The Future of Music Videos

Music videos have transformed immensely from the short films that emerged in the 1920s as the world’s preliminary music videos, and even since popular music video channel, MTV’s very first: Video Killed the Radio Star.

 

The importance of music videos, however have remained. In an interview she took part in for podcast, “The Future of What,” director/producer, Alicia J. Rose, emphasizes the importance of music’s visual component.

Without it, how well would we remember Take On Me?

Thriller?

How popular would this Beyonce song have been?

The transformation of music videos has come mostly in the form of visual and audio quality enhancement, as well as upgraded recording equipment and new camera techniques. Today, music video creators are attempting to break boundaries that have never been broken before. One such boundary is that of a fourth wall between the video and the video’s audience. They are trying to involve the audience on another level.

Producers are beginning to experiment with virtual reality musiv videos including fully interactive videos and 360 degree videos. We all know that no form of popular culture can remain stagnant for any extensive length of time, and this does not exclude music videos. Creators recognize that ground-breaking changes are necessary in order to keep up with an ever-changing technological world and its ever-adapting and yearning-for-more population. No technology or art form can remain in the past while its counterparts zoom forward.

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Bob Dylan was one of the first to release an interactive music video. His video was made for his 1965 classic, Like a Rolling Stone. The video depicts a fake television box on which audience members can flip through fake channels at their will, and find different characters lip-synching the song. This was revolutionary in the way that it took an age-old classic and renovated it with a futuristic twist that most other modern artists have not even experimented with yet.

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Singer, Trey Songz, wowed the R&B scene with his release of the Touchin Lovin’ music video,  an interactive video that allows the viewer to decide how the video’s storyline will proceed and, as he puts it, “explore Trey’s fantasies.”

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Popular DJ, record producer, remixer, David Guetta, has attempted to take music video innovation a step further by releasing the world’s first double screen music video. For this experience, an audience member is prompted to connect their smartphone to their computer by going to the web address: dg.lc, and entering the code given to them on the device with which they originally found the content. The user must place their smartphone up to their computer screen, aligning it with the outline of a smartphone on the screen, and adjusting the size with corresponding arrows. After accomplishing this and pressing play, the experience begins. Throughout the video, the smartphone acts as either an extension of the music video, or a different perspective of the same scene occurring on the computer screen. At one point, the user will even receive a Facetime call from David Guetta, which looks incredibly realistic. For a split second, I really thought that David Guetta was calling me, and began to reach for the answer button. This just goes to show how immersive virtual reality techniques like this are. I believe that this is the effectiveness that producers are going for with content like this.

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Iggy Azalea even created the world’s first interactive shoppable video, in which audience members can click on the different looks dawned by characters within the music video, and immediately purchase their clothing. Simply click on the “S” that appears on the various articles of clothing.

Everyone is trying to create something new, something revolutionary, something that will immediately attract the full attention of an intrigued audience.

We are even beginning to see holographic music videos. David Gahan and Soulsavers were the first to debut one. Their video, entitled, “All Of This And Nothing,” is best viewed on a smartphone or tablet, with a clear pyramid placed on top of the screen.

Watch here. And learn how to make your own hologram viewer here.

“In a time when music videos continue to be tiresomely filled with female objectification and equally prominent product placement, this simple interactive experience is a refreshing change,” says Natalie Robehmed, journalist for Forbes, in her article on rapper Azealia Banks’s recently released webcam based, interactive music video. Aside from the technological/innovative aspect of these new techniques, interactive music videos will perhaps provide audience members with a realm of entertainment that replaces that offered by the objectification of women. 

I interviewed an active member of the music video industry, to gain some insight on what the implications of these new technologies are, and what the future of music videos looks like. A Michigan native, music video producer, Josh Sikkema, began working with Detroit and Grand Rapids artists, and has worked his way up to bigger names. Currently residing in Los Angeles California, Josh has filmed, directed and edited for countless bands and individual artists. He is now on a European tour with artist, Luke Christopher. This interview was conducted while he was beginning his day on a balcony in Norway.

 

While 360 degree music videos are fun to watch and beneficial to an audience’s experience in various ways, Josh does not see them as something that will take hold as a staple technique for music video production. Unlike fully interactive music videos, however, one can experience the full effects of 360 degree music videos on YouTube.

