Just this past Monday, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Darwin Grosse for his excellent, longrunning podcast, Art + Music + Technology, and the episode went live today.
For a sense of the scale of Grosse’s podcast, my entry in the interview series is number 271. I’ve enjoyed Grosse’s interviews for a long time. Past participants in the Art + Music + Technology podcast include frequent Nine Inch Nails collaborator Alessandro Cortini, creative technologist Cassie Tarakajian, Monome developer Brian Crabtree, synthesis researcher Curtis Roads, and keyboard legend Herbie Hancock.
Grosse and I talked a lot about the Disquiet Junto music community I’ve been moderating since 2012, about my book on Aphex Twin’s album Selected Ambient Works Volume II, and about my time as an editor at Tower Records’ magazines. One subject I especially enjoyed when listening back to the audio this morning was about the future of music communities online, since the flaws of social media have become widely known in recent years. Here is a quick transcription of that part of the interview:
Grosse: Just to finish up, then, where do you think communities can go. Because it seems like you really enjoy being part of communities and being part of growth environments, right? And introducing people to things and stuff like that.
It seems like in a way we’ve almost hit a point where we’re not sure how to grow beyond that. We’ve seen things that are massive, like Facebook, end up being … not feeling satisfying because it becomes either a place where you can be taken advantage of or a place that’s just plain too overwhelmed with people. Or we have places that are so small that they end up feeling insular.
What do you think is the kind of community growth that can happen that provides an interesting next step?
Weidenbaum: It’s an interesting question. One thing that comes to mind as I’m formulating a response is that when I look at music technology these days, one of the ways I gauge how entrenched it is or how promising it is, is by the quality of the conversation on the forum related to that hardware or software. It’s not always a direct relation because there are sometimes people who are very yappy about things that actually maybe don’t prove that effective, but by and large, I think there is some really interesting information to be culled when you’re considering buying a synthesizer module or considering buying a piece of software or some other piece of hardware, a stomp box or something. You can look at the conversation online, usually on the forum that’s from the website of the manufacturer of that software or hardware, and get a sense of the culture of that content.
I think the issue there, for me, is that, as somebody who writes for a living, I think that writing can be highly overvalued. And I feel that one of the reasons the Junto exists as a model for this is that I feel that musicians communicate to each other through music primarily. And I feel that there’s an opportunity in communities for people to communicate in non-verbal ways.
Instagram is a nice step in that direction, though a lot of the pleasure of Instagram is actually the captions for the image like, “Oh now I’ve seen this beautiful picture; where is it from or what’s the context?” But I feel like one of the things that I’m trying to do with the Junto and one thing I’d like to see more is that it isn’t just a bunch of people chatting about presets and how they use tools, but their actual participation in the community is somehow nonverbal, that through images and sound and code, they’re participating, which is why GitHub is a community but it’s often not considered alongside [others]. … People talk about these massive communities and GitHub rarely comes up in the list alongside Facebook and Reddit and all these other. It’s interesting because GitHub, to me is just as much a community as these others. You know, a pull request is a form of participation.
Grosse: And communication.
Weidenbaum: Yeah, exactly.
You can hear (stream or, for free, download) the full, 45-minute podcast here: artmusictech.libsyn.com. Many thanks to Darwin for the invitation and the great conversation.