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  1. 1. Dr Rebekka Kill Head of School, Art Architecture and Design Leeds Metropolitan University Facebook is like disco, and Twitter is like punk.
  2. 2. In this “talk”
  3. 3. I’m not going to talk
  4. 4. … at all.
  5. 5. This is a story of obsession
  6. 6. and of music.
  7. 7. I used to live a double life
  8. 8. I had two careers that I deliberately kept separate.
  9. 9. I was worried that, if I came clean…
  10. 10. it would be a disaster both personally and professionally.
  11. 11. By day I was
  12. 12. …an art lecturer
  13. 13. By night…
  14. 14. a nightclub DJ.
  15. 15. *whispers* nightclub DJs don’t talk btw
  16. 16. Eventually, I became frustrated with the duality of my life, after a decade I was tired of burning the candle at both ends and I decided it was time to confess all…
  17. 17. I began to make art about music
  18. 18. In 2007 I did a performance work that involved playing 7inch records
  19. 19. for 24 hours
  20. 20. in ‘approximate’ alphabetical order.
  21. 21. I started at 9am on a Saturday morning with The 5th Dimension Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In
  22. 22. I ended with…
  23. 23. Yazoo Don’t Go, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Rockers to Swallow, The Young Knives The Decision, Yazz Stand Up For Your Love Rights and The Zutons Oh Stacey.
  24. 24. …at 9am on a Sunday morning.
  25. 25. Over 500 7inch singles in 24 hours.
  26. 26. I am obsessed with music
  27. 27. totally obsessed.
  28. 28. It all started in 1977
  29. 29. In 1977 I was old enough to be allowed to stay up to watch Top of the Pops.
  30. 30. In 1978 my mum went to university, at Portsmouth Poly, and over the next three years I attended all of the-end-of- term all day discos.
  31. 31. So, from ‘78-’81, three times a year, I danced for 12 hours in the students’ union, I watched Top of the Pops religiously and...
  32. 32. I listened to my tiny transistor Frosties radio (I’d found it in a charity shop) and this began my obsession.
  33. 33. 1981 was a turning point
  34. 34. I had enough pocket money, and enough freedom, to go to Woolworths and buy records.
  35. 35. I started collecting
  36. 36. So, what’s all this got to do with social media?
  37. 37. Well, at the beginning of this formative period, in Portsmouth Poly Students’ Union, I developed a love for both punk and disco…
  38. 38. …it was almost like there was a punk-me and a disco-me, and this schizophrenia has continued throughout my life.
  39. 39. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be Donna Summer
  40. 40. or Siouxsie
  41. 41. … deep down I really wanted to be Debbie Harry
  42. 42. I love disco and I love punk and post-punk was a kind of happy resolution.
  43. 43. In this “talk” I wanted to work out if there are similarities
  44. 44. …between my two obsessions: music and social media.
  45. 45. Is Facebook like disco?
  46. 46. - rapidly subsumed into the mainstream - commercial - perceived as politically apathetic
  47. 47. And is Twitter like punk?
  48. 48. - unsentimental - political - shouty
  49. 49. I’ll think a little more about punk and disco first.
  50. 50. Richard Dyer wrote his paper In Defense of Disco in 1979
  51. 51. He argued against the characterisation of disco as ‘capitalist music’
  52. 52. …by saying that all music is inherently capitalist.
  53. 53. And he also spoke in defence of the ‘ambivalently, ambiguously, contradictorily – positive qualities of disco’
  54. 54. For Dyer, the three key characteristics of disco are:- eroticism romanticism materialism
  55. 55. Central to this is a desire to escape the mundanity of life, the culture of work, of the office, of the boring job.
  56. 56. ‘Disco is part of the wider to and fro between work and leisure, alienation and escape, boredom and enjoyment that we are so accustomed to (and which Saturday Night Fever plugs into so effectively)’
  57. 57. ‘disco can’t change the world or make the revolution. No art can do that, and it’s pointless to expect it to.’
  58. 58. A lot has been written about Punk
  59. 59. Simon Frith’s article Post-punk Blues, published in Marxism Today, is nostalgic about the ‘heyday of political pop’ in the late 70s.
  60. 60. Frith states that ‘pop music has failed, then, to realise the political fantasies that were piled on punk’.
  61. 61. ‘Punk failed to change the way popular music worked because it is in capitalist practice impossible to construct an alternative…’
  62. 62. He goes on, ‘The tragedy of punk was not that it ‘failed’ to change pop but that so many people thought that it could’
  63. 63. In his essay Listening to Punk, written in 1985, David Laing stresses that an important legacy of punk was the introduction into lyrics of vernacular language.
