Friday, December 11, 2015

DJ Arx: Tell Me

I'm planning to put out some music in the near future under the name DJ Arx.

Here's the first track:

If you've been reading this blog for a very long time, you might recognize the name Arx. You might know that I wrote a Ruby library called Archaopeteryx to improvise original d&b beats, and that I used "Arx" as a nickname for Archaeopteryx since nobody could figure out how to spell it or pronounce it, and/or that I later re-wrote Archaeopteryx in Clojure and called it Arx.

So I should probably say that as far as DJ Arx is concerned, I've been making this music the usual way, not by writing code to generate the music for me. That might happen in the future, and it's certainly happened in the past, but it's not happening right this second.

Instead, I'm using the name DJ Arx mainly because, if you go on Google and search for "Giles Bowkett," you'll discover that Giles Bowkett, in addition to being my actual real live human name, is also the name for a programming brand. Type "giles bowkett" into Google, and its autocomplete will say things back to you, like "giles bowkett ember" or "giles bowkett scrum."

This is the danger with personal branding; the person can change faster than the brand. Indeed, in the age of Google, anything which makes it to the Internet will live forever, including the names of ephemeral things like human beings, so it's a pretty safe bet that many of today's most powerful personal brands will live longer than the people they grew around, in the same way coral reefs outlive the organisms which first grow them.

Maybe, when we die, our inheritors will sell our personal brands to Narrative Science to cover the costs of our burials. Maybe really huge personal brands like Robert Scoble and Anil Dash will always be blogging, long after the people they sprouted from have been forgotten. Maybe software will crystallize these evanescent patterns of "personal" preference into repeatable algorithms, and on the day the last human being breathes his/her/their/its/etc last breath, and the machines truly inherit the universe, a cluster of algorithms and datacenters named Kanye West will tweet about it.

In the meantime, this is exactly the kind of nerdy, incomprehensible, navel-gazing tech industry bullshit that I don't necessarily want random music fans to have to clamber through just to hear some beats. The social media paradigm assumes that if anybody is interested in anything you do, they're automatically interested in everything else you do as well, but that's not realistic at all. It's not even so much that the person's changed faster than the brand; it's that social media demands so-called "personal brands" while totally failing to accomodate the reality that people are multidimensional, and identity is context-dependent.

Social media emerged in the aftermath of the dot-com crash, and bears some residual scars from that era. It's a technology designed mostly to enable hustling and networking, but it's become one of the major ways our culture articulates identity, and it's not perfect for that role.

Since I'm doing something new, intended for a new audience, I needed a new "personal" brand. On a practical level, I needed a name that, like my own name in "real life," was easy to google, but which, unlike my "real" name, was also easy to remember and pronounce. And I needed a name which wasn't inextricably entangled in the history of Ruby on Rails, or weighed down with the endless opinions on this blog, many of which I no longer remember, and some of which I no longer agree with.

I didn't have a name like that until I invented it, but now that I have it, I plan to use it.

DJ Arx will have a web site, but it's not live yet. "He" has threadbare accounts on SoundCloud, Instagram, YouTube, and Twitter, which I hope to populate in the near future. So follow my alter ego on your preferred humanity-to-branding conversion system, and stay tuned.