Student Justin Brinegar, right, researched how people manage and store their digital music under the direction of Robert Capra, left, a post-doctoral fellow and research scientist in the School of Information and Library Science.
Managing your music
How do you manage your music collection?
That’s exactly what senior Justin Brinegar pondered as he considered a research project for a class in the School of Information and Library Science (SILS) at UNC-Chapel Hill.
As a music lover, Brinegar felt he effectively managed his digital music archive by keeping it on a central computer and retrieving songs from it to transfer to one of the five computers he uses each day. What, he wondered, do others on campus do?
“Music is relevant in everyday life, and yet the management of personal digital music collections is a surprisingly under-studied area, so it seemed like a good topic to learn more about,” Brinegar says.
The research began in a course on personal information management taught by associate professor Deborah Barreau that Brinegar was taking as part of the SILS bachelor of science in information science program. He suggested the idea of studying music management and storage habits to Robert Capra, a postdoctoral fellow and research scientist at SILS who has been examining how people manage information across different devices and computers. Capra worked with Brinegar to develop the study and analyze the data.
Their goal was to better understand how people manage and share their personal digital music collections and the problems they face – in the context of current technologies: multiple computers, multiple mp3 players, music collection backups and music software. Brinegar and Capra developed a survey and distributed it to students, faculty and staff across campus.
The survey results provided insights into how people listen to, manage and store their digital music collections, especially across different devices and computers.
For example, 82 percent of participants listened to music on a mobile player two to three times per week or more with 48 percent of participants listening to music on a mobile player each day; 46 percent owned one mp3 player, 32 percent owned two and 19 percent owned three; 41 percent shared or synchronized music across multiple computers. Sixty-six percent reported collections of 4,500 songs or less, while 10 percent of had collections exceeding 12,000 songs.
Forty-nine percent of those surveyed said they back up all of their collection and 25 percent said they do not keep a backup. Forty-two percent indicated they had lost music due to issues such as computer crash or device problems and, of these, 25 percent did not result in recovery.
To share their findings, Brinegar and Capra wrote a paper and designed a poster. The poster, “Understanding Personal Digital Music Collections,” was accepted as one of 93 primarily submitted by doctoral students and faculty from around the world to the 2010 annual conference of the American Society for Information Science & Technology (ASIS&T). It received a “Best Poster Award.”
“I’m very proud of Justin for this accomplishment,” Capra says. “He worked hard to conduct the research over the past year and it is wonderful to see our results recognized by the ASIS&T community.”
“To me, this award serves as a validation of our hard work,” Brinegar says. “This research and subsequent poster have afforded me opportunities to engage in discourse with a number of professionals in the field. The award also serves to empower me to pursue some of the unanswered questions in the management of personal digital music collections.”
Brinegar will give a 20-minute presentation on a paper based on his and Capra’s research titled, “Managing Music Across Multiple Devices and Computers,” at the annual iConference in Seattle, WA, on Feb. 11.
Brinegar and Capra enjoy all types of music, and their favorites include:
- Brinegar – Neutral Milk Hotel, Ratatat, Alkaline Trio, The Microphones, Radiohead, The White Stripes, Girl Talk, Fatboy Slim, The Gerbils, and Mute Math.
- Capra – Wilco, Ryan Adams, Ben Folds, Sufjan Stevens, Bob Schneider, Pete Yorn, Guster, Josh Rouse, Fountains of Wayne, Jupiter Coyote.