Democracy is a great concept, but its micro-implementations in matters as petty and mundane as agreeing with coworkers on what music to stream at the office can be a messy matter that would leave any political theorist flummoxed. To address that particular problem, innovation think-tank Breakfast New York engineered a brilliantly simple solution: The Office Music Democratizer – essentially, an oversized, real-life version of the feedback button on Last.fm and Pandora, allowing listeners to indicate whether they like a song or would rather skip it.
Normally, feedback helps these platforms’ smart algorithms “learn” a user’s music taste and make better recommendations over time. This device raises the interesting question of whether a group of people can have a collective taste that can be identified and honed over time. Or, would the process eventually suffer from the “Diggification of democracy,” where a few power users end up dominating the feedback in a way not representative of the larger group’s cohesive opinion?
Maria Popova is the editor of Brain Pickings, a curated inventory of miscellaneous interestingness. She writes for Wired UK, GOOD Magazine, Design Observer and Huffington Post, and spends a shameful amount of time on Twitter.