Black Girls as Clickbait. #TEDxEast Subscribe. Like. Share!!

The politics of respectability implies that recognition of Black humanity has to be “earned” by Black people by engaging in puritanical behavior as approved by White supremacy…behaviors that Whites themselves don’t have to engage in to “prove” humanity because of White privilege; they’re always viewed as “the default human.”
~~ Trudy @GradientLair

Recorded May 2, 2016 at City Winery in NYC


TEDxEast How to Twerk: Restigmatizing Black Girls as Clickbait

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Dust to the Side Chick Dream: The Pitfalls of a Princess

“Challenging power structures from the inside, working the cracks within the system, however, requires learning to speak multiple languages of power convincingly.”
― Patricia Hill Collins, On Intellectual Activism

PRESENTING PRINCESS SHAW: YouTube Star or Prop?

The ultimate dreams of success are not to be CEOs or Bawse moms with their own paper. For little girls the current pop culture mindset is to be a star without any recognition, without any of the politically relevant skills and thought processes that transfer into real economic and social power.  Wishing to be a princess or a star is what capitalism sells kids before they can walk any other lifestyle or mindset. If you grow up with an ambitious financial mindset— what I call “ecological fitness” for girls–when you’re young, black, and female, the stereotype and stigmas of black-femaleness often erase you from view. It’s easier to see the gold-digga, hoodrat, and ratchet baby mama as if being a black girl growing up in America ain’t hard enough.

When I was a girl, I dreamed like everyone around me of being the Beyoncé of my time. Then it was Diana Ross. She left her girl group to go on to become the biggest women in the music business. We girls embodied her lead position in play but never learned what it took politically to get there other than some rumor that women slept their way to the top. And I don’t mean the Disney caricature of a sleeping beauty.

Who Profits?

Next week when it opens, I’m going to go see the film Presenting Princess Shaw. Her real name is  Samantha Montgomery, a 38-year-old single woman originally from Chicago, living in New Orleans. It’s playing at the IFC Center–the art film spot in Greenwich Village NYC. As a social media researcher who specializes in the unintended consequences of YouTube and its social sharing networks for marginalized girls of color, I am interested in examining both the views and reviews this film is getting by the numbers and through the critical lens of repeated cultural appropriation and sexploitation of black female culture in social video, embedded sharing, comments, and its bottomlineswho profits from its popularity and who gets the fame that translates into real capital?

A Guardian article from last September concluded by hinting at the hidden issue of the Montgomery’s clearly not paid-in-full digital labor or exploitation by Israeli documentarian Ido Haar and Israeli producer Kutiman who remixes musical clips from videos uploaded by users in his Thru You series.  This is not to say she wasn’t paid but was she able to transact for the rewards and resources they surely imagined from the start? Probably not.

VidIQ Stats on "For kutiman give it up video" from Princess Shaw's YouTube Channel (3 Oct 2014)
VidIQ Stats on “For kutiman give it up video” from Princess Shaw’s YouTube Channel (3 Oct 2014)

Dust to the Side Chick Dream:
The Pitfalls of a Imagining Yourself a
Princess

In her older than expected “princess” fairy tale I am curious to see if the happy ending is no more than the emotional labor associated with her YouTube videos; none of which on first glance have more than 9,000 views which is huge for an average or ordinary YouTuber but a pittance for anyone claiming to be a YouTube star these days. Viral videos that make it big 9 times out of 10 are professionally produced.

The question I hope seeing the film answers is whether the protagonist  of Presenting Princess Shaw gains more than social capital; can she, is she, or will she have the relevant political skills as a YouTuber to translate her social worth to the film into economic capital in her life of poverty.

Having only seen the Presenting Princess Shaw trailer, it feels like a “fashionable” poverty porn flick at the intersection of post-Katrina NOLA, internet tourism that hunts for black pop culture in the poor’s unpaid digital labor, justified by the acceptance that everyone over shares and ignores the potential profit of their online presence. The marginalize gain views but rarely capital. For black girls and women in an unrelenting search for the resources they need not only to survive but often to support others older and younger,  centuries of structural racism and sexism is merely being replicated by invisible audiences from Inkster to Israel to elsewhere on the planet that mobile phones provide access to what’s great about the web and our lives and what’s not.   [Inkster is another community where black lives are under attack from state violence. I lived near Inkster during grad school at the University of Michigan. Watch this horrific beating and the cost to taxpayers–we are footing the bill for police violence.]

