[Gauntlet, so brief.]
Out of all the books that I regret skimming through, this is probably the one I wish I made better time for the most (did that sentence even scan lol). So: make some better time for this post-quals.
(I mean, come on, we even open with a quote from Mumford!)
The mp3’s compression is a mathematical and theoretical argument about human perception and the value of information (2); foregrounding the format resonates with infrastructures, with containers (cf Kyle’s work); the prehistory of the mp3 as innovations in telephony and the demands of faulty infrastructure;
“Format theory”: “Format denotes a whole range of decisions that affect the look, feel, experience, and workings of a medium. It also names a set of rules according to which a technology can operate” (7); formats are curious enterprises in that they are abstract (formal) yet still involve materiality in acute ways, e.g. the materiality of the mp3 and the ogg are the same (they are all electrical charges) but quite different rhetorical and logical expressions of what constitutes sound compression.
“In the following pages, I consider the development and traffic in MP3s as a massive, collective meditation on the mediality of sound and especially hearing, music, and speech. I use the term mediality (and mediatic in adjectival form) to evoke a quality of or pertaining to media and the complex ways in which communication technologies refer to one another in form or content” (9). (Immediate quotes to McLuhan and Bolter/Grusin.) “Mediation is not necessarily intercession, filtering, or representation. Another sense of mediation describes a form of nonlinear, relational causality, a movement from one set of relations to another” (9).
Chapters 1–3 concern the history of acoustics and may not be as relevant to my interests; Chapter 4, however, charts “the emergence of the MP3 format as a standards-making exercise” (23) and as such is useful for conversations around logistics and infrastructures. Chapter 5 is about listening tests and 6 is about licensing and piracy.