[iDC] Michael Jackson and the death of macrofame

davin heckman davinheckman at gmail.com
Fri Jun 26 16:28:27 UTC 2009

In his review essay, "Youth, Neoliberalism, Ethics," Joe Austin poses some
questions that might be relevant to this question of "playbour".  I think
the most compelling aspect of these discussions of social media are their
very indeterminate nature.  Sometimes, they are one thing, sometimes
another.  The sheer lack of hard and fast designations that tends to stifle
more orthodox forms of critique, can themselves become an important site of
critique (as many have pointed out here).  <

But, I do think the overlap between "youth culture" and "playbour" (of which
Christian reminded me through his discussion of Michael Jackson) might offer
a paradigm by which we can understand the power dynamics that govern social
media.  The consideration of youth has long been (in the United States, at
least), that realm which is rigorously policed and reified, characterized as
"playful," but charged with an aura of responsibility.  In effect, the
construction of youth culture itself is the model for playbour.  At times,
youth bear no responsibility for excesses, provided they be incorporated
into some sort of social utility (for example, "children need to play with
Legos to improve spatial reasoning" or "video games improve hand-eye
coordination").  At other times, play rises to the level of moral panic,
particularly when it challenges private property, social norms, etc.

On the one hand, there is cause for concern when we view the prospects for
social media through the historic lens of youth culture, which has been
policed, not in an totalizing way, but with increasing degrees of severity
(consider, for instance, the emergence of "zero tolerance" and "adult
sentencing" approaches to youth, and the racial and economic factors that
overshadow these "tough" approaches).  On the other hand, there is a
demonstrable "resistance" embedded in youth culture which contrasts to norms
of "adult" behavior (but even these distinctions can become more flexible
the higher you go up the economic ladder).

Furthermore, the issue that Austin's article appears in is packed with
articles that might  be of interest to folks on the list:


Davin Heckman
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