Discussion questions for episodes 5 and 6

Episode 5

  1. At the beginning of this episode, Krukowski asserts, “the marginal-the rejected-the repressed-is whatever the powerful have decided is of no use at the moment.” What does he mean by this statement? He goes on to ask, “But might it [the marginal-the rejected-the repressed] not be a key to alternate approaches-to art, to society-to power itself?” (“Marginalized” is an adjective that describes a person, group, or concept that is treated as insignificant or peripheral.)


What is he trying to get at with this question? How does music indicate the differences between the powerful and the marginalized?


Krukowski is referring to the items in the world that have fallen out of fashion. The items that society has decided are not popular anymore. Music with time can become outdated and no longer relevant. He refers to power as the people or corporations, or even programs that make the decisions on what should be bought or played or listened to.


  1. How are the music listening experiences enabled by Forced Exposure different from those that Paul Lamere is working on with platforms like Spotify?


Jimmy from Forced Exposure listens to every single song in his portfolio. It has been hand chosen by him. He has decided himself what he considers great music and he has narrowed down hundreds of thousands of songs to around 50,000. Paul Lamere, on the other hand, is a computer programmer. He creates algorithms that can choose from many millions of songs and predict what songs you will like based on your personal tastes. It chooses things that can be similar to things that you have already heard before. 


  1. What distinctions does Krukowski draw between being “surprised” by music and “discovering” music? What are the differences between these experiences and according to Krukowski, why are they important?


Krukowski explains that being surprised by music is different from discovering music. The large digital corporations try to steer you towards finding the things you are already familiar with. They use complex programs that can predict what you want based on previous experiences. The digital corporations use the data they have on you to give you what you’re already comfortable with. This prevents you finding new experiences. Krukowski finds that being surprised by something allows one to find new experiences that the large digital corporations would prevent you from finding because their algorithms don’t see you with similar wans. This digital prediction is fine if you only want to experience what you already know, but Krokowski believes there is true value in being surprised by these new experiences.


Episode 6

  1. According to Krukowski, what is noise? What is signal? Why are these distinctions important?


Krukowski describes signals as the sounds you are trying to listen to. Signals are fluid because our attention can shift based on what we want to hear at any given time. Noise is everything we can hear besides the signal we are looking for. These distinctions are important in music because digital music allows producers to boost the volume of the signals and reduce the volume of noise. This has allowed modern music to increase the volume of the recordings 10 fold.


What central idea about noise does this episode convey? Why is it significant?


Krukowski feels that noise is very important. That there is something lost when you remove the noise and only keep the signal. He explains there is a richness to noise that allows our brain to choose its signals. He shows that if we cut out noise completely and try to layer signal with other signals, it just becomes competing signals. While if you layer signals with the noise still in the background it can create brand new sounds. When there is noise in the background the audio engineer gets to choose what to highlight as signal and what to leave in back. It allows the engineer to weave sound textures together to create a more complex sound. 


How does this episode relate to other episodes? 

Krukowski uses noise to tie all of the episodes together. He uses digital recording’s ability to eliminate noise to represent each episode separately. The elasticity of time in analog recording is similar to the noise in the background. In public when wearing headphones or earpods, we eliminate the noise around us and only hear the signals being fed to us through our headphones. Cell phones eliminate the noise and in the process eliminates some of the feeling or music in our voices. Digital downloading strip away things that go into making music and thus striped it of its noise. Krukowski then uses us as analogous to signals stripped of noise by the large digital corporations that feed us only what they want us to hear. He believes noise and signals represent the shift of humanity from analog to digital, and how this shift has led to a disconnect from each other.

3 thoughts on “Discussion questions for episodes 5 and 6

  1. Tereza Koniakovska - Bors

    I think that it is very sad that thanks to the big corporations, we can not naturally choose what we really like, and I think we are losing many potentially great experiences in our lives by that. It is probably an integral part of the digitalized world. Still, I believe that there are too many things nowadays that are part of our lives and are not naturally developed in us or having a way too significant impact on us.

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