  64. 64. He states that, ‘It was up to punk rock to introduce ‘fuck’ and the rest wholesale to popular music.
  65. 65. Laing finishes with the construct of the ‘punk listener’. The punk listener has two key qualities…
  66. 66. 1. the expectation of challenging listening i.e. potential for shock, acceptance of avant-garde elements. 2. the ‘punk listener’s enjoyment of other listeners’ discomfort and trauma.
  67. 67. I have a new obsession; inflected by my obsession with music.
  68. 68. Entangled with my academic life.
  69. 69. Social media
  70. 70. If we look at the history of social media sites using the model of music history we can see some interesting parallels.
  71. 71. Facebook: It’s a kind of universal, it’s accessible, the right hand bar makes us aware of its links to consumerism. The kids love it.
  72. 72. Twitter, on the other hand, is the place of intellectuals and bloggers, and the middle classes, the angry voices, the politics, the high(er) brow.
  73. 73. Twitter’s commercialism is harder to find. Attempts to be explicit about this, to genuinely use Twitter for selling, generally fail.
  74. 74. We can use the music history analogy to look backwards in time too
  75. 75. If Facebook is like disco, and Twitter is like punk, then…
  76. 76. maybe MySpace was the 60s and Second Life was prog – overblown, over complex and now …over.
  77. 77. I post the same updates on Facebook and Twitter. But they get very different responses.
  78. 78. What gets Facebook going…
  79. 79. jokes, puns and funny stuff
  80. 80. Cool stuff
  81. 81. events
  82. 82. And lots
  83. 83. and lots of…
  84. 84. kittens, holiday photos and pictures of people’s children…
  85. 85. So far, so disco?
  86. 86. But…
  87. 87. Facebook also likes…
  88. 88. politics
  89. 89. OK, OK, it’s presented in a particular way, for a particular audience, but it’s still politics…
  90. 90. In many ways this strengthens the argument that Facebook is like disco.
  91. 91. From the outside, at first glance, it seems apolitical, infantilising, but…
  92. 92. …in Dyer’s In Defense of Disco one of his key arguments was that disco was highly influential in terms of the politics of gender, LGBT, class and race issues.
  93. 93. Facebook is also very active here.
  94. 94. Although I will admit that Facebook is relatively “light”.
  95. 95. There are also occasionally some good examples of intelligent debate...
  96. 96. For example, I posted this on both Facebook and Twitter:
  97. 97. “I actually hate opera. Opera, poetry and jazz. They're all about 90% pointless.”
  98. 98. Twitter didn’t respond. But Facebook went crazy.
  99. 99. “Agreed. But that 10% that is awesome kind of makes it worth it... almost.”
  100. 100. “Pointless is a bit harsh just cos you don't like em... Found myself accidentally diggin' John Coltrane the other day.... Me!!! Jazz! I was highly surprised! as you can imagine! :D”
  101. 101. I must protest at your insistence of pointlessness. Perhaps another description?; By that benchmark you would have to accept it if someone said 90% of all art or academic research is pointless.... xx
  102. 102. “Philistine! - Jazz is 'nice', Opera is a 'vision in sound' and Poetry is life”
  103. 103. ”? Pointless..... ?”
  104. 104. “I think saying 90% of something that has involved a great amount of creative energy is valid, whether you like the results of the creative process is another matter but to render it pointless is quite insulting to the creative process itself. I'm not picking an argument, I'm just surprised at your statement, coming from you! “
  105. 105. “Opera is exclusive, jazz is indulgent, but POETRY! come on... poetry is ace - democratic, accessible, world-changing...”
  106. 106. “And scratching records is a better art form? Wow. Couldn't disagree more. Without poetry, there would be no music.”
  107. 107. “I would have thought someone in your position would have an appreciation for all art forms? Strange...”
  108. 108. “I know - but honestly, can anyone have a genuine appreciation for ALL artforms - including the mediocre - say, amateur watercolour, Olly Murs, Bernard Manning, Mills and Boon, etc. What's more, unpick the notion of 'pointless' and perhaps it means it may be appreciated by some, but it makes no 'point' i.e. it is inherently conservative and apolitical - which is why she is 100% wrong about poetry - which is perhaps the most political artform as it emanates from and impacts upon language itself...”
