Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Music Blogs as Electronic Literature

Throughout the semester we have grappled with the definition of Electronic Literature. What is it? How do we position it within a critical framework? Blogs are interesting because of their capabilities to combine hypertext, visual aids, and audio within a seemingly linear and approachable format. Although Katherine Hayles does not discuss blogs in her book, Electronic Literature, it has served as the primary foundation for my discussion of music blogs and their contribution and contradictions to the canon of electronic literature we have discussed. Hayles discusses the interactions between the human and the machine, “evolving in active interplay with intelligent machines, the ‘human’ neither encloses the technological nor is enclosed by it. Rather, human agency operates within complex systems in which nonhuman actors play important roles…human language is interpenetrated by computer code, operating in architectures that mediate between the human meanings and binary code that is the only language computers can use to operate” (Hayles 2008 pg 131-132). Blogs are meant to be an accessible piece of technology for users, in which it is not necessary to understand the language of computer programming, and individuals can publish their opinions with only basic computer knowledge. My work is an example of this in various ways. Firstly, I do not have extensive computer knowledge, and programming and formatting my own website would have been a nearly impossible task. However, because of websites such as blogspot and wordpress, I have been able to publish my project online easily.

Blogs have created a form of electronic literature that allows gives the user the illusion of control, but more so than other websites, the user has little agency. Bloggers are often limited to a small number of layouts, and within in these, changes in font and color can be made. Blogs represent a compromise that technology is based on. In order to be accessible, most blogs are prepackaged, however if they were inaccessible, it would deter the flood of self-publishing that has risen during the technological age. The blog functions as a machine inside the machine, a mediator between the computer and human, creating a dialogue where the blog is able to translate computer code into language that humans can comprehend.

In Kittler’s book, Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, he states that,
"during the founding age of mechanized storage technologies, human evolution, too, aims toward the creation of machine memory…to make forgetful animals into human beings, a blind force that strikes that dismembers and inscribes their bodies in the real…writing…is no longer a natural extension of humans who bring forth their voice, soul, individuality through their handwriting…they turn from the agency of writing to become an unscriptural surface…all the agency of the writing passes on its violence to an inhuman media engineer.” (Kittler 1999 pg 210)
Kittler’s discussion of the typewriter can be paralleled to the analysis of the blog. Kittler looks at the machine as a new mode of agency and expression, and the blog, similar to the early machines that Kittler discusses, also allows the author to transfer agency to the machine, as they gain access to publishing and new media. The relationship between the human and the machine is increasingly evident with the rise of the blog. The blog gains increasing agency, as it works as mediator between the machine and the human.

My project is a blog about blogs, and in this sense, both the structure and the content are a commentary on electronic literature as a medium of publication and communication. I worked to create a critical analysis of the world of blogging as a mode of creative expression, and a medium through which amateurism is valued, and publishing is readily accessible to the masses. Through my research I found that as blogs have become increasingly popularized and accessible, they have slowly transformed into a commodity and another piece of our capitalist infrastructure. While this phenomena is not unique to music blogs, it is more prominent amongst them, as the music industry has appropriated this genre of literature. Music blogs began as a community of fans who would review their favorite albums and concerts, and occasionally post select mp3 off new releases. Now posts have become premeditated promotional materials, through which labels are able to attract new audiences. Third parties have even purchased some blogs, such as Stereogum, enforcing how influential music blogs have become.

Initially, the primary focus of my blog was to look at blogs and the loss of privacy, as I began to analyze music blogs, however, I noticed trends throughout them. The more prominent music blogs were formed to mirror print media and the music magazine rather than the typical blog format. Music blogs utilize different tabs, and often have contests and other features that an individual would not be able to support. My project began to focus on the shift in blogs as an amateur form of publishing to a lucrative business and marketing tool for the music industry. During the rise of the blog era, music blogs were initially demonized for file sharing, and were seen as one of the contributing factors to the death of the music industry. However, it is now these same individuals who have begun to capitalize on music blogs and their accessibility. Instead of creating a new, peer-reviewed form of literature, blogs have started to slip into the same power dynamics and dichotomies of print media. Many of the larger music blogs now have editors, and some, such as Pitchfork, do not allow reader comments. This is contradictory to the initial purpose of blogs – creating free form literary expression on the Internet, which could be read by millions of people.

