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Harkive Data Explorer

Since The Harkive Project started in 2013, thousands of people have kindly contributed stories about their music listening, helping in our attempt to create a snapshot of how we listen in the digital age.

Until now, and apart from some basic statistics, we haven’t made any of the data collected available, but following some help from the very talented Nick Moreton. today we’re changing that with the release of the first version of the Harkive ‘Data Explorer’. Click on the link below to access the explorer.

Some important points about this version:

  • At the moment this version only contains the data gathered from Twitter. As it develops over the coming months we hope to bring in not only the data from other collection methods (Facebook, Tumblr, and so on), but also some useful external data that will provide additional context for the wider story of what happened on the Harkive days in July 2013 and 2014.
  • In terms of functionality, the explorer will enable you to search for particular Twitter usernames (including your own, if you contributed in that way) and also to search for keywords. These search functions work together, so if you wish you can search for particular words within the body of tweets from a particular person, you can enter search terms in both boxes.
  • Beyond that, you can also select data from a particular year (2013 or 2014) and also search the entire database for mentions of certain formats or services based on a basic list.
  • Each of the tweets displayed, and any links to tracks, articles, etc, contained within them, should link out to the relevant external location, and any original images attached to tweets should display.
  • The explorer will work on both desktop and mobile devices, but please be aware that if you are connecting to it over anything other than WiFi then it may be a little slow to load. Once the page is loaded, however, is seems to work quite quickly.
  • The final element in this early version is the ability to Tweet the results of your search. Please do share these if you find something interesting. It will be useful for us in terms of developing future versions of the interface to have an idea of the sort of things that interest you.

Harkive will return again in July 2015, and hopefully you’ll be willing to tell your story then. More details on that soon.

If you have any questions about the explorer, or anything else related to Harkive, please feel free to email. In the meantime, happy exploring.

The Harkive Project – March 2015 update

I thought it might be useful to provide a brief update on what’s been happening with the project over the last couple of months.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Harkive is now a big part of my PhD research project at Birmingham City University. I’ve just come to the end of my first 6 months and have successfully negotiated the necessary internal review processes within the University and am pleased to report that the project, whilst still in the early stages, is progressing well.

In terms of how that looks from a day-to-day point of view, I’m essentially operating on two simultaneous fronts: I’m engaging with a lot of literature, so spend a lot of my days reading, writing, taking notes, and so on. This is what, at this stage, anyway, is taking up the majority of my time in these opening months. I’m exploring ideas, trying to formulate some questions and positions, and generally feeling my way around what is a large and complex field. Most of this won’t make a lot of sense to anyone other than me and my supervisory team at this stage, and in truth there really isn’t a great deal really worth sharing. However, I have been adding little bits of writing to my personal blog. if you’d like to take a look – I usually add something once a fortnight – as these pieces are exercises during which I try to make some sort of ‘public sense’ of my thought processes. The next milestone in terms of this aspect of the project will be at 12 months, when I’m expected to submit a first draft of my literature review.

Of perhaps more relevance to you if you have an interest in The Harkive Project itself, is the second part of my work, which is working out what to do in terms of the data the project collects. This is something that has now started to gather a little bit of momentum and there should, all being well, be some interesting things to share over the coming months.  Working on this aspect of the project means attending conferences and events where I aim to listen, look and learn from some clever and interesting people who themselves are working with data. I will hopefully start to feed some of this back to the  public face of Harkive shortly. The first of these will be the first version of a ‘Harkive Data Explorer’, which will enable people to search through the submissions gathered in 2013 and 2014, that I’ve been working on with some clever coders over the last month or two. This explorer will initially feature a simple interface and the data gathered from Twitter, but we’ll be building on it once it is launched. I’m looking forward to finding out what you think of it. It’s a tentative first step in sharing with you the stories that so many people kindly submitted to the project.

In other news, I’m now in the process of planning for Harkive 2015, which will take place once again in July (date tbc), so more news on that shortly. If you’ve taken part in the past I hope you’ll do so again this year.

As always, if you have any questions about Harkive, please do get in touch.

More news soon.

The Harkive Project – December 2014 Update

Hi all,

I thought that some of you may be interested in how The Harkive Project is progressing and developing. I really appreciate the interest many of you have shown in the project, and how so many of you have been willing to tell your stories. Here, then, is a quick overview of what has happened since July, when the project ran for a second time.

I hope you find it interesting. If you’ve any questions about anything in this post, please do add a comment or drop me a line .

To begin at the beginning, then. As mentioned elsewhere on the site, Harkive started as  my final project during my MA Music Industries studies at Birmingham City University . Not long after completing the MA, in September 2013, I was encouraged by BCU to apply for a new strand of funding being offered by the AHRC. I went for it and was really pleased to be one of 80 students offered a scholarship under their Midlands3Cities Doctoral Training Scheme. I started my PhD at BCU in October this year, so I’m a little over 10 weeks in to what will be a three-year process.

