June 17, 2011 at 5:13 pm

What If Mozart Was on Facebook?

notebook barcelona music hack day

Mozart made the pop music of his time. Shakespeare’s plays were considered mass market entertainment.

Nevermind what that says about the future reputations of Justin Bieber and Two and a Half Men — what would have it been like if Wolfgang, William, and other luminaries from the pages of history were on Facebook? What would it look like — and what would we be able to learn about them by checking out their social presences?

A fascinating, as-yet-unreleased web app called Notebook from Music Hack Day Barcelona promises to simulate that fictional world for our amusement, by figuring out what Mozart and the rest might have put on their Facebook pages. For now, Notebook exists mostly in the minds of its creators, PhD candidates PhD candidates Luca Chiarandini and Eduardo Graells from the Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Their creation cobbles together information from DBPedia, a Wikipedia extract; Europeana, which digitizes works of art; WikiQuote, which lists bon mots proffered by personages of the past as an indication of what they might say on Facebook; The Echo Nest (publisher of Evolver.fm), with which Notebook extracts audio samples to represent musicians; and Seevl to grab “additional accurate information.”

Then, it looks at the other famous personages to which the subject was related, as well as historical and artistic movements to which they belonged.

The resulting pages will allow comments in the form of embedded SoundCloud files, as well as analyzing the Facebook profiles of real-life users to figure out which artists they should “friend.”

Perhaps the neatest feature, Time Machine (beta), lets users shift forwards and backwards through time to see what Mozart would have said, and who he would have been friends with at any given time.

Amusement is definitely part of the equation here, according to Chiarandini and Graells, but they also suggest that Notebook could help connect today’s socially-networked populace to the past in a way that’s familiar to them.

(Images courtesy of Luca Chiarandini and Eduardo Graells)