Montgomery’s Cliff?

As I plan to watch the film next week, I have a big question. How will Samantha Montgomery, a 38-year-old single woman struggling in New Orleans magically thrive without the real political tools for change in a market economy that never teaches the poor nor allows the girls and women of color to not only profit but overcome centuries of oppression? The fame thrust upon Montgomery by creatives in Israel may not fill the deep pockets of her unique poverty with the kind of power she needs to move out of a paycheck-to-paycheck existence working in a nursing facility. Being happy seen singing songs on film and being able to take care of your primary conditions of life–health, money, work, home, and family–are never synonymous. I hope she transacted for what she truly needed and that is never fame in and of itself.

On the surface of things–perhaps she has a different story to tell; I have not had the privilege of hearing her tell her side of  the story after the fact– I suspect she is ill equipped to handle (hell, I would be ill-equipped to handle) the kind of analysis or critical thinking needed about the hidden costs of such fame, the licensing agreements, marketing, monetization of my channel and any contract, the implications of viral videos and feature films for my future once the film is no longer relevant, ownership of my image and digital content–for instance, asking yourself if a song yours cuz you sang it on YouTube?–and much, much more. No one ever taught me that and they sure don’t teach that to kids in school–and its’ definitely not taught to the girls who dropped out of math and science classes by high school or college. I’m one of them. I know.

When she finally grows up #staywoke

The Cinderella in stories told by Disney (read the critique by Peggy Orenstein here or the critique on NPR here)  never asked for much. She wanted the patriarchal fantasy — the man savior never making  from life’s racialized and gendered oppression in other ways as Beyoncé Lemonade has done from years of hard labor and rich collaboration. The social and psychological socialization of growing up black, female, and poor in the U.S. tends to limit our imagination to  two options — the path to money through men and the systems of fame they created (see Nicki Minaj or Blac Chyna) or the illusion that someone might save you from the poverty most black women from low-income to middle-class occupy (see Blak Chyna or the distorted view that surely some girl out there has that Michelle Obama is famous because her husband is the president of the free world).  My examples can be debated but I hope my point is not lost.

What futures are we announcing with existing social and viral media — commercial or user-generated– and what futures are actually available to most girls of color if they are not armed with the ethical study and analysis of the oppression, exploitation, and limits of power given to girls and women locally, nationally, and internationally by race, class, and gender?  And let us not misread the “magic” of black girls and women. This is not the magic of a slight of hand or luck. It’s work!  And it’s not the wage labor of the body (or stripper booty aka handle your paper). This is about the work and action of the mind and that is what matters for the Minajs and Knowles and Chynas out there.

This is the legacy of the intersectional work of womanists, feminists, anarchists, progressives, and everyday mothers, sisters, and daughters before the Internet was a thing. My mother has been reminding every time we talk lately about how much of this is lost or not being exercised today.

Someday: No Prince Need Come

Some day, when we free democratic systems–schools, media, family, government–from patriarchy (h/t to Carol Gilligan), girls and women will be free of the fantasy of the glass slipper or the diamond ring to grasp the reality that society can break that damn glass ceiling. That beloved community — what some call the art and discipline of nonviolence — comes from serious study and long-term planning.

We must learn how to teach girls and women that some day planning for wealth and health is far better than the glitter of 15 minutes of social media fame!

And it’s never to late to learn this, said the black woman struggling over 50!

POSTSCRIPT: I posted a similar video in a blog post a while back of this same very young girl–JoJo–who asserts to her daddy in more than one video that “I am is NOT a princess”. In this one she insists,I’m a real person!” It’s precious and it made me think about the oppression socialization around why girls are marketed the princess ideology and why more girls don’t resist it.

