I wrote a book

My book, Schooling New Media: Music, Language, and Technology in Children’s Culture, was published by Oxford University Press in May. I started the research for this book in the fall of 2007, so this is just about ten years in the making. Learning about and with and from kids changed my life, and I am so grateful to the kids who were a part of this project. I hope it offers an honest reflection of their values and experiences of being kids in 2007 and 2008. There’s a preview on google books, and also here.

Spring talks on Justin Bieber, Hannah Montana, and tween domesticity

I’m scheduled to present two papers this spring, at the Society for Cinema and Media Studies conference in Chicago and the Popular Culture Association / American Culture Association meeting in Washington, DC, both in March.

At SCMS I will present a paper titled “‘The Best of Both Worlds’: Hannah Montana, ‘having it all’, and postfeminist tween domesticity” as part of a panel on “The Problematics of Postfeminism,” organized by Amanda Rossie:

This paper explores conflicting representations of domesticity and publicity in the 2007–2011 Disney Channel sitcom Hannah Montana, in which 14-year-old Miley Stewart lives a secret life as child pop star Hannah Montana. The narrative conflict of Hannah Montana centers on tensions between Miley’s personal and professional lives, and episodes dramatize the disruptions that her public life creates in Miley’s “normal” childhood. In the pilot episode, Miley’s concealed celebrity leads to a crisis with her best friend, in a portrayal of Miley’s friendship that uses conventional sitcom tropes of marital conflict and resolves accordingly, with the suggestion that Miley’s primary obligation is to the maintenance of her personal relationships and subordination her professional identity. By contrast, the show’s theme song celebrates Miley’s arrangement as the “best of both worlds,” in which “you get to be who ever you wanna be” and wear the “hottest styles, every shoe, every color.” Thus Hannah Montana juxtaposes postfeminist consumer “empowerment,” in which freedom and choice are celebrated but confined to consumption, with anxiety about accompanying disruptions of intimate relationships. The show adapts classically feminist concerns with “having it all” and the gendered obligations of work and family to a postfeminist context, in which “tween” girls are increasingly influential and commercially powerful as a consumer and audience demographic, and friendship relations take on an additional importance as a site of domestic intimacy and personal identification.

At PCA/ACA I will present a paper called “Justin Bieber, YouTube, and New Media Celebrity: The Tween Star at Home and Online,” as part of a panel on “Collision, Collusion, and Convergence: The Intersection of Television and Music in American Popular Culture”:

This paper examines tween pop star Justin Bieber’s rise to fame through home videos broadcast over the internet on the video-sharing site YouTube. It considers how online video representations of childhood domesticity in musical performance and consumption validate children’s participation in public culture. Beginning in 2007, when Bieber was 12 years old, his family began posting videos of him singing R&B covers to YouTube. The videos became very popular and ultimately attracted the attention of music industry professionals, launching Bieber’s career as tween music icon. Tween media and consumer culture—focused on children, especially girls, ages 8–14, be-“tween” childhood and adolescence—has expanded dramatically in the last decade, with pop music at the forefront. Visual depictions of child pop stars in domestic bedroom spaces are by now a canonical trope of tween authenticity, building on a long tradition of representations of girls’ consumption practices. Bieber’s celebrity builds on these tropes to locate both his talent and his fame in the quotitian spaces of childhood family life. Using theoretical tools from childhood studies, public sphere theory, and feminist/girlhood studies accounts of bedroom culture, this chapter will explore how the presentation of Justin Bieber as both a celebrity and a child depends on broader cultural understandings of children’s normative location in the home, which are lately mediated by technological and social shifts in music and video distribution that present domesticity and privacy as increasingly legitimate subjects for public display. These changes suggest complicated implications for core social theoretic questions about participatory parity and identity politics, where tween media presents children’s confident emergence into broader public life while reflecting a simultaneous retrenchment of childhood identities into the domestic sphere.

As part of my larger project about the tween music industry, both papers explore how tween media represents children in relation to traditional conceptions of home and the family. That children’s growing participation in the public sphere through popular entertainment is so invested in these tropes of domesticity seems (is) contradictory. I’m increasingly reading these signs of domesticity more as markers of authentic childhood identities than as real ideological commitments to domesticity as such. If that’s the case then it makes sense that children’s public emergence as a group would include markers of membership in that group.

