Beauty was not simply something to behold; it was something one could do.”
― Toni Morrison, The Bluest Eye
What an amazing week! I want to give you a little review what’s been going on in my academic life and what’s been happening in digital media land, esp. YouTube at the intersection of race, gender and adolescents online. Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been rebranding how I talk about my digital ethnographic research. I’m recoding the 1000 videos I’ve collected that feature adolescent black girls (ages 13-17 and younger) broadcasting while they twerk from the “privacy” of their bedrooms in a participatory research project with my three intro to anthro courses. More on that soon.
This weekend since Friday I have been attending the Eastern Sociological Association meeting here in New York City. It’s being held at the Millennium Broadway Hotel in Times Square. Any local New Yorker knows that how much we loath having to go to Times Square’s Tourist Trap. But because my friend (online and off-line) sociology professor Jessie Daniels (@JessieNYC) organized and is hosting a digital sociology mini conference it was well worth the trouble. And it’s been amazing. You can follow our live tweeting of the conference at #DigitalSociology on Twitter.
YouTube App Just for Kids Launched
This week YouTube announced a new app designed for kids and their gardens. It’s called kids.
On February 23, 2015, U2 launched a new kid-focused app for parents and guardians to download. YouTube video advertising the new access is pretty compelling. They also released a remarkable playlist of viral videos featuring kids titled Kids We Love. It starts with of one my favorites “Worry about yourself” featuring a little toddler in her car seat telling her dad to leave her alone, she can take care of herself. Many of the videos I’ve seen before. One is precious. It’s called Kids play with paint a get it all over their faces. Reminds me of when I was that age.
Kyra-Kyra on the Wall/
Who’s the Fairest of Them All?
I was 4 or 5 years old staying at my Granny’s while my mother was at work. I’d been playing in my youngest aunt’s Avon powder … without permission. I’d been told not to play with my aunt’s makeup. I was having a ball with that powder puff imitating (or I thought mirroring) what I saw in a Warner Brothers’ cartoon. I was too young to notice that I was different from the white female figure in the cartoon. The white powder became invisible, it disappeared on her skin. I had no idea that the Avon product betrayed my lie, and defined my otherness at the same time. My aunt’s tall dresser did not have a mirror attached so I never saw how I looked. When I heard my mother unexpectedly came in the front door after work, I jumped off a chair I had placed to reach her makeup and stood outsider my aunt’s room as if I had not been doing anything. My mother, Ardell, asked me, “What have you been doing, Kyra??!!” I stood on the step and said “Nothing.” My little brown face was covered in white talcum powder and she still tells the story about how she tried not to laugh. Parents had a rough job before the Internet. Image telling a child to not watch YouTube. Or moreover, don’t upload any videos of yourself without my permission. Uh-oh!!!
From Dusty Faces to Digital Traces
Parents may be pleased with this but they also need to start search the YouTube archive for images of their kids by name. Even if videos are removed from a channel, they may still exist in the search archive. Check for the digital traces. They are not as obvious as the powder was on my brown face decades before digital video and mobile devices were tethered to today’s youth.
If I made the playlist for Kids We Love it would definitely include Princess973 or Princess Maji representin’ Jersey. Here’s her dancing to a remix of “Let it Go” from Frozen–clearly every parents favorite song they could stand not to hear one more time. Princess Maji is black girl genius!! She is much more incredible at dancing, if you asked me, than any of the kids represented in YouTube’s present playlist.