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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 ìclassicalî to finer distinctions like ìbritpopî or ìfemale 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 ìmetalî to such niche terms as ìshoegazeî or ìdroneî. Among the more surprising aspects viewers have noticed is the appearance of ìbluesî as top-level term far from ìjazzî. However, its occurrence within the broad vicinity of ìclassic rockî and bordering ìguitarî and ìguitar virtuosoî seems to correctly reflect the genreís historic role, while a secondary region labeled ìbluesî straddles the boundary between ìjazzî and ìsoulî on the other side of the map.

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