We all have dreams and we have the right to imagine ourselves any way we choose. So I am not knocking Montgomery’s right to name herself as she chooses. What I question is the structures of power — particularly those of others– to exploit her circumstances and desires. I hope she understands the control over her representation they may wield and the politics she, or anyone else like her–a marginalized woman of color–needs to turn their 15 minutes of fame into long-term resources.  It’s the bottomlines — the multiple forms of capital  (i.e., social, economic, human, and cultural) involved that concerns me. I also notice a tendency for female singers to be exploited because we tend to not be well-educated in the power and politics of the music business.  I want Montgomery, and others like her, to learn to transact so they can thrive not just survive.

This post was prompted after being contact by a reporter.  In preparation, I started doing some study of her channel and the film.  I’ll see the film within the week. Stay tuned for more.

Undoing Oppression Socialization in 2016 #BHM #WmnHist

“The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Following Jimmy Fallon’s sketch on hashtags from 2013, I wanna talk hashtags in this post.

This blog is dedicated to the intersections of hashtag Black History Month in February (#BHM), hashtag International Women’s Day (#IWD) and hashtag Women’s History Month (#WmnHist) both in this month of March. Black women and girls get to celebrate for two months in a row about inequality and accomplishments! Hashtag #BlackGirlMagic! Hashtag #BlackWomenMatter. Hashtag let’s get in #Formation.

I am using hashtags as the focus of my political sociology course. I have 28 students in this upper-level course using Storify to explore the discipline and issues that interest them in the end of the Obama administration and in the midst of a fascist-sounding GOP presidential election campaign. Professor Deva Woodly joined us a few weeks ago to talk about hashtag #BlackLivesMatter.

Speaking Truth to Power … for Girls

This is the third time I’ve taught a political sociology class. You might ask: What is an ethnomusicologist by training doing teaching political sociology. I was invited to teach this course by my department and now political sociology is really starting to speak to my own research interests in YouTube, music, and the marginalization of black girls. This is primarily due to a fabulous textbook by Devita Glasberg and Deric Shannon titled Political Sociology: Oppression, Resistance, and the State (2011). Hashtag on point!

Black music has always been political but from teaching political sociology I am learning invaluable discourse–the words and ideas used to express meaning as Merriam Webster’s Online Dictionary defines it–that allows me write about black music in a sophisticated way. I can really grasp and grapple with issues of power and the social structures that lay beyond our personal tastes for one artist or genre versus another. As an ethnomusicologist, my specific training socialized me to think about music as sound and as people, which IS political in and of itself. But because I had focused on the micro-subjective thoughts and feelings of black girls I never fully grasped the macro social structures shaping meaning and power. “Language shapes thought“, as cognitive psychologist Lera Boroditsky demonstrates in her research. “What researchers have been calling “thinking” this whole time actually appears to be a collection of both linguistic and nonlinguistic processes. As a result, there may not be a lot of adult human thinking where language does not play a role” (Boroditsky 2011, 65). It is the language of power that lives in political sociology’s discourse and methodology and the symbolic worlds of trends in social media and online video today are important arenas for the study of people, music, and power.

In this post, I will try to introduce some of the discourse of political sociology into my thinking and research about the unintended consequences of online black girls’ interest-driven participation with twerking music and artists in their self-produced YouTube videos.

A Rose By Any Other Name…

“We can rape, but we can also sing.”
A.R. Braunmuller

If you follow my blog, you know I’ve been toying with titles over the last 6 months. It was “Digital Seduction”. Today, it’s “Girls & Hidden Digital Labor of Video Screens.” I’d love your reactions or suggestions as I search for a title that fits.

Currently, I am writing about the unpaid digital labor of marginalized daughters on YouTube, thanks to Dorothy Howard, a brilliant feminist millennial scholar who helped me learn about the topic from her research and activism on Wikipedia.

