My latest for CIGI. I’m usually pretty good at writing quickly, but it’s taken me a couple of months to figure out how to think about ChatGPT. It’s a longer piece, but I’m quite happy with it, so please do check it out.
Briefly, though, I think we have to keep our eyes focused on how these technologies work, which is by statistical analysis of existing data. In this case, words and texts. This piece focuses less on this specific technology than on the mindset behind it, which José van Dijck calls dataism, which effectively replaces theorizing with an unearned faith in raw data and correlations. ChatGPT is simply the most recent manifestation of this ideology, which has significant cross-social buy-in, as van Dijck recognized way back in 2014. It’s only gotten stronger since then. The fascination with ChatGPT is driven by the same impulse that has bureaucrats believing in AI as a means to solve social welfare or regulate immigration.
I include some policy recommendations – tech should complement, not replace, human activity; companies like OpenAI have to be stopped from effectively running unethical, uncontrolled experiments on the public; we need to expand data rights beyond personal information to include the rights of those (i.e., pretty much everyone online) whose words have been weaponized in the form of ChatGPT.
But the big one is, we need to stop thinking that data and engineers and data scientists will save us. It might sound hyperbolic to say that dataism is replacing scientific thought, but the two are very different. Science in all its guises pursues understanding, while dataism identifies statistical correlations and calls it knowledge. The difference between the two is the difference between the scientist and the technician.
Calling for a change in belief is easy to say, but hard to accomplish. Especially when there’s a lot of money to be made in dataism. But identifying the problem is a necessary first step.
Here’s a picture of Cooper, our community ambassador from down the street.
The thing about technology, of course, is that it is always a means to an end. If privacy can only be understood within particular social contexts, technology has to be understood within the particular spheres of social life in which it is deployed. Which brings us to my final two books:
John Kenneth Galbraith, A Short History of Financial Euphoria, the perfect read for our crypto/fintech moment: a reminder that when it comes to finance, there’s very little that’s new under the sun, and that if it looks like a bubble or a scam, it probably is.
My favourite left-field pop tunes from 2022, from Canada, Australia and beyond (first part here). Enjoy, and best wishes for 2023.
30. Jane Inc., 2120
What better way to kick off a top-30 list than with this propulsive banger from Toronto’s Jane Inc?
29. Gloin,Shoot to Kill
Noise rock from Toronto. And you can dance to it. Shades of Girls against Boys?
28. RABBIT,Sunday Best
First of a few delightful power pop tunes that really did it for me this year, this one from Tasmania’s RABBIT. Also one of a couple of tunes on the list from bands on Hobart label Rough Skies Records.
27. Le Pie,Modern Day Mindfulness
Speaking of power pop, Australia’s doing it right. Exhibit B courtesy of Sydney’s Le Pie. More, please!
26. Delivery,Best Western
I could’ve picked any number of songs from this Melbourne band’s fantastic debut album. This one’s a post-punk standout. Highly recommended. And as we’ll see, Best Westerns seem to be a bit of obsession among Australia’s indie rock-inclined bands?
25. U.S. Girls,So Typically Now
It’s US Girls. It’s great. Because of course it is.
24. Laura Jean, Teenager Again
I’m late to the Laura Jean bandwagon, but, yeah, she can create atmosphere and tell a story like nobody’s business.
23. CLAMM, Bit Much
Reclaiming “hardcore” from the fascist Silicon Valley set.
22. Best Bets, Olympic Sprinter
You’ll be hard pressed to find a more charming song in 2022 than this power pop number from these New Zealand fellows.
21. Soft Cell & Pet Shop Boys, Purple Zone
It’s a Soft Cell song! It’s a Pet Shop Boys tune! It’s on the list.
20. Gorillaz, Cracker Island (feat. Thundercat)
The best, and most Gorillaz, song since 2017’s Humanz.
