did i say unbelievable teaching tool already?

So I’m doing a lecture on the media in war time.
I start with WWI, then WWII, then Vietnam, then the Gulf War and finally the ‘war on terror’.
It’s been heavy going, to say the least.
I’ve collected a lot of images from the intertubes, and also some absolutely amazing footage.
I’ve found some really great sites like www.firstworldwar.com, which has some truly awesome AV and sound files, which I’ve just been popping into my keynote presentations. Keynote rocks, by the way – a truly fabulous alternative to powerpoint. So much easier to use. So much prettier.
I’ve also been playing on YouTube. Search for ‘second world war propaganda’, and you get fascinating archival footage – news reels, animations, etc.
Do a search for ‘vietnam war footage’ in YouTube and you get a stack of archival footage. And some truly freakin’s scary red neck racist commentary.
I’ve just started into the bit on the Gulf War and the ‘war on terror’, and that’s scary. It’s really upsetting. The Gulf War is easier to deal with because I’m discussing the way it was sanitised by CNN – lots of talk about technology, lots of computery stuff. Not a lot of bodies.
But the stuff on Afghanistan is really breaking my heart. One of the points I’m making is about the way the internet has suddenly allowed anyone to upload footage of the conflict – US soldiers, local citizens, politicians. I’m also writing about blogs and the US army sites, but the stuff that’s really caught my attention is the way ordinary people are using youtube to make little films.
It really reminds me of the stuff I’ve read about community media and the role of media in developing countries… if you have a camera phone, you can make a movie. And if you can get access to the internet, you can put it online.
I know that getting online isn’t easy, and that supplies of electricity are difficult, but still. This is really a massive, massive change in the way wars are represented in the media. And more importantly, the way people in occupied or invaded countries represent themselves.
One thing I have come across is Alive in Baghdad. I’ve only just stumbled over it, but it’s interesting. I know nothing about it, and part of me wonders about anti-US propaganda. But I suspect it’s on the level. Does anyone know?

