Author Archives: James Key

About James Key

Audio Production MSc

Collaborative Bibliography: Technological Convergence


There are many forms of convergence. However, in this blog post I will be focusing primarily upon technological convergence using the recent development in mobile phone technology as a prime example. Being a lover of technology and gadgets this is a subject which I find fascinating! First it is important to define exactly what convergence is:

 “the merging of distinct technologies, industries, or devices into a unified whole”

Technological convergence refers to the trend for different technology based systems or devices to evolve and unify to perform related tasks. A fantastic example of technological convergence can be seen through the recent development in ” smart” mobile phones which now perform the roles and functions that used to require numerous separate electronic devices.

I experienced this first hand when I recently upgraded my five year old ancient Nokia handset to a swanky new HTC Wildfire smartphone. This was a slightly reluctant move on my part as I didn’t feel that I needed to have so much technology to hand at all times. However my new phone definitely proved me wrong! Whereas my old phone had just provided basic phone functionality along with a poor quality digital camera, my new smartphone has effectively replaced my MP3 player and camera and is definitely more portable than my laptop computer! I use my phone for the following applications:

  • Portable Music Device
  • Camera
  • Camcorder
  • Internet Browser
  • Gaming Console
  • Organiser/Calendar
  • Social Networking
  • Email
  • Music recorder/basic Digital Audio Workstation!

The number of devices and functions that modern smartphones integrate into one handset really is astounding and with the app market booming and fast developing technology who knows what features will be added to phones in the future. I don’t think they should even be called phones any more as my HTC handset seems to be able to perform everything my personal computer does but on a smaller, more portable device. This integration of functionality can be found across a range of technology based products and services ranging from games consoles which play films music and video games to the internet itself which developed from a simple protocol network to provide users an almost endless range of media which can be shared to reach audiences globally.

Mobile Technology Convergence Characteristics and Number of Users

This type of convergence gives us the convenience of many devices in one product which saves on cost, size and time. The only problem is if your phone (or other convergent device) breaks your left with nothing to use! Another argument against this  is that individual devices which are made for doing a specific task usually perform better at that task. Therefore sacrifices are made in quality of each function the device provides. However, convergence usually prevails over time as the quality of the converged technology develops and the quality of each function improves. Smartphones are definitely here to stay and it is predicted that by 2014 there will be one billion smartphone users worldwide.

For my contribution to the social media class collaborative bibliography I would like to provide a link to the following journal entitled “Predicting the emergence of innovations from technological convergence: Lessons from the twentieth century”. The work features in-depth case studies where industry experts predicted that multiple technologies would converge to create an entirely new product and therefore an entirely new market. It also examines the differences and similarities between the various case studies presented and looks at why some ideas for technological convergence have taken longer to be accepted by the public than others.


Convergence image 1  from

Convergence image 2 from

Smartphone users image from

Merriam Webster. (2011) Convergence Definition [Online] Available from: [Accessed: 7th November 2011]

Schnaars, S.  (2008) Predicting the emergence of innovations from technological convergence: Lessons from the twentieth century [Online] May 2008. Available from: [Accessed: 7th November 2011]



Music in Manchester!

Marley Chingus @ Matt and Phreds

Marley Chingus performing at Matt and Phreds

In this week’s blog post I will be musing over my first couple of months living in the city of Manchester and the some of the projects I’m currently working on towards gaining my Audio Production MSc. One of the best things about living in a city that I’ve found so far has been the variety of gigs and nights out I’ve been able to attend since moving here. Ranging from amazing jazz and soul bands at Matt and Phreds and the Ram and Shackle to the raw blues of Seasick Steve (with none of other than John Paul Jones on bass!) and awesome club nights like Audiofarm at Sound Control which showcases some of the best electronic music around I’ve definitely been spoilt for choice when it comes to live music. I can’t wait to get my own band formed here in Manchester and start gigging again. I’ve recently begun writing, jamming and recording with two of my close friends (a fantastic guitarist/keys player and a female singer) so we just need to find a groovy bassist and drummer to form the rhythm section.

Studio D - The new home!