19. Lisa LeBlanc, Pourquoi faire aujourd’hui
Two words: Chiac disco. Also the title of Lisa LeBlanc’s excellent new album and proof that LeBlanc practices truth in advertising. So, so good.
18. BIG KILL, Fat Lip feat. DEBBY FRIDAY
Delightfully creepy. Ween-ish.
17. Sahara Beck, Stillness
Song #2 from Sahara Beck on this list. Understated menace. (The song, not the singer.)
16. Asyncdrone, It’s Still Working
Technically a late 2021 release, but it’s awesome, so it’s on the list. Think indie Depeche Mode.
15. Toby Romeo & Sahara Beck, Devils Cup
Song #3 on this list from Sahara Beck, who’s putting together an impressive and varied discography. A shiny bit of Europop to brighten your December days. Strong Eurovision vibes in the best possible way.
14. Slag Queens, Best Western
Indie punk songs about Best Westerns has to be 2022’s weirdest music microtrend. 90s Riot Grrl snarl here, and another exciting Rough Skies Records release out of Hobart.
13. CAIRO! & Kuma the Third, Last Laugh!
Shoutout to Tripe J Unearthed for turning me on to what’s probably my favourite 2022 hiphop track. Enjoy!
12. Tess Parks, Brexit At Tiffany’s
Come for the clever song title, stay for the languid stream of consciousness Beat Poetry-esque lyrics.
11. Quivers, I Just Wanted To See You So Bad (Lucinda Williams Cover)
10. Annie Hamilton, exist
2022 saw the release of Annie Hamilton’s debut album. Exist is a standout track, all dreamy anxiety and hope.
9. Alvvays, Easy On Your Own?
Pretty much my Platonic ideal of a band and song: melodic dissonance.
8. Hatchie, Lights On
Shoegazey ode to the giddiness of new love.
7. fanclubwallet,Gr8 Timing!
My first live band after the world ended in March 2020 (opening for Chvrches in Lewistown in June 2022). This song, an inventive, dance-y piece of indie pop, was a big reason why I was so excited to see them. Great debut album, too.
6. The Beths, Silence Is Golden
Wall of sound plea for peace and quiet. The kind of song that makes you want to explode out of your skin in sheer joy.
5. Metric, Doomscroller
Big, big statement tune from Canada’s synthpop mainstays. After 20 years of consistently excellent output, Metric and Emily Haines have to be in the conversation for GOAT, Canadian band and songwriter edition.
4. Softcult, Gaslight
Dreamy. Unsettling. Perfect.
3. Spoon, Wild
Hadn’t listened to Spoon in years before I saw them open for Metric in Toronto last summer, so I didn’t know any of their new songs. Wild immediately stood out: instantly memorable, instant classic.
2. Anne Cessna & Essendon Airport, Agua Por Favor
I love love love this song. It had me jumping out of my skin. Maybe it’s the Anne Cessna’s almost spoken-word celebration of the joys of travelling, three years since I’ve been anywhere, that did it. Or Essendon Airport’s joyous electronic-tinged backing melody. Probably both. A sheer delight.
1. NOBRO, Better Each Day
The third post-March 2020 band I saw in 2022, in Montebello Park, opening for Alexisonfire in July. Punk rock at its most soul-affirming. Just exploding with life and joy.
As a music fan, I’m not immune to the pleasures of the year-end list. Or the year-end mix, for that matter. One of the great joys of the era of musical abundance in which we live is that it allows you to go deep in any number of areas or genres. In my case, my listening habits over the past eight years or so have tended toward Australian and Canadian independent music, with an emphasis on melodic dissonance.
That said, it’s also tedious to limit oneself too much, because good music is good music. So, below and in a second post, I’ve compiled my favourite 50 songs, in both list and mix formats, of what I like to call left-field pop, mostly, but not exclusively from Canada, Australia and beyond. These songs brightened my year. I hope they brighten yours.