pimping out cultural studies rock stars

stuhall.jpg
Writing these lectures this semester, I keep coming back to a couple of questions.
Should an undergraduate course present an ‘unbiased’ overview of a particular area of research? In other words, if you’re teaching an introductory media or cultural studies (or gender studies or political science or whatever) subject, should you present an overview of the highest profile thinkers in the field – even if they contradict each other?
Or should you present a subjective overview of the literature and thinking which you find most convincing, which presents a cohesive overview of a particular group or genealogy within the literature or which best represents the theoretical approach of your particular university?*
If only it was that simple, though. I’ve been also been wondering if an intro subject should present an overview of key thinking within a specific national context – Australian media studies, British media studies, American media studies…?
If you answer yes, then, of course you’re also left asking “well, shouldn’t I include some of the American (or Australian or British) stuff just as an example of how we don’t do things here?” Or perhaps you’re wondering if it mightn’t be kinda neat to include some work from Indian or Asian scholars…
On the CSAA list recently some of the contributors argued that we have a responsibility as scholars to raise our students’ awareness of the various ideological assumptions at work in John Howard’s intrusion into rural indigenous Australians’ affairs. On the one hand, I agree entirely, in part because it seems the ‘right thing to do’, but also because it seems the sort of thing that Stuart Hall would approve of. In other words, cultural studies has its roots in social activism (sort of), and issues of class and ethnicity and gender and sexuality have always been at its heart (well, for some people. Some cultural studies kids have decided that that stuff’s so last millenium). In this approach, then, you not only outline the various thinking at work in cultural studies, you present it as it if was ‘true’ or at least workable or something to aim for.
So, for example, when I outline concepts like ‘patriarchy’ (in a discussion of feminist textual analysis), I don’t present it as an abstract concept, but as a real context and ingredient in the texts we’re reading and in our lives.
Don’t get me wrong – I do agree with these concepts. I do firmly agree that patriarchy needs discussion (and dismantling?), that we should be getting very angry (or at least very active) about Howard’s policies, that we should be thinking critically.
It’s just that I wonder whether I should be teaching these things as if they were all ‘true’ (ie from a ‘biased’ perspective), or ‘objectively’, as if they are ideologies we should engage with and discuss, but not necessarily believe.
Part of me also worries if this is an entirely arbitrary and bullshit line of thinking. I wonder if it’s even possible to do a decent job teaching cultural studies (and gender studies and so on) if you don’t present them subjectively. I mean, that’s kind of what they’re about.
If I do attempt an ‘unbiased’ approach, am I not simply obscuring or ignoring my own personal beliefs about the world and politics and preconceptions? And if that’s the case, what the fuck am I doing calling myself a feminist, if I’m prepared to pretend that an objective approach is possible anyway? I spend three quarters of my time telling students that objective approaches aren’t possible – that we’re steeped in culture and that to really do ‘fair’ analyses we should begin by addressing (and stating) our own ideas about the world and how they affect how we read and write and think and talk about culture.
I wonder if this is part of the problem of tertiary education.
Teaching first years basic concepts like active readership, I say things like “Meaning isn’t an inherent and static quality of a text, but made through readers’ interaction with it” and “There is no single ideology or idea about the world, but multiple and competing ideologies” and adopting an approach in the classroom which explicitly emphasises the idea that ‘every reading (or opinion) is important and valuable’ so that students feel comfortable speaking up.
With this in mind, it seems logical to rework assessment to make it more achievable for students with ‘special needs’ (which is all of them – whether they have reading problems, aren’t comfortable with English, have to work two jobs to feed their families, care for elderly relatives or whatever), and to use a range of teaching tools and approaches in lectures and tutorials to meet the needs of such a vast range of learning styles and students’ needs.
But at the end of the day, the arbitrary marking system necessarily involves being unfair and making it very clear that not every reading style and every ideology and every mode of self expression is valuable or worthy. In fact, the entire marking system, the tutorial/lecture/assignment structure is constructed to encourage and valorise a particular approach to knowledge, a particular way of learning and teaching.
Teaching ‘inclusively’ (ie practicing what I’m preaching in a cultural studies subject) seems like holding back the tide. Fairly fruitless at best, self-deception at worst.
To this point I’ve been taking a mixed approach. I present particular ideas as if they were ‘true’: “patriarchy is…” rather than “some believe that patriarchy is…”, and, when the students ask, I clearly state my own ideas and beliefs. I don’t think it’s possible to canvas every ideology in just twelve weeks, so I present the ‘good ones’. I don’t think first years are really up to being presented with competing ideas (they’re still learning how to learn – getting over that ‘just memorise what I tell you’ thing and moving towards ‘what do you think about what I’ve told you? Do you agree? Why not? Why?’), so it’s best to present a more consistent approach. I also think we should be teaching Australian cultural studies – using Australian readings and ideas. With exceptions for obvious people (like Stuart Hall, who had such an impact in Australia)… but is that just cherry picking?
I wonder if perhaps we should think of the people teaching these subjects as resources in themselves. Not just a pair of legs for walking ideas past the students. We should regard their ideas and work as resources, and expect them to teach those ideas – to bring that** – when they’re in the classroom (whether they’re in front of 200 or 10 students). Which is really why I think that the very best and most experienced teachers should be teaching first years. …and why I think we should have the very best teachers teaching beginner dancers too, btw.
But in both dance and acadamia, teaching beginners or first years is seen as grunt work, the lowest status, least important teaching. Crowd control. The stuff we can farm out to pgrads for guest lectures or get in sessional staff to teach, rather than getting the most experienced, highest profile staff involved.
Which is a very great shame, because it’s a great opportunity to reach a very large number of students all at once, to fire their enthusiasm for the area, and to – if we’re thinking like those CSAA doods – actually encourage critical discussion of the culture we’re actually living in.
I also think it’s a shame that experienced staff take the least interest in these large introductory subjects. I know I’m only new to this, and probably don’t have a clue, and will change my mind as I get more experience, but aren’t these the most important students in the university? They’re harder to teach because they aren’t familiar with universities, and they don’t know any of the basic stuff that eventually brings them to more complex research of their own. But they are the people who have new ideas and fresh and unjaded. They don’t know what media studies is like. So if you come in swinging, using enthusiastic teachers who have mad teaching skills, really love what they do (and what they’re reasearching), surely that will spill over and infect the students (to mix a metaphor)?
And if the people teaching these subjects are also doing their own research, teaching first years will keep them in touch with the basic, fundamental work in their field. If the people doing this teaching are also the big names in publishing and research, won’t their enthusiasm for their work also be infective?
This semester, half the readings on the course are by people who taught me in my first year subjects at UQ – Tony Thwaites, Lloyd Davis, Graeme Turner, Frances Bonner, John Frow, etc etc etc. They’d teach subjects in their special areas, but they’d also be our tutors in first year, and they’d do one-off lectures in their speciality area. So we saw and heard and worked with these guys up close.
graeme_turner.jpg
Now, when I’m teaching these first years, crapping on about how great Graybags is, I realise that these guys are just names to the students. They have no idea why Graybags is neat as a person as well as as a researcher. So they don’t really care.
I try to make these guys more than just names for the students – I always use photos of them in my slides, and I try to add in interesting details to keep their attention (I love the story of Roland Barthes for this sort of talk). If I’m talking about uber scholars like the Frankfurt School doods, I describe their social context as well, and how that might have influenced their work. I make sure I show a picture of Stuart Hall and tell them that he wasn’t born in Britain.
And I hope that helps them be interested in these people. But really, it would be far easier if Stuart Hall was standing in front of them telling them the story of how he got into talking about media.
This is an introductory subject, so half the job*** is selling media studies to them, making them want to learn more. So it has to be interesting. They have to care. They have to see how they could contribute to the area, how their ideas and experiences are important and worth talking about. And if that means pimping out cultural studies rock stars, so be it.
*Which is, of course, one of the reasons why it’s important to be researching while you’re teaching, and to have decent collegiality happening in your department.
**The Squeeze suggested the students might laugh less in my lectures if I lay off the ghetto talk. I reject the idea: I am totally street.
***The other half is skilling them up with some basic methodological and theoretical tools.
Textual analysis? √
Feminism? √
Cowboys? √

