Immersion & the Great Escape: Is Queen Bey a Surrogate Reality?

74% of young girls say they are under pressure to please someone.
― Eve Ensler, I Am an Emotional Creature: The Secret Life of Girls, 2010

Loneliness, Cacioppo points out, has nothing to do with how many people are physically around us, but has everything to do with our failure to get what we need from our relationships.”
David DiSalvo, What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite

Cherish your solitude. … Say no when you don’t want to do something. Say yes if your instincts are strong, even if everyone around you disagrees. … Decide if fitting in is more important than finding out what you’re doing here.”
Eve Ensler

Screenshot 2014-08-07 11.35.56

I’ve been thankin’

This past weekend I attended an amazing training during which I discovered that I tend to misinterpret my assessments as results or reality. It’s not something I’ve ever noticed or understood about myself before. As a professor, this can be harmful to myself and to the people I train to think for themselves. It’s also costly in doing research on YouTube. I also learned that how I best learn is from thinking and reflecting. So what I have started to do as a habit is whenever I get upset, I go to reading something outside myself or getting out of my head (trapped in my ego) to learn something about what I am struggling with — alone.

If I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.
— Isaac Newton

Yesterday, after being in a tailspin about a decision I made, I went to my Kindle Reader and opened Chapter 5 of What Makes Your Brain Happy and Why You Should Do the Opposite by science writer David DiSalvo. The chapter is titled “Immersion and the Great Escape“.

DiSalvo discusses how our brains have the capacity to split and collapse two “existences” — or role-playing in immersive e-media like Twitter and Facebook  and our face-to-face interactions. Pre-digital era days we played with multiple existences such as in playing Dungeons and Dragons or for girls playing with dolls or putting ourselves in Diana Ross’s place while practicing the choreography of The Supremes with your female playmates. I remember playing with my two female cousins and one of their best friends. We played with heternormative roles. Who was married to which Jackson Five.  The most ambitious girl to yell first got Michael. Sometimes it was the oldest girl. Sometimes it was the girl who say “let’s play” whatever game that was invented from our imagination.

Does Musical Immersion = Identity in 21st Century?

DiSalvo suggests that this two existences we now contend with–online role-playing in immersive e-media like the interactions around the recent audio remix released by Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj and face-to-face connections off-line.

DiSalvo provides  scientific data from pscyhology and neuroscience that suggests loneliness (feeling lonely vs. being alone) is correlates to a strong desire to create social conflict. We then adapt to a need for this kind of engagement as dopamine is released in our brains. Then those of us who are lonely using online immersive media as a surrogate for real connections will often seek more of that kind of engagement. Engagement or social conflicts that are not good for us.

Online we seek the rewards of likes, our brain gets lit up when we check FB or other social media like our YouTube videos to see how many views we have. We get more value in such a context from our human-digital interface. Your favorite mobile device carried 24-7–always one is your BFF mediating conversations about stars like Beyoncé that seem really relevant to our reality.

What’s Real vs. Relevant?

In this context, our  brain suffers a kind of reward-distinction blindness–for our online connections that is increasingly indistinguishable to our brain from F2F contact and this is a problem. It can lead to compulsive/addictive behavior. Many of our brains may be seeking the wrong kinds of rewards (socializing online more and more and diminishing our F2F connections daily). This is happening with YouTube videos on FB and on YouTube itself as well as other networks where online video takes our focus and attention more than other kinds of interactions. Hypernetworked sharing is seduction because of its immersiveness in our daily lives today. Our brains are seeking the surrogate relationships online and preferring them over face-to-face according to a number of studies DiSalvo references. This got me thankin’.

What if you and I began to unhook from social media? Would you be willing to test out possibility of confronting this kind of compulsive blindness to digital interactions? How often are you immersing yourself, isolating yourself primarily to online surrogate relations an hour? There are only 24 hours in a day. That’s 1440 minutes. Most of us should be spending 7-8 of those hours (420 – 480 minutes) sleeping and about 3-5 hours (180 – 300 mins) preparing to eat and eating. That leaves about 600 minutes. If you work  8 hours a day + travel if you don’t work at home, that’s 600 minute more leaving only 60 minutes remaining IF you are doing one thing and one thing only at a time. I probably spend the rest and some checking Facebook and email daily.

Are Black Girls Online Actually Lonely?

I read in a study that I don’t have handy that black youth spend more time alone than any other demographic. Strange, isn’t it? And don’t forget that being online is still being alone. Could we be masking our feelings of being alone with our surrogacy of social media? I been thankin’. Can’t speak for you but i know this is something to think about and strategically change as a habit.

What would you be willing to do to insure face-to-face interactions have more time, are more compelling, in your life each day?

I remember in my childhood my mother and the black women in her network would meet at my aunt’s house on a Saturday night to play pokeno. Check out this video of an elder black women teaching a group od sistas how to play.

