomes even more stable and efficient when recording technology is used to preserve image and sound for replay.

What we encounter in “Beats of Boredom,” then, are all the necessary elements for any activity to become and be repeated as a mix, and eventually a remix. Most importantly, the video is already a remix because it is composed of samples from a boring day, and in order to understand it as a composition, it is necessary to not only listen to the sound, but also view the video clips as the sound samples are added on top of each other. “Beat of Boredom” gives equal weight to, both, image and sound, something not always accomplished successfully by either music or video artists. Nevertheless, “Beats of Boredom” is primarily a video, which shows how with recording technology one has the power to take representation and manipulate it, mix it and remix it. And once “Beats of Boredom” is repeated enough and becomes recognizable it will enter the realm of the spectacle, and will be prone to becoming remixed or simply consumed passively, not because of its innovation, but because of its recognition as a popular composition.

Thanks to Greg J. Smith for turning me to this work.

Wikipedia Questions Paths to More Money, by The Associated Press

Image Capture: Remix Theory

Text source: NYTimes
Scroll the list of the 10 most popular Web sites in the U.S., and you’ll encounter the Internet’s richest corporate players — names like Yahoo, Amazon.com, News Corp., Microsoft and Google.

Except for No. 7: Wikipedia. And there lies a delicate situation.

With 2 million articles in English alone, the Internet encyclopedia ”anyone can edit” stormed the Web’s top ranks through the work of unpaid volunteers and the assistance of donors. But that gives Wikipedia far less financial clout than its Web peers, and doing almost anything to improve that situation invites scrutiny from the same community that proudly generates the content.

And so, much as how its base of editors and bureaucrats endlessly debate touchy articles and other changes to the site, Wikipedia’s community churns with questions over how the nonprofit Wikimedia Foundation, which oversees the project, should get and spend its money.

Read the entire article at a  NYTimes

Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business, by Chris Anderson

Image and text source: Wired

Originally published: February 25, 2008

At the age of 40, King Gillette was a frustrated inventor, a bitter anticapitalist, and a salesman of cork-lined bottle caps. It was 1895, and despite ideas, energy, and wealthy parents, he had little to show for his work. He blamed the evils of market competition. Indeed, the previous year he had published a book, The Human Drift, which argued that all industry should be taken over by a single corporation owned by the public and that millions of Americans should live in a giant city called Metropolis powered by Niagara Falls. His boss at the bottle cap company, meanwhile, had just one piece of advice: Invent something people use and throw away.

One day, while he was shaving with a straight razor that was so worn it could no longer be sharpened, the idea came to him. What if the blade could be made of a thin metal strip? Rather than spending time maintaining the blades, men could simply discard them when they became dull. A few years of metallurgy experimentation later, the disposable-blade safety razor was born. But it didn’t take off immediately. In its first year, 1903, Gillette sold a total of 51 razors and 168 blades. Over the next two decades, he tried every marketing gimmick he could think of. He put his own face on the package, making him both legendary and, some people believed, fictional. He sold millions of razors to the Army at a steep discount, hoping the habits soldiers developed at war would carry over to peacetime. He sold razors in bulk to banks so they could give them away with new deposits (“shave and save” campaigns). Razors were bundled with everything from Wrigley’s gum to packets of coffee, tea, spices, and marshmallows. The freebies helped to sell those products, but the tactic helped Gillette even more. By giving away the razors, which were useless by themselves, he was creating demand for disposable blades. A few billion blades later, this business model is now the foundation of entire industries: Give away the cell phone, sell the monthly plan; make the videogame console cheap and sell expensive games; install fancy coffeemakers in offices at no charge so you can sell managers expensive coffee sachets.

Read the entire article at Wired.

Lessig Lectures on Free Culture at the 23C3, December 2006

Image source: Google Video

I recently found a video of Lessig discussing his position on Free Culture at the 23C3 in Berlin in December 2006. In this video Lessig refers to Remix Culture/Free Culture as Read/Write Culture. This video shows his thinking process in the development of his latest term. Some of his propositions found in his three major books are revisited briefly. One good thing about Lessig is that he does not repeat his book examples; instead, he uses more recent material and discusses the history of radio, BMI vs. ASCAP. Lessig’s last book, Code 2.0, was published in 2006, so this video serves as a decent update about his position, given that he lectured at the end of the same year. Worth spending 1:15 on google video.

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