 

On the topic of virtual reality music videos in general, Josh emphasizes the importance of connecting with the fans. Of course, one effective way to do this for music videos is by implementing virtual reality aspects onto the videos. This allows the audience to connect with the music video in a brand new way. It is an entirely new experience.

Katelyn Torres: “So, what do you see for the future of music videos from here on out?”

Josh Sikkema: “I think you’re going to see them get a lot more personal. Everything is pushing toward connecting with the fan”

As music video techniques progress, it will be interesting to see if YouTube adds more interactive features to its design. As of right now, virtual reality music videos are not available to fully experience on YouTube, and must be viewed and interacted with elsewhere. The availability of these features on YouTube would be convenient for both YouTube itself and music video audience members, as the videos could be consolidated in the one place that people go for the majority of their music video viewing.

Perhaps it is safe to predict that a next step in music video progression will be more holographic music videos. This could be epecially popular for videos involving artists that have passed away: legends like Notorious B.I.G., Selena, Michael Jackson, etc. It seems that with each advancement, we are moving toward a music video experience that is more “real” to its audience. The goal is to get the audience as immersed as possible. The question is, would techniques like these entirely obliterate any other form of music video, making it so that audience members feel bored watching the “old,” “flat” videos? Or would these techniques be viewed as pointless and never even make a mark on the industry?

Tweets regarding the matter seem to suggest the former.Even Google Play is getting in on the action.

I predict that the majority of audience members will remain faithful to original music video form for a while, as long as video and audio quality continue to advance. Despite the effort being made to create a real, interactive experience for music video audience members, most audience members probably enjoy passively viewing a video, without having to exert much effort toward their experience. However I could see holographic music videos being extremely popular for particular occasions like parties, popular nightclubs or award ceremonies. Virtual reality music videos may enhance an artist’s career for a few moments, allowing them to gain exposure and recognition for being with, or ahead of, the times, however it is diffiuclt to say whether they will ever fully take the place of simple, non-interactive videos, or even be as popular.

Are Buzzfeed and Gawker are Saving the News Industry

Whether news sites, Buzzfeed and Gawker, are saving or killing the news industry, has been a point of much contention since their popularity began to skyrocket in the early 2000’s.

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My stance is that they are doing more good than harm, and that they are helping to save the news industry.

listicleAsk any teen, twenty-something or thirty-something social media user if they’ve ever seen a listicle, and I guarantee your list of no’s will be miniscule. Listicles are just one technique that Buzzfeed has implemented in order to attract a larger audience, and specifically to appeal to young adult generations.

It is a well-known modern-day fact that almost no one reads ALL of anything. However when a listicle catches the attention of an internet-user with its specifically numbered title, for example, 34 Times a Cat Depicted Your Life Perfectly, that user will more than likely go through all 34 cat items/photographs on that list. Listicles are not unique to cat stories and what some may deem pointless entertainment. They have also been used to convey political messages, such as in 18 Things Donald Trump has 100% Actually Said, and 7 Things Hillary Clinton Has In Common With Your Abuela. A reader who goes through these lists will definitely learn a thing or two about the candidate in question, thus perhaps adding to their political awareness. One might argue that these listicles are bias, or fail to provide real news and important facts. However even if this is true, this exposure may prompt further research by the reader into political candidates, the issues, etc. This is important. Especially when speaking about America’s youth.

Listicles such as these allow readers to “list snack,” if you will. Modern day news consumers do not want to read pages of texts. They would rather have the information spewed at them in quick, short bursts. This is just what the listicle does. Thus leaving the reader perhaps more informed than a traditional news article would.

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Even the implementation of Buzzfeed quizzes such as Which GOP President Are You? provides readers with an entertaining way to help them better understand their own political ideologies, thus aiding them in their November 2016 decision.

IMG_2377Even though Gawker bashed Buzzfeed for being untrustworthy in a fairly recent article, Gawker implements a similar, enticing approach. Their blog-like news story style, complete with gifs and often-colloquial, engaging titles, attracts a younger audience, as well as a huge chunk of news consumers who want quick information.

 

These two sources understand the future of media. Buzzfeed founder, Jonah Peretti, speaks on this in an interview with Fortune Magazine:

 

 

Buzzfeed and Gawker are keeping up with the fast paced, ever-transforming technological world in which we live. This is something that others within the news industry have somewhat failed to do. This is why Buzzfeed and Gawker are helping to keep this industry alive. They understand their transforming audience and they work to mold to their desires and their needs.