I think I need more face-to-face play like this. More house parties. More dinner invitations for others to come chat with me. But I’m gonna start slow. I’m trying one social gathering a month and one meetup with another person or two a month. I think I’ll also vlog about the experience too.

“We have to create culture, don’t watch TV, don’t read magazines, don’t even listen to NPR. Create your own roadshow. The nexus of space and time where you are now is the most immediate sector of your universe, and if you’re worrying about Michael Jackson or Bill Clinton or somebody else, then you are disempowered, you’re giving it all away to icons, icons which are maintained by an electronic media so that you want to dress like X or have lips like Y. This is shit-brained, this kind of thinking. That is all cultural diversion, and what is real is you and your friends and your associations, your highs, your orgasms, your hopes, your plans, your fears. And we are told ‘no’, we’re unimportant, we’re peripheral. ‘Get a degree, get a job, get a this, get a that.’ And then you’re a player, you don’t want to even play in that game. You want to reclaim your mind and get it out of the hands of the cultural engineers who want to turn you into a half-baked moron consuming all this trash that’s being manufactured out of the bones of a dying world.”
Terence McKenna (this is from the YouTube video below. WATCH IT!!)


KYRAOCITY ask:

What are you creating? Content is becoming your identity? Your bottomline. Don’t trip!  Create & Share! and Un-hook once a day!

Borrowing Black Girls Snaps & “Yo Mama Jokes” to Sell Kmart’s Layaway

… the appropriation of black culture by white suburban youth as being not only racist, but sexist….the phenomenon is definitely racist and simultaneously sexist. It creates a need for competition between the two races to maintain a hypermasculinity that is damaging not only to males, but females as well, on the basis of degradation of women by men that is further promoted in a manner in which females become willing participants in their own objectification and denigration.

A metamorphosis is then created whereby white supremacist assumptions about black culture are perpetuated and masculinity, as a performance, further marginalizes women and creates a movement of regression in response to advancements achieved by feminism. (Lemley, 2007)

Using our Bodies to Sell Us Out: Borrowing the Vernacular & Black Female Atttitude

My Mama utilized KMart’s layaway plan when I was in 7th grade. I remember she let me put a pair of brown cordoroy bell bottoms on lawaway — my first. A Senegalese man I dated said they also wore them in the 70s. The Francophone African culture called them “pattes d’éléphant” or “pattes d’eph”  (meaning elephant feet or bell bottoms). Back in 1976, I was heading to a new school district entering junior high school. I’d moved to different schools since 4th grade so having the right clothes to fit in really mattered. It seemed like I was one of the last kids to catch on to the bell bottom fashion trend. Waiting for them was torture. My frugal single mom was working two jobs–one at Geico and the other at a liquor store in suburban Maryland–to pay off the balance. By the first week of classes, she made it happen. I had what I “needed” or wanted to fit in and thus began the adolescent socialization process of establishing friends (or not) and having the clothes that marked you in the right clique. I wanted to be part of the black girl clique from my neighborhood where lunchtime was card playing time. Spades every day! I still remember the underclass shaming among black kids that came with having to use layaway.  My mother like most of our moms used layaway plans because they were being smart shoppers using the mechanisms available to them to access school clothes they could never buy outright. Other budgetary priorities were in demand. And my mother met all her bills on time.

BUYING IN TO FIT IN: KMART RELEASES “YO MAMA” AD

The youth culture at school–on the playground and in the hallways–on the other hand was about who got them first which was a sign of how facile your family was economically. Like it meant something to kids who earned NO MONEY to play the game of how much–pardon the pun–“booty” your family had. Did you have to wait to get your clothes or did you have the latest fashion sold? So it troubles me to see this new KMart advert where 2 urban-dressed black girls and 4 boys (South Asian, Latino and white) diss one another in black English vernacular “Yo Mamma” jokes revamped to laud the frugality that most kids have been socialized BY THE MEDIA to not even participate in. They are all about WHAT’S NEXT? What’s the latest fashion generally. And the pull of that consumerism is hard for most kids to resist in social settings like on the playground. I post it here inside of watching Black Girls on YouTube and inside of thinking about the work of Douglas Rushkoff. I was reading his 2000 London Times article “A Brand by Any Other Name: How Marketers Outsmart our Media-Savvy Children” published on PBS’s website.

The liberation children experience when they discover the Internet is quickly counteracted by the lure of e-commerce web sites, which are customized to each individual user’s psychological profile in order to maximize their effectiveness. [Read more here.]

KYRAOCITY ASK:

Is this type of advertising annoying or empowering?

