Cultural Appropriation

Briahna Joy Gray has written an excellent article on cultural exploitation and uses the song Hound Dog as an example. She argues “It’s more helpful to think about exploitation and disrespect than to define cultural “ownership”…”

That brings us back to Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, and “Hound Dog.” The issue there isn’t that Elvis shouldn’t sing “Hound Dog.” It’s that when Elvis sang Hound Dog, it made him rich and he became “The King,” while when Thornton sang what is—let’s be honest—an objectively better version of the song, she didn’t become a world-famous megastar. Elvis’s early records, the ones that made his name, are filled with covers of songs by black artists (“That’s All Right,” “Mystery Train,” “Milkcow Blues,” etc.), but the life stories of early 20th century black musicians are stories of poverty and exploitation by a predatory music industry that lifted their sounds and left them with nothing. The trouble isn’t that Elvis sang the songs but that he did so in a viciously racist economic landscape that didn’t reward black cultural innovation with black economic success. Using cultural “ownership” doesn’t help us here—after all, “Hound Dog” was written by white songwriters, albeit specifically for Thornton, who added her own improvisations. But it’s still obvious we’re dealing with a racially unequal music industry.

What about the discrete glance?

The new iPhone doesn’t have a fingerprint reader to unlock.

Face ID on the iPhone X uses a “TrueDepth” camera setup, which blasts your face with more than 30,000 infrared dots and scans your face in 3D. Apple says this can “recognize you in an instant” and log you into your phone. (ArsTechnica)

While it is common to feel obstinate and antagonistic towards technical change there is one thing that this technical change will force.

Think about all the times and social settings where your phone is lying flat on a table and it’s socially awkward to pick it up. If you want to glance at the screen, maybe to check the time, a text, or even your emails. You simply press the home button and glance at the phone.

Do you now need to pick up the device? This micro-movement is huge, it open obvious and can even be a social slight.

Updating my Media Timeline

I am reworking the media timeline that I use for teaching and this is what I have so far. What am I missing? Are there any glaring errors or omissions? The dates are notoriously hard to pin down on some things and I have used the earliest invention rather than the date they maybe became more popular. The social media timeline in the bottom needs to be extended to include more years and maybe be redesigned to better fit into the style of the others.

 

 

 

The original ppt slides are available here if you want to reuse them.

New Job, New Teaching

The beginning of term is just around the corner and I am really excited to begin my new job at Fordham where I am starting as Associate Professor in Digital Technology and Emerging Media. My teaching this semester is one of the reasons for my excitement as I will be offering two courses: One is the Introduction to the Digital Technology and Emerging Media major (syllabus here) and the other is the endlessly thrilling Digital Cultures (syllabus here)

 

Aside from this cool teaching I get to work at Fordham, a university that is ridiculously gorgeous with open spaces and classical buildings in New York.

AoIR 2017 Dissertation Award

The Association of Internet Researchers calls for submissions for the 2017 AoIR Dissertation Award. To be eligible for the AoIR Dissertation Award, a PhD dissertation in the area of internet research must have been filed in the 2016 calendar year. Nominations (self and other) must be received by 15 April 2017. All methods and disciplines are welcome.

Submissions Details:

  • A nomination letter that explains why the dissertation is deserving of
    the award
  • How it contributes to internet research
  • A PDF copy of the dissertation should be emailed
  • The graduate or their supervisor must be a member of AoIR
  • Self-nominations are permitted
  • Filed in 2016 (meaning fully defended, all edits complete,
    filed/published with a 2016 copyright)

The recipient of this award will be announced this summer. In addition to winning a cash prize, the individual will also be invited to present their research in a session at AoIR 2017 in Tartu, Estonia, 18-21 October 2017.

The committee this year is comprised of Jeremy Hunsinger, Daren Brabham, Jill Rettberg Walker, Tim Highfield and chaired by Mathias Klang.

For any questions please contact Mathias Klang dissertationaward@aoir.org or Jenny Stromer-Galley prez@aoir.org.

Art must also reflect decay

In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it.

Ernst Fischer

Americanisms: Is folks a term of resistance?

One of the fun (and frustrating) things about moving between countries and cultures is discovering that things are done differently than you have come to expect. This is particularly true of language. Some of it is local dialect – every time people in Philly say water (pronounced wuder, or wooder) I cant help but smile. Some of it is spelling (the famous aluminium or aluminum discussion) and some of it is just different words for similar things; do you say car boot or trunk? And in my house the biscuit/cookie & muffin/cupcake discussions can take epic proportions.

But there is one word that fascinates me and that is Folks. Originally I heard it being used by people of color, but once I recognized it I heard it being used by activists from many communities. Usually when I hear the work folk in english – I think of folk dancing:

Swedish Folk Dancing

 

As I am not big on folk dancing it doesn’t play an important part in my life. But a more possible reason the term seems unusual is that it is reasonably common in Swedish (same spelling). It refers to people but it also refers to race and, in part, to nation. This is understandable as its etymology is, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary

Old English folc “common people, laity; men; people, nation, tribe; multitude; troop, army,” from Proto-Germanic *folkam (source also of Old Saxon folc, Old Frisian folk, Middle Dutch volc, Dutch volk, Old High German folc, German Volk “people”). Perhaps originally “host of warriors:” Compare Old Norse folk “people,” also “army, detachment;”

Its germanic roots and use in modern german is what makes it a bit jarring. The term Volk has strong connections for me with the Nazi race ideology where the focus on volk was key – and its definition included elements of race, geography, and culture. The idea of volk was used heavily in their propaganda. They spoke of herrenvolk = master race; and volksgemeinschaft = racial community. And so much more.

