New Media Poetics and the Politics of Childhood: Doing Media Ethnography in School

A lecture by Prof. Tyler Bickford (University of Pittsburgh) 

Presented by Bard Ehtnomusicology, The IDEA Fund, Experimental Humanities, and American Studies

Date: Thursday, October 5 at 5:30 pm in RKC 103

Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork at an elementary school in New England, this talk explores the politics and poetics of children’s everyday performances of mass media texts in school contexts. Elementary schools are places where the expressive environment is tightly regulated. But because schools’ pedagogical emphasis on literacy privileges language and communication as a field of action, expressive repertoires from popular music and entertainment media provide a powerful resource for children to challenge adult authority and claim childhood as a space of opposition, intimacy, and solidarity. An ethnographic perspective on the situated everyday activities in which children engage with poetic, musical, and narrative texts reveals that, in the “wild” of everyday school life, mass media texts circulate in fragmentary and partial forms, as snippets, tropes, half-remembered quotations, puns, improvisations, and momentary performances that are powerful in part because of their ephemerality and incompleteness. In their everyday performances, children put forward a poetics tightly linked to new media forms—drawn from the internet,mobile music devices, video games, and social media—to politicize and complicate the bureaucratic regime of school literacy and adulthood. In doing so, children’s performances point to new ways of thinking about the social structures that organize schools.

 

 

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