I’m a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at UC Irvine. I study the use of technology to organize, reproduce, and disseminate sonic materials.
Computers and Sociocultural Anthropology
A series of blog posts for the anthropology blog Savage Minds, covering the history of computers as metaphors, tools, and objects of study in sociocultural anthropology.
On Reverse Engineering
An essay about figuring things out: how Netflix knows about movies and we know about Netflix. A response to Alexis Madrigal's feature in The Atlantic.
The Lost Wanderers
An essay about technical decision-making and the perils of pseudorationalism.
Knowing Algorithms [PDF]
A paper on the issues that outsiders face in knowing things about algorithms, delivered at Media in Transition.
Every Sensation Is Only a Number [PDF]
A paper delivered at the 2012 American Anthropological Association meetings on the social theory of Gabriel Tarde, the sonic theory of Hermann von Helmholtz, and computers that listen to music.
An ongoing, occasional blog about culture, sound, music and technology. Favorite topics include experimental music, music data, historical sonic media, and unexpected resonances.
An issue of the open-access, scholarly magazine Limn about big data, crowdsourcing, and cloud computing, which I co-edited with Chris Kelty and Lilly Irani. I have an article in the issue based on my dissertation research: “Algorithmic Recommendations and Synaptic Functions”, on the similarities between recommender systems, marketing, and anthropological understanding.
My master’ s thesis in Comparative Media studies at MIT, which uses the history of the player piano to re-think and speculate about three central themes of music reproduction: techniques for recording performance, the relationship between live and recorded music, and the development of fidelity.
A music video for one of the tracks from my Pop Studies. The audio is based on a short, looped sample from Fergie’s Glamorous, gradually slowed down but with the pitch maintained algorithmically. Eventually, the time-stretching algorithm fails and produces spontaneous melodies. The video is a one-second loop from the original music video, processed in Jitter.
A software implementation of John Cage’s Imaginary Landscape No. 5, made in MaxMSP. The original score calls for a set of 42 records to be recorded to tape and arranged according to a system derived from the I Ching. My patch arranges selections from any 42 audio files according to the score, and when finished, allows you to export an .aiff file of the whole 3 minutes. Supposedly Cage used the score with jazz records to help him overcome his aversion to jazz. My version uses 42 Jonas Brothers songs.
I taught a pair of classes for the High School Studies Program at MIT about the recent history of sonic media. The summer classes for high school students used experimental and avant-garde music as material to think about media technologies and the nature of hearing, with in-class performances by students. In one class, this culminated in a performance of “Piano Piece #13 (for Nam June Paik)”, attributed to George Maciunas, in which the students nailed down all of the keys of a piano. Course materials are kept online at the link above, though links and embedded videos may have died since.
I put this album together in 2007 to explore the form of the pop music mp3s that filled my laptop hard drive. Each study explores a different aspect of digital audio files. My approach was informed by the compositional procedures of the experimental composers of the 1970s — particularly by Steve Reich's phase work. The final track adapts his “It’s Gonna Rain,” mimicking his tape phase method with the more distinctly contemporary manipulation of digital samples.
My senior essay in Literature at Yale, on the co-history of avant-garde treatments of “noise” and standards of fidelity in analog and digital sound recording media.