you know you’re in the right job when…

sigourney-weaver.jpg
You get to say things like this:

“There has been no final and conclusive research to support this particular idea of ‘media effects’ – there are no definitive studies showing that watching violence on TV does turn you into a serial killer (which is kind of unfortunate because I like the idea that watching Alien and Terminator 2 will make me a superhero).”

Accompanied by these two lovely Ladeez on a giant screen.LindyHamilton.jpg
I guess the interesting part of this particular segue involves some sort of discussion about the point of diversity in representation – if effects theory is crap (and that’s a bit of a long bow I know, but I’m making a dramatic point here), what’s the point of agitating for, well, female action heroes?
InvisibleWoman.jpg
Teaching this semester I noticed (putting together a lecture on cowboys) that there really haven’t been any seriously arse kicking mainstream action film chicks since the 1990s. Where are the Linda Hamiltons, the Sigourney Weavers of the 21st century?
DefensiveShield.jpg
Are we, like totally over that now?
Please don’t tell me that all we’re left with are (literally) Invisible Women who really only seem up for defensive tactics and getting really really upset.
And hey, why the fuck isn’t Sue Storm the boss of the F4 anyway? She has the best name, she has the most versatile superpowers, she’s totally the boss of annoying people like her brother Johnny… Maybe if she had some sort of serious responsibilities she’d quit obsessing about her wedding and actually have something challenging to occupy her (supposed) super-scientist brain.
Do I need to talk about superhero costumes? I’m as much a fan of the hawt body action as the next red blooded sistah, but I’d kind of like to see some overalls like Siggy’s or perhaps some mucho extremo body armour c/o Aliens.
[deep breath] But, as I was saying, it is way neat to be able to actually talk about this stuff with students. And preparing all this lecture material is really reminding me of the pretty radical roots of media and cultural studies. I’ve been hanging out with swing dancers so long I’ve forgotten that it’s actually way uncool to just accept bullshit gender stereotypes and perpetuate that whole ‘boys look after girls, girls look pretty and shut their mouths‘ crap.
Today I choose to wear full body armour and decimate the patriarchy.
aliens.jpg
(Hand over that phallus to someone who knows how to use it, motherfucker – the sistah has some multi-tasking to do).