Panel for SEM 2010 on music in “total” institution

“Music in ‘Total’ Institutions”

  • Benjamin J. Harbert, “Blood in My Eyes: The Inspiring Principles of Musicians at Louisiana’s Hunt Prison”

  • Anita Høyvik, “How to Prescribe a Healthy Listening? Music Listening in Terms of Medical Efficacy at Rivington House”

  • Jennifer A. Woodruff, “‘Girl, you nasty!’: Policing the Boundaries between Inappropriate Dancing and Moral Character”

  • Tyler Bickford, “Musical Consumerism in School: Expressive Negotiations of Institutional Authority During Classroom Lessons at a Vermont Elementary School”

Abstracts below the jump.


Teachers College Educational Technology Conference

Will present a paper called “Mobile Music in School: Interactivity and Intimacy in Children’s Uses of MP3 Players at a Vermont Elementary School” at a conference at Teachers College in May: TCETC 2010, “Media and Designs for Learning.” Looking forward to the opportunity to exchange ideas with the folks across 120th street.

Panel for AAA 2009 on constructions of childhood in schooling

More happy news: the panel Micah Gilmer and I organized for this fall’s meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Philadelphia has been accepted. Here’s the program; abstracts for the panel and my paper after the jump:

“Schooling Which Child? Contested Constructions of Childhood and Youth in Educational Settings” (sponsored by the Anthropology of Children and Childhood Interest Group)

  • Bambi Chapin (University Maryland, Baltimore County),
    “Developing Understanding in Children, Understandings of Child Development: Sri Lankan Models of Child Development and the New Educational Reforms”

  • Jennifer Adair (University of Texas, Austin), “Immigrant and Nonimmigrant Teachers’ Conceptualizations of Diversity and Childhood in Five U.S. Cities: The Chancla Debate”

  • Micah Gilmer (Duke University), ” ‘These Kids Got to Step Up and Be Men’: Language and Football as a Liminal Space at Eastside High”

  • Alicia Blum-Ross (University of Oxford), “Creative Geniuses or Feral Thugs? Participatory Filmmaking and the Construction of ‘Youth’ “

  • Tyler Bickford (Columbia University), “Competing Public Childhoods: Entertainment Media, Consumerism, and Children’s Expressive Practices at a Vermont Primary School”

  • Chaired by John Herzog (Northeastern University)


Review of Kathryn Marsh’s The Musical Playground

I reviewed Kathryn Marsh’s The Musical Playground: Global Tradition and Change in Children’s Songs and Games for the Journal of Folklore Research. It’s quite a book, really underscoring how these enduring oral traditions connect to growing networks of media, migration, and education.

Marsh’s book — based on a massive international research study of children’s clapping games in seven countries — is nicely complemented by a new study going on in the U.K. about the relationships between kids’ singing game traditions and new media — games, phones, the Internet, etc. The project, led by Jackie Marsh at the University of Sheffield, among others, involves new ethnographic studies of kids’ playground games, an archival project digitizing the Opie’s collections, and an effort to program the Nintendo Wii to play some of these games. See the write-up in the Telegraph. It’s really nice to see this emerging synergy between research into kids’ expressive culture and their technology/media practices, and the U.K. project will be an amazing resource when it’s completed. 

My review after the jump. I’ll link to it when it goes up at JFR.

Update 8/26: The review came out and is online here

Earbuds Are Good for Sharing

[Update: This piece was published in The Oxford Handbook of Mobile Music Studies in March 2014.]

I just sent off a chapter about sharing earbuds for a forthcoming volume from Oxford UP on Mobile Music Studies. My chapter is called “Earbuds Are Good for Sharing: Children’s Sociable Uses of Headphones at a Vermont Primary School.”

Review of Montgomery, Generation Digital

My review of Kathryn Montgomery’s Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet is up at the Resource Center for Cyberculture Studies, along with a response from Montgomery. RCCS, by the way, is a tremendous resource for book reviews — David Silver does a great job getting multiple reviews of interesting books and most of the time even including author responses. Wonderful stuff.