The Infinite Campus

Since I was unfamiliar with the concept of the Infinite Campus, I thought it would be beneficial to look up the program’s technical description from the official website before listening to the piece. On the official website, the Infinite Campus is described as a data collection system that networks different state institutions to funnel academic information on individuals into a centralized database. The project collects data through the use of a unique numerical ID, an "alternative to the use of Social Security numbers or district-assigned numbers for ease in matching a student to their teachers, grades, assessments and college entrance exams." The site goes on to explain that "this ID is … assigned to the student in perpetuity", allowing for a person's academic and intellectual movements to be followed from early childhood through to university age and potentially beyond. (Infinite Campus website, see below)

Inspired by the potential threat posed by programs such as the Infinite Campus, the composition of the same name is at once highly sophisticated in its intent, yet is quite crude in its construction. Taken as a whole, the Infinite Campus is best described as patchy collage of differing audio qualities, fictional spaces and musical genres that combines protest rant, drama, and meditative attributes, as well as a vague call to action.

As part of its driving ethic of non-conformity, the piece shifts unpredictably between direct address and abstraction through narrative, critiquing many perceived social ailments and ruminating on the threats of information conspiracy. The author explicitly addresses what he presumes will be a young-professional to middle-age audience, warning them that “[though they] come from the best universities in the world", no amount of education will ever replace the need for vigilance against the infringement on free thought.
I find that the most significant thing about the Infinite Campus is its self–referential nature, which helps to advance the author’s main argument of technology as both a means of control and liberation. This high degree of self awareness is evidenced by its full disclosure of the methods of its crafting as well as the tools of its dissemination. Technologies such as such as iTunes, Mac-minis and garage band are referenced continually, and the author is not shy about tipping his hat to fellow “techno-culture” devotees through the use of symbols commonly associated with internet-based activities.

The creator is also clear about the fact that the piece was composed jointly by three different collaborators, using this fact to highlight the importance of social networking. The potential for collaboration through the internet is alluded to continually through remarks such as "oh, I found you here too". In addition to the internet’s remarkable ability to connect individuals, the author praises the internet’s capacity for information sharing (and potentially subversive activity), chuckling, “I’m just gonna hide out here…they'll never catch me there." He stresses technology’s incredible ability to help in organizing resistance movements, with the internet being an excellent vehicle for "[letting] others know when you're in distress".

Where music is specifically referenced, the Funk genre is glorified as the opposite of everything ordered and controlled. Called upon as a flag of rebellion, here “funk“could be interpreted to symbolize the activity of “cyber-punks” (or non-conformists generally) of the sort described in our reading. The author even cries out, "funk will save the universe". Strangely though, despite ample opportunity, true funk music is rarely heard within the piece.

In my opinion, the main weakness of the composition, aside from its redundancy and lack of cohesiveness, is that it is so indiscriminate in its argument. The author is not very choosy about what in particular he is most against, portraying many different kinds of mundane activity as representing conformity with “the dumb-side” and therefore being worthy of criticism. This ambitiousness weakens his overall messages, which, again, seem to be the need for vigilance and the importance of technology as tools for mobilization as well as a means of control.

Despite its inconsistencies, the piece is very clever in its meaning and is worth listening to at least once (if not twice, for full comprehension). In all, the Infinite Campus seems to say: “See what I can do with this technology? If you so choose, you too have the tools at your disposal to the establishment, because others are listening”.
Website for infinite campus: http://www.infinitecampus.com/

Thoughts?

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