This is a response to a prompt over at the TAXIS blog, where we read the first chapter of the classic Geoffrey C. Bowker and Susan Leigh Star, Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences, (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2000). Media in their broken states can tell us as much about their social construction as they can in their putatively “normal” modes of operation, so I’ve taken an interest in how the designers and manufacturers of CD players and CD media have managed defects in their engineering work.
Doing some reading for my current project (a history of the CD Audio format), I stumbled across a physical phenomenon that does not often crop up in discussions of the history of gramophone recording: the Buchmann-Meyer effect. This optical effect was once used to measure the quality of gramophone records, both qualitatively and quantiatively, by shining a band of light on a disc and capturing the characteristic “Christmas tree”–like pattern that is reflected back to the viewer.