A Manifesto For Music Technologists

March 21-23, we held the first Music Tech Fest in North America at Microsoft Research New England. It was a three day bonanza of ideas spanning a mind-bending spectrum of ways to connect music and technology.

The day after, 21 scholars met for a symposium we called What is Music Technology For? Our goal was to write a manifesto. Today we are proud to announce the launch of the Manifesto. As we say on the about page:

Those at the symposium were motivated by a passion for music, a fascination with technology and culture, and a concern for how music technology is now developing. Recognizing the fertility of music technology as a subject that bridges computational, scientific, social scientific and humanistic approaches, we looked for common ground across those fields. We debated and developed a set of shared principles about the future of music technology.

Built from the notes of that day’s event, and revised together in the weeks that followed, this manifesto is the collaboratively-authored product of this meeting.

Read more about the manifesto and who was involved on the about page. We hope those of you with overlapping interests in music and in technology will sign on.

SMC is hiring a Research Assistant!

UPDATE: At this time we have a great pool for 2014 and are no longer accepting applications.

Microsoft Research (MSR) is looking for a Research Assistant for its Social Media Collective in the New England lab, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Social Media Collective consists of Nancy Baym, Mary Gray, Jessa Lingel, and Kevin Driscoll in Cambridge, and Kate Crawford and danah boyd in New York City, as well as faculty visitors and Ph.D. interns. The RA will be working directly with Nancy Baym, Kate Crawford and Mary Gray.

An appropriate candidate will be a self-starter who is passionate and knowledgeable about the social and cultural implications of technology. Strong skills in writing, organisation and academic research are essential, as are time-management and multi-tasking. Minimal qualifications are a BA or equivalent degree in a humanities or social science discipline and some qualitative research training.

Job responsibilities will include:
– Sourcing and curating relevant literature and research materials
– Producing literature reviews and/or annotated bibliographies
– Coding ethnographic and interview data
– Editing manuscripts
– Working with academic journals on themed sections
– Assisting with research project and event organization

The RA will also get to collaborate on ongoing research and, while publication is not a guarantee, the RA will be encouraged to co-author papers while at MSR. The RAship will require 40 hours per week on site in Cambridge, MA, and remote collaboration with the researchers in the New York City lab. It is a 1-year only contractor position, paid hourly with flexible daytime hours. The start date will ideally be in late June, although flexibility is possible for the right candidate.

This position is ideal for junior scholars who will be applying to PhD programs in Communication, Media Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Information Studies, and related fields and want to develop and hone their research skills before entering a graduate program. Current New England-based MA/PhD students are welcome to apply provided they can commit to 40 hours of on-site work per week.

To apply, please send an email to Nancy Baym (baym@microsoft.com) with the subject “RA Application” and include the following attachments:

– One-page (single-spaced) personal statement, including a description of research experience, interests, and professional goals
– CV or resume
– Writing sample (preferably a literature review or a scholarly-styled article)
– Links to online presence (e.g., blog, homepage, Twitter, journalistic endeavors, etc.)
– The names and emails of two recommenders

We will begin reviewing applications on May 12 and will continue to do so until we find an appropriate candidate.

Please feel free to ask quesions about the position in the comments! I have answered a couple of the most common ones there already.

We’re hiring a Postdoc!

The Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for a social media postdoctoral researcher (start date: 1 July, 2014). This position is an ideal opportunity for a scholar whose work draws on anthropology, communication, media studies, sociology, and/or science and technology studies to bring empirical and critical perspectives to complex socio-technical issues.

Application deadline: Monday 4 November, 2013.

Microsoft Research provides a vibrant multidisciplinary research environment with an open publications policy and close links to top academic institutions around the world. Postdoc researcher positions provide emerging scholars (PhDs received in 2013 or to be conferred by July 2014) an opportunity to develop their research career and to interact with some of the top minds in the research community. Postdoc researchers are invited to define their own research agenda and demonstrate their ability to drive forward an effective program of research. Successful candidates will have a well-established research track record as demonstrated by journal publications and conference papers, as well as participation on program committees, editorial boards, and advisory panels. The position offers the potential to have research realized in products and services that will be used world-wide.

Postdoc researchers receive a competitive salary and benefits package, and are eligible for relocation expenses. Postdoc researchers are hired for a two-year term appointment following the academic calendar, starting in July 2014. Applicants must have completed the requirements for a PhD, including submission of their dissertation, prior to joining Microsoft Research. We do accept applicants with tenure-track job offers from other institutions so long as they are able to negotiate deferring their start date to accept our position.

