Sounds and Selfhood

It is perhaps an understatement to say that music is important to a lot of people. Some of the best times of my life were spent playing, and some of the best conversations I have with students are about bands that they love. Like other art forms, music provides a way for artists to express themselves and listeners to experience another world, the world of the artist.  But it has an immediacy and power that can make even the most formal music feel intimate—and make a live rock show into a raw emotional experience for performer and audience alike.  It’s no wonder that some of the longest running battles in the digital world are about downloading music.

Even outside the live experience, music shapes our emotional lives. In their 1981 book The Meaning of Things, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and Eugene Rochberg-Halton talked about the way in which recorded music is used modulate our emotions.  Sometimes, we do it to ourselves, as when we put on upbeat music before we go out in the evening.  Other times, other people try to get us in the mood, for instance in restaurants and shopping malls. But, for the most part, I think of these as innocuous—if at times tacky—uses.

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Storms Take Down Tech, The Physical World Remains Relevant

A severe patch of storms that rumbled across the Eastern U.S. [on Friday night] — leaving [thirteen] people dead and millions without power — also disrupted an Amazon Web Services data center, affecting service for social media sites like Pinterest, Instagram and Netflix, which host their services at Amazon’s data centers.

Netflix and Pinterest had recovered most of their service by [Saturday] morning. The worst affected appeared to be Instagram — the Facebook-owned social photo-sharing service remained offline for many users as of this morning, and as of 11 am PT, it hadn’t updated users on its status since its initial service failure. Some users reported on Twitter that service had been restored for them, while others said it remained offline.

via Storm Knocks Out Amazon’s Power, Takes Down Instagram, Netflix.

There are lots of funny quotes floating around from people who found themselves unable to overcome the crushing boredom of down web services. For tech junkies, Barb Darrow had an interesting analysis of the outage for cloud subscribers over at GigaOm (including a link to her story about AWS outage two weeks ago). Four our part, we were awakened by the edges of these storms here in Philly on Friday night. Scary stuff here, so I can’t imagine the scene down there. And I wasn’t online, so didn’t notice any interruptions myself.

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Eyeglasses as Indispensible Mobile Technology

How do you define “technology”?  Often, our definitions are bound up with the notion of change.  Technologies change our lives.  That’s true, but it can lead us to focus a bit too closely on the “our” part of life.  What makes mobile phones tech, while we rarely think about wired phones as technology? Probably that wired phones haven’t changed in a long time.

Having returned from my various trips, I picked up a new pair of glasses this week.  Actually, they were a second try at a new pair. We seem to be having a hard time finding the right prescription.  It’s happened to me before, and when happens, it reminds me of how important even the most basic technologies can be.  Without glasses, I can only see things in focus if they are about six inches in front of my face.  Everything else is horribly blurry. Its the kind of thing that would really limit my ability to accomplish a lot of even basic tasks were I to be without them for very long.

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