Tag Archives: Academic

Process Post (Week 6)

This week, we made changes to our website based on peer feedback. I have made a few changes based on Shazia’s post about my website.

First, I have started adding different type of media into my posts. Shazia wrote that a lot of my content was long and wordy, which could be boring to readers. I hadn’t thought about this, and so I found the feedback really helpful. I have added pictures and other media to a few of my posts already, and I plan to continue to mix up what kind of media I am posting. I hope to start creating videos soon as well.

The second thing I have changed is that I added a picture on my About page. I think that just like Shazia said, this will help readers create a more personal connection with me.

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Review of TyrellJohnstone.com

At a first glance, the website TyrellJohnstone.com looks very engaging. I love the boating video, it really goes well with the title of the blog being all about adventuring. Although there is a large video on the homepage, the loading time for the website is still very fast, which I can appreciate. The content he …

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Peer Review 2

This week, I was assigned Shazia Nanji’s blog to review.

My first impression of the website was good. It has pictures and words, but also a good balance of white space. The menu is easy to understand, and not too cluttered. However, I found that the posts that did not have photos attached to them looked slightly disorganized when put next to the posts with photos attached. I think it is important to be consistent in the layout, especially on the home page because it is the first thing people see. Therefore, if the author is going to attach pictures to posts, they need to commit to doing it for every post (or at least the ones that show up on the home page).

The first page I went to was the about page. It was short and sweet, but I did not feel like I got a good sense of the author. I would like to see a bit more detail on this page.

Next, I went to the food page. I liked the layout of the page, but again I think if pictures are attached to one post they need to be attached to all posts (unless the author changes the template/layout of the page).

The other two non-school related pages were empty. Given we are almost halfway through the semester, I would have liked to see a few more posts. The same goes for the page dedicated to Pub 101. The author is missing a few of the posts we’ve been assigned.

Overall, I like the website. However, I would like to see consistency in the layout. Therefore, I think the author should either fully commit to photos attached to all posts, or get rid of them entirely and choose a  new layout.

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Process Post (Week 5)

In general, I have been imagining my audience as roughly 16 to 22 year olds. In addition, I’m guessing that my audience will start off as mostly females. However, as I continue to age, I imagine that my audience will age as well, and hopefully also begin to include males.

In order to satisfy my adolescent/young adult audience, I am trying to create a modern, simple blog. However, I also have a few pops of colors (I would like to have more). Finally, I have a lot of “relatable” content. That is, much of my content focuses on current pop culture and “main stream” information. I think that this will increase the readership of my blog.

Moving forward, I would like to consult some of my peers on the appearance of my website, and ask for suggestions on how to make it better. Hopefully the peer review this week will help.

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Process Post 4

Reflection of the past couple weeks: Designing my blog has been a very time-consuming process. I am still not fully happy with my themes. This week I have been playing around to see if I can change to a different theme, but surprisingly I have stuck with my original. I like the way the category …

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Children, Screen Time & Social Media

Originally written for CMNS 110 at Simon Fraser University.

As Marshall McLuhan once said, “we shape our tools and afterwards, our tools shape us”. Now, as we move into Generation Z, this is truer than ever. Generation Z is the set of people born between 2000 and 2020. It is also the first generation of children born directly into the world of screen time and social media. Because of this, we are beginning to see how the modern technology we have created is shaping us—both positively and negatively. More specifically, how is it negatively impacting the children of Generation Z? In this paper, I will be exploring the adverse effects that an early introduction to screen time and social media have on children. Specifically, I will be researching the physiological, psychological, and social impacts.