Because I write primarily about the marginalization of black girls at the moment, one title I considered was “The Dark Digital Labor of Daughters.” But Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi’s TED Talk on the dangers of a single story popped into my mind. I realized I needed to speculate beyond the stereotypical, one-note racial thinking about black or “dark skin” to avoid perpetuating the usual stigmas. Given the Times Square image of jumbo video screens which I chose from a limited set of WordPress options as the background for my blog’s header, I quickly imagined readers associating the “The Dark Digital Labor of Daughters” with the culture this image replaced before Guilani and others cleaned up the porn shops and Kung Fu movie theaters of Times Square.

Times Square, 1985
Times Square, 1985

 

The “dark” digital labor of social media looks like lots of fun to most users. It’s not a red-light district, hookers, peep shows, and adult or child porn. Social media, like YouTube’s music spaces and YouTube Red, are both free and subscription services accessed anywhere, anytime, built on a complex political economy of state structures and privatized electricity, privatized phone service, and a capitalist system of profit and patriarchy masked by viral videos of kittens, Korean pop stars, and Justin Bieber.

YouTube is a structural online system of power and participatory culture where kids and especially the most vulnerable and marginalized girl childs are seduced into “selling” images of their sexy, dancing bodies for the fun of it to targeted advertisers. Girls will do this free advertising to networked publics for media companies, as bell hooks stated in a public dialogue at the New School in 2014, because more and more adult women won’t do it anymore.

At a conference on Gender, Sexuality and Hip-hop sponsored by Melissa Harris-Perry in December of 2014 at Tulane University, a college-age black women recalled her relationship to hip-hop:

Being very familiar with the “Tip Drill” …um … video and coming into my feminism on the campus of Spelman College, I I grew to not just be a consumer of hip-hop but realize I was being consumed by it. So it was important for me to develop a sense of… a consciousness so that I can navigate that..space.

The space she meant was whole network of spaces where misogynist hip-hop music dominates the public sphere. Now that sphere is not just online, it’s in your hand 24-7. The younger the girl, the more free music videos on YouTube and other platforms are teaching them to “Keep that ass jumpin” for free in a media ecology that is hashtag for-profitby-everyone-but-the-girl.

“Keep that ass jumpin'” is the hook from a popular YouTube music video for the song “Booty Hopscotch by Memphis artist Kstylis (pronounced K-styles). His twerk songs appear more often than any others in my dataset of over 1000 YouTube. This media is part of the “oppression socialization”  defined as “a process whereby individuals develop understandings of power and political structure, particularly as these inform perceptions of identity, power, and opportunity relative to gender, racialized group membership, and sexuality” (Glasberg and Shannon 2011, 47).

“Booty Hopscotch” by Memphis artist KStylis

YouTube has become one of the significant agents of oppression and political socialization as media, as a form of free schooling, and as digital labor or work from one’s bedroom as people attempt to monetize their fun online. YouTube is where politics are increasingly mediated through comedy sketches, music and award shows featuring celebrities, and online real and entertainment news stories.

So how and what it this new media ecology of sharing and trending teaching our daughters? What illusions of power and ownership do they learn and what kinds of hegemonies are being taught that empowers and simultaneously disempowers their voice and image? Hashtag #Babymamas, hashtag #ReaganWelfareQueens, and hashtag #videovixens whose body trumps their voice on screen and perhaps even more so off.

“Prospero, you are the master of illusion.
Lying is your trademark.
And you have lied so much to me
(Lied about the world, lied about me)
That you have ended by imposing on me
An image of myself.
Underdeveloped, you brand me, inferior,
That s the way you have forced me to see myself
I detest that image! What’s more, it’s a lie!
But now I know you, you old cancer,
And I know myself as well.”
Aimé Césaire, A Tempest

I didn’t want to recreate the victim blaming and slut shaming of young and black girls in my blog title. Using seduction or darkness is that same old single story again. And this is the immaterial, affective and emotional labor of digital labor. It serves to symbolically and socially reproduce what political sociologists call a “mobilization of bias” (Schattschneider 1975 quoted in Glasberg and Shannon 2011, 37) that affects decision-making at the state level as we say with welfare queens during the election of President Reagan.

