When I was young, I used to make home recordings of pop songs by layering track after track on a karaoke machine. By the time I got the drums, bass, rhythm guitar, lead and piano, and vocals there was eerie bleed through on the cheap Memorex tapes I was using. It would take me an entire day to get one song down.
I recorded Radiohead’s Weird Fishes yesterday in a similar way, layering track after track, but instead of using my karaoke machine, I used my iphone’s voice memo app and my internal laptop mic with garage band. I recorded the drum track on the voice memo app on my iphone and playing it back through an amp while recording the guitar with the internal mic on my laptop in garage band. Then I did a second track of vocals in garage band with the “live rock” preset. I got some fun quirky crackly worbly artifacts — for instance, I didn’t have any trem on the guitar, but there it was, even before compressing the file.
Part of the game I constructed for myself this time was to do it in one take without edits and let accidents add to the wacky artifacts. Instead of taking an entire day, it took about 30 minutes. Ain’t digital technology grand?
[Thanks to Wendy Hsu for hosting the file!]
I teach a seminar called Media, Culture and Society where we focus on issues of interactive digital media, or “new media.” In a discussion about Dhiraj Murthy’s article on new media and ethnographic research methods, my students raised concerns about how they, as young people, are expected to know how to use digital media tools to produce information in the workplace, but that they rarely receive any formal training. They described internships where they were expected to draft multimedia presentations in office settings where no one else knew how. At the same time, they recounted being admonished for stating their technical skills on their resumes because “everyone your age knows how to blog.”
According to my students not everyone knows these things. In other courses I’ve found that most students are familiar with how to absorb on-line entertainment (through facebook and youtube for example), but are nervous about moving from their role as consumers to producers of content. They are also unsure how to gather knowledge from on-line sources, because they are consistently told such sources are unacceptable in classroom assignments. For those students who do have expertise in final cut, photoshop, blogging, or even powerpoint and excel, they have learned these tools through trial and error in their leisure time or independently and haphazardly on the job.
Sociologist and communication studies scholar Eszter Hargittai has found that access to participation in the creation of new media content is unevenly distributed. It boils down to who feels comfortable messing around with technology and who does not. Women students and students whose parents have lower levels of education are less likely to develop these skills on their own.
This “participation divide” suggests that faculty need more information and more training about how to empower students to become media producers. But where do we begin? At UVa, SHANTI has developed a “knowledge base” though an open wiki that offers background information on emerging teaching and learning tools such as Zotero, Kaltura, and VisualEyes. I’m curious if readers know of other sources that are being developed to help faculty navigate emerging tools for teaching and learning. If you know of any, please offer suggestions in the comments.
Today in my Social Movements class Kevin Simowtiz of Virginia Organizing shared his experiences as a student organizer of the Living Wage Campaign. He also facilitated a useful discussion with the class on the obstacles and resources for student led movements. Here are the highlights of their conversation:
What are the obstacles to student* involvement in social activism or service?
- Lack of an emotional connection to an issue – people may know facts but lack empathy
- Social differences between students and less privileged people makes it hard to relate social problems to students everyday lives
- Social and physical distance between students and the outside world makes it hard to escape the “bubble” and know what is happening
- Service is not always regarded by universities as central to learning or student life
- Students have increased demands on time – studying, working, commuting – service can be an added burden
- Being a student means being transient. Four years is a short time to be engaged in a community.
- In universities without service requirements or a strong center for service, it takes time and energy to find opportunities for engagement
- While students are sometimes treated like consumers, they are not like regular consumers because they are also competing for scarce resources (admission, grades, credentials)
- Competition can limit involvement in activities that are not seen to produce benefits in the job marketplace
- Uncertainty about whether actions will have any real effects or cause real change
- Fundraising can feel more tangible than direct service or protest
- Bystander effects – someone else can take care of the problem
What are the particular opportunities for students to get involved in social activism or service?
