Tangible playlists

#1 Mixtape

There’s been a research project I have been thinking about quite a bit. It involves something of a passion of mine and maybe many others. It combines a couple of thoughts, I have actually blogged a few times.


Make DJing physical again

I have been calling for the more democracy in the world of Djing for a while. Luckily I’m not the only one thinking this, the pacemaker guys are all over this. But before their latest app, I was inspired by my experience of switching from vinyl to laptop to the pacemakerdevice. But frustrated by the lack of forward thinking by the rest of the Dj world. I called for a hackday for djs, oppose to the already popular music hackday.

Part of the thinking was around making the DJ experience physical again, as pressing buttons behind a laptop screen makes you look like your doing your email, not banging out a epic set. Physical without needing tons of controllers and moving away from 2 decks and a mixer.

There are parallels with Djing/Mixing and making a playlist. A lot of thinking goes into the tune selection. But like mixes, the platform allows you to be more creative than simply play one tune after another. You may choose to play part of a tune, start a tune after the introduction. You may choose to speed up or slow down a tune. The mixtape is a narrative, a narrative your giving to another person. To think about a pls, m3u or xspif is almost an insult.


Physically sharing things

I have spoken at length about the way we are physical beings and tend to prefer physical things. Whats interesting about physical things is the emotional attachment which comes with them. I even said it myself before…

Physical artifacts are much easier to lend to people and much more likely to be taken seriously by friends currently.

My examples include my book collection and the best example is the creativity which went into mixtapes.

Like it or not, there is something about sharing which is instantly more engaging. I think it might have something to do with the way our brains are wired. Something some people take advantage of (wish I could find the exact effect/scam, where someone gives you a small token gift and you in exchange tend to open your pocket to bigger amounts)…

There have been many attempts to give digital things a physical footprint but its always felt forced. What if you could take the best parts of digital and give them a physical footprint?

What would that look like, what would it be able to do which you can’t do right now in both mediums?

Atlas Hands

Tangible Playlists

This project I nicked named Tangible Playlists… Although its actually called physical playlists. Its a join project between BBC R&D and Lancaster University.

‘Mix tapes’ were a thing of love, a physical object which people would share with significant others and friends around them. They were naturally a social object and highly representative of a person’s identity. The knowledge of effort involved by the giver in selecting the songs and having to sit through each one was also part of the symbolism for the receiver.  Objects can be generated and shaped from and by the media you “teach” them or existing objects you play (embed) media into. Thus the modern mix tape could become a linked series of small objects like lucky charms which are physically shareable in a form representing the tracks they contain.
This is based on the idea that physical items often mean more to us as physical beings and adds a level of exclusivity and personalisation to the sharing process. Considering transplatform engagement and the ability to engage users and viewers in co-creating media it is suggested that this may present as a new modality for user co-creation and curation.

You can read more about the project including a real nice piece about slow digital by Lancaster Uni. It will be great once the project is finished.

Other playlists

Interestingly Nathan Langley is working with others on a startup idea called Desert.fm.

Our industry is full of stories and there is many outlets for them. Blogs, publications, podcasts all giving interviews giving designers and developers a platform to share their sources of inspiration and to tell their story. We found music was usually an afterthought or a sideline, for our idea Desert fm we want to bring music to the fore, in view to create the ultimate inspiring playlist that everyone can access to discover new music and be enthralled by.

Ultimately Nathan would like a playlist from me with a few lines on why each track means something to me in an autobiographical sense.

This could be anything. For example, one track was around when you were you at school, sketching and doodling ideas for a new transformer! Or when you first learning code in the dead of night you had a special artist you would go to to get in the zone. Or just a song you are digging at the moment. This can be as long or as short as you want it.

This reminds me of Top10.com and ultimately Listgeeks.

So here is my clubbing days gone by list

  1. Seven Days And One Week – BBE – Clubbing in Ibiza in 1998, it was heavily played everywhere and although I got bored of it at the time, it still reminds me of the early days of Trance.
  2. Please Save Me (Push Remix) – Push vs Sunscreem – This was known as the Monster track by friends and the girlfriend I was dating at the time. It was killer track and made for some great nights out at the Bristol, Ritzy
  3. Oblivion (Head In The Clouds) – Manix – One of the tunes I danced to in the early days of clubbing in a underground rave.
  4. It’s My Turn (Extended Mix) – Angelic – Driving home from Bristol on the A4 road with my old Aprilla SR125 scooter listening to Judge Jules on the Essential mix. It was perfectly timed for hitting west London.
  5. Time to get ill – 4 Hero – I spent some time in Cheltenham once during school at a special event to do with the rotary club. There was a small funfair and I spent a lot of time on a ride which played Time to get ill again and again. Great time!
  6. Music Reach (1,2,3,4) – Prodigy – This song blew my mind when I first heard it on the Prodigy Experience album, which I borrowed from friend/best man Ross. I wanted more music like it.
  7. Passion (Do You Want it Right Now) – Get Decor – This song sums up clubbing in the old Bristol Mecca discotheque. Its the song which comes to mind when thinking about that period of time.
  8. Rhythm is a Dancer – Snap! – Remember listening to my next door neighbor playing this on 12inch vinyl and being blown away by the introduction. It sounded so alive, then hearing it in a club the week afterwards
  9. The Legacy (Club Mix) – Push – When I heard this tune at the Bristol Ritzy, it blew my mind. I seeked out this tune for a good few months, as I had to own it.
  10. Let me show you – Camisra – When I first heard this in a club, it brought me out chills all over. Love it and its a classic.

There is something quite special about Playlists and its amazing the stories which come out of the wood work when picking music. Imagine what would happen if you could pick any media. This is what we’ll be exploring/researching in Tangible playlists.

Can’t wait to share more details on the project soon…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.

3 thoughts on “Tangible playlists”

  1. Some interesting points here Ian. Adding value to digital products and looking back to an age where a physical product carried meanings and stories with it is an area that I am really interested in at the moment and its good to read more about it. In my DJ days (many moons ago), the industry was up in arms about the transition from vinyl to CD. Vinyl was seen as something that had a history, the sound was warmer, it had a presence (maybe because of how heavy they were to lug about); CDs were cold, sterile even, they represented a progress that some people futilely resisted. Now look at it!

    How do we attach value to a digital product? Thats not such an easy answer but there are some camps that are carving great avenues in this field. Attach a story, make it meaningful to someone, which is an area we are exploring. A great podcast from Aleks Kotroski in this field: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03f92q7

    Great article Ian. Oh and thanks for the mention 🙂

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