Musical Self-Representation

Technology has branded our society in a new way. Meaning, technology has a way of creeping into our lives and we have to confide in it in one way or another. Whether it’s new technology or old; things that are a commonality constantly surround us. For example, the car used to drive from one place to another, that’s a technology that we now use as nearly a necessity. But, what about non-necessities, such as: music, entertainment, or even breathing for some people? The point is, technology is surrounding everyone, and we have a way of portraying ourselves to fit what we want others to see us as. It’s not necessarily who we are, but who we want to be, to be liked or to be accepted into this society. Throughout this blog, I will explore music as a representation of the digital self.

Different media are ways to build profiles for ourselves. Some use website interfaces, social media archives, and others use music libraries to illustrate who they are. Profiles can be formed through the music one listens to. Look at iTunes, a music library that is designed to suggest music you may like; it gives you similar artists according to what you have purchased in the past. Or even the Genius button, that when pressed it selects all the music in your library that you enjoy and places them into a playlist to listen to; songs that sound similar.

Have you thought about a date? What music would you listen to? Probably something according to the date’s music taste. How often, on a first date, do you play only what you want to listen to, as if it was one of your friends? I would venture to say not very often, especially the first date. But, why is that? We do this because we want to portray ourselves as someone who will be easily liked. By playing music that they enjoy, you are creating a personal profile of who you want them to see you as. You wouldn’t want to play Heavy Metal on a first date, even if it’s your favorite genre. This seems simple, but it could have underlying effects; maybe a second date. The music might not be a direct correlation between having another date, obviously, but it could help the date run smoother, setting the mood.

Creating a musical profile in public is another good example. Imagine driving in the summer, when pulling up to a red light, do you turn down your favorite song in respect of others, or do you turn it up to show off who you are? This might be two-sided, but I know many people who turn up music no matter what, to show off whom they are. It’s kind of a statement in a way. You represent yourself as a promotion of a certain genre of music or certain artist. You can literally hear when a car pumps down the road, with heavy bass blasting through a sound system. That person is representing their musical tastes and preferences. In a music study on people and their representations, the researcher said “intrapersonal functions encompass the uses of music as a vehicle for emotional expression”[1] This means that music can be used as a way of communicating how one wants to be seen and to illustrate their emotions.

In Watson’s Studying the Digital Self, she says “Online sites gather, authorize, and conserve present and past versions of self that document a person’s life, habits, and desires.”[2] In this essay, she analyzes the digital archives that one can characterize one’s self through. These online sites reveal whom one wants to be based on their present and past. Music works the same way; people want to show others who they are based on their musical preference. People can shape their desired self through movements of sound.

In conclusion, musical representations happen all around us, and we have come accustomed to this in our society. Whether it’s a music channel on YouTube, which recommends other music by that record label or just a mix of music you might like, or iTunes, we are constantly building our digital profile. Some make playlists of songs depending on the person they are hanging out with, it might not be music that you particularly care for, but you play it anyways to “win” acceptance of that person. It’s inevitable to build a profile, whether its accurate or someone you want to be seen as. Even music can build a persona.

[1] Boer, Diana, et al. “Young People’s Topography Of Musical Functions: Personal, Social And Cultural Experiences With Music Across Genders And Six Societies.” International Journal Of Psychology 47.5 (2012): 355-369. Academic Search Complete. Web. 16 Feb. 2015.

[2] Watson, Julia. “Studying the Digital Self.” The Chronicle of HIGHER EDUCATION. University of Wisconsin, n.d. Web. 17 Feb. 2015.

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Audial Memories

Imagine driving on the highway, zoning out from reality as you pass by the lamplights that line the side of the highway. As your mind begins to drift, you may start to tap to the beat that your subconscious hears. You notice your tapping foot when you realize you’re listening to a familiar song that you haven’t heard in years. Maybe you feel excited because it was your favorite song; maybe you reminisce on the times you were with your friends when listening to this song on repeat. This song brought up feelings; whether they are good, bad, sadness, excitement, or nostalgic. You felt something. Was it the song that made you feel this way? Maybe. Perhaps, it was your mind triggering a vague familiarity that gave you some flashback on a memory that is special to you. Throughout this blog, I will explore the ideas of music and how it reflects our feelings.

Music has a way of portraying the way we feel. When we want to get hyped for an exam, feeling like we can conquer the world, we might put on upbeat music. When we feel sad, or maybe calm, we might put on acoustical music. These genres have different effects for different people, but whichever genre you listen to, it sparks something intangible. I know that I listen to specific artists when I want to feel a certain way, and different albums represent different timeslots of my life. For example, when I listen to the artist, Emarosa, I instantly recall all the campfires that my friends and I had in high school, specifically my junior year. One could argue that the medium of music itself is a portal into a different reality; a different thought process; a previous time; a way to think on the good times, and perhaps the bad.

Today, it’s hard to imagine a life without music, and it truly has impacted our lives in a dramatic way. Music has adopted its way into our culture and maybe it’s to help us think on those past memories, so that we don’t forget them. Music is the stimuli for the brain to throw back those thoughts to an exact moment in which we lived. Ann Cvetkovich says, “Cultural artifacts become the archive of something more ephemeral: culture as a ‘way of life’” (9).[1] This “artifact” she speaks of could mean music; and, music is not just a way to think, it’s a way to live.

Cvetkovich illustrates this idea of “trauma,” and the choices and the memories throughout our lives can result from one trauma or another. In this case, music can represent trauma, or be used as an escape from trauma. For example, some people grow up in a rough household and their only escape from the tough times is to zone out through the access of music. Another example is the music itself is an outlet for trauma, meaning sometimes people listen to angry-sounding music to illustrate how they feel; thus, trauma is shown through music. If you think of artists, some artists write about the trauma of their past, which can relate to listeners in the same type of situation. Thus, a community is built around trauma with people who experience the music the same way that you do.

