Playing digital music as information
Lucas Gonze has a new post on music distribution where people don't have to host files, that comments on a post by Mike Love on Songbird and XSPF for sharing music. These suggested to me that digital music players are still stuck in a way that mobile phones have been (more or less) stuck up to the iPhone.
Before the iPhone came out, I wrote a post here on the iPhone as information architecture, where I made the point:
[T]he iPhone transforms. . . hard-wired classes into structures of information that can be re-organized in multiple ways, putting the needs of people ahead of needs of the phone system.
And, this is a close parallel with what needs to happen with digital music in the context of the Internet. We need a music player that transforms the hard-wired structures of my computer vs connected computers / devices into pure structures of information that can be re-organized in the ways we need, as listeners of digitally stored music.
To the degree that one might say that the iPhone's visual voice mail is revolutionary compared with the telcos idea of voice mail, we need a music player that sees music in a revolutionary way compared with the "file system" view that the software engineers have to look at.
Put another way: the whole Internet is our music library now, and our music players fail when they make us think and interact with music via a hard-wired distinction between a "music library" on my computer and all of the music (and music information) available to me via local and Internet networks.
Transforming the music player into one that sees the whole Internet as its music library recognizes that almost all aspects of the music player experience—including sharing music with friends, can be composed of interactions with information. That information can span many computer locations, but be linked together into a relatively seamless whole.
Then, for example, the practicalities of moving music files behind the scenes isn't our (the users') concern. To us, these practicalities get reduced down to time information—like when you view a web page and deal with the page load as simply "time" rather than all of the wheres and hows of the network transactions.
(Note: Songbird is a music player that is stepping in this direction. But, what I am describing might also requires the pairing of the music player with a web-wide music information format, e.g., Songbird + XSPF could be a practical reality, or an idea I've been batting around a bit that I call MediaHTML, that would theoretically enable media players to be players of web links rather than just players of binary files.)
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