Proven By Science
(for full story about THE MULTIVERSE see here)
Last week a question occurred to me: what interesting things can you find out by playing around with Last.FM listening data? Last.FM themselves offer a fair bit of extra analysis to users in their “Playground” section, but it’s all to do with individual listeners or their networks (or “neighbourhoods”). I wanted to see how much LFM data could tell us about specific artists, and how people listen to them.
So using the most topline, publically available data possible – the artist pages and charts of most-played tracks – what can we find out? I created a few metrics which I could generate (by hand! no programmer I!) in 20 seconds or so for each artist and set to work populating a mini database out of the artists on the overall LFM charts, then the ones on my personal charts, then anyone I thought might be interesting. The results are this series of three – somewhat wonkish – posts: the conclusions will be in Part III so if you don’t fancy seeing me crunch numbers (albeit very EASY numbers) wait around for that.
Here’s what I came up with!
I was lucky enough to attend a fascinating talk hosted by Mark Earls at the RSA last night on “cultural evolution” – using evolutionary theory to examine the mechanics of how stuff spreads through culture. I then came home and found a great Nitsuh Abebe post on my tumblr dashboard about music critic cliches – when and how they’re used.
The link between these two things? One of the most interesting parts of the talk was when Dr Alex Bentley of Durham university showed some analysis of the spread of “buzzwords” in academia – how particular language choices move through a population. He was looking at the change in use of words like “nuanced”, “apropos”, or “agency” as well as more obviously loaded terms like “Marxist” and words like “retarded” (which academics tend to use to mean ‘slowed’). So of course I found this quite exciting, as it seems to me not wholly unlikely that the use of words like “ethereal” or “soundscape” might well spread in similar ways.