5 Digital Lessons Learned the Hard Way: On WSHH & YouTube, pt. 1

Quote 1: “My dad always said this to me. A hard head makes a soft ass, meaning being stubborn and not listening makes life harder for you than it has to be. At the fine age of 41, I’m learning to not make the same mistakes over and over.” –  A blogspot post from a black man

Quote 2:A hard head make a soft ass, but a hard dick make the sex last..” –  Ludacris on Missy Elliot’s “One Minute Man”quoted from RapGenius.com.

RapGenius.com, owned by three non-black men, is a site where members annotate rap lyrics in a vernacular way. It’s sort of rap lyrics “Wikipedia,” but unlike the crowd-sourced encyclopedia there isn’t a taskforce of volunteers  distinguishing what information is merely entertainment information vs. meaningful fact. Despite my point, I do like the annotation for the familiar black vernacular expression from my own childhood. Ludacris flips the former meaning to go where all things in patriarchal hip-hop goes these days…to sex but the user’s annotation explains the former meaning well:

“A hard head make a soft ass” is a phrase familiar to the Southern part of the U.S. It means that hard-headed children (children who don’t listen to authority) have a tender behind, in that, whippings will hurt more because they will get more of them.

Those corporal lessons makes may or may not lead to change. Negative reinforcement can kill the spirit of learning. Fear was planted in my psyche with only a few ass-whoopins or beatings which we never violent but adjusted to the circumstance accordingly – fear of getting avoiding getting caught was lesson number one. I didn’t learn to unravel what I had actually done wrong and prevent that.

The lessons I am learning online doing digital ethnmusicology are learned the hard way–from trial and error or loss of access whenever things are taken off a site or some info is no longer accessible.

Conducting ethnographic research on black girls on YouTube comes with pitfalls: the data you study that contains girls twerking, talking and creating content, can be deleted, removed or simply lost to if someone didn’t pay for their annual domain fees.

I NEED SCHOLARSHIP (JUICY J’S WSHH SITE)

Today I went to WSHH site that featured the Juicy J contest videos to continue previous study and analysis of  the top-rated and most popular videos ranked there. I posted an image of the site in a previous post after the winner of the $50K, Zaire Holmes, was announced. Her 15 minutes of fame has been reduced to the fact that she did not twerk by Juicy J himself rather than the fact that she as a single mom going to college wants to become a doctor. These are examples of the #patriarchalbargains we make according to Gloria Steinem who arguably justified Miley Cyrus’s twerking.

WorldStarHipHop Juicy J site for the contest (Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 12.08.06 PM)
WorldStarHipHop Juicy J site for the contest (Screen Shot 2014-01-14 at 12.08.06 PM)

I’m writing this post instead of attending the annual celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday in Brooklyn, (and yes I heard the about an image of King being featured in a twerking event advert but that is a case of entertainment info vs meaningful fact to the work I am doing at the moment. #focus). I got sidetracked, stopped in my tracks, when I went to the WSHH site for the contest and found this:

Screenshot 2014-01-20 09.05.50
Screenshot 2014-01-20 09.05.50

I didn’t go to Brooklyn because of the possible implications of this for my online research.

It seems that WSHH took down the site (if I returns let me know) that had that brilliant “Juicy J is not grading your work” line.  And set of ranked videos I was planning of studying. It was a convenient way to create a sample of the videos online. (Bet WSHH won’t take down Sharkisha but that’s another story for another conversation.)

This lack of access is potentially meaningful though I can’t say how yet and it may turn out to be nothing more than entertaining news. But what if the NOT FOUND page suggests that Juicy J’s gettin’ “protection” from incrimination around the controversy?  So it was written. Now it is gone! I may never verify such a suspicion. 

But this thing has taught me a few lessons. Lessons I’m learning  from my participant-observation and ethnographic study of YouTube. I’d like to share these lessons with any other twerkologists or YouTube ethnographers, too. So here we go.

Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27
Screenshot 2014-01-20 11.43.27

Lesson #1 Websites containing YouTube videos can disappear.

Videos can be made private or removed from YouTube  preventing further viewing. And if a distributor like WSHH or the media handlers behind rap mogul Juicy J with a net worth of $20 milliion thinks it best to “scrub” or remove a site despite their stand for a kind of radical openness they can and will.

Shock sites like WSHH may be concerned that about the backlash from black women especially after the Crunk Feminist Collective post by Dr. Brittney Cooper and after the more recent corrosive public debate between Dr. Cooper (a black feminist historian and media studies scholar)  and a Dr. Shayne Lee (a black male who is a sociologist, a bible scholar, and  head of his department at Tulane University). It was during a segment on HuffPost Live panel via a Google Plus Chat on the topic “Do ‘Hood Sites’ Normalize Black Stereotypes?“.

Since we still live in a democracy, limiting as it may seem, where Black women are increasingly wielding  considerable online power through social media to tackle images believed to do damage to their social group identity in the public sphere, WSHH’s concern would be valid. But once again, I may never verify such a suspicion.

Lesson #2: Capture everything that is meaningful while you work with online media.

Here’s some tech info that will be useful for anyone studying YouTube videos.

From now on I will capture screen shots of images and auto-add them to a DropBox folder. I will also download the videos and catalogue any as I watch from now on. I use WonderShareAllMyYouTube for that. I find it’s better than the Torrent Torch browser I also downloaded for that purpose. The Torch browser is not always effective in downloading videos.