While each of the thirteen Microsoft Research labs has openings in a variety of different disciplines, the Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England (located in Cambridge, MA) is especially interested in identifying social science/humanities candidates with critical approaches to their topics. Qualifications include a strong academic record in anthropology, communication, media studies, sociology, science and technology studies, or a related field. The ideal candidate may be trained in any number of disciplines, but should have a strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundation, be interested in questions related to technology or the internet and society or culture, and be interested in working in a highly interdisciplinary environment that includes computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists.

The Social Media Collective is comprised of full-time researchers, postdocs, visiting faculty, PhD interns, and research assistants. Current projects include:

– How does the use of social media affect relationships between artists and audiences in creative industries? (Nancy Baym)
– What are the implications of regulating algorithms? (danah boyd)
– What are the politics, ethics and policy implications of big data science? (Kate Crawford)
– How does information infrastructure shape event epistemology? (Megan Finn)
– What are the cultural, political, and economic implications of crowdsourcing as a new form of semi-automated, globally-distributed digital labor? (Mary L. Gray)
– How do online technologies shape subcultures and communities of alterity? (Jessa Lingel)

To apply for a postdoc position at MSRNE:

Submit an online application here.

– Indicate that your research area of interest is “Anthropology, Communication, Media Studies, and Sociology” and that your location preference is “New England, MA, U.S.”

– In addition to the CV and names of three referees (including your dissertation advisor) that the online application will require you to include, upload the following 3 attachments with your online application:

a) two journal articles, book chapters, or equivalent writing samples (uploaded as 2 separate attachments);

b) a single research statement (four page maximum length) that addresses the following: outlines the questions and methodologies central to your research agenda (~two page maximum length); provides an abstract and chapter outline of your dissertation (~one page maximum length); offers a description of how your research agenda relates to research conducted by the social media collective (~one page maximum length)

After you submit your application, a request for letters will be sent to your list of referees on your behalf. You can check the status of progress on individual reference requests at any time by clicking the status tab within your application page. Note that a complete application includes three submitted letters of reference.


Please make sure to check back with your referees if you have any questions about the status of your requested letters of recommendation.

For more information, see here.

Get Over IT! Social @Work is Smart (and Inevitable)

Practically everyone uses social media, and most workers use them at work. In fact, as a Microsoft study revealed this week, 84 percent of information workers use non-work social networks, and 60 percent of them use them from work at least once a day.

At the same time, the survey found that more than 30 percent of workers said their employers have policies or technologies in place to stop them from doing so. When at work, it seems, workers are expected to work.

Makes sense, right? What else should we be doing at work besides work? And surely social media distracts from work.

But look a little deeper and there are some real problems with this attitude. First of all, we’re starting to understand the very premise – that social media usage inhibits productivity – is a myth. A forthcoming, two-year longitudinal study titled Exploring social network interactions in enterprise systems: the role of virtual co-presence by Nandhakumar, Baptista, and Subramaniam, of Warwick Business School, found that using social media at work could actually enhance workers’ productivity.

It’s not just that the premise is wrong – we’re also learning that blocking and banning policies are ineffective, giving traditionalist supervisors a false sense of control that, in reality, has been slipping away for years. “You can’t stop people having this connectivity,” said Nandhakumar, “so we need to find out how we can manage it and how we can make it into something more positive.”

I am a voracious Twitter user. My profession is research. The old guard would have you believe the former impedes the latter. Not the case – the former enriches the latter. Many is the time I’ve turned to my followers for sources and ideas that have benefited my research. For example, when a colleague and I were formulating a survey about mobile phone norms, I used Twitter as an informal poll by asking what behaviors people hated – some became items in our survey.

Social networks can also build camaraderie, providing light touches that diminish the stress of difficult days, or building rapport between colleagues. In my research on friends on the music site, Last.fm, for instance, I found people who worked together using the site in order to learn more about each other’s musical taste and sometimes to provide fodder for good natured office teasing.

This all says nothing of the “work from anywhere” promise. Think of the many laptop ads you’ve seen showing happy workers with their laptops on the beach. Should bosses ban themselves from expecting any work from employees outside working hours?

In 2011, Right Management, a division of Manpower, found that 63 percent of workers surveyed said their bosses emailed them on weekends and expected a response either often or from time to time. Only 37 percent said that never happened. Another recent study by mobile-research firm Good Technology found that more than 80 percent of workers continued to work at home after leaving the office, adding more than a month of overtime work annually.