I’m starting to feel a lot more settled here now that I know my way around the area a bit better and have got used to universities recording studios- being a massive Protools fan studio D is definitely my favourite! I’ve been primarily working on the Bob Marley dub remix for the ‘Digital Studio Production’ module. This has been an interesting experience as it isn’t a genre of music I’ve worked with before and learning the different production techniques the pioneers of dub used back in the day has been fascinating. I have also been working on a new mix of a jazz/orchestral soundtrack style track I recorded and engineered on for a friend’s final year music degree dissertation (Please see embedded soundcloud below for the old mix). It is hard to ever be completely satisfied with a final mixdown when working in the digital domain as modern DAWs allow you to constantly tweak mix settings until the end of time. The finality of recording a mix using an analogue console and outboard gear definitely has something going for it as the final mix usually is the final mix!

Work wise everything seems to have stepped up a gear over the last couple of weeks with primary research to be performed for a Wav vs MP3 perceptual codec test along with a synthesised soundtrack for a video promoting MediaCityUK to compose, program and synchronise. With a major recording project with a local band coming up and the social media project it’s definitely going to be busy times till Christmas! I’m hoping to combine various forms of social networking (youtube, twitter, facebook e.t.c) for the social media project and possibly create myself a website using this wordpress blog as a template. The project will primarily focus on soundcloud integration and online music promotion.

The Positives and Negatives of Social Networking


In today’s digital age, social media has become an integral part of the vast majority of people’s lives and has effectively made the world a smaller place. Sharing information and connecting with the world around us, along with the people within it, has never been easier or more popular with facebook, wikipedia and you-tube all featured in the top 10 most visited sites on the internet. On average, 16% of all users total time spent online is taken up using social media in some form with many users able to access these sites at any time using mobile phones. However, there are both positives and negatives to the ease of communication and information sharing that social media and crowdsourcing gives us.

Collaborative information created through crowdscourcing methods are a very popular way to share information. One of the of the largest collaborative encyclopedias online is Wikipedia which features over 10 million articles. Information gathered and shared in this way follows the old saying “a problem shared is a problem halved” and has allowed an unprecedented amount of information to be shared worldwide. Crowdscourcing can be a valuable learning method when integrated into teaching as shown through the social media modules’s collaborative bibliography. However, there are opposing views on crowdsourcing as shown through this BBC news article who feel that sometimes data collected by crowd sourcing can be inaccurate or unreliable. Another potential problem that arises when content is crowdsourced is that the rights to the content is effectively taken from the user and given to to the overall owners of the website.

Social media gives users a feeling of involvement and allows friends and colleagues to keep in touch through sharing photos, events and by providing instant messaging services. After the recent integration of spotify with facebook it is also incredibly easy to share your favourite music with your friends and can also be a fantastic platform for businesses and professionals to promote themselves. One interesting aspect of social media I hadn’t fully realised the potential for is using these platforms to perform project research as shown through the “Sound Around You” project. This has definitely given me some ideas for performing primary research for my MSc dissertation next year! On a larger scale, social media has also helped the world gain first hand news accounts and raise social awareness during world events such as natural disasters.

The Positives and Negatives of Social Media: Fox News Story

The disadvantages of the rise in social media have been well documented in the news recently as seen through the use of these technologies to help organise and plan the recent outbreak of rioting in the UK. There are also issues such as a potential lack of privacy and the platforms being use to aid criminal activities. However, I feel that overall the positives social media provide us with far outweigh the negatives. Any communication network can be used with malicious intent and it is pleasing to see that these technologies are also being used to help indentify criminals and for planning and organising charity events.


Top 5 UK websites usage image from

Collaborative Bibliography: Creative Commons


In my last blog post I discussed my personal views on digital piracy and some of the issues surrounding this much debated aspect of digital media. In this blog post I will be talking about the other topic covered during the digital piracy lecture, the Creative Commons organisation. Creative Commons is an initiative which “increases sharing and improves collaboration” by providing various forms of media which is available for users to legally share, manipulate and expand. It provides an alternative to copyright laws which were created way before the advent of the internet and awareness of this digital movement is steadily growing. This is shown by the coverage the Creative Commons received by the BBC news this year when they published a guide to how media found online can be used legally. The creative common’s mission statement and overall vision can be found here.

Creative Commons Logo

I knew nothing about the Creative Commons before this lecture and found it to be an interesting and intriguing prospect to allow innovative remixes, samples and ‘mashups’ to be created without the producer running the risk of facing legal copyright repercussions. In my opinion, youtube videos and other digital media that has been created by combining aspects from various media sources has allowed some phenomenal production’s to be created and shared such as Madeon’s Pop Culture remix and original interpretations of film and computer game soundtracks. For me one of the joys of the internet is that it allows interesting and entertaining collaborations such as these to be created, shared and discovered! I feel that over stringent copyright laws stifle people’s creativity and I feel it is a massive shame that amateur and semi professional video makers get their videos removed from youtube just for featuring copyright music when it would cost them a fortune to get the music properly licensed. If the copyright Nazis had their way ‘Madeon’ would have to pay to sample each of the 39 songs used previously mentioned video!

