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.