recent movements in my academic ‘career’

I’ve just had an article published in a special journal issue on music. It’s not the greatest article I’ve ever written, and reading it is kind of cringe-worthy. But that’s not the interesting bit about this issue. The thing that caught my eye (once I stopped cringing) is the fact that I’m the only woman author in the issue.
This is probably just a coincidence, but I was suprised. I’d just assumed that music was one of those ‘everyone does it’ topics. I certainly didn’t think I’d see a reenactment of the whole garage band/music industry scene happening in this issue. I was sure I’d see at least one article on female DJs or something by a woman on something to do with music…
Nah. So I’m the sistah Representing there. Which really is surprising. I’m not actually doing anything terribly feministah – I make a few comments about gender, but not much more than some of the other articles. It made me think, though: surely this bit of cultural studies isn’t a boys-own? Surely?
This kind of ties into some thoughts I’ve had preparing for this course I’m teaching next semester. I’m the lecturer/tutor for a massive introductory media studies subject, on a team of 5 ladies teaching across three campuses and doing about 15 tutes between us (argh!). I don’t have to write the lectures – just present the ones that have already been written. But I’m finding it a bit difficult. I really only have the lecture notes to work from, and the first one in particular was really difficult to work with. It used a few concepts I’ve never come across in 15 years and three universities worth of tertiary education (I’m thinking they’re bullshit, but I could just be misinformed), and I’ve noticed a few assumptions about culture.
The first one is the emphasis on visual culture (well, of course), but this line really jumped out at me:

Images are the most powerful form of representation.

which followed on the heels of

All cultures produce images as forms of communication.

I guess I’m just sensitised to this stuff because I write about it, but I’ve recently spent a bit of time writing things like:

For a people denied the discursive power of mass media, particularly those dependent on the written word, dance became a valuable discursive space. I would argue that access the mainstream public sphere, to mainstream media discourse or the ‘official’ public sphere is a privilege accorded the most powerful members of a community (Fraser 1997). Media power, the ability to contribute to the production and dissemination of media texts and see your own interests and ideology represented in these texts and discourses, is a marker of social power and influence. This social power was not available to African Americans in the 1920s, 30s and 40s. Though they were active contributors to music, dance and other creative practices, these contributions were often curtailed by their social position. Black record companies were frequently out-competed or bullied out of existence (a point David Suisman addresses in his discussion of the Black Swan label). In the 1920s black radio stations, though common in the early days of radio in the United States were eventually marginalised by the introduction of broadcasting legislation (Vaillant 2002). Black musicians were neglected by mainstream record companies in the earlier days of recording and what few recordings they did make in the earliest American radio programs were ‘limited to comedy or novelty styles, which established “coon songs” and minstrelsy… Coon songs were a popular style of comic songs based on caricatures of Negro life, usually sung in “dialect”’ (Suisman 2004, pp. 1296). Black men and women who simply spoke out in public were so routinely subjected to violence and murder in the south of America until the 1960s – with legislative protection for their attackers (Gussow 2002, pp.14) – that to speak of mediated power is highly problematic. For many black actors and dancers, the ability to control their filmed image was also beyond their reach, and it is these audio-visual media that texts became the source of revivalists in the contemporary swing community.

