Michael Sean Gallagher writes: My first contribution to this project is the following playlist, one I have used in some construction over the course of my entire time on the MSc in Elearning programme at the University of Edinburgh, from September 2009 to my graduation in July, 2011. Judging by the play counts of these individual tracks from my iTunes library, I was quite enthralled by this music, the reasons for which I will describe below. This playlist includes the following artists:
Despite the fact they are ethereal, calm-inducing, voiceless (I prefer music that doesn't have actual singing as the voice distracts me from cognitive tasks) tracks, they are purpose-driven. I have used and continue to use them whenever I participate in elearning programs or activities. It is music that I use primarily for any of the following:
Multimedia work: whether I am editing, uploading, arranging, or curating my images, videos, or audio, I listen to these types of tracks to focus my concentration. However, sometimes this multimedia work can be less cognitively intensive (manually intensive, just not intellectually so) so I will often come off this music in favor of something more upbeat with a faster pace. My mind is then allowed to get lost in music as my reflexive/ process-oriented work is being performed. But in the early stages of multimedia editing, when the whole of the thing has yet to take shape, I rely on this type of music to let me conceptually explore the space.
This music, being without vocals, doesn't distract but rather focuses me. It is like a pulse that I can keep time to as I work. Music, for some, is a distraction, a competing facet of our attention. For me, it is like a primer, a key in which I use to organize my thinking, my activities, my pursuits. It offers a lot of clarity in the world of infinite distraction and has me thinking about the nature of reduction. Traditionally, I have always thought that reduction, removing these competing areas of attention, was the path to clarity. Hence, no music is better than music. Now as I have advanced through several online programs, where I as the learner am forced to create whole worlds of process, of analysis, and reflection (almost from scratch), I find this reduction to not be effective. I add a layer of complexity (the music) to filter the noise. It all makes sense intellectually and feels right emotionally. Music unlocks something for me in this process.
This is music I listen to when time dissolves and when I break from this focus, hours and hours have passed. Time becomes a bit irrelevant in these fits of focused intellectual attention. Frantic inspiration, perhaps? Ultimately though, aside from what music offers for organization and clarity, it is really about the inspiration. To take unlikely variables and pair them in meaningful, creative ways. To create knowledge constructs from chaotic space, to problem solve without identifying the problem, to create. I hope you enjoy.
Michael Sean Gallagher is a research associate and graduate of the MSc in E-Learning