Will Black Girls Make it Rain, too? #ContentCreation #YouTube

Girls are not passive recipients of these cultural messages. Girls are active agents. We know from developmental cognitive psychology that young boys and girls, once they know what their gender is, are very motivated to be the best example of their gender. And if the examples of femininity around you are a sort of tarted up, pornographied sexuality, then that’s what you’re psyched to be.” Tomi-Ann Roberts

INTRODUCING

Join me as I launch my first missive to YouTube from my Black Girls Twerking Summer project with 19 students at Baruch.

Your thoughts and reactions are welcome! Your sharing with your network of teens of both sexes, parents, teachers and folks in black studies, girlhood studies, black feminist studies, anthropology, ethnomusicology and media studies is respectfully requested.

THE HONOR OF YOUR SHARING THIS IS REQUESTED.

YouTube Nation on #LikeaGirl & SmoothieFreak on Nicky Minaj Cups

In the last thirty years … there has been a remarkable change in the image and roles of children. Childhood as a protected and sheltered period of life has all but disappeared. Children today seems less “childlike.” Children speak more like adults, dress more like adults, and behave more like adults than they used to. In fact, the reverse is also true.

There are indications that many adults who have come of age within the last twenty years continue to speak, dress, and act much like overgrown children. Certainly, all children and adults do not and cannot behave exactly alike, but there are many more similarities in behavior than in the past. The traditional dividing lines are gone.

Joshua Meyrowitz (Author of No Sense of Place)   childhood | adulthood/adult development


YouTube Nation host Jacob Soboroff is a TEDster (TEDActive) and I’m proud to say he’s a former student of mine from NYU who took a jazz course with me that he told me changed his point of view about life.

Jacob is political and an improvisor in life. He and I reconnected about 18 months ago while he was running HuffPost Live. Now he’s featured as a host for YouTubeNation and I’ll be posting those videos here because it connects with my research on black girls who twerk on YouTube. Studying the YouTube community is essential to my work.

In the video above he talks about the viral phenomenon of my previous post about the Always #LikeaGirl Campaign by documentary filmmaker Lauren Greenfield that asked different demographic groups of girls and a few guys of varying ages to “run like a girl” and the cognitive bias of gender emerged very powerfully among them all.

Doin Nicky Minaj to the game-song Cups

The YouTube Nation review video also features black girl (ok woman) blogger Akilah Hughes better known as smoothiefreak on YouTube. Check out her video playing the cups game to the original twerk queen of pop rap Nicky Minaj’s lyricsBlack girls got game, baby! Also check out her YouTube channel and subscribe!

 

Learn how to make your own gifs on Jacob’s site this week.  Jacob also appears on TakePartLive and yesterday they had a great convo asking if America is becoming more racist than ever following a vote on Capital Hill regarding the Civil Rights Voting Act. The research I am studying with my summer anthro students suggest the answer is insidiously yes. More on that soon!

 

 

Girls at Play: Do We See Black Childhood Clearly?

 “Adults are just obsolete children and the hell with them.”
― Dr. Seuss

Where Have All the Children Gone?

As I watch YouTube videos of black girls who twerk, as I invite and request my students to study their performance as both play and to examine how others’ views of black girls’ childhood are distorted and distorting how those girls see themselves, I have been remembering my earlier work on black girls’ games. I don’t want to lose that black girls are children at play while also critiquing what it means to play with self (sexual)-objectification. This video doesn’t have that objectification piece in it from the girl or the boys. Check it out. Perhaps introducing this music and dance to adolescents would be interesting. Having them analyze its difference from US twerking in videos.

PS What I love about this video also is that they are playing freely in the mud after a rain in their yard.

//

 “Critics who treat ‘adult’ as a term of approval, instead of as a merely descriptive term, cannot be adult themselves. To be concerned about being grown up, to admire the grown up because it is grown up, to blush at the suspicion of being childish; these things are the marks of childhood and adolescence. And in childhood and adolescence they are, in moderation, healthy symptoms. Young things ought to want to grow. But to carry on into middle life or even into early manhood this concern about being adult is a mark of really arrested development. When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so. Now that I am fifty I read them openly. When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.”
― C.S. Lewis

“Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning…They have to play with what they know to be true in order to find out more, and then they can use what they learn in new forms of play.”
~ Fred Rogers (from the PBS show Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood)

Always…Like A Girl #likeagirl #bottomlines #twerkit

The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says: It’s a girl.
— Shirley Chisholm

“The greatest weapon in the hand of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.”
― Steve Biko

Always.com (ads for maxi pads) are selling a message that follows yesterday’s post on period parties.  This is the kind of work we need and I hope to do about twerking on YouTube. Revealing the ways we see and talk. Uncovering our internalized biases begins with a kind of inner warrior work we are not teaching ourselves or young people today. What Audre Lorde called the radical political work of “self care.” Glad some commercials are trying lead us to think and do this kind of work. #werkit

Last year in March, I saw a music video featuring Nicky Minaj soar to 1 million views overnight primarily because the song had a familiar Jamaican riddim (“Murder She Wrote”) and her breasts were fully exposed on YouTube. I refuse to repost it as I don’t want to add to its traffic.  It’s nice to see a video that is not about the sexualization of girls and things girls consume on YouTube (explicit raps by male pop idols) have better currency and reach on YouTube in just a few days.