Snoop Dogg: A Jack of All Trades

Born Calvin Cortazar Broadus, you know him as Snoop Dogg (or maybe Snoop Lion) and you probably love him for his music, his acting, the carefree attitude that shines through his lyrics and his unapologetic rants on his social media, or one of the other million things that makes Snoop Dogg, Snoop Dogg.

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Snoop was born in Long Beach, California, and got his nickname from his mother, who thought that he looked like the dog from the Peanuts cartoon. After high school, he often found himself tangled up in legal issues, being arrested several times for possession of drugs. Music became an escape from the harshness of his reality. Snoop’s career in the music industry began upon his introduction to famous rapper and producer, Dr. Dre, who he met through his friend, another well-known rapper, Warren G. His first album entitled, Doggystyle, came out in 1993 and eventually found itself at the very top of Billboard’s hip-hop and Top 200 charts. Producing hit after hit, Snoop Dogg’s success in the industry was not short-lived.

It did not come as much of a shock to the public when the eccentric rapper announced that he was working on his first reggae project in 2012. The project was entitled, Reincarnation, and somewhere along its creation process Snoop Dogg became
inspired to change his name to Snoop Lion. It is said that this was the result of a meeting he had with a Jamaican priest while in Jamaica to work on the project. The priest moved him with his words, telling him, “You are the light; you are the lion.” The name did not stick.

 

The multi-talent has been known to stir up feelings with his intrepid comments and videos. He rarely seems to shy away from expressing his opinions on certain matters.

Whether that means offending Iggy Azalea and igniting Twitter backlash


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Or criticizing the Oscars for its lack of diversity (warning: explicit language)

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Throughout his career, Snoop has strived to be a Jack of all trades, if you will, and so it is not surprising that he has recently taken up podcasting. His podcasts can be found on both iTunes and SoundCloud. He describes his show as a “smoked out session rolled tightly into podcast form that features me choppin’ game with and doin’ full-length interviews with a who’s who from the entertainment world.” Snoop has interviewed everyone from The Trailer Park Boys to Larry King and anything in between. He focuses a great deal of time on music, and artists currently in the music industry, as that was his first love.

The great thing about Snoop’s podcasts is that he is unapologetically himself. His journalistic style leaves no question unanswered, making for entertaining and intriguing segments, and attracting a vast audience. “[We] speak on everything related to pop culture,” he says.

 

“Podcast Answer Man,” Cliff J. Ravenscraft discusses Snoop’s new venture on his own podcast. “This guy has probably a following, that if he were to introduce the world of podcasting [to them] it would make a significant impact in the mainstream.” Perhaps Snoop’s leap into the world of podcasting will further popularize this communication avenue.

Just like his Oscars rant, Snoop brings up important issues in his interviews and reports that others may be more cautious in bringing up. Though his discussions are often explicit, they have an element of realness that other news stories lack. He discusses transforming the lives of underprivileged children through education opportunities with rapper, Will.I.Am, and the possible benefits of medicinal marijuana for cancer patients with singer, Jhene Aiko, whose brother suffered through the disease. His raw style keeps his audience engaged and well-informed.

Snoop Dogg has made a wide range of moves in his career, beginning as a performer in the music industry, and now reporting on the music industry (among other topics), and taking all sorts of other chances along the way. I will be following him as he embarks on his new journey into the journalism world, and it will be fascinating to see what he gets into next.

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University of Michigan, Home to One of North America’s Top Audio Studios

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Unbeknownst to many, the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor is home to one of the best recording studios in North America. Located at the Duderstadt Center, the studio was entirely renovated during the summer of 2015. Taking up about 1800 square feet, the studio is complete with a control room, a main recording room, an isolation booth, machine rooms and a storage closet.

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Probably the most profound addition that was made during the studio’s renovation was its new 40-channel, API Vision analog surround sound mixing and recording console. David Greenspan, coordinator of audio resources at the Duderstadt Center, says that “Using an analog console is a more effective teaching tool than a digital console because the layout is easier for students to learn the fundamentals of audio signal flow.”

