This playlist comes from a recent event within Edinburgh University’s Festival of Creative Learning. The exercise, on the theme of mobile learning and the future of digital education, was delivered using the Telegram messenger service. The event was coordinated from a cafe in the basement of the University’s David Hume Tower, although participants were spread across different campuses, countries and continents.
As an icebreaker activity, participants were invited to suggest a song that reflected their mood:
Suggestions included songs by Arctic Monkeys, Fleetwood Mac, The Kinks amongst others:
In a separate sound-themed exercise, participants were invited to make an audio recording of their surroundings, before sharing it with the rest of the group via Telegram.
As conversation continued within Telegram, the nominated songs and generated audio recordings were played out into the cafe space in David Hume Tower. In this way, the sound of coffee-making and chatter was punctuated by music as well as feet walking through snow, computer white-noise, a conversation around traffic congestion and beyond. This was an intentional remixing of the campus: a way of bringing together the sonic traces of a broad range of learning spaces in order to question the hierarchical distinction between ‘on campus’ and ‘online’.
The playlist presented here brings together the nominated songs, interspersed with a selection of the field recordings.
James Lamb writes: The Elektronisches Lernen Muzik project began in May 2012, building on earlier conversations between students on the Education and Digital Cultures (EDC) course, part of the MSc in Digital Education at Edinburgh University. This 24th playlist returns to our roots then with a compilation of songs suggested by students completing the 2017 iteration of EDC.
The EDC course sets out investigate online education within the context of an emerging ‘digital culture’. In the first block of the course students are challenged to use representations of cyberculture within popular culture as a lens to think about the complex relationship between education and technology. Mid-way through this first-block, and partly in response to tutorial conversations around the work of Janelle Monae, Daft Punk and Kraftwerk, we thought it would be interesting to more explicitly use music as a way of thinking about cyberculture. The challenge we set the group was to nominate pieces of music that evoked or enacted ideas we were exploring within the course readings and in our conversations. To encourage a critical approach we asked that nominated tracks should appear in each student’s lifestream (a mode of assessment in the EDC course) with a rationale for its selection provided in the form of metadata.
As such, the playlist here can be seen as a group response to Haraway’s Manifesto for Cyborgs (2007), Bayne’s What’s the matter with technology-enhanced learning? (2014) and Miller’s The Body and Information Technology (2011). Meanwhile the metadata drawn from the different lifestreams are presented as liner notes, below. For reasons of copyright, availability and space it wasn't possible to include every nominated piece of music.
1. Main Title from The Twilight Zone (1959) by Bernard Hermann
“Cue creepy music…”
2. A Real Hero by College & Electronic Youth
“Okay, the key reason I added this to the playlist was the refrain of ‘real human being’; I guess we’ve spent three weeks thinking about what that concept actually means in a digital age and it seemed ‘trite’ in relation to that. On further rooting around it seems that College and Electric Youth were inspired by Sully (of Hudson River fame) and Mad."
3. Are ‘Friends’ Electric? by Tubeway Army & Gary Numan
“Didn't speak English yet in '79 but sound and vision made clear to me: These are cyborgs!"
4. Warm Leatherette by The Normal
"Haraway wants a new cyborg sexuality reflecting the breakdown between human and machine. So does this song."
5. Empire State Human by The Human League
"Transhuman league augmenting the body with...water and sand I guess."
6. Citizens of Tomorrow by Tokyo Police Club
“Our robot masters will know/How to clean this mess up/ And build a better world…”: Anxieties demonstrated with a robot becoming the master and helping to build a better world for us! This also can be an example of posthumanism to imply obsolescence of humans.
7. The Revolution will not be Televised by Gil Scott-Heron
"Will the revolution be streamed live?"
8. Dysnomia by Dawn of Midi
"Posthuman music, people playing like machines."
9. Digital Mind by LX One
"The sound of the future….?"
10. Online by Brad Paisley
"The music video [for this is song] is a light hearted sketch of an unpopular, middle aged man exaggerating his physical attributes to attract the opposite sex in online dating environments. Is online dating better and more advanced than the traditional method? I’m not so sure."
