the last seduction
Last.fm screenshot

WORDS: MISS AMP

Last.fm joins Flickr and Myspace in creating a portrait of your real-life activities in the liminal realms of cyberspace

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The website tells me that at 11.15 on Thursday morning we were both listening to ‘A Little Longing Goes Away’ by The Books. What does that mean? Does she miss me? Is she thinking what I’m thinking?

Friday night. I’m at home in my bed, surrounded by magazines and fanzines, a half-smoked cigarette in the ashtray, a half-written article humming away on the laptop. It’s 3am. I check Last.fm again. I know she – Jane - went to a dance-music night-club that night. I know she went with a girl who likes to wear hats with veils and shoes with Louis heels; a girl whose nail-varnish probably never chips; the kind of girl I’ll never be. How do I know? It’s written all over her space.

3.30am. I guess they just got back. She’s put a record on. It’s Final Fantasy. Jane likes to make out while she’s listening to it: I should know. We did it enough. Are they making out right now; on the red vinyl sofa from the Sally Army thrift store? Did the other girl take off her shoes? Is Jane running her hands up the long seam on the back of the other girl’s stockings?

On Sunday the weekly charts are updated. I’ve played the album ‘Infinite Love Songs’ by Maximilian Hecker 23 times that week, and listened to ‘You Were Always The One’ by The Cribs 148 times. I look at my tags. ‘Breakup’. No shit, Sherlock.

 

 

 

 


stalking / self-torture

Yeah, that’s right. The broken-hearted and online have a new weapon in their stalking/ self-torture armoury: Last.fm. ‘A man without a Myspace is like a man without a shadow’, a friend once said: now Last.fm joins Flickr and Myspace in helping create a digital footprint, a portrait of one’s real life activities in the liminal realms of cyberspace. Want to see what your ex is up to? No need to rely on gossip or hearsay, simply check through their Myspace comments, read their blogs, see if they’ve changed their ‘in a relationship’ status yet.

Fancy torturing yourself with pictures of your ex kissing your replacement on the mouth? Wander over to their Flickr and knock yourself out. And now: soul-divining through music. Does your ex still listen to that CD mixtape you made them, or do they have a new soundtrack these days? Are they wallowing in misery-tunes or kicking out the jams in jubilation? Last.fm will tell you all you need to know.

scrobble me

Last.fm uses a small plug-in, called ‘Audioscrobbler’, which you download and install in your media player. When switched on, it submits the ID3 data for each track to your online music profile. It will then build a page for you – an online representation of your music taste. This page shows your recently played tracks, your weekly top artists, and your overall most listened to artists and tracks. There is also an associated radio player which will then stream tracks stored in the Last.fm database, so you can listen to playlists based on user tags, or choose a particular user and listen to exactly the music they’ve been listening to.



Who, I wonder, is this 20-year-old male with the awesome taste?
 


Like Flickr, Last.fm’s information is user-generated and user-classified – and as such, can tell us a lot about the ways in which people are listening to music. A tag – a piece of data about data – helps categorise large amounts of information on the internet. If you’ve got, say, 2000 pictures of your friends hanging out in Flickr, how will you find that stupid picture of Indie Dave smiling, wearing his hat? If, however, you’ve metatagged that particular shot with ‘David’ and ‘hat’, the chances of instantly locating the image are greatly increased.

'folksonomy'

Similarly, you can tag interesting web links on del.icio.us (a site which collects and categorises your bookmarks) with ‘feminism’ – and then click on the ‘feminism’ tag and see what other links have been classified under the same tag on that particular day. This method is sometimes referred to as a ‘folksonomy’ – (a combination of ‘folks’ and ‘taxonomy’, literally meaning ‘people’s classification system’) – because the tags are generated by large numbers of users, and are community-driven rather than designated by any kind of editorial overlord: a democracy, rather than a monarchy.

 

let's play tag

It’s impossible to be into music without getting involved in various spats about genres. Can a particular record be considered ‘emo’, when the word now describes music that’s strayed so far from its hardcore roots. Is IDM really a relevant term these days. How useful is it to classify this artist as ‘blip-hop’. And so on. Last.fm sidestep this issue by handing classification over entirely to its listeners. ‘We were wary of introducing genres because we had endless arguments’, explains Last.fm founder Martin S, ‘so we decided to let our listeners do the tagging.’

‘We’re seeing some interesting things, though. Of course, lots of tags are based around genres, but there’s also a lot of stuff around mood and time of day. Music tagged ‘Saturday evening’ and music tagged ‘Sunday morning’ will be very different. Or music can be tagged as ‘Christmas’, or ‘Break-up’. Genreification basically existed so that music could be sold easier – so that brick and mortar record stores knew how to stack their shelves. But when you talk to the artists themselves, this has very little to do with the process of creation; and these tags are making explicit just how much mood has to do with the process of selection.’

 

 

 

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