Naturally, the american use for the term doesn’t come from these roots, and as far as I can tell american nazis seem to favor race over volk/folk. The american use, as far as I can tell, is more connected with family, relatives, relations, and kinfolk (where are your folks from?) and is a word more used in casual conversation (think of sportscasters addressing the crowd -other terms would be too formal). Naturally it is also strongly connected to the rural world where folk music, folk art, and folk medicine stand in contrast with the urban experience.

Aside from its folksy roots and its casual usage, the word folk (with its vaguely unnecessary plural: folks) is being used among activists in settings that are not intended to be folksy or particularly causal. Here is a quote by Heather Cronk of Showing Up for Racial Justice from the transcript from Bitch Media’s episode A Guide to Trump Resistance

Not all white folks are experiencing this election in the same way. So I identify as queer. I come out of LGBTQ organizing. And for a lot of queer folks, especially a lot of trans folks, even if you’re white, especially if you’re queer and trans and poor, you’re experiencing this election and experiencing having these kinds of conversations with friends and family in different ways. So I would never say to folks you have to have this conversation. For a lot of folks, that isn’t safe for a whole lot of different reasons.

Here folk is a group that shares a common interest that may be defined by race/color, but could also be defined by gender/sexuality.

Its difficult to say that the word is being re-appropriated since the germanic volk seems not to have been a strong connotation in American English. But it does seem like the word is evolving to become a central term in activist circles which does make it a marker of resistance to traditional norms of white, cis gender power.

Teaching New Media & Activism this term

So the term has already started and teaching is on! Since I am fortunate enough to teach topics that excite me I am always energized by the beginning of term. This is good since it masks my stress at getting everything together in time before the first day of class. The latter is more of a goal than a reality but for the most part it seems to go pretty well.

This term I am teaching New Media Society and my activism course, Communication and Social Mobilization, the links are to the syllabi. Check them out and feel free to send me feedback as I am always trying to update my courses in almost every way.

Democracy & Protest

This semester I’m teaching one of my favorite courses on social movements! Teaching is always a tricky thing but it gets easier when what you say in the classroom can be connected with the world around the students. So teaching people about activism and social movements in the current political climate is going to be awesome!

Last weekend was the Women’s March which gathered huge amounts of people all over the world – even in Antartica! The main event was, naturally, in Washington but the sister marches were well attended. While the big marches are spectacular and easy enough to join I am always impressed by the smaller marches. You are very visible in a small march. Think about the town of Onley (Virginia) it has a population of 516 and still 50 people marched! Thats impressive!

Here are some pictures from the Philadelphia march

Donated signs for the oral history project

When introverts march…

March Like a Girl

Tweet Women as Equals


One of the goals of my course is to teach how a group of people with similar ideas form into a more permanent body and become a social movement. The Women’s March is an excellent example of how emotions like anger and concern can become a protest – and there is an ongoing discussion about what happens next. Will this become a movement?

Like I said – teaching is so much more interesting with relevant examples all around us.

On Academic Productivity

How are some people so very productive in academia? I guess most of us will have a pet theory or too. This post from orgtheory.net has a nice list of productive behavior. Lists like this are worth saving an revisiting so thats a good a reason as any to post it here:

  • Team work: Almost every star I’ve asked works in large groups. If you look at the CV’s, they have tons of co-authors.
  • Division of Labor: A lot of them have told me that they are very good at assigning tasks. One of them told me he *never* does fund raising. He works with another prof who in a medical school who has access to funds.
  • Shamelessness: Most academics sulk over rejections. These folks don’t. Soon as a paper gets rejected, they send it out ASAP.
  • Recognizing diminishing marginal returns: A paper will improve between first and second drafts. These folks understand that obsession over the 2oth and 21st version is pointless.
  • Attitude: Sounds corny, but every single one of these folks has an amazing forward looking attitude. They love what they do and they see the future as bright.
  • Minimizing junk work: Some probably shirk teaching or admin work, but what I have observed is that they are ruthlessly efficient. They reuse course materials, borrow syllabi, and use teaching to deepen their knowledge of a topic.
  • Recognizing the randomness of reviews: Most people complain about the randomness of reviewers. The star publishers draw the logical conclusion. If you can get random negatives, you get random positives.So just keep submitting until it you randomly pull positive reviews.

Bottom line: Sure, some people are geniuses, but a lot of productive people simply very good at time management and they don’t let the little things get to them.

The part about junk work is the part I take most issue with. I get that shirking teaching and admin free’s up more time for writing but it also does create a bad sense of faculty and collaboration. It also means that other faculty have to take up the slack. I don’t mean that admin should become or take over your life but that’s a far distance from shirking.