While blogs are still inarguable an influential part of Electronic Literature, music blogs seem to be moving away from freedom of expression, towards a capitalist motivated format. Regardless of this, the blog is still a form of new media, and represents a shift towards the computer as a medium of production, rather than just a method of “distribution and exhibition” (Manovich 1999 pg 19). The blog informs our view of the computer, however, it is meant to provide the author a false sense of agency, as superficial choices are made, while the computer predetermines the format of the blog. The blog is also part of “a new media revolution – the shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication” (Manovich 1999 pg 19). Manovich then discusses how the “computer media revolution affects all stages of communication, including acquisition, manipulation, storage, and distribution; it also affects all types of media – texts, still images, moving images, sound, and spatial constructions” (Manovich 1999 pg 19). While on some levels I agree with Manovich – blogs allow innovation in texts, incorporating both audio and visual aids into literature in novel ways, the music blog, instead of moving away from print media, is returning to it. Not all music blogs have followed this form, and the key characteristic that continues to separate music blogs from music magazines, their print counterpart, is mp3 downloads. There are some music publications in print that are accompanied with an audio cd, but none are as instantaneous as the mp3 download. Some music blogs post a new download each day, allowing the reader greater access to music, while a music magazine might release one compilation disc per month. In this sense, music blogs are strongly related to the questions posed by Katherine Hayles, in her book Electronic Literature. Hayles asks us to consider, “the contexts that give them (electronic literature) meaning and significance, and that implies a wide-ranging exploration of what electronic literature is how it overlaps and diverges from print, what signifying strategies characterize it, and how these strategies are interpreted by users as they go in search of meaning” (Hayles 2008 pg 2). These questions are what have informed my discussion of music blogs, and how they have become part of the cannon of electronic literature. My primary focus was to look at how music blogs differed and were the same from their print counterparts, and it quickly became the most expansive section of my analysis . Music blogs, instead of having a linear progression away from print media, have formed a cyclical relationship, where they initially moved away from print, but now, as capitalist institutions such as record labels have began to appropriate them, have started to move closer to print, with a focus on advertising and marketing, rather than dialogue and community.

The original music blog can be compared to the DIY music zine. A collective discussion about music and culture that is transferred throughout a musical community. While zine culture was limited because of its basis in print media, it was formed on the same principals as blogs – freedom of expression and accessibility. Just as zine culture has begun to die out, the music blog has started to drift away from the Utopian ideals it was based on, and move towards an overly-structured, one way discussion about music. Many of the questions raised by the authors we have been studies are addressed in interesting ways when compared to music blogs. Music blogs are unique in their recent shift and serve as an interesting case study in our discussion of electronic literature. There also lies the question of whether or not blogs are part of this cannon, just as magazines are criticized for not being a legitimate form of literature, and the same argument can be made for the music blog. However, through the readings discussed, the cannon of electronic is much more open – which is partly due to its relative newness as well. While music blogs have become increasingly appropriated, at the same time, because of the accessibility of blogs, there are still new authors rising everyday who hope to voice their opinions and interact with a community of readers that would not otherwise be accessible to them, and it is because of this that the music blog, no matter where capitalism takes it, will never die off, and will always be a form of expression and community.

Work Cited

My Project Quotes and is Informed by:

Aarseth, Espen J. Cybertext: Perspectives on Ergodic Literature. Baltimore, Md.: John Hopkins UP, 1997.

Gitelman, Lisa. Scripts, Grooves, and Writing Machines: Representing Technology in the Edison Era. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 1999.

Hayles, N. Katherine. Electronic Literature: New Horizons for the Literary. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 2008.

Kirschenbaum, Matthew G. Mechanisms New Media and the Forensic Imagination. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2008.

Kittler, Friedrich A. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford UP, 1999.

Manovich, Lev. The Language of New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2001.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Arjan Writes Music

Arjan Writes Music is different from a majority of the other blogs I have discussed as it focuses on mainstream and popular music. This can help us with our comparison of the medium and content. Is the blog the best or an appropriate way to present the discussion of popular music? How does blogging change with the change in genre?