I don’t know why the Juicy J Scholarship site is down, but studying those submissions that were voted on by the masses as the most popular and the most top-rated are now out of reach. Wondering how I might still access them? Anyone with any ideas please inbox me.

Would WSHH be loath to honor a request from a black feminist scholar or a digital ethnographer studying black girls and their online games? I wish I could learn the backstory. Not enough contacts in this world yet. I wish I had had the forethought to back that thang up (pun intended); to recover the valuable and meaningful data that I witnessed these last two months.

Later this week, I’ll share the other 3 lessons.

The other 3 of the 5 digital lessons spill over into the pedagogy (or androgagy for adults) I am designing for my political sociology course this Spring. If you recall, last Spring I focused on “political speech acts” in honor of the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington. Twerking will become a central piece in the new semester’s design.

 

Females as Content Creators on YouTube & Hip-hop Videos

“In a time of destruction, create something.”
Maxine Hong Kingston

This summer statistics got me. YouTube decided to stop allowing you to see the statistics on videos for age and sex which totally effed up my research agenda this summer.

This happened in the middle of my summer session courses. The final week was planned around gathering data for music videos viewed by Female 13-17 as a top demographic for VEVO videos by Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne. These are not subjects of hip-hop I really would have ever wanted to study but because my earlier work in on girls and hip-hop, I went there.

It was intriguing to me that girls 13-17 could be counted on, literally, to view videos with lyrics like “Love Me” by Lil Wayne with Drake and Future. This is a cut-n-paste from RapGenius.com so you can also see what fans are saying about the lyrics line-by-line:

[Hook: Future and Drake]
I’m on that good kush and alcohol
I got some down bitches I can call
I don’t know what I would do without y’all
I’mma ball til the day I fall

Yeah, long as my bitches love me (yeah, yeah)
I can give a fuck ’bout no hater
Long as my bitches love me
I can give a fuck ’bout no niggas
Long as these bitches love me

[Verse 1: Lil Wayne]
Uh, pussy ass nigga stop hating
Lil Tunechi got that fire
And these ho’s love me like Satan, maaaan!

Fuck with me and get bodied
And all she eat is dick
She’s on a strict diet,
that’s my baby
With no makeup she a ten
And she the best with that head
Even better then Karrine

She don’t want money
She want the time that we could spend

She said “Cause I really need somebody
So tell me you’re that somebody”

Girl, I fuck who I want and fuck who I don’t
Got that A1 credit, that’s that filet mignon
She said “I never want to make you mad
I just want to make you proud”
I said “Baby just make me cum
Then don’t make a sound”

Boys 13-17 are not watching these kind of videos. 18 and up yes but not the youngest male demographic.

Students in both my sections were invited into my research exploration in girls and hip-hop videos on YouTube. Yesterday we watched what looked like a 10 year old white kid lip-syncing to “(Long as my bitches) Love Me” from his bedroom. 13 is the youngest you can be to have a YouTube account but it was clear from this video that smart digital natives have work arounds. The students and I have been talking about the ethics of young people on YouTube as a vulnerable demographic esp. under 13 but also 13-17 given the nature of the lyrical and visual content of rap videos (not to mention other nudity, vulgarity and obscenity found on YouTube even the Yasin Bey Guardian video is not appropriate for young people without parental guidance). More on that in another post.

It’s been a fascinating inquiry with 30+ undergraduate students ranging from 19 – 30. I challenged them to do participant observation after 5 weeks of studying and testing. Become a creator on  YouTube. Create a 2-4 minute video broadcasting yourself. Do what you want. Can be related to the class or not. They were also asked to watch 10 TED Talks, TEDx talks or TED-ED talks of their choosing.  The final project was to create a YouTube playlist that began with their created content + at least 3 TED talks which they had to go public with and share with at least 3 people.

All the students have been amazing themselves becoming creators and we’ve been able to talk about the multi-local sites of YouTube in ways we couldn’t before this week.

One student named Caroline got affected by the video of Yasin Bey electing to subject himself to the force feeding that Guantanamo Bay detainees on hunger strikes are being subjected to twice daily. I watched it Monday and shared about it in class.

Today, she came with a really remarkable video of her own with the help of her friends back in Lexington, Kentucky. I love the power of participatory social media and her video exemplified this. It was brave. Provocative. Collaborative. Engaging. Real!

I wanted to share it and I could say so much more but I gotta run to finish my essay for a book on Obama, Change and Hip-hop that started all this mess and rich study for me. Take a look and tell me what you think.

Caroline wants to meet and interview Mos Def aka Yasin Bey as a budding actress and a committed social activist in the making. This is the first time she’s EVER done anything like this or gotten involved. If you can pass this on, please do SHARE THIS!

We ended by talking about how young girls are not commonly content creators around hip-hop culture and on YouTube compared to young males. Caroline’s video though she is not in it herself is a kind of power a woman can wield from behind the scenes if she so chooses and she did!

Share this video below along with the Guardian video featuring Yasin Bey. The link is featured in Caroline’s playlist here and don’t forget to leave her a comment so she can learn the impact of her work in my class! Thank you!

Curiosity works! The access is through the unspoken. Voice it!

Kyra