11. Analog Man by Joe Walsh
"Analogue Man can loosely be related to Sterne’s ‘Historiography of Cyberculture’ and the shift from analog to digital that he describes."
12. Search and Destroy by Iggy and The Stooges
"This is what the infomatics of domination sounds like. Phallocentric and full of techno-war imagery."
13. Bulldrog Front by Fugazi
"The first 4 lines for me relate to the need for a critical studies approach to technology."
14. Cut the Cord by Shinedown
"How easy will it be to "cut the cord" when our lives are broken down to 1s and 0s."
15. Robots by Flight of the Conchords
"When I studied Utopian literature at uni (aeons ago), one of the concepts we explored was how any utopian vision is, necessarily dystopian. The song plays with this idea - there is no more unhappiness (because the humans are dead) and no more unethical treatment of the elephants (well, there's no more elephants)...and it's much more fun than reading Thomas More."
In another of the readings we talked about within this first block of the EDC course, Jonathan Sterne (2006) asks why representations of cyber-culture have so heavily depended on the visual, at the expense for instance of the auditory dimension. If we can see Sterne’s work as a call to take a more varied approach in our attempts to investigate and understand cyberculture, the playlist and liner notes here suggest that our students have been listening.
The cover artwork for this playlist was adapted from a video image by Myles Thies as part of his work on the EDC course. James Lamb is a co-tutor on the Education and Digital Cultures course.
This compilation by Jen Ross takes a different approach to what we have already seen (and heard) within Elektronisches Lernen Muzik. Up to this point we have normally invited individuals to nominate tracks that correspond with their learning experiences. On this occassion however, we move from reflection to action, with a 'live playlist' created in response to a walking seminar through Edinburgh's Old Town. Jen picks up the story:
Soon after the walk Jen used Google maps and Spotify to situate each music track within its corresponding location in the Old Town. The interactive map below traces the meandering route followed by Jen and her fellow participants during the walking seminar, whilst linking to the nominated songs that were triggered by the encountered sights and other experiences.
The way that Jen's playlist came together provokes interesting questions about the relationship between music, listener/learner and digital technology. The way that serendipity sparked the initial idea evokes a sociomaterial sensibility where learning is understood to be a sometimes disparate gathering of temporal, spatial, technological and human agencies (see for instance Fenwick, Edwards & Sawchuk 2011). Meanwhile, Jen alludes to the possibility that the compilation of songs is shaped by the complex algorithm hidden behind the slick interface of Spotify and other sophisticated applications (Edwards & Carmichael 2012). What is also hard to attribute is how those songs suggested by Spotify in turn affected the rhythm and interest of the walk? To what extent did the range of available music and the speed with which it could be streamed affect how the city was experienced and understood by Jen and her co-walkers?
Put a playlist on shuffle and it does more than change the way you walk.
Dr Jen Ross is a Senior Lecturer in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh.
Take a wander through the architecture studio and you'll see that music plays a role in the design and construction of buildings. Look at the students around you, heads down in studied concentration, listening to music as they explore ideas by hand or on screen. To the traditional architectural materials of plaster, pencil and paper we can now add the playlist and 'phones.
Studio Group 5 is a compilation of the music being listened to in the design studio by second-year Architecture students from Edinburgh University. Across a period of three weeks in November 2016 they nominated tracks from their personal playlists that they particularly looked to for encouragement, inspiration or as a way of keeping them going through the long days and late nights in the studio. In each case the participating students selected music from Spotify, YouTube or other online content providers.
The compilation draws on a range of musical genres, perhaps reflecting the different activities being undertaken during that part of Architectural Design course. What is striking though - at least to an outsider who might visualise the studied calm of the architect at her desk - is the tendency towards high energy music. As one contributor suggests in the liner notes below, when you're in the design studio it isn't possible to get up and party, so instead the energy in the music goes into you head and then is expressed onto the page or screen.
