Cover shift

On his blog, Brad Skow discusses Theodore Gracyk’s account of cover songs. He gives a fair summary of Gracyk’s view, according to which a version is only a cover if reference to the canonical version is part of its artistic content. So (on this way view) you can only appreciate a cover by taking into account the canonical version. In contrast with common usage, Gracyk holds that any version which lacks this referential structure is a remake instead of a cover.1

With all that in place, Skow notes that Taylor Swift’s remakes of her own work seem designed to efface the originals rather than refer to them. So he suggests we might call them anti-covers.2

The problem is that one familiar function of so-called covers has been to crowd another recorded version out of the market. This is often given as an explanation for why the word cover was used in the first place: They were meant to cover over or cover up the originals.3

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Who even am I?

I’ve watched a bunch of superhero movies recently. Some (like Birds of Prey and The Suicide Squad) lived up to expectations. Others were surprising.

Based on friends’ comments on social media, I expected Quantumania (the third Antman movie) to be a dud. But it was a fun ride, with fun world building and characters. And it had MODOK!

Based on friends’ comments and the fact that it had Batman in it, I expected to enjoy The Batman (the 2022 movie). I was disappointed in it and surprised with myself.

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Imagination, philosophy, and imitation games

Via Daily Nous, I came across a blog post by Justin Smith-Ruiu about creative writing as philosophy. The post is, ultimately, an argument that philosophy can be “incitement of the imagination, by creative means, to see the world in unfamiliar ways.” I agree with that! But there are digressions along the way that range from false speculation to attacks on the kind of philosophy that I (sometimes) do.

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Two drafts about music

I’ve posted two draft papers,written with different collaborators, addressing different issues in the philosophy of music.

  • Tell Me Why This Isn’t a Cover: A paper with Cristyn Magnus, Christy Mag Uidhir, and Ron McClamrock, using lessons from the philosophy of cover songs to think about Taylor Swift’s project of rerecording her earlier work.
  • Music genres as historical individuals: A paper with Evan Malone and Brandon Polite, arguing that genres are historical individuals in a sense. That qualifier “in a sense” is carrying a lot of weight.

Engines of enshittification

Via Ars Technica, I’ve learned that shady Amazon sellers have been using chatbots to automatically write item descriptions. The result is hot offers on items like “I cannot fulfill that request” and “I apologize but I cannot complete this task.” This is a natural progression from Amazon product listings which were simply misdescribed by humans.

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Lincoln!

My paper Generative AI and photographic transparency now has a DOI and is on-line, occupying that liminal space of published but not quite which is characteristic of contemporary scholarship. The publisher has given me a link to the published version, but it won’t let you download or print it. (As always, you can grab the preprint from my website.)

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Who I am these days

Recent updates to the department website have added a direct link to my CV and a list of representative publications, so it made sense to rewrite my bio as well. Here’s what it says now:

His areas of research include philosophy of science, the philosophy of art and music, the epistemology of technology (Wikipedia and AI), and pragmatism. His work in the philosophy of science, motivated by a falliblist but non-sceptical conception of scientific knowledge, has addressed topics like the underdetermination of theory by data, natural kinds, and values in science. He regularly teaches courses in philosophy of science, logic, epistemology, pragmatism, and philosophy of art.