Stakeholder Interview

Stakeholder: Dr. Marcia Shofner
Assistant Director, Biological Sciences Program at UMD
Ph.D. Ecology University of Maryland, 2000
Ph.D. Zoology University of Maryland, 2000

(Order is how they came up in discussion: some tied into others and overlapped.)
(Mixture of quotes and general responses)


  1. Have you ever seen a phylogenetic tree used for a similar topic/purpose? If so, for what?
    1. “Not for music, I have for [a topic that was]… very unconventional. If I can find that paper, I’ll send it to you. Something like, food? Something you wouldn’t use phylogeny for usually. It worked. Being unconventional does not preclude…”
    2. The fact that it’s unconventional usage doesn’t take away from the credibility.
    3. “[It’s] a very interesting way to categorize this.”
    4. Be sure to have clear parameters on distinguishing.
    5. Me: How necessary is a timeline?
      1. I was hoping to remove the temporal aspect – “The temporal [aspect] will likely factor out anyway, that’s how genetics works. Some [trees] focus on just the characteristics, but [time] usually factors out [anyway]. For what you’re doing, that’s interesting. I think it would be important to have that aspect in there because there’s an evolution that’s happened in rock, especially if you’re making a prediction on the course it will take.”
      2. Make sure you’re not looking at it like a fossil. The timeline could be a solid addition after completing the tree. Using the tree as a tool, and continuing to build would make the tree more credible.
      3. On the topic of including origin blurbs – “[then] you’ve gotta have that time in there somewhere.”
      4. Me: If the tree is primarily temporal still, what makes it a unique portrayal? — “[Using the] format of a tree – the idea of that is you’re seeing patterns, and making predictions. Not only understanding patterns and where it’s been in the past, but looking at what path it might be taking based on those patterns.” A BIG PART is the prediction part after completing the tree. The online interactive format is also unique, and there’s value in having that perspective. Visual portrayal gives you more details than a timeline, and then predictions add to uniqueness.


  1. What sort of interactive features would you be interested in seeing, for the final digital portrayal?
    1. Predictions and phylogenetic details
    2. “A lot of work you’re doing! Oh my goodness!”
    3. “[Make sure to] include the characteristics or criteria that put it in that [spot on the tree.]”
    4. She asked if I would be including information on geographic origin:
      1. Me: How would I include it? I have a characteristic that is simply if the genre is directly linked to a location, but they aren’t divided BY location.
      2. “It gets reeeally tedious. Geography just fits in because of the way organisms evolve. For what you’re doing, it would be important to understand the direction [in regards to geography], but probably not in the tree. [It could be an] aspect to be added on later? It would get too bogged down otherwise. Maybe in the [origin] blurb?”


  1. What sorts of things, if any, would you enjoy seeing incorporated into this project? (Keep in mind time constraints, but ideas for future development are welcome)
    1. Previously mentioned aspects.
    2. “I think [the predictions and adaptability] is where your future goes because it makes it completely interactive and buildable from then on.”


  1. Anything I should know about dealing with a phylogenetic tree of this size?
    1. “Yes.”
    2. Each subgenre would be a leaf. Otherwise it just becomes too broken and widespread.
    3. “This is your tree [that] you’re building with the research you’ve done, so you can make any branch you want to within those data points. [It’s the] benefit of [being] the researcher/[interpreter]. New genetic information totally changes a branch. [A phylogenetic tree is a] hypothesis by definition. Fluid and changeable. [It adds to the] adaptability of your tree for the future.”


  1. Do you have any recommendations on how to end up with maximum parsimony with a subject like this: one with lots of convergent similarities?
    1. The principle of parsimony is the simplest path, so choose the simplest.
    2. Me: What if the simplest is temporal and characteristics are secondary?
      1. “If that is the case then you have the right as the developer and the researcher to say that ‘the first choice is temporal, but I’m going with this one for these factors and here’s why.’ Parsimony is not ‘you have to,’ it’s ‘this is the first [choice],’ and then you go with [the second]. It’s a very subjective and fluid concept.”


Other questions, comments, advice:

  1. “[You have a] good handle on where to start. Ambitious project, nothing like this has been done before. Can it be done? Absolutely it can be done, and done in a way that is valid and not whimsy.”
  2. Me: How do I justify my credibility?
    1. “Well there’s that. Testing testing testing. Different people, multiple researchers, institutions validating. [You] put [your] hypothesis out there and let other people vet it. [Maybe include a] comment area for people to revise and give comments on ‘I think this’ [where you say] ‘lend me your expertise, let’s collaborate on this.’”
  3. She asked: What program are you using?
    • I’ve checked several web applications for coding phylogenetic trees, but haven’t tested any yet.
    • “Could you use SimUText? Not sure if you can do it from scratch.”
    • “There are others, [but they’re] kind of expensive.”
    • “Maybe ask a Bio-statistician? Put in ANY data and get an outcome, look for correlations. Ask around.”
  4. Me: There isn’t a specific subgenre that is THE root of rock. Necessity of an ancestor?
    1. The Beatles? –hugely influential, but not the first
    2. Chuck Berry –crossing over into rock? Transition from sax to guitar.
    3. “Define ‘I’m using this as my defining moment’ and justify it. Make that your root. Find research, [maybe in the] history department that could help justify your choice. ‘Based on this expert, here’s my point.’”
    4. “Super creative stuff!”


Changes to project that came from this:

  • Incorporation of a comment section, visible only by me (for future adjustments), where people can “vet” my work and give their own opinions. There will also be a section solely for names of subgenres that users think I missed.
  • Addition of some sort of temporal acknowledgement. A statement/disclaimer describing why I am choosing to focus on the characteristics instead of the time, despite any reduction in parsimony it will cause.
  • A chosen root subgenre, with a justification.
  • A prediction section – very crucial – that will change the project from looking at rock music like a fossil, to looking at it like a constantly adapting species.
  • Essentially in order to help my credibility I’ll continue to build on my listening research, I’ll allow others to give me input/feedback, and I’ll provide justifications for any possibly controversial decisions I make.


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