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Organisation: Cyberinfrastructure for Network Science Center
Name: Michael Stamper
E-Mail: mstamper@indiana.edu
Category: Social affairs

Name of Project: A Semantic Landscape of the Last.fm Music Folksonomy Using a Self-Organizing Map

Description of Project: What does the world of music look like? We present a visualization derived from a repository of user-generated tags attached to music items within the social radio website Last.fm. Those tags range from broad categories like "rockî, "jazz", or ėclassicalî to finer distinctions like ėbritpopî or ėfemale fronted metalî. The 1000 most frequently applied tags were used to generate a fine-grained two-dimensional model of over one million songs annotated in early 2009. Labels in the resulting map reflect the dominance of terms in particular regions, with label size and color expressing different degrees of dominance. Tags that tend to be attached to the same songs end up in close proximity on the map. Height in the topography is determined by the relative dominance of the tags most strongly associated with a particular region and can thus be interpreted as that regionís specificity. The map offers viewers a mix of recognition, discovery, and surprise. Viewers have commented on how generally meaningful and coherent the observed patterns of hierarchical and neighborhood relationships among themes are. At the same time, the map offers true opportunities for discovering new musical categories, from the various flavors of ėmetalî to such niche terms as ėshoegazeî or ėdroneî. Among the more surprising aspects viewers have noticed is the appearance of ėbluesî as top-level term far from ėjazzî. However, its occurrence within the broad vicinity of ėclassic rockî and bordering ėguitarî and ėguitar virtuosoî seems to correctly reflect the genreís historic role, while a secondary region labeled ėbluesî straddles the boundary between ėjazzî and ėsoulî on the other side of the map.

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