(from a forthcoming article in Convergence, references below).
I have reservations about the claim that ‘all cultures use visual images’ and that these visual images are the ‘most powerful form of representation’. In fact, later in the lecture notes I’m reworking, there’s a reference to Aboriginal identity, where one of the functions of images as communication is:

To store the memory of a culture, of a people so it can be communicated/transmitted in the present and future (paintings of indigenous Australians)

I’m not sure what that bit’s meant to mean. It seems to imply that visual images are a) a way of preserving Aboriginal culture, or b) a way in which Aboriginal Australians hare or are going about preserving their culture.
This stuff doesn’t sit right with me, particularly because dance, song and story telling – oral culture – was and is such an important part of Aboriginal culture. Far more important than ‘visual images’. Particularly for semi-nomadic people.
I know I don’t know much about this (and I’d hate to suggest that there is/was no indigenous Australian visual art prior to Invasion), but I do have real problems with the prioritising of material visual culture in this way.
I’m a bit busy about this right now, so I can’t write anything more, but something about all this ‘visual images = most important!’ really gets up my bum. There are so many clear examples of the power and importance of things like oral story, music, dance, etc as really powerful and important cultural practices. It’s just that they’re not as appealing to researchers from such a material, privileged culture.
Fraser, Nancy. (1997). ‘Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,’ in Nancy Fraser (ed) Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the “Postsocialist” Condition, pp. 69-98. New York and London: Routledge, 1997.
Gussow, Adam. (2002). ‘”Shoot myself a cop” Mamie Smith’s “Crazy Blues” as a Social Text’ Callaloo 25 (1): 8-44.
Suisman, David. (2004). ‘Co-workers in the Kingdom of Culture: Black Swan Records and the Political Economy of African American Music’ The Journal of American History 90 (4): 1295-1324.
Vaillant, Derek W. (2002). ‘Sounds of Whiteness: Local Radio, Racial Formation, and Public Culture in Chicago, 1921-1935’ American Quarterly 54 (1): 25-66.

just in case you’re wondering…

I take a minute out to dash off a post in between papers. Or numbers-of-papers. I am typing my comments into my lappy here at the dining table, rather than writing them by hand as my handwriting is embarassingly poor. And I have to stop every half hour or so to think of something else for a couple of minutes or I end up just skim reading the essays, thinking ‘yeah, I get the point’. And having to go back to re-read, because this isn’t like reading journal articles or academic books – you’re not reading to ‘get the point’, you’re reading to see if they understand what they’re writing about, and to see if they’re actually capable of writing about it with any coherency.
I guess one advantage to my using the dining table to mark is that I can’t just nick off for a spot of sewing – it’s difficult to cut fabric when your cutting table is covered in papers.

FIVE STEPS A SECOND

Feeling a little tired, finding it difficult to concentrate?
Sounds like you have
Marking fatigue
Take one of these and call me in the morning.
Coming in at 275bpm (or thereabouts), this fast finals of the Ultimate Lindy Hop Showdown comp for 2006 is fricking fast. At one point one couple dances in half-time, then shifts back to full-time (French wunderkind Max and Alice – in black shirt and jeans/black dress), and they look like a film speeded up when they make that shift.
To give you an idea of how fast 275bpm is (if you can’t be arsed going and looking and listening), we’re talking about 5 steps a second. FIVE STEPS A SECOND. Can you even run that fast, let alone dance that fast?
When Max and his partner dance half time, they’re dancing at about 137bpm. 140 is an average tempo in Melbourne atm (though it should be 160 at least).
I guess I don’t need to explain why I needed to get back in shape for MLX6, huh?
The first couple in that clip are Frida and Todd Yanacocmamancobi (?). He’s about 12 and she’s about 16. Well, actually, she’s about 22 and he’s about 20. He gets better and better and better each time I see him dance. Frida still blows my brain – I have yet to see a young lindy hopper who’s better. We have no dancers in Australia who can dance at the standard of these guys.
If you’re interested, the winners are Ria and Nick (she’s wearing a short, shiny red skirt and he’s wearing a red shirt), second place was taken by Frida and Todd and third by Max and Alice.