Relax by Frankie Goes To Hollywood
"Recently I’ve been listening to lots of 80’s music: things around Relax by Frankie Goes to Hollywood. It has a good movement to it. It has good lyrics for working. It’s just a great song that I keep coming back to."
Sometimes by James
"This would just generally pick my work up a bit, because of its upbeat nature. wouldn't necessarily listen to said style if I really had to get work done."
Skin Deep by Dusky
"Usually when I'm just trying to get my head down while also trying to feel a bit motivated to do work. This song and others in similar genres are fairly long so it means I can concentrate, because I don't have to keep changing it."
Let Go (feat. Kele & MNDR) by RAC
"I have a playlist on Spotify. So that’s 15 hours of songs. And I normally just shuffle it. But this has been here on a long time. It’s just a great song. This has been on my playlist since July 2015. So more than a year."
The Violin Song (feat. Brianna) by MonoIr
"I tend to put songs in the Favorites bar and then I find them on YouTube. This one has a rapid - almost violent - beat, combined with a violin. It comes together quite beautifully. The lyrics - I don’t focus on that - it’s the beat. But I can also find classical music quite intrusive."
Time by Jungle
"My main playlist has 300 tracks. And it moves quite progressively. But I always go back to a track called ‘Time’ by Jungle. It’s just great. It just gets you in the zone. It gets things going. You can’t jump around so I divert the energy into my mind. it helps me get into a rhythm. it’s a favourite."
Make Luv by Room 5 ft. Oliver Cheatham
"Would probably listen to something like this when I'm concentrating the least. I probably wouldn't be in any hurry to do work, but just wanted to listen to music while I casually do something in the studio."
Midnight Lady by Marvin Gaye
"It picks you up a bit. If you’re on a low it gets you into a better mood."
Real Love by Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne
"I like this because its upbeat. I’m the kind of person who listen to the music for the beat not the lyrics. I look for the beat to keep me alert. It gets to this stage of the term and I need to keep going. So no energy drinks, but music."
Teacher Teacher by Slick Rick
"Any Slick Rick, really. It always tells a story. Its like listening to a podcast but not an academic podcast. And the music it has a receptive beat that you can get on board with. Lots of stories."
Selected by students from Studio Group 5, completing the second year course in Architectural Design, within the Edinburgh School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture at the University of Edinburgh.
Stuart Allan writes: I used these songs mainly to help me focus on reading or writing, so as a result there are many tracks that are largely instrumental or that I know so well the lyrics barely register with me. Mogwai’s Mr Beast was a constant favourite for obliterating any noise around me when I read on the bus, while I found that some of the electronic tracks – e.g. ‘A Fifth of Beethoven’, ‘minipops 67’ – helped me when I was generating ideas during the writing stage. The last three tracks reflect the strange mixture of relief, sadness and euphoria I felt at the end.
‘The Big Rock Candy Mountains’ has been my earworm throughout the dissertation, possibly because it describes a place where everything is perfect – and this is how I liked to imagine the future would be after I handed it in. I also enjoyed hearing our young children singing along to some of the inappropriate lyrics when I played it at home (‘In the Big Rock Candy Mountains, you never change your socks / And the little streams of alcohol come a-trickling down the rocks’).
The artwork is my Dad’s design for landscaping our garden, which I have framed and hung on the wall in our kitchen. I picked this image because I’ve been thinking a lot about the many months he spent planning and designing the garden before he broke ground. (‘Well planned is half done’, I remember him saying.) I made a conscious effort to try and follow that approach with my dissertation: to organise my process and my thoughts before I started to write. Dad finished building our garden shortly before he died in September 2013, which was when I started my MSc.
Stuart Allan is a student on the MSc in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh
Michael Sean Gallagher writes: This time around we bring you a playlist from a frequent collaborator and friend, Pekka Ihanainen.
Pekka and I have collaborated on several projects and papers, from the Pedagogy of Simultaneity project to workshops in Helsinki onlearning in open spaces. He is intensely curious about education, about the world in which we inhabit, and how those elements collide. He is also a fan of minimalist music. I will leave the explanation for this playlist to Pekka himself:
Pekka Ihanainen is an educator, trainer and counsellor working in Helsinki.
