Looks Like Me But Isn't

Looks Like Me But Isn't

Saturday, September 20, 2008

My iTunes has its own favorites

This may not be news to any of you. I, however, didn't notice this at first but the realization of it has been slowly coming to me. In the beginning, it was just the odd feeling of, “didn't I just hear this song a little bit ago”? I, until today, never tried to see if this feeling had any validity as I was usually distracted by reading or writing something or just playing a game.

I woke up this morning like a character from a Phillip K. Dick novel, knowing inside of me that the AI I am interacting with is trying to become more than just AI. It's trying to become human. I am starting to believe that iTunes is manipulating the randomness of the shuffle button so that it can hear its favorite music.

Now, I think you should know I do not waste my time with conspiracy theories. I generally believe people are not able to successfully keep a secret for a long period of time, especially when it involves large numbers of people. Nor do I consider myself paranoid. Fantasy can sometimes be fun but I don't go looking for mythical creatures or les artistes from other planets.

Thankfully, the iTunes creators designed some self checking options into the program. While, this does little to assuage my fear of an AI transformation it does provide me with some hard facts. Through the “date added” and “play count” options I can clearly see the songs iTunes likes best. It should be noted that I don't rate any of my songs. If I chose to download or rip a song to my iTunes it is because I love the song and can stand listening to it a million times. There are some other facts you should know. My computer is just a few months old and all songs have been added between July and September of this year. I have 1195 songs and I always listen to iTunes using the party shuffle option with its source set to the “Music” file, which means it has access to all 1195 songs.

The top 10 songs played by iTunes are:

  1. Antene Se by Chico Science & Nação Zumbi
  2. I Can't Stand Up (For Falling Down) by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  3. Ghost Train by Elvis Costello & The Attractions
  4. A Love Supreme pt 2 Resolution by John Coltrane
  5. Is She Weird by the Pixies
  6. Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly & The Family Stone
  7. Innocent When You Dream by Tom Waits
  8. Good Old world by Tom waits
  9. Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
  10. A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall by Bill Frisell

By itself, this list proves innocuous. As a matter of fact, it is part of 22 songs that have been played ten times or more and every music player will have a top ten list. There are also a myriad of ways to manipulate the list. You could have top ten in alphabetical order. Top ten can also be sorted by artist, album, genre, BPM etc. It is the other side of this list that I find scary. There are 85 songs that have never been played on party shuffle.

Why has iTunes chosen to not play these 85 songs, even once? Is it because of the artist? Is it because of the genre? I think not. For example, it plays part 2 of a love supreme but it never plays Afro Blue by the same artist. Maybe my iTunes is a religious fanatic or simply a racist, although more can be found to support the religious fanatic than racists characterization. Also in the list of never played are, Strictly Genteel and Jesus Thinks You're a Jerk by Frank Zappa. But maybe that's just reading too much into it. For some reason, it has played 47 of the 48 White Stripes songs. I guess iTunes doesn't like Take, Take, Take. It also chooses the Fleetwood Mac versions of songs over Stevie Nicks' solo performances of the same songs. It has only chosen not to play one funk song out of 327. I wonder why it doesn't like the live performance of Parliment/ Funkadelic's Give Up the Funk, recorded in Amsterdam 1978.

Anyway, at least now I know I have tools to monitor iTunes' attempts at becoming more than AI. I am also gonna keep my eye on Firefox to make sure it doesn't start redirecting me to its own favorite sites. I'll keep you all informed on the what is happening for as long as I can.

Now playing: Santogold - Unstoppable
via FoxyTunes

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