round up

I have about 45 minutes before I have to leave for apppointment #2 with the dentist, and I’m surprisingly unscared. I slept like a baby, weighted down by a million blankets because we’ve gone from 30-odd degrees during the day to having to wear fleecy pajamas at night in the space of 24 hours. Ah, Melbourne. But if I continue to write about it, I’m sure I’ll start getting scared.
I spent a very productive weekend, after a week of incredibly poor teaching on my part. Having the surprise root canal on Monday made for interesting lecturing on Tuesday, what with my numb lips and tongue and post traumatic stress syndrome. Tutoring Wednesday, Thursday and Friday was equally ordinary, though Wednesday was spectacularly bad. Thursday was ok, and by Friday I was back to being tired and an ordinary teacher. A run in with a particularly difficult student did not help (thank you for those public, in-class accusations of incompetency. And enjoy your future marks*).
This week, though, I did ride into the university, using a combination of bike (15minutes on a terrifying road to Northcote station), train (10 minutes in blessed airconditioning), 20minutes riding the terrifying streets of Reservoir (say ‘res-ev-or’ not ‘res-ev-oir’) and then a delicious 5 minutes swoop downhill through the uni. I tried riding back that way, but was frightened by the traffic (dang, those suburban types are completely un-bike-aware. And terrifying).
I also tried riding through the university to the next train line over, to Macleod station, which was a very lovely ride. Except for the bit where I got lost about 5 times and had to ask for directions at least 3 times. But even that wasn’t so bad – it was a lovely day, I love my bike, and I was having a lovely time in our quite lovely campus (which is very bushy and has lots of wild life, including some bulllying magpies). But I got to zoom down a very very steep hill, through very lovely tree-ey suburban streets (they have GIANT eucalypts out there). And then I caught the train in to the city. It was zone 2, but I dealt with that.
So, riding to work: great fun. But good for sweat-making, which isn’t so cool when you forget to bring a change of clothes and have to squash into an overcrowded tutorial room with a bunch of fairly prissy teenagers (unlike dancers, who really don’t mind about sweat at all).
It’s also a nice option because I’ve discovered that catching the Macleod line train to Westgarth rocks, because the Westgarth cinema (here is a link to the site, but because it uses frames you’ll have to click away til you find the Westgarth, but you can read about it on wikipedia as well) has reopened. Admittedly, now owned by a megacinema group (oh, how I miss the insane amount of independent cinemas in Brisvegas), but still quite stunningly beautiful inside and out. So I will be dropping in there to see fillums quite regularly I think (especially as it’s about a 15/20 minute bike ride from our house (about the same on the bus), where you ride along the Merri Creek bike path, which winds along the Merri Creek**. Could there be a more perfect way to spend an afternoon?
On a like note, we saw A Prairie Home Companion last week at the Kino, and we LOVED IT. It’s just like the Muppets, but with bluegrass/country music. Same sight gags, though.
MLX6 planning continues, and I finally had a chance to get all caught up and up to date with my responsibilities this weekend (I do long for a whole 2 days in a row where I can just sit about and do nothing, or do things like ride to the Westgarth for a fillum). It is looking scarily huge, with a crazy amount of internationals and interstaters booked in. I hope our venues are big enough.
Brian has continued with another podcast (Fat Lotta Radio, fyi), to which you can subscribe by popping this url: http://mlx6.com/index.xml into your itunes or podcast reader. This is the sort of thing that makes MLX so much fun.
…ok, I have to ping ding, chicken wings – got some stuff to do. Think of me at about 11am, will you?
*That was a joke. I have of course handed over this student’s marking to course coordinator.
**Which locals think is great, but if you are from one of those lovely cities with lots of stunning parks and greenery (eg the Brisvegas river-side rides), this will look kind of lame. But you know, when you live in concrete-land, you don’t sniff at a bit of green.