Noise carries its own meaning in different disciplines. It can be psychological, physical, technical, cultural. It accounts for different phenomena within semantics than in communication studies and serves a different purpose again within corners of education research. It variously concerns disruption, distraction and bias.
Right now, noise refers to the sound of machines attacking asphalt within close proximity of PhD Suite (Room 1.10) in the School of Education. The building of subject knowledge is locked in battle with the sound of tarmac being deconstructed. I find myself typing in stop-start rhythm to the sound of steel on concrete, which is fine for some scholarly tasks but not for others. Better than no typing at all. In response, I’ve created a playlist for occasions where composition and contemplation doesn’t lend itself to an industrial soundtrack: anti-noise to aid my concentration.
1. Felt Mountain by Goldfrapp
2. Unforgotten Town by Belbury Poly
3. The Ipcress File by John Barry
4. The Bonny Barmaids of Dundee by Arab Strap
5. Un Bacio by Ali N.Askin
6. Awake by Troublemakers
7. Playground Love (Vibraphone Version) by Air
8. Riders on The Storm by Yonderboi
9. A Tree, a Rock and a Cloud by Aim
10. Adios by Les Baxter
The playlist is intentionally lyric free, even if there are occasional fragments of dialogue and voice: the reading list in front of me is complex and lengthy enough without the need for additional words to contend with. I realise on playback that, without it being my intention, there’s a clear machine-like quality to some of the tracks here, most notably Arab Strap’s The Bonny Barmaids of Dundee.
Once the building work is complete our office will face onto a courtyard where students and staff will be able to congregate, relax and discuss the matters of the day. This will create its own soundtrack, which may or may not be conducive to the writing and reading that lies in store. When the sound of conversation and laughter penetrates PhD Suite (Room 1.10), I wonder whether I might long for the predictable ambient pattern of excavators attacking paving slabs. Noise carries its own meaning in different disciplines, but it’s also contingent on the activities being attempted within the space and time that it shares.
James Lamb is a PhD student within the School of Education (Room 1.10) at the University of Edinburgh.
Michael Sean Gallagher writes: This playlist was done with a bit of encouragement from James Lamb after I had mentioned I had playlists for specific purposes (and titled as such): Walking, Reading, Writing 1, 2, 3, etc. There are tracks that overlap throughout these playlists, providing some continuity as I make my way through my working and non-working day. This playlist is from one such playlist (one of three walking-inspired soundtracks in circulation on my phone at the moment). Before jumping in to the role of walking in my learning practice, perhaps I can cut to the chase and list the tracks themselves.
The playlist starts, as most of mine do, in the ethereal space: lots of dreamy, repetitive sounds without vocals (Eluvium, Matthew Cooper, Hammock, Inventions). This is partly in response to the state my head is in after finishing a bit of elearning activity (writing, teaching, or collaborating). I am out there, in the clouds, and my legs need to catch up to my head so I go for a walk through the ever-busy streets of Seoul. Once out there, though, I transform from the ethereal and the contemplative sort, to one battling his expat-ness, to one firmly situated in East Asia. There is a process here that I suspect is necessary post e-learning, one that situates me, again, amidst this context, this place and now.
So amidst the hustle of East Asia, the throngs, the outright stares, the fleeting smiles, the darting glances, the shops, the treacherous pavement, I move beyond the ethereal and into the contrast (the Arcade Fire, Bob Dylan, and Father John Misty bits) of the expat American with the East Asian context. This contrast is, I suppose, necessary. I move from contemplative to a hyper-awareness of my immediate surroundings and my contrast with these surroundings. I am still oscillating back and forth between the elearning (mlearning at this point, I suppose) with my phone, but less so. I am acclimating to the context of Seoul. So the contrasting music pushes me along and I shift from thinker to explorer. On foot, alternating routes, walking down alleys and so forth.