An original interpretation of a theme from the “Monkey Island” computer game series

Remixing has always existed within music but through a slightly different form- instead of through digital means it has been through bands and artists covering jazz and blues standards and then adapting and evolving the music and songs. I believe this to be a natural musical process and a good thing as everything is always influenced musically by something that came before it and sometimes covers can even be improvement upon the original. A recent film titled “Everything is a Remix” made by New York based Kirkby Ferguson which takes the viewpoint that everything media related is a “remix of something else” as oppose to “everyone is stealing”.

“Everything is a Remix” By Kirkby Ferguson

However, some critics question whether the Creative Commons organisation can provide the financial support required by artists and see the Creative Commons as just an alternative or  replacement of the old copyright system. The following journal looks at how useful the Creative commons license actually is for musicians and artists. Despite this, I feel that the Creative Commons movement seems like a bright future for sharing and using copyright material in the digital era without facing legal problems. Another implication of widespread use of the Creative Commons initiative would be allowing teachers the freedom to use a large amount of legal media content to use as a teaching resource – surely this can only be a good thing?! More information on the Creative Commons in regards to teaching can be found here.

I think the following links will also be useful for other social media students who are new to this concept and wish to learn more about the organisation and how to properly use and attribute Creative Commons content:


Creative Commons Logo from

BBC. (2011)  Copyright group Creative Commons targets web users [Online] June 2011. Available from: %5BAccessed: 18th October 2011]

Schaeffer, Maritza. (2009)  “Contemporary Issues in the Visual Art World: How Useful are Creative Commons Licenses?” [Online] May 2009. Available from:;col1 %5BAccessed: 18th October 2011]

Educause Learning Initiative. (2007)  7 things you should know about the Creative Commons [Online] March 2007. Available from: %5BAccessed: 18th October 2011]


My Digital Identity


Hey everyone, my name is James and my family home is located in North Wales near Chester. It’s only about an hour’s drive away from Manchester but is a lot more rural and picturesque with plenty of fields and mountains- a very relaxing part of the country to live.

On my travels last summer- chilling at an amazing bar in New York

I’m a self taught musician that has always held a huge passion for both music and technology. From an early age I began working with and building computer systems and learning acoustic and electric guitar. I have an audio engineering background that lead to me to graduating with a first class BSc degree in Music Technology at Staffordshire University. This course was perfect for me as it combined my love for music with the technicalities of audio engineering using computer hardware and software. I really enjoyed my time there meeting some fantastic friends and learning a huge amount in the process. In my spare time I play music with various musicians, perform acoustic gigs and write and record as much music as I can. For more information about my professional background please check out

Playing a gig with my band in North Wales a couple of years ago

Despite having a long term background in computers and technology I am currently not a huge social media user and barely seem to hold much of a digital identity- the idea of keeping my own online blog and using twitter is definitely a new one for me! I never really saw the need to make a twitter account to inform my friends of what i’m up to in real life preferring instead to wait until I caught up with them in real life and could tell them over a nice cold pint. This is also my first ever blog post and I’m finding it quite strange writing for this format, hopefully I’ll get more used to expressing my thoughts electronically over the course of the social media module.

This cartoon definitely sums up the modern reliance of social media to interact with each other!

My first encounter with social media was using myspace to promote my old rock and roll band by uploading our tracks and informing users of our gigs. These days my primary social media format is facebook which I use mainly for sharing photos and staying in touch with friends. I recently created a soundcloud account to showcase my audio engineering work for clients which I hope to develop, update and incorporate into the project for the social media module. This can be found at and currently features tracks from various genres of artists I have worked with from acoustic singer songwriters and rock bands to jazz film scores and downtempo electronica.

Despite not having a large amount of interest in twitter and other social media platforms for personal use I would like to develop a professional digital identity in order to showcase my work, learn from other audio engineers, for networking purposes and also for liaising with clients. I also hope to keep this blog updated with information about the projects I am involved with whilst completing my Audio Production MSc and will also be integrating soundcloud tracks into this blog directly when relevant. Thanks for reading!

Cartoon Image from