This video was released on June 26, 2014, three days ago, and has over 6 million views. Goodness can pay off!

Perhaps we should recreate commercials like these in our home communities as a viral video meme?

 

Kyraocity Asks:

  1. Do you like that products advertise values you can get behind? If yes, why? If not, why not?

Throw Your Daughter a Period Party. #period #bottomlines

“If you are free, you are not predictable and you are not controllable.”  #thebloodandtheblessing ― June Jordan

#BlackGirlsMatter: Consuming Black Thots on YouTube

Showing women as consumable [as discussed in Think Progress in 2012] tells us things about how we perceive them and what we want from them, not about who they actually are.

 

TALKIN OUT OF SCHOOL: Coding YouTube Videos of Black Girls Who Twerk with my Anthro Students

Go to 0:53

My summer session students and I are coding 200 videos of young black girls who twerk on YouTube and man–, is it both interesting and complicated as a site of cultural analysis and ethnography.

I don’t have much time to chat.  Revising and resubmitting an article calls. So I am procrastinating right now. Yesterday, in class I discovered some new local knowledge about youth culture online in the form of new discourse — words used to exchange ideas. The discourse included

  1. dub” meaning grinding your ass on someone in a video or in person. I suspect it’s a diminuative version of “rub-a-dub” from early local Jamaican dancehall and street culture
  2. hmu KIK me” which means hit me up and contact me on the app KIK me which a biracial black man student in my class was for picking up girls.
  3. She’s a thot” which is an acronym for “those hoes over there”. The same male student above used it to suggest that he considered a young dark skinned hispanic girl in another video we were watching in class a ho or whore based on her carefree (or careless) public and highly erotic display of ass-shaking.
  4. soffe shorts” for girls worn as pajama shorts. A popular brand of shorts for cheerleading and dancing that reminds me of skimmies worn under your cheerleading outfit or tennis gear when I was a teen. Girls often twerk in them.
  5. faded” which means drunk. The twerking video above features a song by Tyga called “Faded”.

What I left our lively and engaging conversations about young black girls twerking with was a new insight I had NOT ever thought about before.

It’s Code

Took my name, my site, my song
Been trying to find myself all day long…

[Chorus]
Oh baby, it’s code
I want you to hold me, and love me until I want no more

We are coding data into a Google Docs spreadsheet I got from digital ethnographer and master professor of digital media in anthropology Michael Wesch. We are coding titles, subscribers, upload dates, during, style, demographics of age, race, and class, each subscriber’s views and channel views and other behavior including ranking their dancing. We are also analyzing the sexually objectifying comments below each video.

The OMG moment came when I noticed lots of “KIK me” comments and phone numbers by males with and without profile pics. My brain would have never imagined that this was a sign of hookup culture that begins to explain a conundrum I was having: Why wouldn’t these girls disable all the sexually objectifying language in the comments? The male student who defined the discourse of KIK me led me to conclude that this is a serious form of black girls’ hookup culture.

Had an idea to call those numbers in the comments and record them and remix them with the videos. This is really complex, curious, disconcerting and an awesome research project. I am glad I fought my disdain at first to pursue all this.

Today’s kyraocity: Piggybacking on “thot”:

A though on thot: them hoes over there. Have you ever considered the amount of money rap artists are making piggybacking off videos by young girls like this in a digital media ecology that is always perceived as a site of empowering ordinary users to make money?

The first video I posted above has over 28,000 hits but it also has an immersive ad for selling Tyga’s rap single. The record company and the artist gain identity. The two girls lose marketplace identity not only in the exchange on YouTube but also IRL.

 

MUSIC BREAK: Grown Black Girls Rock the Mic

Janelle Monae speaking to sway on women, sexuality and sounding and acting grown. Cuz she is!

Captain Kirk and Uhuru Watch Miley Twerk on Robin Thicke. #MileyVirusAlert

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I missed this during the meme cycle last August. A friend posted this on the FB wall and I need to keep it for research purposes. Will share in class today.

The Miley Virus of twerking factors in my work. Yes, it’s shaking or rocking the hips back and forth (one gesture in twerking) and yes she’s doing her best to back that thing up (but she ain’t got that thang). It makes my work fun and complicated though and I thank her for that. I also appreciate that she’s doing what Brittany and JT did to divorce their childhood from Disney. #onceyougoblackyounevergoback