This mobilization of bias is ironically done by our personalized use of mobile devices and personally-accessed video screens. The 4th screen that was the first personalized, mobile, always-on, mass media. It is not a form of mass self- communication in an age where racism and sexism have not ended but perhaps become more pernicious because it lives in our hand-held realities. Discrimination and oppression are no longer visible or legible in the ways they once were–as a function of a state controlled or monitored television or radio or big corporate run companies. They are now hidden in online pleasures and play which we self-produce based on what radio and television already taught us and continue to feed us — now they feed us supposedly ourselves. Hashtag #GiveThePeopleWhatTheyWant. And if you check out what girls are doing, what they want is to keep that ass jumpin, right?

What’s really hidden here is that those same video screens we use to self-produce, focus other people’s attention on some generalized black girl on a video screen rather than on the distributors of social media and online video platforms big and small such whether that’s YouTube or UMG’s VEVO or artists like Kystlis, Juicy J, or Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Hashtag #HegemonicMasculinityandFemininity

“I Do My Thang / On the Video Screen” (from a girls’ game song)

She is a tiny cog in the supply chain of explicit music videos.  And yet, she is seen as driving the attention economy, if you know the numbers for engagement on YouTube by age and sex, behind the culture of what’s popular in music and behind the trends in social media rants. Her behind is butt of the joke, too. Visit YouTube’s Dashboard and Trends map for more details.

This phenomena reminds me of when news outlets focused the nightly news on the criminalization of the small-time dealer found on ghetto street corners rather than on the big time distributor of illegal drugs or narcotics in the supply chain. It also reminds me of how local black folk desperate to be seen would mug for the crime scene camera–hashtag #photobombing before there was a dictionary name for it.

Back when I was a teenager in my black community, there was a vernacular critique of this media trend that coordinated action with Reagan’s conservative “get tough on crime” state policies. I remember my mom asking how drugs got into our communities. Communities that lacked social mobility to bring cocaine of marijuana across national borders and into the hood. “Black people don’t own planes!” I remember someone arguing. Where was the focus on the international cartels and drug enforcement and border patrol officers who had to be looking the other way? It was harder for the state to catch the big guys and must easier to criminalize the little ones with nightly news reports that made black people increasingly look like the real menace to society, the imagined Enemy No. 1. Hashtag #decolonizingthemind

Free your mind, and your ass will follow

What I am trying to show in my research and scholarship is how black girls sells sex for the industry and catch all the hell for it, too.  They are being exploited for their unpaid digital labor on the very video screens we all use as networked individuals to upload and self-produce our interest-driven activities for the fun of it. But this “fun” is a new kind of digital labor that will recreate the very inequalities that the #BlackLivesMatter campaign is successfully bringing to international attention with its online and off-line protests in Ferguson and at the University of Missouri. Just do a Google or Twitter search on hashtag #MikeBrown and Hashtag #Mizzou.

Unpaid digital labor refers to the affective, emotional, and immaterial labor of social media audiences as owners of the distribution platforms of social media profit from this audience labor. The mechanisms used to propagate that profit has changed. The owners look younger but are still primarily white and male. And a primary result, whether intended or not, of this digital immaterial work or labor is that is reproduces the “oppression socialization” of differences ordered around class (the political economy), race (racism), gendered oppression (patriarchal socialization), and gender (or heteronormativity).

Lorde oppression

It makes me think of Antonio Gramsci’s theory of hegemony.  In The Social Science Jargon Buster, Zina O’Leary defines the term as:

How the political, economic, cultural and ideological systems of those in power come to be accepted, legitimated and even celebrated by the masses at the expense of alternative ways of thinking and doing (O’Leary 2007).