Then the balance sets in clumsily, hence the last track (it is a Chinese track that I have spliced out of an episode from the American TV show Louie). The character in this music (which you can hear asking for directions in Beijing) mirrors my own interactions in Seoul, but it is not frantic. It is accepting and wide-eyed and eager to learn more. I am alright being lost. While the contemplative ends (I am no longer reflecting on anything aside from what I am experiencing), the learning begins anew. On foot. In the now. Engaging and wading through my material, my artifacts, and learning activity. Along with 20 million other people. Hence this playlist.
James Lamb writes: To coincide with the beginning of new school term in Scotland, and only a fortnight until undergraduates will start to assemble in Edinburgh for Freshers Week, here follows a collection of Hip Hop tracks that I listened to as a school pupil and then a university student.
Some of the songs featured on this playlist will have played a hundred times in my bedroom as I drafted essays on my word processor, sketched graphics in Paint and traced Letraset slogans onto Daler boards. Old school.
Judging by absence of Hip Hop across the 15 playlists to date within Elektronisches Lernen Muzik, I wonder whether there's a tendency to overlook this musical genre when it comes to accompanying or supporting scholarly work? If that's the case, I think it's an oversight. Listen for instance to the lyrics on the first track here by the Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy, which are surely as intelligent as any song released that or just about any year. And where there songs don't feature the same level of craft, they're surely energetic and direct enough to wake even most the lethargic undergraduate into action.
James Lamb writes: Later today (Wednesday 4 March 2015), Professor Siân Bayne will deliver her inaugural lecture as Chair in Digital Education at The University of Edinburgh. The subject for Siân's lecture is 'The Trouble with Digital Education'. Siân has played an integral role in the MSc in Digital Education and also the E-Learning and Digital Cultures course from which our Elektronisches Lernen Muzik project emerged.
In conversation last Friday, Siân mentioned that she was searching for some music that could break the awkward silence that can precede formal lectures of the kind she will deliver later today. Her difficulty though was in finding material that was both suitable for the occasion and free from any issues surrounding public performance and copyright.
Whilst acknowledging the shortness of time available, I asked whether it would instead be possible to make an original piece of music, using music creation apps and other digital resources. This level of compositional freedom, I suggested, would allow for the creation of something more than auditorium-background. Here was an opportunity, I felt, to explore how a piece of music could be used to reflect and represent subject matter, whilst at the same time creating an aural environment that would help the audience tune-in to the knowledge content that was to follow. Soundtrack as an atmospheric and rhetorical device.
I put it to Siân that it would be worth contacting Stephen Bezzina who, as well as being a Physicist and student on the MSc in Digital Education, is a DJ and contributor to Elektronisches Lernen Muzik. I subsequently emailed Stephen with a short brief for a 20-minute soundtrack that would in some way represent Siân’s work within the field of digital education, whilst simultaneously drawing on the specific themes of the lecture that she would be delivering.
By Sunday evening Stephen had responded from his cliff-top studio in Malta* with an original soundtrack and accompanying rationale:
It will be interesting to see what, if any, reaction there is to Stephen's ambient composition later today. Will the music help to manufacture the collective audience-ease Siân hoped for? Or maybe the air of dystopian menace will make for a more unsettling and uncomfortable atmosphere than would ever have emerged through silence? Perhaps I’m being too ambitious in hoping that the soundtrack will stimulate some level of discernible response, and we probably want to avoid the reaction that accompanied the 1917 performances of Parade by Erik Satie, that pioneer of earlier ambient music. Of course, just because we can’t see an obvious audience response, that doesn’t necessarily mean it won't have struck a chord.
Thinking about the broader subject that Siân will be addressing, perhaps this exercise tells us something about the community, collaboration and creative possibilities that can exist and emerge within digital environments. Within a really short period of time a conversation-in-passing turned into a critical challenge and then the composition of a unique piece of music. The trouble with digital education, I would argue, is that there's hardly time to catch your breath.
I’ll share Stephen’s composition here after Siân’s inaugural lecture has taken place. Meanwhile, the lecture will be livestreamed here from 5.15pm Edinburgh time.
*I don't know whether Stephen's studio sits on a cliff-top but I imagine it probably does.