Given the ubiquity of mobile media, the fact that many find it useful to work outside of work hours, and the general breakdown of the 9-to-5 work day, perhaps letting workers use social media at work – whether consumer or enterprise-grade – is not so much a question of productivity, but of fairness. If work now has a place in our social time, why shouldn’t social time have a place at work? Fair’s fair.

Personal Twitter Use Over Time

Have you downloaded your Twitter archive? Would you like to? Do you want to talk about it? Nancy Baym and Jean Burgess are seeking to interview people about how their Twitter use has changed over time. We are seeking Twitter users in the Boston area who have or can get their Twitter archive (For instructions see here). To participate you must be willing to (1) share your archive with us (2) read it in advance of the interview to flag points where things change, (3) sit down with Jean and Nancy to talk about those points.

In return we will provide you with a $20 Amazon gift card.

If you are interested in participating please contact Nancy Baym as soon as possible. We will then follow up to coordinate. If you’re not in the Boston area and interested, let us know that too, you never know where projects will go.

SMC seeks a Research Assistant

Call for Research Assistant

Microsoft Research (MSR) is looking for a Research Assistant for its Social Media Collective in the New England lab, based in Cambridge,Massachusetts. The Social Media Collective consists of Nancy Baym, danah boyd, Kate Crawford, Megan Finn, and Mary L. Gray, as well as faculty visitors and Ph.D. interns.  An appropriate candidate will be both passionate and knowledgeable about social media, have strong writing and organization skills, and have experience working on research projects.  Minimal qualifications are a BA or equivalent degree in a social science discipline and some qualitative research training. 

Job responsibilities will include producing literature reviews, coding ethnographic data, editing manuscripts, and organizing events.  The RA will also get to collaborate on ongoing research and, while publication is not a guarantee, the RA will be encouraged to co-author papers while at MSR. The RAship will require 40 hours per week on site in Cambridge, MA.  It is a 1-year only contractor position, paid hourly with flexible daytime hours. The start date will likely be in September.  

This position is ideal for scholars who are applying to PhD programs in Communication, Media Studies, Sociology, Anthropology, Information Studies, and related fields who want to get involved with research before entering a graduate program.  Current New England-based MA/PhD students are welcome to apply provided they can commit to 40 hours of on-site work per week.  

To apply, please send an email to Nancy Baym (baym@microsoft.com) with the subject “RA Application” and include the following:

 – 1-page personal statement, including a description of research experience, interests, and professional goals

– CV or resume

– Writing sample (preferably a literature review or a scholarly-styled article)

– Links to online presence (e.g., blog, homepage, Twitter, journalistic endeavors, etc.)  

– The names and emails of two recommenders

We will begin reviewing applications on September 11 and continue doing so until we find an appropriate candidate.

Introducing Facebook Nation

Facebook has, as usual, been riling feathers with its latest round of change. Dave Winer argued Facebook is now scaring him, and the LA Times questioned whether they have finally gone too far. At issue (this week) is “frictionless sharing” in which things people read, listen to, or otherwise engage online are sent from partner sites to Facebook, announced to their Facebook friends, and incorporated into their forthcoming Timelines (formerly known as “profiles”). Now it is true that people can opt out of this sharing, although, as Mike Masnick of Techdirt points out, doing so may be far less than transparent.

All this is disturbing, for the reasons outlined in the articles above. More concerning, however, is a likely end game, as just enacted by Spotify, in which access to partner sites requires having a Facebook account. Spotify, a music streaming service whose US launch had been eagerly anticipated for more than a year before it finally happened, has just announced that all new Spotify accounts – worldwide – will require a Facebook login.

As they told  Evolver, in a tone-deaf response meant to quell unrest:

From today, all new Spotify users will need to have a Facebook account to join Spotify. Think of it as like a virtual ‘passport’, designed to make the experience smoother and easier, with one less username and password to remember.

Think about that language: “like a virtual ‘passport’”

Who issues passports?

Do we really want to think of Facebook as a nation?

In 2010, with danah boyd and Alex Leavitt, I read through hundreds of English language news articles about Facebook’s privacy issues with an eye toward the metaphors reporters used as they described the site and its implications. Facebook as a land, or nation, was a prominent one. Among the terms used to describe Facebook were homeland and cyberland. It was referred to as the third largest country, an island nation. The site’s owners in this metaphorical scheme were totalitarian secret police, Zuckerberg their King (or sometimes, their Boy King). The users? Reporters referred to them as citizens or migrants. When they left Facebook, it was called an exodus as people sought asylum offline. Privacy in this metaphoral scheme is a regime.  For his part, Zuckerberg has been quoted lately as saying that your profile on Facebook should “feel like your home.” It is not a coincidence that the open source response to Facebook called itself Diaspora.

