Monday, January 28, 2019

Grimes, Music Epochs & UXD Reactions

Weekly Update 2019-05: Grimes keeps on surprising us with multi-genre music, the many music epochs of my early life and conveying user experience gripes with a simple internet meme.

Music: Grimes
What can be said about Grimes that hasn't already been said? She is a music genius of her time. Claire Boucher, native of Vancouver and graduate of Montreal's McGill University, makes music that mixes elements of several genres including dream pop, R&B, electronic music and hip hop. She was described by Tastemakers Magazine as an "alien love-child of Aphex Twin and ABBA", which I think is a very special and apt compliment for a young woman from Canada putting out music and doing her own thing.

She wrote her own Spotify bio! No one ever does that. Also, shoutout to the line break tag. "<br>"

I urge you to check out her whole discography, though I started with 2012's Visions.

DesignTO has come to an end - I completed and filled out the feedback form, and attached my Google Map too. I'm curious to see if the view numbers go up from that, and then from my upcoming culminating blog post on my week. I suppose it may sound silly to say: I feel like I lived my best self while I planned and attended these events. I met lots of cool artists, designers and interested passersby, I trekked to four different neighbourhoods during a season in which I'd otherwise be wrapped up in a blanket burrito at home (currently reporting from said location), and I found some amazing inspiration.

I'm feeling really prepped for my User Interface Design workshop tomorrow. I realized the activity portion of the class is exactly the same as the one I teach in Week 6 (the Visual Design lesson), which I taught only 8 weeks ago. Plus I found my name and photo on the website. If you scroll down the page, they also promise snacks!

I remember having this photo taken four months ago and then never seeing it again. Here it is!


I'm gonna knock the socks off this BrainStation UI Design workshop tomorrow night, and then eat a bunch of snacks. Wednesday I am taking a personal day to have three doctor appointments in one day (all rudimentary), one of which is my long awaited physiotherapy appointment. Seriously, I'm about two years overdue for this appointment. I've been doing a lot of back exercises and I want to know if I've been improving. Plus, Karen has the magic touch to be able to crack my back the way I need it done.

This weekend, Vena is sponsoring Ellehacks, a women and non-binary hackathon taking place at York University. I'm pretty excited to head up there on Friday to mentor the participants in Design, especially since I know firsthand about the gender representation in tech in Toronto (or perhaps lack thereof).  And as an added bonus, I'm going to check out all the ways the campus has changed. I've been by on the subway, but never up beyond track level. I wonder if my wall decal is still hanging out at the Faculty of Graduate Studies?! I must go and see that.

And if that didn't make for a full enough weekend, I'm also attempting to help my sister in a puzzle competition at Fairview Mall. Yep, it exists. Every team of contestants goes home with a puzzle, so I figure we've already won.

In between all of that, I'll be staying a couple nights up with my parents, so I thought I would take a stroll down memory lane and MarieKondo-ify my sentimental papers. I want to try to find a solid system that rings true to me for identifying how much joy-spark something has to give me for me to keep it, because I have a lot of paper ephemera. Mostly I'm hoping to find my paper hexaflexagon (probably the coolest thing I made in university).

This one is from the internet - my version has six visual interpretations of death and dying to discover!

Random Thought: Music Epochs
Marshall McLuhan's famous quote "The medium is the message" rings true for me in various parts of life, but none so strong as through music. When I look through my old CD collection, or scroll through the library on my old iPod, or cruise through my older Spotify Playlists, I see this media as part of the flavour of the music it holds.


Dictionary result for epoch

  1. a period of time in history or a person's life, typically one marked by notable events or particular characteristics.

I guess my different phases of music tastes can be mentally and (and physically or digitally) bookended by the media in which I collected them. Let's take a stroll through the timeline...

My dad's computer
The beginning of time - 2004
I was raised on an assortment of Dad Rock that, quite literally, my dad had on his old Windows computer. He used to get his music from an online library shared with his friend in the United States. I would listen to the music using Winamp (with my dad's selected Jimi Hendrix theme of course). I made a few ripped mix CDs from some of this music, which I still own. They're awful and amazing at the same time.