Australian-Melbourne-Irish-Global media?

As some of you know, I’m booked in to give a paper at the annual CSAA conference in Canberra in December. I wrote about my abstract here and moaned about not scoring a bursary here.
Well, things have actually turned around a bit since then. I have actually scored a smallish grant from the nice people at the CSAA, which will cover my conference registration and part of my airfare. Yay.
So, come December, I’m flying up to the Can to talk theoretical turkey with acadackas, hang out with my old school friend Kate (no, not ‘old skewl’, nor is she particularly ‘old’ – she is a friend I have had for a long time) and possibly see some local dancers.
This was all very nice to hear – I’m quite proud of having scored a competitive grant from an organisation which will look good on my CV. I’m also happy to be funded for my trip to the Can – I need to get a job some time soon, and these things are good networking activities… though I seem to spend an inordinate amount of time hanging about with old UQ buddies. And as you can see from this entry, I seemed to spend more time thinking about jazz than any professional business at the last CSAA conference.
So anyways, I’m off to do a paper.
Here is the abstract again:

Swing Talk and Swing Dance: online and embodied networks in the ‘Australian’ swing dance community.
Since its revival in the 1980s, lindy hop and other swing dances have become increasingly popular with middle class youth throughout the developed world.
There are vibrant local swing dance communities in Melbourne, Sydney, Hobart, Perth, Canberra and Brisbane for whom dancing – an embodied cultural practice – is the most important form of social interaction. Swing dancers will travel vast distances and spend large amounts of money solely to attend dance events in other cities. The success and appeal of these events lies in their promotion as unique and showcasing their local dance ‘scene’.
In travel itineraries which criss-cross the country, swing dancers develop networks between local communities that are not only cemented by their embodied interpersonal interaction, but also by their uses of digital media. In this paper, I examine the ways in which the online Swing Talk discussion board is utilised by Australian swing dancers to develop personal relationships with dancers in other cities, which in turn serve to develop relationships between local communities. This insistence of local community identity in swing dance culture in Australia defies a definition of a ‘national’ swing dance community. I describe the ways in which ‘Australian’ swing dance is an ‘unAustralia’ – not a homogenous ‘whole’ but a network of embodied and mediated relationships between diverse local communities and individuals.

Right now I’m having trouble remembering what I wanted to write about. I suspect there wasn’t actually a lot of planning in there. But I have started to have some ideas. Of course stimulated by my impending trip to SLX (I’ll be off to the tram stop in a few hours – nursing this horrid cold that’s sprung up), but also prompted by planning for MLX6 planning.
Have a listen to this:

