ERIC Number: EJ841421
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2009-May-1
Reference Count: N/A
2 Professors Rock Out Online to Study Fame--and Us
Young, Jeffrey R.
Chronicle of Higher Education, v55 n34 pA10 May 2009
Most people who stumble across the YouTube video of the self-proclaimed rock star Gory Bateson singing to a scantily clad prostitute in Amsterdam's red-light district probably have no idea that the work is part of a research project--or that the man holding the guitar is a tenured professor. The video has attracted more than 12,000 views and won a few online fans. But it has upset some of the professor's colleagues, who say that whatever this two-minute clip is, it is definitely not academic work. Those colleagues make some good points. But despite this project's oddities and flaws, it suggests a new kind of ethnographic study made possible by online social media. And this singing scholar is not the only professor seeking online fame in hopes of studying the experience. Another one has produced videos shocking enough to get deleted from YouTube. The man in Amsterdam is actually Nick Trujillo, a professor of communication studies at California State University at Sacramento. The project fits into an academic practice called performance studies, in which fiction or music or dance is created to critically explore social issues. By jointly writing the stories of an aging rocker and his groupies, scholars say they are revealing shared cultural memories and social stereotypes. Objections, however, come in several forms. In the halls of his department at Sacramento, he drew complaints from colleagues after he taped to a wall outside his office a picture of his character serenading the prostitute. Another professor filed a grievance against Mr. Trujillo claiming sexual harassment because of a picture he taped in the hallway from one of his videos--a close-up of a dog licking the professor's toes. The professor's off-campus promotional efforts have also sparked a backlash, including charges of violating research ethics. Neil L. Whitehead, a professor of anthropology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison who goes by the stage name Detonator, is also doing an academic project. He studies depictions of sexual violence. He started the band Blood Jewel three years ago as a way to get a new perspective on the culture of goth industrial music--and to propose a new approach to anthropology. The music made by these bands is hardly for everyone. But if the two professors behind them succeed--and convince colleagues that this kind of work can be done in an ethical manner--they may give new meaning to the term "public intellectual."
Descriptors: College Faculty, Musicians, Music, Singing, Reputation, Ethnography, Anthropology, Social Science Research, Music Activities, Adoption (Ideas), Ethics, Violence, Stereotypes, Sexual Harassment
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Higher Education
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Netherlands (Amsterdam)