When it comes to kids, especially minors or children on YouTube, there is no need to have formal systems of discrimination against females.  Individual networked girls will self-brand within the logics of capitalism, patriarchy, and white superiority. Video screens that are unregulated by only other individuals socialize girls; they quickly learn, adapt to, and adopt the paradigms of music videos and YouTube’s attention economy. They structure themselves into it through user-generated content where they try on these identities and markers of self expression. They imitate and embody them and many will simultaneously try to resist them.  Oppression socialization is the digital immaterial werk or labor of twerking songs and twerking self-produced videos, hegemonically speaking. Hashtag #CanIWerkIt

The Blues of “The Changing Same” (hashtag Amiri Baraka)

Change may seem like it’s happening but the shapeshifting of the order of things tends to remain the same more or less or so it seems.  The mainstreams of culture on the web now freely feature and spread the exploitation of girls primarily propagated by self-produced video content broadcast from “privately public” and “publicly private” often domestic spaces or bedrooms (Lange 2007).

Meanwhile, online harassment and sexploitation goes viral across the social web. And it justifies itself (as if there is no perpetrator or distributor) on the backs of girls’ self-produced content. No matter what minor and teen girls produce for fun and/or as a critique of the system, it still can be argued that social media platforms are exploiting minor girls for profit to their greatest gain or capital accumulation while  girls will be blamed for the demise of their own reputation and future net worth. And this too will be privatized — the discrimination that is since all that girls are doing online lives in a networked publics that are searchable, shareable, and persistent. We don’t own the Internet or the web, just as you don’t really own the technology or data produced on your device while you lay claim to ownership of the device. In actuality, you don’t own, you pay for calling it that

All this–the unintended consequences of social media and self-presentation online and the profit from unpaid digital labor–is a particularly insidious and pernicious ethical gap for marginalized groups like young black girls. And that’s this work interests me so much. It lies at the heart of issues of inequality on the web. Hashtag #YesAllWomen, hashtag #Privacymatters and hashtag #SomeofUsareBrave

Hashtag #FLOTUS

So to close my free written thoughts, I offer the First Lady in honor of hashtag Women’s History month and its intersections with race, gender, class, and power. Hashtag #TeamMichelle and hashtag #ThanksMichelleObama.

Happy Black Women’s History Months!!

10 Years Ago Today HBTY!!: YouTube Rewind 2015

“Americans no longer talk to each other, they entertain each other. They do not exchange ideas, they exchange images. They do not argue with propositions; they argue with good looks, celebrities and comercials.”
Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business

BE ONE OF THE 1st 5 MILLION
TO WATCH REWIND 2015! #smh

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the official launch of YouTube in December 2005 here is the annual REWIND video. Johanna made it into the Rewind video with over 20 million views dancing the lead in a tap dance routine to Aretha Franklin’s Respect !! #cheah

Rewind 2

 

MaryJ gif

Watch YouTube Rewind 2015. Celebrating the videos, people, music and moves that made 2015. #YouTubeRewind

 

Rewind 1

TrickrTreat: Miley, My Little Pony, or Thug Notes?

“The next time you try to seduce anyone, don’t do it with talk, with words. Women know more about words than men ever will. And they know how little they can ever possibly mean.”
― William Faulkner

“That’s what careless words do. They make people love you a little less.”
― Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things

So I have been busy writing articles about digital seduction versus blogging or vlogging of late. I’m hard at work trying to get my social capital in academia on.

Seduction, blurred privacy, and unpaid labor in networked publics have become new themes in my research on the convergence of marginalized black girls and YouTube’s music media economy. It’s odd how curiously similar this work is to my previous research on black girls’ game-songs and popular songs by male artists over a 50-year period (Gaunt 2006, Gaunt 2011). I’m gonna try to treat you and trick you with this post since it’s October 31st and I’ve been feeling quite “witchy” all week (apologies to my students).

So, why not mess around and blog for Halloween this year; seduce my readers/audience with my own little trick or treat post. 

 

Vanilla or Chocolate, Choose!!

Which of these three things arouses your curiosity the most. I have a YouTube discussion related to each: (1) Miley Cyrus and twerking?; (2) Unpacking My Little Pony Toys?; or (3) Wisecrack’s Thug Notes on Thriller?  You got 10 seconds before the beat drops . . .

TRICK? … OR TREAT?: A HAPPY DANCE

DJ: Hold. Up. 
Crowd hollers: WAIT-AH-MIN-IT!!!!