powered by ODEO
(which you can find here on the MLX6 music page).
Now, if that’s not an advertisement for glocal community, I don’t know what is. I mean, before we even get to the dance/exchange stuff, we’re listening to an Irish guy pimping Australian jazz for a Melbourne exchange to an international audience. Neat stuff, huh?
This is the stuff about lindy hoppers that I really love: the way they go nuts and do all sorts of creative things – off as well as on the dance floor. And much of this creative work is centered on big dance events like exchanges and camps. There are lots of film clips, mini-films, websites, DVDs, etc etc – and a couple of special official CDs produced – but I’m beginning to get interested in the way swing dancers use radio and audio technology. Specifically, digital audio technology. I mean, there is all that stuff about DJing, but swing dancers do other really interesting things as well: Yehoodi radio is streaming music chosen by swing dancing DJs from all over the world, the Yehoodi Talk Show is really just a chance for a couple of engaging dance/music nerds to have a chat online and Hey Mr Jess is even nerdier – a particularly lovely DJ chatting about swing music and DJing with another dance/music nerd.
Hello podcasts.
This promotional podcast by one of our MLX6 crew is interesting for the way it combines samples from local musicians’ albums (these are all bands we’re hosting for MLX6, from Melbourne and Sydney) – they’re all still living, all contemporary artists – with pimpage for our event.
I do need to sit down and do a bit of analysis of the content, but this is some interesting stuff. Radio has proved a particularly effective medium for connecting dancers in different countries – a natural complement to discussion boards. And this is one of (if not the) first Australian contribution to the international lindy hop radio world (excluding contributions by local DJs to the Yehoodi radio show) – this is the first locally produced Australian swing dance radio ‘bit’. And it’s narrated by an Irishman!
Wonderful!
I do need to sit down and think about how this works: the way ‘Melbourne’ is presented, the way ‘Australia’ is presented, and how different audiences within and without Australia (and Melbourne) might receive/interpret/read this text, but it’s a starting point – a bit of motivation – for my paper. At the very least, I can add that to my usual list of clips and photos for the presentation – always fun to do.
Yay!
–edit: you know, part of my brain is also a bit interested in the way I’ve used that odeo plugin, there: most times you see those sorts of things they’re ‘invisible’, in the way my sidebar over there is largely ‘invisible’ from the main body of the page over here. But I’ve actually framed that odeo thingy as something to use and listen to, rather than just stuffing it into my sidebar or at the bottom of this post. It’s an interesting contrast to the livefm thingy over there in the sidebar (which is still stuffed and giving me the shits). I am, of course, delighted and fascinated by all this convergence action – my blog as combining audio and visual as well as written? Let’s see a newspaper try that then! Of course, this issue is one I’ve been plaguing my students with lately in tutes – as I heard in a Media Report story about cross-media ownership and digital technology, the cross-media ownership legislation kind of collapses when faced with the internet and the fancy things newspapers have been doing online: they combine av with traditional ‘static’ text… and bloggage, and audio, and… lots of other lovely stuff.
This is such a great time to be a media studies stooge! How could you not love the internet?!

ask me how I feel about marking

Half an hour per paper, 70 papers. Yes please.
Ask me how many days til MLX6.
73. Am I worried about it? Nope.
Ask me about the papers I have to write.
…no, actually, don’t.
Ask me about my application for funding goodness for the CSAA conference.
Yeah, it’ll be cool. I’m all over it.
The paper for the conference that’s getting me there and getting me the dosh?
Oh, look, something to do with the internet. It’ll be neat.
Ask me about the shitful job I did DJing last week.
Why ask. I’m sure you’ve already heard.
…there’s not so much going on in my life beyond work at the moment. This is about as exciting as it gets:
squidge.jpg
We are going lo-fi with the whole camera thing. We’re saying no to lots of pixels and yes to emoting. We are all about emoting.
We are going to SLX on the 29th September, mostly because we need a holiday, and this kind of gets us off our arses. That’ll be fun – we’re looking forward to stooging it up at the Manly Jazz Festival, eating, napping, talking shit and possibly drinking (though I will drink only softees). It’ll be just like an American road trip movie. But with more jazz. And fewer mooses (meese? baby meese?). Though I’m not sure about the boob part. There could be boobs. Or possibly moobs. Either way, somebody scores. And I’m not sure about the road part. I think there’ll mostly be trains, the odd bus and definitely a ferry. And a plane or two.
..hm. This post isn’t going terribly well. Looks like teaching is sucking my creativity right out through my… well, I’m not sure how it’s getting out of me, or where it’s going. Just imagine that I was a bit cleverer and that this post was a bit more interesting. Remember the days when I was posting posts that actually covered more than jazz and had the prose thing going on, rather than the list thing.
But meanwhile, the thesis is at the printer and will be submitted tomorrow! Yay!