Although technology is still new in our society, we are already beginning to experience the negative impacts of it. Specifically, children are being physically affected by excessive hours of screen time. In China, a study was done on over 19,000 school-aged children to determine the relationship between technology use and sleep behavior. The study found that media use was “positively correlated with later bed times, later awakening times, and a shorter duration of sleep during weekdays and weekends” (Li). This correlation is most likely a result of the children’s melatonin levels. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the brain to regulate an individual’s sleep and wake patterns. As it becomes darker, the levels of melatonin in an individual’s brain rise and therefore cause the individual to fall asleep. However, it has been proven that after exposure to “self-luminous electronic devices”, our melatonin levels decrease (Figueiro). Therefore, when children use technology before bed, they are likely to have issues sleeping. Further evidence of the correlation between melatonin levels and screen time can be seen in a text by Aric Sigman. According to him, “researchers have recently reported that when children aged 6-12 were deprived of their TV sets, computers and video games, their melatonin production increased by an average 30%” (Sigman). This further affirms the argument that screen time before bed negatively impacts children’s sleep. Screen time can also have a negative impact on children’s vision. According to Gary Heiting and Larry Wan, staring at a screen strains a child’s eyes because it forces the child’s “vision system” to focus more than any other task (Heiting). This can put children at a higher risk for developing vision problems.

In addition to the physical consequences, children also experience psychological consequences due to excessive screen use. According to a 2015 study by the nonprofit group Common Sense Media, children are spending six hours a day consuming media (Willet). However, a majority of this time is spent on social media. Therefore, when talking about screen time, we are also talking about social media use. Nevertheless, both social media and other types of screen time have psychological effects on children. In 2016, the journal of Anxiety Disorders Association of America published a study that linked depression with social media use (Willet). In the researching world, they use the term “Facebook depression” to describe this phenomenon. Researchers define it as a depression that develops when children and adolescents spend a large portion of their time on social media sites, and then begin to exhibit symptoms of depression (O’Keeffe). This phenomenon may be a consequence of cyberbullying. According to Gwenn O’Keeffe, cyberbullying is defined as “deliberately using digital media to communicate false, embarrassing, or hostile information about another person”. Sadly, it has been proven that cyberbullying is the “most common online risk” for children and adolescents (O’Keeffe). If cyberbullying continues to be a problem for today’s youth, children will continue to develop mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression. This will hinder their ability to live normal lives.

Finally, social media and screen time have an extremely adverse effect on children socially. Although technology was created to better connect our society, it has done the opposite for children. Children are becoming disconnected from their peers and their family because they are spending most of their time staring at a screen. According to Liraz Margalit, “the brain’s frontal lobe is the area responsible for decoding and comprehending social interactions”. However, the frontal lobe goes through a critical developmental period during early childhood. Therefore, if children are spending their time on computers, tablets, and smart phones instead of interacting and building friendships, their social skills will be hindered. In addition to impacting friendship development, an early addiction to technology can have impacts on a child’s family relationships. Instead of communicating with their parents, children are immersing themselves in the online world. This is causing parents to feel disconnected from their children and vice versa. A study found that “children who spent considerable time on a popular social networking sites indicated that they felt less supported by their parents” (Taylor). If a parent-child relationship is unhealthy early on in a child’s life, it can have long-term consequences for a child socially. According to Lisa Firestone, the attachment style you develop as a child is based on “your relationship with a parent or early caretaker”. An attachment style is a psychological attempt to describe the dynamics of an individual’s short-term and long-term relationships. Usually, children who have healthy relationships with their parents at a young age will go on to have a healthy, secure attachment style. On the other hand, unhealthy parent-child relationships can lead to several unhealthy attachment styles, such as anxious preoccupied, dismissive avoidant, and fearful avoidant (Firestone). Therefore, if a child does not develop a healthy relationship with their parents at a young age, their ability to develop healthy romantic and platonic relationships later in life will be severely impacted.

Although there is a plethora of negative impacts connected to screen time, social media and children, there are also many arguments in favor of technology use by children. For example, research has shown that “engaging in various forms of social media” is an activity shown to benefit children by “enhancing communication, social connection, and even technical skills” (O’Keeffe). What’s more, it allows children to engage in their community, build an individual identity, and increase their creativity. Because humans are social creatures, these skills are extremely important. They allow us to build relationships that are crucial to our social growth and mental health. Therefore, many people argue that screen time is an essential part of a child’s development. These people justify their opinion with research, like that done by Lauren Jelenchick, which found no link between social media use and clinical depression.