Educational theorists have argued that metaphors are fundamental to learning. We grab on to the new and make it make sense by understanding it in terms of something we already know. When Spotify tells us to think of Facebook logins as “passports,” they are invoking a metaphor to trigger a set of ideas with which we are all familiar and comfortable.

But we should think long and hard about its implications. Except for nations that block the internet or some of its sites (hello, China!), the internet has thrived on being a set of domains across which we could travel without passports. Do we really want Facebook citizenship to become a requirement for accessing other domains? Do we really want an internet where we not only need a passport, but a passport from a nation – any nation – owned by a privately-held corporation? Either social network “citizens” need rights beyond emigration or we need to push back hard. We must be the builders of our own futures, not subjects in a nation motivated by profit.

Addendum: John Carter helpfully points out that Microsoft’s attempt to create a “passport” didn’t work out all that well for them.

Socially-Mediated Publicness: A Call for Papers

Please distribute widely!


Special Theme Issue of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media

“Socially-Mediated Publicness”

Guest Editors:

–         Nancy Baym (University of Kansas)

–         danah boyd (Microsoft Research)

Editor: Zizi Papacharissi

Social media call into question conventional understandings of what it means to “be public,” what it means to be “in a public,” and even the meaning of “public” itself. New types of publics are emerging because of the technological affordances of social media and individuals may be more visible than ever before, whether they seek this or not. This special issue will explore these issues.

We seek scholarship from an array of theoretical and methodological perspectives that critically examines how public life is reconfigured because of or in relation to social media.  We welcome articles from diverse fields, including media studies, communication, anthropology, sociology, political theory, critical theory, etc.

Possible topics include, but are not limited to:

·        Processes and practices of building and living in online publics

·        How new technologies of publicness affect celebrities, artists, musicians, and other creators

·        How mediated publics challenge social, political, and economic assumptions

·        The meaning of concepts such as “audience” and “listening” in mediated public spaces

·        How counterpublics and intimate publics are reshaped by technology

·        The relationships between being public and being part of a public

·        Degrees, boundaries, and scales of technologically-mediated publicness

·        How new types of publicness reconfigure identity and race, class, gender, sexuality, religion, and/or nationality

In order to be more public, this special issue of JOBEM will be published as an open-access issue.  All articles will be available online at the point of publication. The anticipated publication date for this issue is September 2012.

Manuscripts should conform to the guidelines of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media (www.beaweb.org/jobem) [if that link is not working, try this one].

By December 12, 2011, you should send a title, abstract, and list of 5 potential reviewers to jobem.publicness@gmail.com to help us streamline the peer review process.

Articles should be submitted no later than January 6, 2012 at: http://mc.manuscriptcentral.com/hbem (select “Special Issue: Socially Mediated Publicness” as a manuscript type).

Audiences Affect Artists Too: Rethinking “Participation”

Over the last twenty years we’ve seen a boom in research about “participatory culture” that tries, in part, to make sense of the many ways audiences engage popular culture. This work tends to start from the points of view of audience members. Recently (sometimes during my visits at MSR), I’ve been coming at this from the other side, asking what audiences look like from the points of view of culture creators. I’ve interviewed approximately forty musicians, managers, and label execs to get at how they understand their relationships and communication with audiences. You might have heard of some of them – they include people like Billy Bragg, Kristin Hersh, Lloyd Cole, and Richie Hawtin.

Last week I gave a keynote at Transforming Audiences 3, held at Westminster University in London. My talk was called “Biting and Feeding the Hands That Feed: Musician-Audience Interaction Online.” In it I identify several audience practices and hit briefly on the complex and contradictory ways musicians understand how audiences congregate, criticize, share, create, reach out, help, show interest, tell stories, and complete.

The upshot? When we focus on ‘participation’ from the audiences’ points of view, we only partially understand what ‘participation’ means. Audiences are not just participating in shared practices amongst themselves, they’re participating in the emotional and relational lives of creators in ways that can be powerful and generative, moving and hurtful, validating and at times difficult. Audiences participate not just in creativity, but in life. If audiences are people who listen, the artists become audiences to their audiences, and the meaning of the creative life changes as a consequence.

You can download a PDF of the talk here.