October 16th, 2008

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 —


  • 1. Nina  |  October 17th, 2008 at 8:58 am

    If they wouldn’t kill me, I’d post the video of my stepson “stripping” for his friends. It was quite gay, though he isn’t. *shrug*

  • 2. Nina  |  October 17th, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    rosehips, very organic today!!

  • 3. curm  |  October 19th, 2008 at 10:35 am

    I’d love to see a historian of dance weigh in and relate current regional trends to ones in the past. Also, a discussion of the context in recent years for social dance styles–the whole “I don’t dance, I just pull up my pants and do the rockaway, lean back…” and head-noddin’ attitude for guys and how that relates to the current atmosphere. Has the ability to make your own dance video at home helped allow a resurgence without the pressure of showing your moves in public around your oh-so-cool head-noddin’ pals? How are these videos then relating to dance in the public sphere–on street corners, community center rooms, clubs, etc.

  • 4. wayneandwax  |  October 20th, 2008 at 9:09 am

    Great questions, Curm. I’m also hoping to figure out some way to put what seems like a genuine explosion in popular dance culture into historical context. It seems really tricky to me — I mean, how would one even go about attempting to quantify any of this?

    The whole dance / don’t-dance thing is fascinating too, though I think the first camp is winning.

    As for your latter questions, I think that ethnography can start to get at some of this. Time to do some YouTube/MySpace interviews and such. One thing I’d point out, though, is that although a lot of these videos posted to YouTube take place in private spaces (bedrooms, kitchens, garages), a large number of them also document public dancing, so it’s a little messy, once again, to try to sort out the relationship between dancing in front of one’s webcam as if in front of a mirror (the “mirror stage” of the YouTubosphere, as Eric Lott suggested to me) and dancing in front of one’s peers in meatspace & realtime.

  • 5. wayneandwax.com » D&hellip  |  October 20th, 2008 at 9:18 am

    […] Curm asked some good questions on my previous post about dance video and music culture, it seems I should share my abstract for […]

  • 6. Colin Powell Yahooze &laq&hellip  |  December 18th, 2008 at 12:56 am

    […] **update that first link was broken, this video has poorer quality. Now that ive seen a few more, despite the fact he cant do it well its clear he actually knows the yahooze dance!! Did they teach him or do we both share a love of dance virals?? […]

  • 7. wayneandwax.com » S&hellip  |  June 30th, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    […] it animates — has serious implications, of course, for THE music industry. As I argued on a few occasions last year, the phenomenon of widely-distributed (or, in p2p parlance, “shared”) music video […]


I'm a techno-musicologist, internet annotator, imagined community organizer.

I left my <3 in the digital global, but I reside in Cambridge, MA, where I'm from.

I represent like that.

wayne at wayneandwax dot com

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