In the early days of modern technology, we saw our society as better connected and more advanced. But this was in a generation of adults who had just began to be introduced to it. Generation Z is the first generation to be born into the world of modern technology. As Generation Z grows, we are creating more humans who do not know a world without smartphones, tablets, and social media. Because of this, we are finally seeing the longer-term physiological, psychological, and social impacts that screen time and social media are having on children. Specifically, screen time and social media are taking a toll on their sleep, vision, mental health, and relationships. Although the negative impacts of technology have just recently begun to be a problem, if they are not fixed we could end up with a generation of adults who have more difficulty connecting socially due to their overreliance on technology. In addition, they will likely be more impacted my mental illness. Therefore, the time children spend on screens should be limited and monitored, so that the negative impacts of technology can be kept to a minimum.

Works cited provided below.

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Process Post (Week 4)

This week, we looked at some of our classmate’s websites. As a homework assignment, we were asked to pick a website and analyze it to find the parts that work and don’t work. I decided to choose the SFU Canvas page, because it is a website I frequently visit.

At first glance, the site is appealing to the eyes. It uses bright colors to distinguish the different classes. In addition, there is a side bar with menu options. I appreciate the fact that it is an image/icon based menu. However, sometimes I forget which icon means what. For a first time user, this could be frustrating. I would suggest that the creator of the website add words to the menu.

Going deeper into the site, I do not have many objections. However, when opening files that are supplied by our teachers, I often find that Canvas opens a large blank rectangle in addition to the desired file. This is not a huge deal, but it can be a nuisance.

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Peer Review #1

The first Peer Review of Pub 101 is upon us!

This blog is called My Syrian Blog. I love the simplicity of the name, and the layout is beautiful! I love the mix between the English and Arabic alphabets, and I think it’s a beautiful way to represent what the blog is about.

The home page says “by @SyriaWeekly”; I am unsure if that’s a Twitter handle or and Instagram, but I looked at the Instagram under that handle and it appears to be a great Instagram with an awesome following (11.2k followers)! If this is your Instagram, I’d love to see some of that content and creative imagery on your blog.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much to comment on as there haven’t been many posts yet. The about me section is super short… tell us a little bit about yourself! Your name, major, and interests might be a good start? What makes you, you.

There is a post called ’10 Beautiful Things About Syria’, but I was sad to see that there was no content attached to the title. I don’t know very much about Syria, and would love to hear your ‘Top 10s’ about it! I’m sure you have some stuff in mind, but maybe sightseeing, food finds, and so on would be great things to read about. Favourite clothing stores and things to do as well in the area that you lived in (or travelled to?) could be an awesome read!

I saw the first process post on this blog – I think it’s such a great concept! I agree that there is a lot of bad news about Syria, and that the beautiful parts about the country often get overlooked. I’m excited to see you bring more knowledge and insight about your country!

I’m not able to make a comment on your online self with only one post, but I love that you’ve chosen a topic that seems close to your heart. Developing a voice is a great step, which I believe you’ve started to do, but keep writing! I think the blog has potential to be extremely interesting and uplifting, but I need to see more first.

 

This blog can be found at
http://mysyrianblog.com

Review of RemyJune.com

RemyJune.com is a refreshing take on a music & lifestyle blog through the eyes of a girl living in Vancouver. My very first impressions of Remy’s blog was that it looked quite similar to mine. I can appreciate the minimalist aesthetic. I like that she has used and accentuated the white space without trying to …

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Peer Review 1

This week, we were each assigned a peer’s website so we could give them feedback. I was asked to review Mustafa Dewji’s website.