This was a very brief stint with the cheapest, crappiest music playing device you've hopefully never had the displeasure to use. I only had four songs (Two Backstreet Boys, One NSync, One Usher) and I listening to them constantly. It was my first foray into a portable music player.

2004 - 2008
I'm pretty embarrassed of my small collection of ripped CD-Rs ranging from things I picked off the Alt Rock shelf at the library to my first indie discoveries through the Wedge, to a series of regrettably terrible Mix CDs that were the most coveted giveaway each summer at overnight camp. It was a whole thing. This was also the era in which I would buy CDs at $20-30 a pop at Indigo and HMV.

iTunes/iPod Nano
2007 - 2011
I was very lucky to get my own computer around the time Facebook was starting to gain popularity, which I definitely used as a way to learn about new music. This music filled my iTunes library (those were the golden days of iTunes before it became bloatware). In 2007 I saved up enough money to buy a 3rd Generation iPod Nano and it became my workhorse for the next four years.

2011 - 2014
Quite a late adopter of my first smartphone compared to my peers, I got an iPhone 5 in 2011 and thus ended a long, storied relationship with my iPod Nano. I no longer needed to carry around an MP3 player and a phone, and it was wonderful. I continued to beef up my iTunes Playlists, though iTunes was taking longer and longer to open...

2014 - 2016
SoundCloud was an extremely formative time in my music listening youth...I look back on it fondly all those three years ago. I had been in an extreme rut concerning my love of electronic music. I was NOT into any mainstream EDM and couldn't find the words to describe the genre of what I did like. But then I found SoundCloud and was able to rekindle my joy for electronic music again. SoundCloud also showed me that I didn't really need iTunes as much as I thought. I had stopped keeping my library in order and barely ever even opened the program anymore. The SoundCloud app had its issues, but I lived with it. I was addicted and spent many an evening searching out the newest Disco House from Japan or Funk-Soul from Norway. Much of that era made it into this blog because those were my first years of strict weekly blog posts, recording my habits.

Insurance Measures (aka iTunes Library Corruption)
2016 - forever
Because music is so important to me, I have started taking measures to ensure I have backups in multiple places. Thank goodness I copied my iTunes playlists over to Spotify before my iTunes Library corrupted in 2016. That was a heavy blow, but I will be forever grateful to SoundCloud for softening as much as they did. When I heard rumours in 2017 that SoundCloud might be shutting down, I rushed to create a Spotify playlist with as many SoundCloud likes as I could find. That playlist is currently over 600 songs long, and I know all of them pretty much by heart.

2016 - present
With SoundCloud having freed me from my mental chain to iTunes, I was now a free agent in a world of Cloud-based music platforms. I landed on Spotify because it was the most popular, had the most performant interface, and honestly intrigued me with its lack of data (the complete opposite of iTunes). And it loaded super quickly. Nowadays I organize my playlists with extreme care, focusing moreso on classifying by feeling or emotion than anything else. This makes it really easy for me to access music that I love but that also fits every mood I need.

Even within this blog, the methods I provide for listening to the music in the first section pay homage to my medium of the moment. Here's a throwback to how I blogged about music in 2011:

I made this pie chart in Microsoft Excel. True story.

I suppose, rather than compare an image of my face from ten years ago, I'd rather focus on how my habits, technology usage and cultural consumption have changed. I wonder how I'll listen to music ten years from now...

Inspiration: UXD Reactions
For better or for worse, it seems like the best way to convey a concept today is with the use of a flashy meme.

Since their injection into mainstream culture, memes have been visual comparisons between our feelings or opinions on a subject with visual jokes or puns. I have a lot of gripes about user experience design and its mistreatment in products we use, and this Tumblr really encapsulates some of those gripes to a perfect tee.

Someone printed a CAPTCHA?!

I do my best to convey my work through complex methodologies and theoretical thinking processes, but sometimes it's best explained through a four-panel meme comic. Not only that, but these sorts of small slices of user experience are a welcome reminder that we must keep our users in mind to make true improvements. Check out more at UXD Reactions.

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