A Web Science Trip to East Asia (Part 1): EAR’s (East Asian Research Students Conference) in Hong Kong.

I am a student as part of the Web Science DTC, and recently we were given the opportunity (myself a few of my colleagues) to travel to East Asia, first Hong Kong and then on to Taiwan to present our research and discuss collaboration possibilities. I spent a total of 10 days out there. And will post a couple of blog posts now covering my time over there.

Hong Kong: East Asian Research Students Conference at Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK)

Day 1

The first day at CUHK was based around small group workshops, where we discussed our research and presented it to others interested in the field – I attended the western music theory and analysis group. I found it useful to show how my research relates to other fields and also how this traditional discipline of music theory relates to the developments of the web. The day finished with a keynote presentation by Alexander Rehding from Harvard, whose recent work with Harvard’s Sound Lab explores the interaction of music theory, culture and technology.

The presenters from the University of Southampton Music Department, including (from left to right) Chenyin Tang, Kaho Inoue, Anna Kent-Muller and Dr Thomas Irvine.

Day 2

Day two was busy; here each student involved gave a lightning presentation on their research, the conference aspect of the work. This gave me a chance to present my work in a different professional environment, and gain feedback and questions. We finished off the evening enjoying some delicious food in a local restaurant.

Anna Kent-Muller presenting her project ‘A Formula for Music Similarity: Utilising Score-Based Recommendation.

Has Instagram Changed Our Perception Of What is Healthy?

As an avid user of Instagram, I follow many ‘healthy’ bloggers, whom involve the follower in a pictorial account of their specified and highly restricted diets.

For example: Honey and Fig’s:


These beautifully photographed plates of food fill my Instagram every day, how does this new craze affect what I perceive to be healthy? The article Green is the new black, by Hadley Freeman (Guardian, June 2015) discusses this new wave of ‘wellness’, as a group of untrained ‘professionals’ take to Instagram to discuss how to live a healthy and happy life. This article got me thinking, has this new fad changed our perception of what is healthy, has it effected what we do and do not eat, how we exercise, and run our daily lives.

My shelves in my flat are full with recipe books written by these, untrained professionals, but why do I trust them, and allow them to change my perception of what is healthy- and inevitably affect my life even when I am offline? Taking an interdisciplinary approach to researching this question, and it’s follow up questions presented, I plan to look at this question from a Philosophical and Psychological perspective.

The area of Philosophy that I will be focusing on is Epistemology, the theory of knowledge. Epistemology looks to answer the questions ‘what is knowledge’, ‘what can we know’ and ‘how do we know what we know’. From reading John Greco and Ernest Sosa’s ‘The Blackwell Guide to Epistemology’ (1999), I have been further shown that there distinct areas within Epistemology that I will focus on. The first area I will focus on is Skepticism, looking at justification of knowledge and its influence how we gain new knowledge and objectivity and how our own perspectives can restrict our knowledge.  The other area I will focus on is Social Epistemology, this looks at whether and to what extent our knowledge is effected by social conditions; including the way it effects individual knowledge, collective knowledge and cognitive labour.

Psychology, like Philosophy is broken into many broad areas, I will be focusing on Social Psychology. Social Psychology is the field of Psychology that studies human behaviour, this includes how our thoughts, feelings, behaviours are influenced by the presence of others, be this actual, imagined or implied . Starting again with a core text book, The 4th edition of ‘Psychology’ by G. Neil Martin, Neil R. Carlson and William Buskist (2010), I have narrowed down the field of Social Psychology to look at a few areas. I will focus on the field Social Influence, looking at the behaviour of groups online, through compliance, obedience and conformity. Compliance looks at the conditions under which people will just go along with a request, or do someone a favour, without question or disagreement. Obedience, again like compliance, is to do with following others orders, usually in obedience this entails the person who’s orders you are following to be someone with perceived authority or power. Finally, Conformity is a deeper change than compliance and obedience, in which you are not just changing your behaviour but adopting the attitude and internal cognitive structures of the group.

These approaches can be used to look at group and individual behaviours online, and how the community on Instagram may in-turn effect the change of our perception of what is healthy, and how our individual knowledge may be effected through using Instagram.

[See original blog post, on course site: http://blog.soton.ac.uk/webs6203/2015/10/29/has-instagram-changed-our-perception-of-what-is-healthy/]

Should all music just be free? A reflection from reading ‘The Curve’ by Nicholas Lovell

How do you make money when everything is going free?

The general theme of Nicholas Lovell’s book ‘The Curve’, which I finished reading during my finals, is how do we make a living in industries that the World Wide Web has come to effect. Lovell discusses many different industry’s including the music industry (my main focus point of this review), publishers, photography, charities, newspapers, retail, transport and fashion. The book proposes that the answer to all our questions is ‘The Curve’, the concept being to embrace giving away something for free, to stimulate interest and cultivate communities. The Curve accentuates the importance of building relationships with your audience, whom in turn will want more of what they love, and pay varying prices to receive it.

In relation to the music industry, Lovell discusses a variety of case studies including Lady Gaga, and Nine Inch Nails. Lady Gaga (pages 26-30) Lovell states ‘a is a twenty-first century star’. Instantly that made me ask the question, what is a twenty-first century star, of which he answers in the following pages. Though Lady Gaga releases her records through the traditional manor, of utilising a record label (Interscope Records), this only makes up less than a quarter of her income. Gaga uses her direct connections with her fans, to help make up the remaining three quarters of her income. Her huge population of fans, in May 2013 she had 37,520,337 Twitter followers, now (17.08.15) she has 49,800,000 followers. Along with direct communication with her fans through Twitter, she utilises other social media platforms such as YouTube to make her music free to preview online, proving that this wont hurt her CD sales, the example given in The Curve is ‘Bad Romance’, which still made it to the second most purchased single in the world in 2010, selling over 9.7 million copies in that year.

However, though Lady Gaga sells a phenomenal amount of music, this still only makes up 24% of her income, with 7% from endorsements and sponsorship, and 69% of her income coming from touring and merchandise. Lovell, shows us in this case study, that Lady Gaga utilises the Web to aid in her sale of touring and merchandise. Through using social media she creates a direct link with her fans, offering them her music for free. She then utilises the curve encouraging individuals to spend varying amounts on her brand, be it through T-Shirts, concert tickets, tracks, CD’s. She aims to have a smaller collection of ‘die hard fans’, who will attend every single one of her concerts, something she has successfully achieved.

Through the case study of Lady Gaga, we can see how musicians can utilise the World Wide Web to create an income. Musicians need to adapt to the web, and utilise the venues that it provides. Through creating a direct line of communication with your fans you can introduce them to your entire brand. Then by offering a variety of pricing platforms, your audience can choose how much they wish to spend, choosing the experience which is worth most to them. Lovell presents us with a suggested platform for utilising the world wide web, this book enables us to ask questions about the variety of industries that can be effected, and therefore how we can utilise online commerce.

Check out Nicholas Lovell’s Web Page for The Curve, which gives snippets of the book: http://www.thecurveonline.com/

Also get the book from amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0670923214