The title I have given to the PhD project is ‘The Harkive Project: Rethinking Music Consumption’, and my study will attempt to map changes in technology, culture and environment over a three-year period through quantitive and qualitative analysis of responses gathered by The Harkive Project. The analysis will be framed by my central research question:What are the relative and interrelated impacts of technological, industrial and cultural change on the social, business and cultural environments of music consumption, and how are these articulated by those responding to The Harkive Project?

In order to unpack this question I intend to pursue three separate lines of enquiry, each of which will, I hope, uncover new knowledge around themes central to our understanding of popular music consumption and digital culture: meaning; identify; authenticity; ownership. These ideas will be explored through a series of sub-questions: How are ideas of identity expressed through the public broadcasting of personal consumption practices?; How do digital consumption practices compare to other ways of experiencing music?; Music Consumers and Cultural Work: What happens to ideas of ownership online?

We’ve seen some massive changes over the last 15-20 years in terms of how music is made, monetised, distributed and enjoyed. So, to put the above in slightly simpler terms, I think that what I’m trying to do here is search for the soul of music in the digital age. I’m really excited about the project, and I hope you’ll come along for the ride.

In order to answer these BIG questions there are a number of methodological issues that need to be addressed within the project. I’m working on these with some clever and helpful people, and there will be some interesting news about how the project will develop in terms of how your stories are collected in the coming months. The long and the short of it is that I need to resolve the issues with the somewhat ‘loose’ nature of the project so far without spoiling what is, I feel, special about it. I still want the project to have the ‘freeform’ nature it has had so far – where you just kindly tell me your stories in the manner that is easy for you (a Tweet, an email, or what have you), but in a way that means the collection of stories, when taken as a whole, is able to say something interesting and useful. This is the methodological challenge that is at the heart of the PhD, I suppose. I will keep you posted on how this progresses.

Other than wrestling with the challenges outlined above, I’ve also been lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak about Harkive at a couple of conferences recently. In July I visited Cork, Ireland, to speak at the IASPM ‘Words of Popular Music’ conference. Here I talked about the manner in which an element of Harkive 2014, and to an extent of Harkive 2013, was surprising to me. It revolved around how some of you as respondents acted collectively and collaboratively to promote and respond to the project and, ultimately, contribute to its success. In exploring this I hoped to raise questions about how music fans and listeners organise online; the

motivations of individuals for consuming, sharing and discussing music in online environments; new modes of fan production; and cultural work. Cork was very beautiful, by the way, and it was rather strange to be presenting a paper about modern, digital pop music in a building that looked like this.

University College Cork, IASPM, Sept 2014

Shortly afterwards, in September 2014, I provided an overview of Harkive at Music Tech Fest  in London, as part of their ‘Festival of Ideas’ day. Music Tech Fest is unlike ‘standard’ conferences – it’s a quick-fire process, with each speaker rolling into the next without much of a break in between and is a lot more like playing a gig at a festival than speaking at a conference. MTF archive all of the presentations on their site, so you can seek out my Harkive talk there is you’d like to see it. Here I am speaking..(thanks to @clutch for the photo)

Harkive at MTF, Sept 2014

The final conference paper to tell you about was in early November, at the European Radio Symposium. in Madrid, Spain. I was invited to speak back in July, shortly after Harkive 2014. This was a much more commercially-focussed event, with then central theme being the role of radio in the new digital environment.

ASI Radio Conference, Madrid, Nov 2014

Putting this paper together gave me the opportunity to look at the Harkive responses from a very particular angle, which was one of the aims of the project when I developed it initially; I hoped it would be useful from many different points of view, and potentially able to provide useful answers to many different questions. I’ll blog about this at a later date, because the results of my analysis were very interesting (SPOILER: It seems Radio is still really important to many of us, despite the plethora of other services at our disposal).

However, my paper also raised a larger, wider concern for me – and that surrounds the commercial applications for the data I collect. When I started Harkive it was not intended as a means or method of performing Market Research, but clearly it has the potential to do exactly that. In terms of my PhD, then, and in order to retain (what I hope is) some integrity with you, the people who contribute to it, I need to be aware of the fine line I’m walking. It’s an interesting tension, and my aim is to always walk on the right side of the line!

Other than the above, and if you’re still with me despite this rather long post, there is one more piece of news to tell you about. I’ve recently agreed to work with an American academic on a paper around Music Discovery. This is something I/we will be chipping away at over the coming months, and we have some good ideas about how to progress it. I’d like to look at what ‘Discovery’ means, and how that is changing (..and if it is changing). More news on that soon.

Thanks again for your interest in Harkive. I’ll try not to leave it so long between now and the next post. As I said at the top, if you have any questions about the above, or Harkive generally, please do drop me a line .

All the best,


Harkive 2014 – The Numbers, The Prizes, Reflection, and What Happens Now

On 15th July 2014 The Harkive Project ran for the second time and once again invited people across the world to tell the story of How, Where and Why they listened to music on a single day.

This post is intended to give you a quick overview of how Harkive 2014 went. I’ll provide some basic numbers before sharing some thoughts on how I thought Harkive 2014 panned out, before closing with some information on what happens next.

In total 881 people contributed to Harkive 2014, posting a combined 2,455 contributions.