 

TREAT: The trick would be Miley, but this is actually about me writing on the love and theft of twerking!! The symbolic “beat drop” for any researcher is when you spin a publication in a refereed journal. BAM!!! My article on YouTube was published in September 2015 just after my birthday!! {{{doin’ that happy dance}}}. #getitgirl

MaryJ gif

YouTube, Twerking & You: Context Collapse and the Handheld Co-Presence of Black Girls and Miley Cyrus

Journal of Popular Music Studies

Journal of Popular Music Studies
Volume 27, Issue 3, pages 244–273, September 2

 

Hope you can enjoy this first treat with me. There’s not a lot of articles about marginalized youth and convergence with legacy media in digital media studies; let this make your reading list before everybody else sees it. You can download the article and if you care to share it with colleagues or any grad/undergrad students studying sociology, anthropology, ethnomusicology, intersectionality, and media studies, please do!  Hey, and if you use the piece in your class (1) let me know here, and (2) share about it on Twitter, Facebook or other social media #blackgirlsmobility. Let me know if you love it, hate it or wanna drop it like a Little Pony unboxing video.

TRICK? or TREAT?: Hands Tied!! #theunboxingvideoonrace

THIS ONE’S A TRICK: My students started vlogging two weeks ago, which is what I am becoming known for  as a teacher and researcher. Their little haters are driving up their anxiety because of the awkwardness of digital self-presentation; watching yourself on the screen of your webcam and YouTube causes stage fright in your own bedroom or house. It doesn’t help that I’d never offered a course with personal vlogging during a fall semester before; freshmen and women are deep in that awkward stage of their first semester in college right about now with midterms. I didn’t see that coming. #notetoself. I need to pay attention to that in the future. It’s only the 2nd full semester I’ve experimented with student vlogging during my intro course. The summer classes of 15-16 students in 6 weeks had few distractions. This was like an off-line example of colliding contexts or “context collapse“.

Ideas for this post emerged last night while creating a playlist for my intro students on how to vlog like a pro. In my search, I discovered a video from earlier this year titled the 10 Richest YouTubers uploaded to the channel WatchMojo.com (Feb 15, 2015).  So go figure…All the richest YouTube vloggers appear to be white males except for one. The #1 channel that profits from YouTube monetization features a female voice and white female hands unboxing Disney Collector toys. I swear!! I need to stop teaching and start unboxing toys but being black I’d probaby need to wear white gloves in my videos. Watch Lisa Nakamura’s TEDx talk on five types of online racism including the “plain old racism” from a Stanford study of products sold on Craigslist by white or non-white hands).  Hmm. Is that why MJ wore white gloves and socks? #blackhandsdontsell

Because I am doing research (and not because of FOMO), I watched FunToyzCollector (fka DC Toy Collector) unbox MLP Rainbow Dash Hair Case Radz My Little Pony Kinder Surprise. Her voice is…yeah, it’s obnoxious. It’s like listening to a white suburban adult (with no kids) do that baby-talk thing to a toddler; it’s steeped in a creepy, saccharine-sweet quaalude of consumption. #gagging

While the personal identity of the creator remains anonymous, the channel branding is clearly on fleek as a YouTube space. I bet the top the YouTube Kids spaces. Think of the parents and kids who “ooh” and “ahh” adding toys to their birthday and holiday gift shopping lists. I should see how’s commenting on these videos and check out the thumbnails for the users to see how diverse it is.

Uploaded just a week ago on October 20th, the Rainbow Dash Hair Case unboxing video already has over 300,000 views. Maybe this segment of the blog should really marked as a treat rather than a trick. Why? The seductive ecosystem of user-generated content and its convergence with consumerism is pernicious…but it’s free. There’s a saying in the tech world: “If it’s free, you’re the product.” {{teeth glint DING!}} As Joshua Meyrowitz wrote back in 1985:

The products are the viewers who are sold to advertisers. The more viewers a program [and now a YouTube channel] draws, the more money advertisers are willing to pay to have their message aired. Because of this system, network broadcasters have little interest in designing programs that meet the specialized needs of small segments of the audience. (Meyrowitz 1985, 73; under “The Merging of Public Spheres.”).