With the popularization of Blu-ray and HD streaming, surround sound mixing and recording is gaining popularity as well. Never before has an audience been able to experience sound in such an immersive way. Surround sound recording is a technique that enriches the quality of sound by adding audio channels to provide sound from a 360-degree radius on a horizontal plane. This is in place of “screen channels” which only provide sound from the listener’s front left, front right, and center.

Surround sound is actually characterized by the location of the listener, also known as the “sweet spot.” This is the spot where the surround sound effects work best.

By using multiple discrete audio channels, the surround sound technique exploits sound localization, or, a listener’s ability to detect the origin of a sound. This will enhance that listener’s perception of sound spatialization.

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There have also been major advances in Digital Audio storage, like DSD Recording, SACD and DVD Audio. These advances are digital disruptions themselves, and they require a new level of performance from the equipment used to create audio masters. The API Vision surround sound mixing and recording console has he ability to perform at this new level, therefore responding to the technological advances in storage.

This technology has changed the way those in the music industry construct and record their music. Another device that has transformed the music industry is SoundCloud. SoundCloud has provided a new platform for music distribution, and its popularity has skyrocketed since its launch in 2007. The platform breaks barriers, creating a sort of a global musical village. One can share his or her music from nearly anywhere to nearly anywhere across the globe. This is especially important for artists that do not live in a community with a thriving music industry; artists living in Ann Arbor, for example. Now, students can reserve time in the University of Michigan audio studio and record their music using the API Vision console, then easily upload to SoundCloud. From there, the options for that music’s next destination are endless.

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“…digital protocols change, and I couldn’t promise the provost that a digital console we installed today would still be relevant twenty years from now. With an analog heart, we can be flexible and stay current with the evolving digital technologies that surround it,” says Greenspan, bearing digital disruption in mind.

It is difficult to say what the future holds for audio recording techniques and technology. I predict that sound quality will continue to evolve as it has for years, until it reaches a point at which the only way to distinguish recorded sound from reality, will be the quality. And the recorded sound will be better than reality. Perhaps surround sound will eventually be able to reach not only 360-degrees on a horizontal plane, but on a vertical plane as well. As Digital Audio Storage techniques advance, equipment like the API Vision console will evolve as well, as it has no other choice. With all of these evolutions, audio recording/mixing will become quicker, easier, and the sound will be richer than ever. 

With its new API Vision console, and all of its other recent amenities, the University of Michigan’s audio studio caters to and beyond the needs of those who wish to record and distribute their music. Its new technologies have responded to the advances in audio recording and to the digital disruptions within the music industry. Those with access the studio are very fortunate and should take advantage of the opportunity while they can. Read more about it on the university’s website, and begin taking the necessary steps to become certified to use the studio here.

 

 

Detroit’s Dancer Takes LA

Detroit dancer, Kitwana Clark, travels to Los Angeles, California to embark on his journey toward a professional dance career. The following series of photographs provides a glimpse into his first day exploring Hollywood Boulevard, from the time he wakes up to the moment when all of his energy has finally been depleted. The day is complete with a stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, some barbershop experimentation, slushie stops, and of course a few impromptu dance sessions.

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portrait (above)

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Spotify Creates Beautiful Data Visualization Project

Concise, informative, and often incredibly visually appealing, data journalism (data visualization in particular) is a highly effective new journalistic technique for reporting information to an audience.

“Data journalism is bridging the gap between stat technicians and wordsmiths. Locating outliers and identifying trends that are not just statistically significant, but relevant to decompiling the inherently complex world of today,” says David Anderson in The Data Journalism Handbook.

For example, Spotify created a beautiful data visualization project that aims to identify and report Spotify listening trends across college campuses.

They begin with an interactive map of the United States, which pinpoints Spotify’s top 40 most musical universities in America. Scrolling over a point prompts the appearance of the university’s name, and a user may either click or continue to scroll.

 

 

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I clicked on the University of Michigan’s point, and was redirected to a page outlining different ways that students at the University of Michigan interact with Spotify.

The page is complete with a few distinctive trends,

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a bar graph displaying genre distribution,

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a line graph depicting a typical day of Spotify listening at U of M,

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organized lists showing the most popular tracks and artists at the university,

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tables ranking the University of Michigan’s listening habits against those of other schools,

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and even a table outlining students’ typical wakeup time, bed time, and hours of sleep.