- Students have more time and flexibility than full time workers to engage and to do so in ways that are thoughtful and reflective
- Students are often held at the bottom rungs of the job market in service occupations. In these jobs, they may have opportunities for contact with struggling older adults
- Students make up a large and active constituency
- Students often still have idealism and are more passionate about change
* We implicitly defined “student” as young adults enrolled full time living on or near campus
This week at Prof Hacker, Billie Hara suggests that service learning is not just for students. Service can also enrich the life of faculty. Specifically, service can help faculty break out of the ivory tower, teach us new things about “industry, community, populations, or activism,” and help us create work-life balance. In addition, I would suggest that service, when conducted as community based research (CBR), can enrich scholarship by linking community engagement with teaching and research.
CBR extends the concept of service learning by situating service within faculty research interests and the research needs of community organizations. Ideally, it is a collaboration between faculty, students, and the staff of community organizations or their clients. For example, while volunteering at a local soup kitchen, students might also survey the needs of the community or research funding models from similar programs elsewhere. The projects would grow out of a prior dialogue between the faculty, who may for instance be doing research on homelessness, and the organization, who may for instance want to expand their services and secure funding to do so.
Hara’s assessment of the benefits of community service for faculty bears out in my own experience as a graduate instructor. I started out volunteering at the Bridge PAI as an events coordinator, helping to create a local scene for experimental sound artists. This activity gave me a break from “work.” It also taught me how non-profits run and how the sociological concept of “social capital” is put into practice.
The relationships and interests I discovered through volunteering became a foundation for a CBR course I designed on Community Organizing and the Arts. In guiding my students’ independent research, I became more deeply engaged in the volunteer work I was already doing. The students’ projects generated a rapid and rich survey of the organization from issues of funding, to outreach, to the fulfillment of its mission. Their work also created a data set that the organization can use as it develops its outreach programs and applies for funding. Through the CBR course, my role as a volunteer has changed. I am becoming more involved as a sociologist who can work with the organization to measure its impact on the community. This experience also contributes to my scholarship on how independent artists generate local resources to support their craft.
My experience has been inductive – where volunteering as a citizen fed into a community based research project. But it can also work the other way around, where a research interest can spur faculty service and student involvement.
We can learn a lot from our local communities. We can also work to make our research applicable for those in our immediate surroundings. Community based research can integrate work and life while also showing hiring and tenure committees the value of community service to our teaching and scholarship.
This is the question asked by Andrew Cedermark, songwriter and recording artist/rock journalist, in the current issue of C-Ville Weekly. The reasons are social, cultural, and historical – stretching back to constraints on women’s ability to be “alone” in public spaces, to ongoing girlhood socialization as quiet and non-aggressive.
The article covers the experiences of eight local artists in genres from indie to noise to metal. I contributed as one of the artists who also happens to write about issues of gender and music culture. Andrew was kind enough (and patient enough) to incorporate my academic research on music instrument stores into the piece:
There is also the question of buying gear. Haughty gearheads, piles of tiny, useless stuff, bowling shirts that faintly smell of weed—it’s no secret that music stores can be uncomfortable places to visit. Double the discomfort for many women. Carey Sargent plays drums in the local bands Dzian! and the Pinko Communoids, and is a sociologist who has published on the topic of local music stores. “For others with different experiences,” Sargent wrote in a 2006 paper, “such as playing privately, knowing more about hip-hop than rock, or having classical training on the guitar rather than immersion in the rock music practice, the experience can be a struggle to comprehend the language and interactions of the environment. Finding themselves in this position, these musicians may defer to others to perform, speak and choose in their place.”
Landragin’s experience as a young player bears testament to Sargent’s research. Landragin says that she “never, hardly ever” sees women in local music stores. As a classical guitar player, she slipped inconspicuously into music stores to buy nylon strings.
Music store employees “started getting interested and asking about my playing” when she started buying steel strings for her electric guitar. “I never started playing guitars in music stores,” Landragin adds, “until I got the balls to realize that it didn’t matter.”
Overall, the women interviewed do not cite direct exclusion as the source of the problem, so much as a wider rock culture that sees femininity as a detriment to authenticity. This culture is in the music instrument store, but it is also in performance expectations, the lack of female role models and instrument teachers, objectifying lyrics, and rehearsal room (locker room) banter.
The burden has always been on women to adapt to the culture of rock in order to prove themselves. Its something we have previously only discussed with each other and occasionally, carefully, with the men we perform with. This article, and the men and women involved in its production, opens up what will hopefully be an ongoing conversation, rather than a lament or blind celebration of equality.