Research Techniques: Artificial Intelligence, Search Engines, Social Media & More
As a tech assistant and a composer working in an experimental medium, I tend to do a lot of research on topics that can vary from “common knowledge” to “super obscure and niche”. I’ve come to realize that one of my greatest strengths is my research ability, not only because I know how to google things, but also because I have some wonderful resources that allow me to take greater advantage of the internet than most people realize is possible.
The methods listed below are techniques I use quite commonly and take advantage of search engines, social media, technology created in the freedom of information movement, and artificial intelligence. In school, you probably learned about “verifying” sources and only trusting highly authenticated resources. There’s a time and a place for that, but (at least for a lot of the work I tend to do in the music/film/food world) user sourced information can be much more useful.
So with that being said, googling techniques are a great starting point. I am a big fan of learning how to maximize the efficiency of your search results, but also an even bigger fan of crowd sourcing knowledge from forms and social media platforms such as Reddit, VIcontrol, & YouTube. Many people overlook these when researching, but for this sort of research, it can be quite beneficial. If you’re not writing a scientific paper and instead looking for recommendations for your niche, why not search a form of hobbyists/experts rather than paying for a book on a topic you already don’t know about?
Some useful google techniques I use often:
“ “ match this exact phrase
- Leave out this word
Site:URL Search this site specifically
Adding the site name as a keyword (without using Site:URL )
There are a lot more ways to get better at google, and here and here are great lists with examples on how to use both.
12 foot ladder
You can use 12 foot ladder to bypass paywalls on many sites and gather information that otherwise would be inaccessible to you. The way this works is every page that is going to be on google has to be accessible to be cached on google, and then through some scripting you get blocked when you open the page. 12 foot ladder accesses the cached site, rather than the one that the script blocks you from reading.
For researching new genres or finding “Tracks that sound like” or “movies where” or any of those types of things, the adding “reddit” at the end of a google search usually will be enough. But if you need more than what you find on there, there are a couple of options:
Mindmap music system
If you are ever trying to get into a new genre or find artists that sounds similar to ones you already have (ex perhaps looking for a temp track?), you can use a website like music-map.com to create a large list of similar artists to look into. This can be a great starting point for who to check out on Spotify, where you can also look into artist based playlists on there to expand this research even further.
Check out this example of a mindmap made to the rock band "Led Zeppelin". It's pretty much a giant list of the most iconic rock classic rock bands and a great list for getting into the genre.
That's fine. But what about a band who is a little less established? Here is one for "Wet Leg", my favorite new band of 2022 (nominated for "Best New Artist" in this years grammy's)
Even though they are fairly new, it still does a pretty decent job of finding and recommending similar artists to look into.
Sometimes you need to find a movie or score that is similar to another, or fits a certain vibes or aesthetic. The user lists on Letterboxd are quite extensive, and can be a great way to source this information. Letterboxd is essentially a social media for people who watch movies. You can check in and rate the films you watch, and see what your friends are watching. There is also a great (premium) feature where It can take your watch list or any list you give it, and tell you exactly which movies are available on which streaming services you own. This isn’t exactly a “research” technique, but it is one of the coolest things about the platform!
I’m going to have a whole other post on how to take advantage of AI, but for now ChatGPT can be a great resource for gathering resources. Ask it to tell you about a topic, and then ask for sources or further explanation. Just always remember, it is NOT a verified and highly trustable source, but its like Wikipedia – a great way to find more about what you need to look up rather than the end results of your search. Here is an example of how I would use it:
Do you know anything about Jazz?
Yes, I know about Jazz. Jazz is a musical genre that originated in the African American communities of New Orleans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is characterized by improvisation, syncopated rhythms, and the use of various musical elements such as swing, blues, and gospel. Jazz has had a profound impact on many other musical styles and has influenced musicians around the world. Some of the most famous jazz musicians include Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, and Charlie Parker.
JC: Do you have any good resources analyzing the modal jazz of miles davis?
GPT: Yes, there are many resources available for analyzing the modal jazz of Miles Davis. Here are some of them:
"Kind of Blue" by Miles Davis: This classic album is considered one of the most influential recordings in jazz history and a prime example of Davis' modal jazz style.
"Miles Ahead: The Music of Miles Davis" by Bill Kirchner: This book provides a detailed analysis of Davis' musical development, including his move toward modal jazz in the late 1950s.
"Miles Davis and Modal Jazz: A Study in Innovation" by J. Kim Merrick: This book is a comprehensive analysis of Davis' modal jazz period and its influence on the development of jazz.
"The Making of Kind of Blue: Miles Davis and His Masterpiece" by Eric Nisenson: This book provides a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the "Kind of Blue" album and the musical and cultural forces that shaped Davis' modal jazz style.
These resources provide a good starting point for exploring the modal jazz of Miles Davis and gaining a deeper understanding of his music and influence on jazz.
JC: Do you know any academic articles on Miles Davis's influence on music?
GPT: Yes, there are many academic articles that have been written about Miles Davis's influence on music. Here are a few examples:
"Miles Ahead: The Music of Miles Davis" by George E. Lewis: This article provides an overview of Davis's musical style and influence on jazz and other musical genres.
"Miles Davis and the Art of Collaboration" by Nathanial Mackey: This article examines Davis's collaborative approach to music-making and its impact on the evolution of jazz.
"The Legacy of Miles Davis: Innovations in Jazz Improvisation" by Ingrid Monson: This article explores Davis's contributions to jazz improvisation, including his use of modes, harmonies, and rhythmic structures.
"From Bebop to Bitches Brew: Miles Davis and the Evolution of Jazz" by Robin D.G. Kelley: This article traces the development of Davis's musical style, from his early bebop recordings to his groundbreaking work in fusion and beyond.
"The Political Significance of Miles Davis's Agharta" by Ronald Radano: This article analyzes the political and cultural themes in Davis's Agharta album and its impact on the jazz community and wider cultural discourse.
These are just a few examples of the many academic articles that have been written about Miles Davis and his influence on music. You can find these and other articles through academic search engines such as JSTOR and Google Scholar.
So as you can see, I’d still likely need to research any of these recommendations deeper, and perhaps cross check these recommendations with what experts are saying on dedicated internet forms, but ChatGPT is a PHENOMENAL way to generate new leads and ideas on WHAT to look up. It is not your end all be all research, but it can be a great starting point whenever you delve into a new topic.
Whenever researching your more "niche" topics, utilizing all of these tools available to you will help maximize the efficiency of your time and help you get back to the more important tasks at hand.