  109. 109. “i see it like this.. you have to develop an appreciation for opera and classical music, jazz, prose, pop, rock and so on equally.. because without say mozart or mahler or rachmaninov you wouldnt have bizet or puccini - without keats you wouldnt have shelley.. and where would we be without ella or brubeck or queen or the beatles even?.. everything is linked and has evolved to what we have today - a headonistic clash of cultural sounds and rhythms and harmonies that both delight and annoy and yet help to make.. well.. music.. and without those sounds in my life.. i would consider it to be very dull indeed.”
  110. 110. “Ah well. Opinions are like arseholes.... We've all got one!”
  111. 111. And that was just edited highlights.
  112. 112. So, what gets Twitter going?
  113. 113. I get most of my news and current affairs from Twitter. It can work like an RSS feed.
  114. 114. It’s a good way to find out about events…
  115. 115. and opportunities.
  116. 116. Twitter is full of opinion.
  117. 117. Especially about BBC Question Time
  118. 118. …and Britain’s Got Talent
  119. 119. Recently I asked people some questions about Facebook and Twitter…
  120. 120. about ethics and banality.
  121. 121. Facebook didn’t really respond. It didn’t spark much interest. Twitter on the other hand…
  122. 122. “I think banality is underrated. Twitter shows me that other people's lives are as banal as mine...”
  123. 123. “ I began it as a micro-blog, still use it for that but the social aspect crept in. “
  124. 124. “it's the only place I can simultaneously argue, surmise, joke, network, watch, reach out, laugh, wince and disseminate info.”
  125. 125. “Young 'uns don't seem as keen on Twitter. They might be on it but don't see it as equal to Facebook..? “
  126. 126. “People don't seem to edit stuff on Facebook..500 crap holiday photos etc would rather see the six best ones..or even, none!”
  127. 127. “personally find Twitter far more engaging than the Blue Site. Stripped down… a bit ADHD tho. Professionally more useful too. “
  128. 128. So, Twitter likes talking, and writing about itself but Facebook doesn’t.
  129. 129. Twitter is also often hostile towards Facebook.
  130. 130. Sound familiar?
  131. 131. Think back to the construct of the ‘punk listener’ and the expectation of challenging listening.
  132. 132. ‘It was up to punk rock to introduce ‘fuck’ and the rest wholesale to popular music.’ - Laing
  133. 133. “Twitter allows me to be more sweary”
  134. 134. Facebook is a bit like disco
  135. 135. and Twitter is a bit like punk…
  136. 136. I like disco and Facebook.
  137. 137. and I like punk and Twitter.
  138. 138. In music, post-punk felt like a good place.
  139. 139. It was like punk but more disco-y.
  140. 140. What will be post-Twitter?
  141. 141. Will it be like Twitter but more Facebook-y?
  142. 142. Pinterest is quite Facebook-y
  143. 143. But, to me, it feels a bit like a compilation album.
  144. 144. Now That’s What I Call…
  145. 145. …really nice cushions, cupcakes, ecobuildings, 1920s cinema etc..
  146. 146. It’s very pretty; very visual in a world that’s dominated by misspelt words and punctuation errors.
  147. 147. It’s all found images and or samples. So, maybe Pinterest is more like early house music?
  148. 148. What about Instagram?
  149. 149. isn’t it like the Mike Flowers Pops of the social media world?
  150. 150. I don’t see anything, new, yet that will rival either Facebook or Twitter.
  151. 151. But when it comes. I hope it will be the best of both. A hybrid.
  152. 152. Unlike my dual obsession with disco and punk
  153. 153. this is not a schizophrenic obsession.
  154. 154. My statuses are the same.
  155. 155. No need to be two different people.
  156. 156. The version of me that is engaging with social media
  157. 157. is already hybridised.
  158. 158. Polyphony is when many distinct voices or points of view exist simultaneously.
  159. 159. Facebook and Twitter are polyphonic spaces.
  160. 160. In polyphonic texts it is often unclear who the narrator is, this can also shift and change during the course of the text.
  161. 161. For Bakhtin unfinalisabilty is embedded in the ‘prose of everyday life’ and the chronotope; the intersection of time and space.
  162. 162. Both music and social media are chronotopic.
  163. 163. Time is important – whether timeline or beats per minute.
  164. 164. But it is where music and social media intersect with space…
  165. 165. on the dancefloor and on the internet
  166. 166. that they hybridise, and become fully…
  167. 167. polyphonic.
  168. 168. Thankyou