Dance Culture in the Age of YouTube

Since Curm asked some good questions on my previous post about dance video and music culture, it seems I should share my abstract for the presentation I’ll be giving at this weekend’s annual meeting of the Society for Ethnomusicology, which follows from a similar curiosity (my own) about how current circumstances relate to historical patterns — not to mention how we might go about researching such matters.

If I can get my ish together, I hope to make a video for this one too —

Music, Dance, and Ethnomusicology in the Age of YouTube

By one recent estimate, YouTube consumed as much bandwidth in 2007 as
the entire Internet in 2000. That’s a staggering figure, but what
should be of special interest to ethnomusicologists is that so much of
this activity is suffused with music. Indeed, the most viewed videos
on YouTube are, far and away, musically mediated. Regional and
(trans)national dance crazes have proliferated thanks to the site, and
it might be said that YouTube bears witness to more individual and
collective musical activity than any other single repository. It
perhaps goes without saying that music drives video culture. But in a
moment when it may be more accurate to measure a song’s popularity by
its personalized instances on YouTube, we might well ask: Is music
culture being driven by video? What are the implications of this
shift? With regard to impact on musical practice, what are the
prevailing modes of representation (of self and other) on YouTube? As
researchers, how do we navigate the inherent technological barriers,
multimedia dimensions, intensely mediated identities, sophomoric
comment threads, and privacy issues? Might YouTube users’
self-representation practices provide any models? Do avatars cast
shadows in the field? Considering several examples, with particular
reference to rise of do-it-yourself dance videos, this paper considers
various implications of the advent of online video for music
scholarship and music culture.

If anyone has any feedback wrt how one might begin attempting to put these recent developments into historical context, I’m all ears. It’s quite an interesting problem, I think: how do we compare the advent — nay, explosion? — of music/dance culture on the tubes with good ol’ meatspace/realtime music/dance culture? Obviously, they intertwine, but I think something profound is going on, and I’m not yet sure how to demonstrate that. Examples, sure, but comparisons?