50. Bloods, Radical Quien, es radical? Todas mis hermanas con las manos en el aire Quando nos cansamos lo llevamos a la calle Quien, es radical? Vamos a cambiar el mundo Ya temenos el motive Quien, es radical? Futuro nuestro para sonar y mano-a-mano a pelear Hechas de magia con voces grande para gritar
49. Bria, Where Have All The Cowboys Gone? Gorgeous cover of the Paula Cole song.
48. Simona Castricum, TBC Hypnotic.
47. Dog Name,I can’t figure it out Late-year discovery for me, though they’ve been around for a few years. Canberra’s own. Gentle jangle pop.
46. Tropical Fuck Storm, Bazza The Bush Whacking Bishop Bashing Bastard From Back ‘O’ Bush Near Bloody Bendigo Tropical Fuck Storm go full Stompin’ Tom, and the world is better for it.
45. The Vovos, Jessica Day Delightfully chaotic punk rock – “Indie punk rock teenage-girl music” – from Melbourne. Sounds like it’s seconds away from careening out of your speakers in the best way possible.
44. Ponysapien, Gottawannit I know nothing about Ponysapien. They’re from Waterloo, I think. Sounds chill, sounds cool.
43. Bitumen, Paint and Draw So yeah, this nifty bit of shoegaze was released in 2021, but I only heard it this year and this is my list. So they’re in!
42. Basement Revolver, Transatlantic From just down the road in Hamilton, airy shoegaze. Beautiful tune.
41. JPEG 2000, Go Disco Vancouver-based synthpop. Yes, please….
40. Tony Price, Learning from Las Vegas …complemented nicely by this nifty bit of indie dance music out of Toronto. Come for the beat, stay for the sax.
39. Tallies, Wound Up Tight Indie rock heroes from Toronto.
38. ctrl + me, Dance Play Pause Stop Charming indie dance tune from this cool Melbourne band.
37. The Prize, Don’t Know You From Melbourne. Ladies and gentlemen, Rock and Roll.
36. Elsy Wameyo, Nilotic Cool hiphop from Adelaide.
35. No Zu, Liquid Love Melbourne’s new age “antipodean mutant punk-funk” collective do it again.
34. Chiquitamagic, Ganas De Bailar Jittery electronica from Bogotá via Toronto. A big highlight from 2022.
33. Yehra, Resonate Another 2021 song that I discovered in 2022. It’s on the list because it’s a really pretty tune.
32. Midnight Oil, At the Time of Writing One of Australia’s finest go out in style. They did good.
31. Sahara Beck, Teenage Dirtbag Just a beautiful, minimal cover of the Wheatus tune. We’ll see Sahara Beck a couple more times in Part 2 of this list.
You can probably figure out what I’m on about in the CIGI piece from the title. In The Conversation article, I highlight four lessons I’ve taken from all this nonsense:
The dismantling of a site that many people found very useful offers us a chance to reflect on what, exactly, we got out of Twitter, to go along with all the bad things (which I also highlight here). For me, it was the ability to reach across communities that would otherwise be relatively isolated, even online. Academics typically talk to academics, but it was (mostly) good that it was easy for journalists and politicians to eavesdrop on our conversations.
While the tech world and internet governance celebrates instability and innovation, Twitter’s slow demise shows how the rest of us could benefit from some stability.
We need to start thinking seriously about different funding models for social media, in particular public funding and support for social media, à la CBC. Fenwick McKelvey and Robert W. Gehl have some very interesting ideas on this point.
Alongside social media, we really need to talk about whether our current search engines (Read: Google) are fit for purpose, and what we should do about that.
As for me, as I’ve already mentioned, I’ve deactivated my main Twitter account. I still have a lightly used and even-more-lightly followed, music-focused secondary account that I’m using to check in on the crumbling empire, but I won’t be going back. I have a Mastodon account I set up a while back, but this Musk nonsense has me thinking I’ll be taking a break from social media. Most likely, I’ll wait to see where the academic community ends up and go from there.
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