- June
Posted By : Adrian Chan
turntable.fm, and the art of listening


“Individuals are very rarely expected ‘just’ to be co-present in gatherings and never are permitted to act thus in encounters. The reflexive monitoring of action, in contexts of co-presence, demands a sort of ‘controlled alertness’: as Goffman expresses it, actors have to ‘exhibit presence’.” — Anthony Giddens

I see this rule at work in turntable.fm, where the art and etiquette of listening come into play when rooms begin to populate. As with chat rooms, there’s a certain elevator stigmata that plagues empty rooms. (Hence the room-specific invite and email features.)

Last thing the chatter wants is to be stuck in the room with some anonymous bozo flipping greetings like they were burgers. (Age, preoccupation, and reason for being alone in a chatroom notwithstanding.)

This is less a problem on turntable.fm because, yes, there’s music playing! This means a) there’s no personal stigma associated with playing music in an empty room, because, hey, the person may just be playing it for themselves and b) any new entrant has a reason to be there (listen to the music) and is under no obligation to chat with the dj. Besides, the dj might be busy (a possibility not allowed by, say, Chatroulette).

But when others do show up, and especially if they’re friends/peers/know-each-other, some level of the above-noted presence exhibition does take effect. (Not, of course, equally and for everybody.) And I suspect that some users mute their speakers rather than leave a room. And that some aren’t sure whether to say goodbye in chat before leaving. And that for djs, the conundrum of quitting djing is solved by some by lining up songs in a queue instead. (And I’ve seen some caught out by alert listeners, who do not have to be musicologists to recognize that one of the djs just isn’t “there!”)

It’s interesting. And makes one wonder why apple and myspace didn’t get to this earlier. Co-listening is quite fun. It’s going to be a thing. Some are going to become super duper djs. Some rooms are going to be impossible to get into. Some bands and songs are going to break on turntable.fm. Radio djs will join. Jukeboxes will be created. Challenges will occur. Djs will mine their collections for top rarities and remixes, and listeners will grab them.

And all this, in an attention economy starved for good signal. Perhaps there’s not such a scarcity of attention after all. Perhaps it just needed a good reason to be spent on.



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