When TV was owned and run by people “masquerading” (given the Halloween theme) or performing in their roles as major corporate media execs, it was difficult to challenge. It’s even more pernicious when ordinary people masked by branded channels sell toys to your kids in an age where entitlement meets the arousal of your personalized mobile experience in an attention economy.

TRICK or TREAT?!!!

LAST TREAT!!: After searching for videos and stumbling upon unboxing videos for My Little Pony, this is the treat I seduced you to wait for if you read my Halloween musings thus far. I found a YouTube video that both pleases and toys with the seduction of our attention creatively. This one leads you through a sort of intellectual fun house to places you’d never expect but delights anyone like me interested in black music and the archeology of sound and history. It the Wisecrack channel’s release of the

Halloween Special – The Genius of Michael Jackson’s Thriller

It was released only two days ago so it’s fresh content. Michael Jackson was my Beyoncé in my first year of college. Thriller was the ultimate music video seduction back in my young adulthood. Well I was only 16 in my first year of college. That was like yesterday cuz you know good black don’t crack. #timespacecompression. OK, ghouls and boils, that’s enough. This vlog is long enough. So let me leave you to your Halloween candy and this videos from Thug Notes. It’s classic literature cliff notes read by an “original gangster”. Some consider it among the best educational spaces on YouTube.

Bye for now!!
#cuevincentprice
#ghoulishlaugher

30 Pages Deep: The End of YouTube’s Archive

“In times of rapid change, experience could be your worst enemy.” ―J. Paul Getty

Screen Shot captured 2015-09-09 at 10.22.34 AM
Screen Shot captured 2015-09-09 at 10.22.34 AM

 

YouTube search algorithm results use to be deeper

In the summer of 2014,  in the course that collected the first dataset of over 100 twerking videos, one of my most ambitious students did a deep archival search to find the earliest twerking videos in YouTube. We were able to find videos as far back as 7 or 8 years earlier, all the way back to the first full year of YouTube in 2005-2006. Those videos featured only tween black girls dancing in their bedrooms to regional styles of bounce music. How did I know?

Since doing this research I’ve had to use my ethnomusicological skills to learn about the music of New Orleans dirty south rap scene. New Orleans’ bounce is marked by the presence of a “Triggaman” beat and other “brown beats” in its music production, considered the “backbone of all New Orleans bounce music”.

This morning, I went to search for a few videos to download as evidence of local black girls’ presence twerking on YouTube immediately after Hurricane Katrina–YouTube’s launch and Hurricane Katrina both happened in 2005. What I found startled me a bit.

I found that it was impossible to replicate the search we did in June of 2014. Today YouTube has over 300 hours of video uploaded a minute. Over a year ago it was exponentially far less. The limits of the archive is perhaps merely a function of the limits of the code written to handle the massive scale of YouTube. Since most people aren’t researchers like me, and because most people live in the present moments of social media, perhaps discovering what happened on YouTube via search over 2 years ago is becoming today’s prehistoric memory.

If you cannot easily document the lineage of a meme via search, how will this change what youth know as the past? How will we document that Miley Cyrus didn’t invent twerking and that even YouTube has evidence deep within its archive that black girls were vlogging their twerking practice from their privately-public bedrooms back in 2006?

Today, you have to get 30 pages deep, the limit based on two separate searches today, to get to 1 – 2 years ago in the YouTube archive searching by type (video), duration (<4 minutes), and sorting by upload date (see pic at the top of the post).  To get back to 7 or 8 years earlier in June of 2014, it was over 70 or 80 pages deep into the YouTube archive.

As I skimmed through the 30 pages today, very few images of black girls appeared. These traces tell a story and who gets left out matters. #blackgirlsmatter

In this age of rapid and exponential change, my own experience of YouTube is constantly changing over night. Most people don’t even notice things I see. It’s just a blur. What does this mean for our conception of our online Selves and our various socially negotiated selves offline given that YouTube is all about broadcasting yourself?

I just wanted to mark this shift as I noticed before running off to class. More later.