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This project was highly successful in relaying information to its viewers. The initial map was interactive, which was a very convenient and attractive aspect. The page displaying trends for the specified university was organized elegantly with an appealing color scheme. The included graphs offered a concise, easy to interpret, summary of the data.

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Data visualization is different from traditional journalism in that it is not paragraphs upon paragraphs of information. Rather, necessary data is assembled and then presented in a visually appealing manner. As Tim Berners-Lee, founder of The World Wide Web, puts it, “Data-driven journalism is the future.” He contends that journalism no longer involves simply chatting with people in bars to compile a story,  but now requires “poring over data and equipping yourself with the tools to analyze it and picking out what’s interesting. And keeping it in perspective, helping people out by really seeing where it all fits together, and what’s going on in the country.” This is exactly what Spotify has done with their visualization project.

I do not find many shortcomings in this journalistic technique. Perhaps a lack of human emotion within reported information could be considered a shortcoming for some. Visual data journalism offers information in a blunt, succinct way, and upon the creation of this type of report, the personal touch that may be found within a traditional journalism story could be lost. However, journalism will usually remain quite objective anyway.

Data journalism has the capability to cater to both visual and hands-on learners, and is a great way to keep a reader’s attention long enough to convey the vital information. I truly do believe that this is the future of journalism.

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NPR One App Review

Public radio media organization, NPR, has created an app with an intent to cater more successfully to the interests of next-generation listeners. I tested the app out for myself, and I was impressed and satisfied with my user experience.

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Upon my initial interaction with NPR One, I was given the story, “Presidential Candidates Campaign in New Hampshire” followed by, “How Scientists are Working to Eradicate Zika Mosquitoes.” While these first two stories were interesting to me, I didn’t feel as though they were interesting enough, or relevant enough to my own life for me to listen to them in their entirety. I stuck it out through the first one, however I skipped the second before it came to an end.

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“Listeners don’t have to start off by making choices; instead they’re guided into listening through an NPR newscast, which jumps into more stories from there. The ensuing mix is guided by the choices users make on what they like or skip,” Justin Ellis writes in his article, “Deciphering what the next generation of public radio listeners wants through NPR One.” I wondered if my first skip would affect the stories that followed.

The third story was of more interest to me. Music is a huge part of my life, and I am a fan Bernie Sanders, so I listened to “Behind the Music: Bernie Sanders” for a while, and I tagged it as “Interesting.”

4. “Our obsession with tax cuts has led to a crumbling infrastructure”
Though perhaps an important story, this was not one that I wanted to spend my time on. So, I skipped it. NPR One then brought me to another story pertaining to democratic presidential candidates – perhaps due to my explicit interest in the Bernie Sanders story.

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5. “Clinton Runs As Wonk In Chief, Trying To Win Hearts With Plans”
At this point I was a little tired of hearing about politics, but Hilary Clinton’s attempt at winning voters’ hearts was something that I thought I should hear about, so I listened to the story. One of the things that I love about the NPR One app is the way it allows its listeners to multitask. When I don’t want to allot my full attention to the story at hand, but I would like to let it play in the background, I can minimize the app and continue to listen while I surf Instagram or send emails. Kelly McBride mentions this aspect in her article, dubbing it one of the reasons that the user experience was “slightly addicting” to her.

The 6th story that was presented to me was called, “Roundtable: Donald Trump’s Media Tactics.” While Donald Trump’s radical, often comical daily doings are of interest to me, I only listened to a small portion of this story, eventually skipping it and being brought to story number 7, “Wal-Mart’s Closures Leave Small Towns Without Convenience,” No thank you. Skip.

8. “Brains Sweep Themselves Clean Of Toxins During Sleep”
Finally NPR One was beginning to move away from politics. The topic of sleep is a topic that has been relevant to my life lately, as it is something I have been struggling with every night for a month now. This story let me know just how terrible this is for my body, and how vital it is for me to make a change immediately. I knew that sleep deprivation was unhealthy, however this story emphasized a severity that I was unaware of. I marked this story as “Interesting” and did not skip any part of it.