Although Arjan Writes focuses on popular music, it's format is closer to that of a blog based on amateurism and community than some of the other blogs which focused on "indie" music. This blog is similar to gossip blogs such as and, based on their rising popularity and the strong voice of the author.


KSPC is the non-profit radio station of the Claremont Colleges, and at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year, decided to start a blog. This blog is comprised of promotional material relating to the station, such as in-studios, interviews, and giveaways, but also features album and concert reviews.

While the dynamics of blogging are different considering KSPC's non-profit status, the community surrounding it is shaped by their radio content rather than actual blog content. Interestingly as well, these are two machines informing each other, the radio and the computer. Since KSPC radio focuses on the independent labels and local content, its blog does as well. Also, as a student radio station, there is an inherent amateurism associated with the station, and this carries over to the blog as well. Inconsistencies in formatting are not uncommon, and are not reprimanded either. The blog is meant to present student opinions in greater depth, and act as extension of not only the radio machine, but of the individuals who work their as well.

Musicians' Take

While I've been primarily focusing on the medium of music blogs, I think it's also important to talk about the content. Music blogs are unique because a lot of controversy surrounds them and their relation to the phenomena of file sharing.

Here are some musicians takes on the world of music blogging:

Emily Haines of Metric

Jermain Dupre

Lilly Allen

o, Grizzly Bear's Edward Droste was contacted by "Web Sheriff" when he posted a track from Animal Collective's then new album. He talks about the incident and file sharing in an interview with The Portland Mercury:

Can you talk a little bit about album leaks, file sharing, and how that's affected you as a band, and also a music fan (i.e. the Animal Collective incident)?

Leaks are reality and we've come to terms with them. I'm more disappointed about the way people approach an album now rather than losing sales. I think people become a bit entitled with the internet and expect things as soon as they want them and on their own terms. People will download dozens of albums a week, do flash armchair reviews and often dismiss lovely albums when they haven't even listened to them in high quality. On the flip side, it reaches more people around the world and people find other ways of showing support via coming to shows or buying a T-shirt. Ultimately we are a band that would greatly suffer without the internet and we are very grateful for all the blogs and websites that were early advocates of ours. I only worry about the art of making an "album" that gets listened to in entirety (and I'm speaking from experience) because often people or myself will get an album and just delete the tracks they don't like or shuffle the album. I catch myself doing it and I think to myself wait, that's NOT how the artist wanted it to be heard. Obviously in the long run I'll like what I like as will anyone, but it's at least important to try and listen to an album once straight through and in high quality.

Here's a link to the actual blog post as well.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Radio Free Silver Lake

Radio Free Silver Lake is yet another blog that changed it's interface with its rise in popularity. Originally, it was based on a small scale server, and was in line with ideas on amateurism and discussion.

original layout:

New layout:

The original layout was built in blogspot, and was simplified verison of its newer self. If we position Radio Free Silver Lake (RFSL) within the framework we have created for Electronic Literaure in class, we can see the progression of media and the blog. Initially RFSL followed the format of a traditional blog - a linear stream of information, provided by well informed, but amateur authors. RFSL has moved into the realm of professionalism, like many of their fellow bloggers. Their new host, typepad, describes itself as:

  1. We make blogging simple. TypePad’s intuitive interface allows you to add content, pictures and links quickly and easily. Whether you know a little bit about technology or a lot, you can go from blank screen to live blog in minutes.

  2. You maintain complete control over your blog. TypePad offers the ultimate in blog management tools, allowing you to customize your design, moderate comments, decide whether or not to display ads, and much more. We think that’s the way it should be; after all, it is your blog.

  3. We make it easy for people to find your blog. All TypePad blogs are search-engine optimized. In addition, we provide valuable services such as Google Site Maps, a PubSubhubbub hub, search-engine friendly URLs and site structure, and the exclusive Six Apart Atom stream used by Google and other search engines that make your content easier to find.

