Tuesday, April 7, 2009


so i made a soundtrack and then thought: i should have done this with "genius". so i did. genius is a new feature on iTunes which creates a playlist of songs drawn from your iTunes library based on the first song you choose and the preferences of other iTunes users who have included that song in their playlists. so you all will receive two disks: one with "my" playlist and one with "genius'" playlist this is my playlist: 
i haven't written out the "genius" playlists for you since "genius" changes the list every time you press refresh: the list is fluid and changing based on an internal randomize command, i suspect, as well as my changing iTunes library and "genius'" ongoing collection of data. i was disappointed with the refresh button because it challenged the genius of "genius" to come up with the best playlist for me. is it evasive to say "we'll come up with something you'll likely like - if you don't, try again"? there's a wonderful give and take with this system - the image that comes to mind is some sort of expanding bubbling blob with pustules forming and exploding is some sort of primordial way. i wonder if it will stagnate at some point...if "genius" will decide it is done? there's nothing else to morph and change, there are no more songs to add, no more preferences to record...the perfect list has evolved out of the muck. stuart kauffman has a lot to say about the evolution of species and the role of difference and sameness and the affordance of mutations. here's a link to a recent lecture by Kauffman at the waterloo applied complexity and innovation seminar.
"Stuart Alan A. Kauffman (28 September 1939) is an American theoretical biologist and complex systems researcher concerning the origin of life on Earth. He is best known for arguing that the complexity of biological systems and organisms might result as much from self-organization and far-from-equilibrium dynamics as from Darwinian natural selection, as well as for proposing the first models of Boolean networks." (wikipedia april 8, 2009, 1:37 pm) so "genius", like google (or more specifically, the google algorithm) among other systems for organizing information, is a largely a preference-based system. that means that it proposes to me a number of solutions based on the actions of other users of the system and then records my actions to add to its database of preferences. in theory this is a collective ranking which should tap the "wisdom of crowds" to provide the most precise answer to my query at that moment (since the data is always being updated, the best answer will change continuously). pandora on the other hand, uses an in-depth analysis and algorithmic interpretation of the music to find commonalities in a diverse range of songs. those commonalities are used to create a playlist for the user based on a song they choose, much like genius. the difference is: specialists, or experts analyzed the music and the playlist is the result of their expertise rather than the wisdom of the crowd of users of the system. it is created by the music genome project: "The Music Genome Project, created in January 2000, is an effort founded by Will Glaser, Jon Kraft, and Tim Westergren to "capture the essence of music at the fundamental level" using over 400 attributes to describe songs and a complex mathematical algorithm to organize them." (wikipedia, april 8, 2009, 1:52 pm)

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