After the power pack for my mac melted and forced the journey I found myself on a slow train into London with a copy of the independent. The article that caught my eye (the crossword was too hard again) was about our fine government’s attempts to tax incomes made in Second Life. Now, I have tried this weird online world and found it well and truly too freaky (for some reason the flying mixed with the changing radio station was too much), but apparently its a big deal with $1.5 million in transactions going on each day! Transactions are made in Linden Dollars (the in game currency) but can be changed into real money, and it is at this point of conversion that the the government wants their cut. Kind of like making your cash in a tax free paradise and then getting stung when you declare your income at home. Does this amount to a ‘proper’ nation-state trying to deal with a virtual world like another state? What do you do with an online community such as Second Life, with its own economy, currency and culture but no territorial affiliation?
If only you could do everything is Second Life (like for instance, eat) then the man wouldn’t be able to get at your hard earned Linden dollars. Full body immersion suits that provide all the sensations of the world, plus all the nutrients your ever increasingly redundant body needs would about do it. It would also be the matrix, which would be fine if it was like the first film. The other two just sucked (although I found if you turn the sound off they are bearable).
Everyone should check out this amazing website. Its a radio station that takes advantage of the music genome project. Some clever people have got together and started adding tags to songs – such as repetitive melody or female vocalist – to create a genetic blueprint of the music. You then type in a band or song you like and based on the tags the site recommends lots of new music for you. So far its been bang on, and I have found lots of really nice music by bands I would never ever have heard of (but are nice and familiar).
I cant help thinking how difficult it must be to code up a piece of music. Simple tags such as rock, or jazz, or acoustic bass line are easy enough to do, but how about more subjective things such as the atmosphere the music generates. But its also interesting to think of music in this way, as you end up with formula – for example electric guitars + instrumental arrangement + repetitive melody = mogwa-like music, and the similarity in feel and atmosphere of tracks the software spits out is striking. Maybe then, atmosphere is generated by just the mixture of components, rather than by something abstract that the human participants bring to the show. It also highlights the strength of trends in music: most people who do instrumental hip-hop, for example, sound pretty similar, the real innovators being the ones who started the genre. The more genres get mashed up, the more familiar everything sounds as innovation is no longer about the creation of something new, but rather is the creative mixture of the old.
This isn’t a particularly bad thing – no horrible surprises, and you never have to change the station – but you have to wonder: is there is a new musical innovation around the corner, or are we just left with endless variations on a few themes that work (i.e. those that people like)? Getting what you want to hear is all well and good, but it also means you are less likely to listen to something that takes a little more perseverance, or something you had no idea you might like.Still, for all that it is a very cool site!