  4. You (not advertisers) are our customer. Since TypePad is a paid service, advertising spam will never appear on your blog. You may decide to display advertising, but that’s up to you; you’re in control. We spend our time, effort, and energy to stay on the edge of innovation, and you are the beneficiary.

  5. Your TypePad blog looks good. Really good. We’ve commissioned talented graphic designers to create design templates that make your blog look sharp, professional, and creative. You can customize the templates an infinite number of ways; or, if you’re so inclined, you can code your own.

  6. You get more bling for your buck. TypePad is continually adding new features and functionality to help our customers stay a step ahead. Recent innovations include industry leading mobile support (most recently with the iPhone and iPod Touch) and social networking integration with Facebook.

  7. We’ve got your back. From spam prevention to comment control to powerful back-end data protection, TypePad is committed to keeping your blog content safe. All of the content you upload to TypePad is hosted in a world-class data center, giving you exceptional reliability, uptime and system performance.

  8. Grow as much as you want; we’ve got the technology to handle it. Whether you have a readership of one or one million, we’ve got the backend technology to accommodate your needs. TypePad is the only service that balances ease of use with sophisticated functionality and high-traffic capacity.

  9. We’re here to help. Here at TypePad, we’re passionate about customer service. We provide customer support 7 days a week, 365 days a year. We want you to get the answers you need, and we’ve developed a huge Knowledge Base and a responsive online help system to make sure that happens.

  10. You deserve the best. TypePad’s parent company is Six Apart, the worldwide leader in blogging software and services that changed the way millions of individuals, organizations, and corporations connect and communicate. We take an active role in blogging education, attending 50+ conferences and seminars around the world every year.

What else separates typad from hosts such as blogger and wordpress? Well, it costs money. Fiscally, blogging is moved into the realm of professionalism by this switch in hosts. Typad is geared to business, which represents a shift in the community of blogging. Capitalist institutions have been taking complete advantage of the world of blogging as a free marketing tool, and now blogs have shifted from "weblogs" to businesses. Even an example like Perez Hilton, which began as someone just posting things he found interesting, has turned into an extremely lucrative career. Blogspot even has a tap called "monetize," were bloggers can have adds posted on their site, in order to make a profit.

Here's a video on "How to Blog"

It deals with the same issues. This video is based on efficiency and gaining traffic to your blog. Nothing about content, community, or dialogue. Have blogs simply turned into a capitalist venture, or are these the blogs that are more accessible because of the tools they have purchased to help them move up on the google search engine.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Paste Magazine - Looks Like A Blog

Paste Magazine was initially known for its print form, but now with the rise of the digital age, they have been forced to down scale their publication to the size of a small handout, whereas initially they were a substantial magazine.

Now a majority of Paste's focus has shifted to the web. While their website is not considered a "blog," it seems to fit the format of most of the blogs I have seen thusfar. This leads me to the question, what makes a blog a blog? Is it the webhost, the author, what are the defining properties that separate our everyday websites from blogs.

Blogger definies a blog a:
"A blog is a personal diary. A daily pulpit. A collaborative space. A political soapbox. A breaking-news outlet. A collection of links. Your own private thoughts. Memos to the world. Your blog is whatever you want it to be...In simple terms, a blog is a web site, where you write stuff on an ongoing basis."

Now this definition seems to be vague, yet oddly fitting. But if this is the case, aren't all websites blogs. Is the internet just a platform of bloggers, all of which have different agendas which inform the way we write and what we choose to write about.

In Andy Carvin's article, "What Exactly is a Blog, Anyways," which was written of 2006, gives the history of the blog, which many of us are removed from now considering how the blog has become part of our everyday lives. He discusses how the blog sprung from "web logs" that came out of mediums such as livejournal and and open diary. The difference between blogs and websites seems to be based on the interface. With blogs, the interface is built for you, and is founded on ideas of accessibility and user friendliness - this has shifted over the years, as bloggers have been given increasing control over layout of their blogs.

If this is the case, then no, Paste Magazine is not a "blog," but they do however, have a blogs section on their website, showing a differentiation in content.

So what are the differences in content? Honestly, not much. It seems like Paste Magazine has acknowledge that print media is slowly dying and is trying to capitalize on the blogging trend as soon as possible.