9. “Marc Edwards bringing expertise to new Flint water council”
Living less than an hour away from Flint, Michigan, this story was relevant and interesting. Everyone is talking about the Flint water crisis, it’s huge, and it is important to understand what is going on in order for this issue to be resolved and prevented in the future. At this point the app was definitely steering away from political candidate stories, and focusing more on stories that were relevant, on a local level, and therefore interesting to me.

The 10th story I was presented with focused on the Sundance Film Festival. There we go. Finally we’ve reached the arts. I’m interested.

10. “Biopic About Nat Turner Is a Success At Sundance Film Festival”

Another nice aspect of the NPR One app is its lack of pauses between stories. When one story ends, another begins immediately, without missing a beat.
11. “Karen Korematsu asks Michigan to honor her father’s fight for civil liberties.”
Though this story is not of utmost interest to me, I’m all about individuals fighting for civil liberties, so I listened for a short while before skipping.

For my 12th story, NPR One offered a 30-minute report called, “Is My Phone Eavesdropping On Me?” Of course I was immediately intrigued. Like much of the 20-something-American-girl population, my phone is a significant part of my every-day life. I have heard comments here and there about how our cell phones may be “spying” on us, but I’ve never really looked into it. This is a somewhat scary idea, and a topic that I felt like I should be more aware of. So, I turned up the volume and replaced my regular music playlist with this story as I took a shower and got ready for the night.

FullSizeRender (7)Interesting side note: The interviewee in this story spoke about the way that some apps ask users for permission to access their microphone upon the initial use of the app, and an app will do this so that it can listen to its users – to get to know them better or send their information to advertising companies. As Kelly McBride mentions in her article entitled, “NPR One app potential is huge,” and as I soon found out after downloading, NPR One does this exact thing. Neither Kelly nor I really understood, at the time, why they asked for this access, however I granted the permission anyway. I didn’t think twice about it until I came upon the eavesdropping cell phone story. Ironic indeed.

This story was so interesting that I could write an entire thesis on it. Really. Needless to say, I listened to all thirty minutes of it and tagged it “Interesting.”

The final story I listened to was so relevant to my life it was almost strange.

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13. “Walter Martin Remembers Art History Class With ‘Arts and Leisure’”
This story discussed the life of a man who chose to dedicate the majority of his existence to art; pertinent to the artists of the world. The story’s host and interviewee mentioned common questions posed to him and those like him by outsiders, “What in the world are you going to do with a degree in art history?” This story hit home for me, as a substantial portion of my life is dedicated to music and dance, and I often face questions of this nature. I listened to this story to find out what this man does with his life and how he responds to these questions.

My final grade for the NPR One app is a B+. I am grading primarily in regards to customization.

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The app eventually got the picture. I was over hearing about political topics within the first ten minutes. If I was going to listen to this app for an hour, I would’ve been less than amused had they continued to pepper my feed with stories of that nature. I believe that my use of skips and tagging led the app to recognize this preference. Eventually, the stories were aligning so well with my interests that I continued to listen out of pleasure, rather than necessity to complete an assignment.

Another difference I began to notice was the tone of the host’s voice. Throughout the hour, the stories being offered transformed from a very professional, impersonal tone, to a more casual one in which hosts sounded like they were speaking to a friend. This is the tone I enjoy listening to the most, and perhaps my interaction with the app also led to this recognition. A negative aspect mentioned in McBride’s article was the repetition of stories and the repeated plea for donations, even though she was already a donor. In my hour+ of listening, I was never asked for a donation. Perhaps the app uses its different customization techniques to discover the demographics of its listeners, thus identifying who would be most likely to donate. I also did not come across any repeated stories.

The app could have aligned with my interests at a more consistent rate, and perhaps this could have been more successfully accomplished by initiating the experience with a demographic analysis and questions regarding my interests. However, it is also vital to become and remain educated and enlightened in areas that one may not find the most intriguing or entertaining (like economic or political areas for me) especially with a presidential election on the horizon. Justin Ellis touched on this in his article: “Deciphering what users want is important in perfecting an audio stream that both seems to know what kinds of stories and shows you like but is also still capable of surprising you with something new, Sarasohn said.” For this reason, I do applaud NPR One for providing me with a few stories here and there that I may not have sought out on my own. Overall, the NPR One experience was a great one, and I will keep the app and most likely add it to my daily routine.

Live Tweet: Straight White Men, a Young Jean Lee Theater Company Production