Saturday, August 09, 2008

Asocial

I recently received a number of requests to join a social networking site specializing in new music; I joined up, and promptly started receiving requests to become "friends" with other site members. I don't know if it's more a function of age or of personality, but I realized soon that this was definitely not my environment, and terminated my membership after about half an hour.

I've been online, in one way or another, since using BBs with a 300-bit acoustic modem hooked to an Atari ST, moving onto various online groups and mailing lists, eventually putting up a website of my own, and then this blog (which will soon turn 1000 posts and four years -- that'd be about 80 in blog years, I reckon). But social networking sites seem to be the station where I have to get off the train. The music site I mentioned is an independent affair made by people of abundant good will, but the major sites are in the hands of genuinely evil entrepreneurs. The format of these sites tends to be quite rigid -- a few variations around a small set of templates -- and the intention seems to be to manage information down to smaller digestable bits rather then to offer more. The status of intellectual property put on these sites is often problematic. And the central feature of any given page on one of these sites seems less to be information about the individual member, and in the case of musicians, since promotion is a central concern, his or her creative work, but rather the set of passport-sized photos linking to the pages of "friends" in the network.

Although I will be the first to admit to having a difficult personality (in grade school, I never got better than a C in "gets along well with others") and my insistance on the value of independence is well known, I do treasure friendships and no labor is a greater gift for me than the cultivation of friendships. For that reason, I can't honestly bring myself to use the word "friend" to point, on a public website, to a node in an online network. My own music lives in the world, to the degree that it does, due to real networks of relationships, both personal and professional, but these networks are so very complex and so sensitive to countless variables and conditions and vary in so many qualities and amplitudes that the reduction of any relationship to a blanket word "friend" robs both the relationship and the word of something valuable.

The delivery system for new music and information about new music is in constant and ever more rapid change and changes in the very nearest future are sure to surprise us. It's not hard to imagine that technocrats at ASCAP or GEMA are just now figuring out how to collect licenses for the music used by avatars in virtual bars and concert halls on virtual reality sites. Social networking sites may well become — if they aren't already — important vehicles in this system, and taking some distance from them could eventually be costly for me and my music, but what else am I to do?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

[...] but what else am I to do?

Well, you could just get over it & use it for what it provides, rather than read the nefarious into everything. You do seem to keep a carefully-tended fence, and I can see why you're in Frankfurt -- that's fine, but the web is more Napoli.

Daniel Wolf said...

I've read nothing nefarious into this particular site, I just can't bring myself to use the word "friend" in this way. I wish the site well, but can't reconcile it with my own age and personality.

And what kind of comment is "I can see why you're in Frankfurt"? You have no idea why I'm in Frankfurt or what life in Frankfurt is like, let alone how well-tended my fence here is; I happen to be in Frankfurt entirely due to a set of personal circumstances that have nothing to do with music, and if I had my choice, I'd be home in California. That said, Frankfurt has an cosmopolitan openness that is unusual in Europe, everyday life is far-less regimented than elsewhere in Germany, and there is a tradition of taking new and experimental music seriously in Frankfurt, all of which is good, but has nothing to do with how I ended up here in the first place.

I also don't understand "the web is more Napoli" unless, with all due respect to the positive qualities of Naples, you wish to imply a failure of civic governance and a lack of control over garbage collection...

jeff harrington said...

http://netnewmusic.ning.com/forum/topic/show?id=2249453%3ATopic%3A2693

jeff harrington said...

Friends and Social Networks Here - Uh... WTF?

jamescombs said...

I view this site from a different angle. Instead of a prototypical Facebook, its more of a sub-categorized site, i.e., focused into art music. The thing that is impossible on the main network sites is communicating via forums. You know, you have "music" as an option and 999 of 1000 posts are re: pop music. As far as the friend thing goes... Its not entirely the same, even though it functions similarly to Myspace, because everyone on the site is a "friend" in the same way a Myspace friend is (interested in music) whether they are on your list or not.

sfmike said...

"I do treasure friendships and no labor is a greater gift for me than the cultivation of friendships. For that reason, I can't honestly bring myself to use the word "friend" to point, on a public website, to a node in an online network."

Thank you for getting to the heart of why I'm staying off social networking sites as if they were plague-infested. Friends require time, cultivation, shared interests, and genuine affection. And wondering who is getting the most Valentine's cards in sixth grade is not an experience I need to repeat as a middle-aged man.

By the way, this is being sent with friendly affection to a pen pal who I have never met and would scarcely call a "friend," but more of a kindred spirit. Thank you for your four-year blog which has taught me more than I ever thought I would be interested in about the "new music scene," its names, economics, and philosophical debates.

paul bailey said...

daniel,

friend, smeind...

we traded recipes so in internet terms that means we must be 'going steady'

these distinctions probably mean nothing when at the core we are a bunch of antisocial prigs that should get more sun. (i'm talking 'bout me)

i look forward to your unique and insightful opines at the NNMSN. so far its nice to have a wider group to banter with. don't worry i won't hold it against you if you only drop by every now and then.

p

Kalvos said...

'Friend' and 'song' are gatekeeper words. Sometimes they mean 'friend' and 'song', sometimes 'professional acquaintance' and 'Einstein on the Beach'. Their previous meanings have been supplemented. Guess I'm not too old for it yet ... and my first modem days were 110 baud with a Teletype. Anyway, my Facebook page is good recreation, and I've found folks there who won't answer post mail. (Heck, I won't answer postal mail anymore either.)

Dennis