Music is a way to escape from reality by enjoying the melody, but also to create an archive of our feelings that we can access through this outlet of sound. For example, whatever favorite artist you enjoy listening to now, will most likely not be your favorite artist two or three years from now, and if you were to hear the melody of your favorite song from this artist in four years, you will most likely think back to this current year. Scholar Jérôme Daltrozzo said, “The feeling of familiarity evoked by a melody may reactivate emotional or associative concepts carried either by the melody itself or by the memory representations of this melody.”[2] Here, he means that a melody is more than just a sequence of different notes; it has a way of carrying itself into a state of the familiar, a state of memory, a state of meaning. I believe that music is more than just music notes and lyrical sounds: It’s a way to access a library of thoughts, a way to live in the moment and in the past, a way to capture who we are through sounds of enlightenment.

[1] Cvetkovich, Ann. An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures. Durham, NC: Duke UP, 2003. Print.

[2] Daltrozzo, Jérôme, et al. “Temporal Aspects Of The Feeling Of Familiarity For Music And The Emergence Of Conceptual Processing.” Journal Of Cognitive Neuroscience 22.8 (2010): 1754-1769. Academic Search Complete. Web. 4 Feb. 2015.

Video Games: Violent Behavior

The concept of gaming has taken on a whole new meaning in the 21st Century. As people have adapted to the change in technology, so too has the view on video games changed. No longer are games focused on strategy and learning through thought-provoking moves; now, there is a shift toward a more violent approach with fast-paced reflex and a need for survival through violent acts. Throughout this blog I will explore the significance of the artifact, “Video-Game Controller”, which is an object used to signify the much larger scope of “Video Games” as a whole.

Technology has made its way into society and has influenced the way we live and function throughout our daily lives. One can rely on technology to wake up, obtain currency to survive, and even to protect one’s self. But one way that technology has also influenced people is through the video-game controller. As strange as it may sound, the controller can help explain why some violent acts have increased in recent decades. However; this artifact does not explicitly translate into violence, nor does it imply that it does not entertain harmful thoughts. With the advancement of technology, one must be cautious when exploring the boundaries of this artifact.

Two decades ago, the controller was nothing more than an adventure, a cognitive stimulant, to help expand the mind into a strategic way of thinking. Games like Frogger, Super Mario, and Tetris, were all games that explored the different spectrums of strategy. In Frogger, one played as a frog that had to strategically get from start to finish, without getting squashed by moving vehicles. Simply, this game was intended to test the fast, strategic thinking of the player. In Super Mario, one played as a plumber who must save the princess from the villain, who in this case was a large monster turtle. The idea of this game is for the player to dodge objects and gather coins to reach the princess, ultimately battling the villain for the release of the princess. Finally, in Tetris the player must stack blocks, fitting them together, much like a puzzle, but within a time limit. The idea here is to capture how the player thinks, in order to stack the blocks successfully. Once again strategy is the key.

As technology has changed, so has the idea of strategic thinking. Increased development has created a need for more realistic gameplay; thus, resulting in riskier behavior. For example, the characters are no longer fictional, they look and act like human beings. In recent games, the character could be a drug dealer, with the need to kill the competitor, thus murdering another human. Scholar Flaviu Pătrunjel said, “Tortures are not morally justified here…similar violent content of making a show out of implying suffering to animals and humans.”[1] Meaning, that no matter how one looks at this scenario, there is no good to come out of playing this game. The advancement in the game industry does not only effect the younger generation, but also adults who look for entertainment. One could argue that there has been a shift from learning strategies to being more for entertainment purposes.

In recent years, researchers have noticed how violent the games have become; some games focus on categories such as: war, terror, murder, need for survival, and provoking fear. News broadcasts have even warned parents of how these games can influence violent behavior in children. It is true that a child’s mind can be easy influenced by what he/she sees and hears, so it is reasonable to be cautious when allowing such games to be played by a younger audience. Furthermore, studies on psychology has examined that when an individual entertains a violent thought long enough, one can actually convince themselves that they can get away with it. Thus, adults too should be cautious when evaluating whether these games are reasonable or not.

It is evident that the video-game controller over the years has taken on a new way of living, such that, children are more interested in staying inside, playing video games than exploring the outdoors. The advancement of the controller has influenced the want to stay inside and play one more “mission or level.” One could argue that some find a need in playing these games; that this controller has almost a dominance over the minds of some; that’s all they think about and want to play. Some children would skip dinner, class, and even isolate themselves from friends to play more games. This large movement to hold that controller in hand and play one more “mission” has caused a disconnect from reality, as well as, entertaining violent behavior.

One question to wonder is, are these games good or bad? The answer simply is that it is hard to say, because there are other factors at play when violence is acted upon. One example is the film industry making movies that revolve around murder and violent acts. Another example is the music industry making music that promotes drugs and violence. Given these two examples, it is hard to pinpoint the actual effect of video games alone because of the other factors that have a similar influence on these behaviors.

Throughout this blog, I have identified the potential influences that the video-game controller has on mind of society. Video games have changed dramatically within recent decades, sadly for the worst. Even though it is hard to say whether new games influence violence; it is evident that it does not help influence kind behavior. So, as a result we must be cautious where technology is going to be in the next few decades. The morale is to be in control of your thoughts and do not let anything control you.

[1] PĂTRUNJEL, Flaviu. “Death Games And Survival Horror Video Games: On The Limits Of Pure Torture Show Entertainments.” Scientific Journal Of Humanistic Studies 4.7 (2012): 38-45. Academic Search Complete. Web. 27 Jan. 2015.