Dr. Wendy K. Z. Anderson researches social change rhetorics at the intersection of racism and feminism within digital contexts. She completed her Ph.D. at Purdue University in Communication Studies and is currently working in the Department of Communication Studies at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cites in Minneapolis teaching Argumentation, Communication Ethics, and Freedom of Speech. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
Digital Dialectic of (the) Harlem Shake?
Today a friend posted a response video to the Harlem Shake video meme developing on the web that offers some insight into the foundation and "real" of the Harlem Shake.
Interestingly the response video was also made by a male of white, European descent. (what killed me was when one of the interviewees mentioned that a corporation would attempt to capitalize on the popularity of this meme...hello, Pepsi, with Jeff Gordon?)
All these videos illustrate not only Baudrillard's concepts of simulation and simulacra, but also Burke's parlor metaphor of an unending conversation of race as it plays out in youtube.
Further we should consider that within digital space most of the digital dialectic is between white people. Even if they are attempting to represent people of color and Harlem, the frame (questions, responses, etc.) are still from their direct(ive) and perspective. Further even with the various representations of the Harlem Shake, consider the search terms and popularity. A search on youtube or even google for "Harlem Shake" prompts a overwhelming, mob mentality (dark side of crowdsourcing)-a hegemony through popularity for the simulacrum over the "real."
We all have a part in conversations about the social construction of race...but how can conversations compete with/perform with media savvy? How are people moving meaning and what constraints limit one's "fitting response"?
Further I contemplated the cultural appropriation of people considered to "others." Although I understand that many of these videos unintentionally move racial meaning, there is meaning in the choice of artifacts to move meaning to the meaning that is moved. The vehicle embodies cultural dynamics and is a reverent to the historic concern/reduction/diffusion of race as only entertainment.
So where does this monologue leave me? ...continuing to wonder about how we communicate with one another within digital contexts and how that has changed and stayed the same as physical ones. I continue to see how numbers of expressions matter within a digital "democracy" as does access to digital "language" and form. Pedagogically I remind myself that only those who seek will learn and others may be willing to be content with panem et circenses...but can the reduction bring about a dialectic? an engagement with intertextuality?
For a few more examples of instructional videos on the Harlem Shake on youtube, use the terms "Harlem Shake instruction."