Just May Be

I’ve been on a serious YouTube grind over the last couple weeks, working up a couple papers/talks on black digital youth culture. Check the waxtube or my favorites to sink into a pixelated dance trance.

Gave one version of this black-digi-youf chat a couple weeks ago at Harvard, which thx to a little bird tweet, led to an exchange with Miles Raymer in this week’s Chicago Reader. Check it out!

I’m trying to work up a YouTube version of my ideas about YouTube culture for this weekend’s meeting of the American Studies Association. But, man, my iMovie skills are laughable (or maybe it’s just that iMovie is laughable?). At any rate, I’ll share it here if I succeed in making something worth putting up. It’s not like the chicken-noodle-soup kids are sweating the transitions, so why should I?

To give a clue of where I’m headed, here’s my abstract for ASA, followed by five videos set to the DJ Nate track that inspires my title (previously blogged here), the illest juke waltz everrrr and a fairly abstract/avant piece to propel so much funky movement —

May Be Sum Day: Online Video, Self-Representation, and Peer-to-Peer
Music Industry

The recent integration of online video and social networking sites has
created an unprecedented arena for cultural production, exchange, and
debate. Of particular significance is the emergence of do-it-yourself,
peer-to-peer video culture, which now animates a substantial degree of
the activity on such popular sites as YouTube, MySpace, and imeem. The
advent of socially-networked sites for sharing video and music among
peers seems to have facilitated a veritable efflorescence of
African-American regional dance scenes and interregional rivalries and
exchanges (asynchronous and online as well as realtime and
face-to-face). Chicago juke, Detroit jit, Bay Area hyphy, and Harlem’s
“Chicken-Noodle Soup” all represent vibrant sites of practice and
pride at a grassroots level, while successful figures such as Soulja
Boy Tellem (author of the “Crank Dat” craze) embody a new set of
opportunities and shared cultural reference points for tech-savvy

The vitality of these scenes seems downright infectious — to borrow a
weighted, racy term long associated with the circulation of
African-American music culture — and as these homemade dance videos
find themselves embedded not just on the MySpace pages of
practitioners’ local and regional “friends” but on hipster blogs from
Brooklyn to Paris, we behold well-worn patterns of production and
consumption. Hence, issues around race and representation emerge as
central in any analysis of the cultural significance of DIY, p2p
online video. These representations are, however, often
self-representations, crafted and curated by active agents of their
own online avatars. So although the ability for these cultural
products to circulate outside their spheres of production — a process
inherent to the promiscuity of digital files — might raise flags of
sorts, it remains significant that the tools of production and
distribution alike are now in the hands of teenagers in Chicago and
the Cayman Islands (to name a couple case studies this paper will
consider), rather than, as in the past, middle-aged executives in Los
Angeles and New York. Thus, the phenomenon of widely-distributed (or,
in p2p parlance, “shared”) music video represents a crossroads not
just for _the_ music industry, but for music _industry_ itself — that
is, the cultural work that music does. As online video increasingly
drives popular and grassroots music culture, perhaps once again we
must reappraise music’s place in the social sensorium in the wake of
seemingly seismic techno-cultural shifts.

Those last two are, in case you didn’t notice, pretty gay — raising yet another (familiar) set of questions.

Oh, and don’t miss these fragments of a footwork feature! (part 1 | part 2)

More soon —