Apple Music first impressions

Apple Music - sign-up, 01, AL (1366x729)The iPod wasn’t the first MP3 player, but its design, and the digital download store that followed it, revolutionised the music industry. Some 15 years later, the world’s richest tech company is looking to turn the tables once again with its newly launched maxi service: Apple Music.

Apple Music launched on June 30, 2015, to a customary media hubbub. After updating to iTunes 12.2 and signing up for the three-month trial of Apple Music, I thought I’d share some initial thoughts about the service: what it gets right, what it needs to improve and, most importantly for some, how it stacks up against well established alternatives, such as Spotify and Deezer. Continue reading

Hip hop, misogyny and the media: why ASAP Rocky’s diss is damaging much more than Rita Ora’s self-esteem

ASAP Rocky, Rita Ora collage, BS, FG, 2015, AL (1080x608)We’ve been here before: egoistical, millionaire rapper insults famous female he had a fling with in “gross misogynistic” song lyrics that have “sparked outrage”. But that’s why you’re reading this, isn’t it? Because hip hop’s ASAP Rocky* has called UK pop singer, Rita Ora, a “bitch”, and much worse, in a song from his newly released album, At Long Last ASAP.

Right now, you might be thinking: “big deal, hip hop artists do this all the time”. Or, perhaps: “ha ha ha, the bitch deserved it”. I’m no fan of Rita Ora, but, as well as being an unnecessary knock to the singer’s self-esteem, Rocky’s diss, in ‘Better Things’, adds fuel to the already-strong belief that hip hop is, and should be, solely about narcissism, hatred and misogyny.

Well, here’s the thing: hip hop’s got 99 problems, and “bitch” is just one. Continue reading

Why blog when you can tweet?

WordPress.com - orbitingwonder.wordpress.com deleted Feb 23, 2015 screenshot (1366x599)Blogging is dead. That’s the impression I’ve had every time I have opened the category marked ‘Friends’ on my RSS reader. Some 40 blogs all static. No new updates. There haven’t been any for months, years in a lot of cases. Continue reading

Why the game review scores debate will never be ‘solved’ in the age of shifting media habits

Metacritic.com, Games, Feb 22, 2015 screenshot (1000x563)Numbers are numbers. When it comes to cultural critique they tell you very little without context.

For those that don’t know, debates about video game review scores – their editorial honesty as well as their ability to influence readers and, by extension, game sales – has raged for as long as games magazines have existed.

This month, popular game news and review site, Eurogamer, announced that it is dropping review scores entirely. This caused ripples of celebration and consternation. It also prompted other specialist and trade media websites to respond with discussions, comment pieces about the nature of game critique today and cases for/against keeping review scores. Meanwhile, some scoff at the very idea of written reviews, arguing that Let’s Play videos, Twitch.tv and YouTube vloggers are the future.

The trouble is different meanings are inherently attached to review scores. This means they will always be a help to some and of negligible value to others. (It becomes even more complicated when you try to aggregate scores.) Continue reading

PlayStation: memorable moments in video game marketing

PlayStation symbols ad, SCEA, Jun 7, 2005, by David WulffMarketing and advertising can trigger memories just as the brands and products they are promoting can.

And even though marketers are responsible for many of us buying piles of tat we don’t need, interest in television shows such as drama series Mad Men or a magazine documentary such as Channel 4’s Top 100 TV Adverts (2003) shows you don’t have to be a fresh-faced marketing wannabe to be interested in the advertising that populates our world or the creativity that’s gone into making them. Continue reading

You Have Too Much Shit: the self-help book that tells it like it is

You Have Too Much Shit (book, 2014) ,Chris Thomas (1400x788)It’s incredible really. Here in the Western world, we love to buy stuff. Fancy stuff. Cheap stuff. Desirable stuff. Stuff that the marketers say will make our lives better.

Of course, it never does, does it? If it did, then we wouldn’t need to buy the next thing they come up with. Continue reading

How do you stay focused in the digital era?

Weapons of mass distraction. Mar 27, 2012, by birgerking (720x404)How do you stay focused in the digital era? Discipline. There, that was easy, wasn’t it?

No, actually. Today we’re bombarded by so many distractions – on our phones and on the web – that it’s all too easy to wander off-task at work or at home. And one way or another, the consequence usually ends up impacting your own wellbeing.

Following BBC Click regular Kate Russell’s advice on tools to give yourself a digital detox, the question of how you stay on-task seems especially apt to me right now. Continue reading

The trouble with Facebook and bad news

Facebook Like cut out, 26/05/2011, by Thomas Angermann (1920x1080)Perhaps one of the worst aspects of social media’s attempts to replicate the richness and vibrancy of human communication is the ‘Like’ button.

Initially, a button to ‘Like’ things you see on your social media feed – status updates, emojis, hyperlinks, videos, photos of friends, comments you agree/disagree with, cat memes – might seem useful. Millions of us certainly enjoy the digital dopamine effect it has when we log in see that x number of people ‘Like’ what we share. But, as someone who has also slipped into Facebook’s coercive churn of ‘scroll, Like, scroll, Like some more’, it’s become clear to me that the ‘Like’ button, and its everywhere-on-the-page nature, actually serves to generate a culture of casual engagement. And it’s ruining our communications. Continue reading