88% of those responding did so via Twitter, with 777 people sending 2,260 tweets with the Harkive hashtag, which accounted for 92% of all responses.

In total there were 3501 Harkive tweets from 1042 different accounts, meaning that around 250 people tweeted about Harkive without contributing to it. These non-contributory tweets took the form of promotional information about the project (832), retweets of other peoples’ contributions (349), questions about the project (58), or automated accounts tweeting information about trending topics (2).

Of the remaining 8% of responses (195 in total), Instagram provided almost half (3.5%) with Facebook, Email and contributions via the Submit form on the Harkive site providing the majority of the rest.

Overall, the number of people contributing to Harkive 2014 was down on 2013 – last year 1393 people contributed compared to 881 this year. Interestingly, however, the number of contributions held reasonably stable, with 2698 entries in 2013 compared to 2455 this year.

Fewer people contributed more, in other words, with the average number of contributions per person rising from 1.93 in 2013, to 2.78 this year. Twitter is largely the reason for this, with 87% of responses last year and 92% this year. The average number of tweets per contributor was 2.9 (up from 2.07 last year), with 85% (658) contributing between 1 and 5 tweets, 9.3% (72) contributing 6-10 tweets, 4.7% (36) between 10-20 tweets, and the final 1% (8) contributing 20 or more. The record number of tweets from one account in 2014 was an impressive 52!

Several companies and individuals were kind enough to donate prizes to Harkive. There are records, CDs, art-prints and even a ukulele. Everyone who contributed to Harkive 2014 has gone into the hat (it’s a database, in truth) and I’ll be drawing the winners today at 2pm (GMT) and will by live tweeting the results through @harkive. If you can’t follow live at 2pm today, don’t worry. I’ll be in touch if you’ve won.

As well as being incredibly grateful to all the people who took time to contribute, talk about and support this project once again, my main feeling when taking the time to reflect on Harkive 2014 is one of relief.

Having launched the project in 2013 with no great expectations or hopes of a huge response, I was amazed and somewhat shocked by the fact that so many people got behind the project, supported it with kind words, and – of course – contributed their stories. The big worry and question for 2014, then, was whether Harkive could come anywhere close to the success of 2013.

Bound up in this fear was my hope and intention that Harkive become an annual event. My feeling is/was that if Harkive is going to be useful or interesting then it would be in the way it could reveal things over a period of time. In a nutshell, when we look back over the responses gathered across a number of years we will be able to see how music listening has changed, and whether those changes were subtle or seismic. As such then, if Harkive 2014 had fallen completely flat, Harkive 2015 would have been very tricky indeed.

In trying to match the success of 2013 I took the decision to pretty much replicate the processes I used last year. The collection methods, the promotional tools and language, the timeframes I worked within, and so on, were all identical to the previous year. One of the things I’ll look at over the coming months is how Harkive 2015 will shape up.

In the run up to Harkive 2014 I faced a small amount of criticism and a few questions from people wanting to know what had happened to the 2013 data. Hopefully the next section of this post will explain a little above that, but those questions and that criticism is entirely valid. A lesson learned, then, is to communicate much more openly about how the project is developing. Rather than allowing to lay dormant until July 2015, it makes a lot of sense to begin using the blog on this site as a means of posting regular updates on how Harkive and the data analysis is progressing. So, if you’re at all interested in seeing how things develop, this is the place. As always, if you have any questions, please do drop me a line.

What happens now?

Well, there are now two large data sets (one from 2013, and another from this year), and the hard, interesting work starts in September, when I will begin working on Harkive full-time for the next 3 years. I’m very excited by this and can’t wait to get started.

This research will take place at Birmingham City University under the supervision of Professor Tim Wall and Dr Nicholas Gebhardt and is being funded by the AHRC under their Doctoral Training Scheme. When I started working behind the counter of a record shop back in 1991 I had no idea that, 20-odd years later, it would eventually lead towards a PhD in the field of Popular Music. Life can be strange and interesting when you follow your nose!

So, as well as building towards Harkive 2015 and beyond, I’ll be looking at how Harkive can be developed as a project. I have some ideas here, and I’m looking forward to testing them out. My main task, however, will be to begin the process of analysing the data Harkive has collected so far. This will involve me learning from and collaborating with various academics, data analysts and other clever people in an attempt to develop methodologies for analysing the collected responses.

The biggest challenge here is the fact that Harkive hasn’t followed a ‘traditional’ path, certainly not in terms of academic research, anyway. By making contribution to the project reasonably ‘free’, I’ve ended up with information that is in a variety of shapes and sizes: tweets, essay-length emails, bits of audio, Facebook posts, Instagram images – it’s an unwieldy, strangely-shaped collection that makes analysis very tricky. As such, I’m going to have to devise new ways of making sense of it all. That’s my challenge.

Harkive will return again July 2015 and I do hope you’ll consider getting involved again.

Thanks again for supporting Harkive.

Craig Hamilton

Birmingham, August 2014

The Harkive 2014 submission window is now closed

Harkive 2014 – Thank you!

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