We are pleased to invite you to a joint Graduate Colloquium in Music Education and Ethnomusicology Roundtable. The event will take place on Thursday, October 29. We will be hosting a presentation titled Inappropriate and Inarticulate: Public Childhoods, Education, and New Media Poetics by Dr. Tyler Bickford (See below for Tyler's bio). The event begins at 3:30 pm in Room 130 of the Edward Johnson Building, and will be followed by a casual reception.
Inappropriate and Inarticulate: Public Childhoods, Education, and New Media Poetics Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork at an elementary school in New England, this talk explores how schoolchildren produce themselves simultaneously as children and as members of a public through everyday performances of mass media texts. Because elementary school’s pedagogical emphasis on literacy and communication already privileges expressivity as a field of action, expressive repertoires from 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. By contrast with literacy education’s decontextualized, monologic, and non-indexical modes of essayist writing and Interaction-Response-Evaluation classroom routines, children’s everyday performances reveal distinctive poetic registers linked to digital technology and entertainment media that emphasize intimacy, interactivity, and embodied indexicality: “inappropriateness” and “inarticulateness.”
Kids pass digital music players and earbuds among friends while relishing childish and “inappropriate” lyrics as they participate in a dense overlap of sociable talk, touch, and gesture; they loudly vocalize melodies and sound effects from television, the internet, and video games to disrupt, comment on, or shift the social frame of classroom lessons; and in some cases they refuse language altogether, using their devices’ affordances for showing and sharing to directly replace speech, creatively exploring the possibilities for digitally mediating even present, face-to-face interactions. Putting educational anthropologist Ray McDermott’s account of the social power of “inarticulateness” in dialogue with critical public sphere theory, in this presentation I argue that as children use consumer media to politicize language and expressivity in school, they reimagine the standards of public participation to assert publicness and childishness as mutually constitutive—articulating their intimate childhoods as intrinsically public childhoods—and to pose a publicness based around exuberant sociable consumption as a powerful counter to the hegemony of school’s bureaucratic official publicness.
Tyler Bickford is an assistant professor of children’s literature and childhood studies in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He received his PhD in ethnomusicology from Columbia University in 2011. His research focuses on contemporary children's media and has appeared in WSQ: Women’s Studies Quarterly, Popular Music, Ethnomusicology, and several edited volumes. He is currently writing a book about the children’s music industry.