At first look, I loved the website. It is similar to mine in that it is simple and easy to navigate. However, having color only in the posts was slightly disappointing. Personally, I am more entertained and satisfied with simple websites that still have creative and artistic designs. Another thing I would improve on the overall aesthetics of the website is the side bar. I was not a fan of it only consisting of words, and it did not add anything to the webpage. I would like to see it be vamped up or removed.

As I continued to look through the site, I found some interesting articles. One was about a band and one was about long exposure photography. However, I only found two process posts and two blog posts. By this week, were expected to have 3 of each. I found that the lack of content made the website a bit more boring. This was because it did not keep me engaged for very long. On the other hand, the content that has been shared I enjoyed a lot. The author did a good job of being clear and concise while still engaging their audience. I especially enjoyed the post about long-exposure photography. It was fascinating for me to see the media that another person had created. The photography was beautiful and gave me an inside look at the author. Since the point of the website is to create a personal infrastructure, I think the post about long exposure photography was a great choice. As far as the process posts, I would have liked a little more information. The author only focused on one component of each class, and did not elaborate as much as I believe they could have. Nevertheless, I understood their decision to create clear and concise process posts. The next place I went on the website was the about section. I enjoyed reading a little bit about the other, however I would have loved to know just a little bit more. Overall, though, it was a good, quick introduction.

All in all, I found Mustafa’s website to be a great start. I think that with some work, the website will improve a great amount and may even become a website that I read in my free time.

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Process Post 3

The article How I Got My Attention Back by Craig Mod has quite a pessimistic view of social media and smartphones in general. It contradicts exactly what I was assigned to do for this class and in the creation of this blog with my online self, and that is a little uncomfortable for me. The …

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Why I Love To Stay Busy And So Should You!

I have been a student for the majority of my life, I’d like to think I’m sort of an expert on how to manage myself and learn to love the busy life! Being a student is a very time demanding lifestyle: you have papers to write, readings to do, tests to study for. It’s a …

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Process Post 2

I want my cyberinfrastructure to include many different aspects of myself. I’m an active, engaged student who loves shopping, coffee, cats and pretty things. Depending on the platform, I want to portray small elements of each side of my personality. This does not mean that each side is a different person, I have many pieces …

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Forged In Peaceful Differentiation: The History and Evolution of Folk Music Culture in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Century

Music has the capacity to change the way we see the world. At its core, it has arguably more universal ability to evoke emotion than any other art form available. Many find refuge through music. Many find excitement, solace and inspiration for their own daily lives through the complex melodies hitting their eardrums – a notion that has been around for centuries and spans across most, if not all worldwide civilizations. The genre of folk has stood the test of time throughout history, with many different cultures creating unique definitions of the word through their own interpretations of musical communication. In the twentieth century however, folk music began to gain momentum towards becoming a cornerstone of the rapidly expanding music spectrum in Western culture.

Through the act of strumming a guitar and crooning a simple combination of melodies and lyrics, an unfathomable number of new genres were born. The emotional connectivity and intimacy of the performances appealed to a demographic of individuals seeking a sense of relatability and authenticity within their choices of music and with such technological innovations such as the record player becoming more widespread, these songs were able to reach listeners on a scale much larger than ever before. Before the infiltration of mass marketing, political opposition and genre fragmentation there was the humble practice of presenting one’s emotions through song – the core of this practice becoming the pinnacle of authenticity that would constantly be pursued by many of the subsequent folk artists to come. Rodnitzky (1999) states that when the great Pete Seeger was asked to define folk as a genre, he replied saying,

“If folks sing them, they’re folk songs.”(p.105).

The notion of storytelling through song has long been one favoured by the traditional definition of folk music across a spectrum of cultures and continues to be a factor imperative in securing a proper place amongst the ranks of iconic folk songs.

The revitalization of folk music in Western culture came at a time where individuals belonging to a society that emphasized conformity and compliance spurred on a phase of creative revolutions that gave way to some of the most profound musical movements in history. The notion of using music to appeal to the masses, project a message of opposition and seek a greater sense of authenticity is something the world of folk has been able to boast more prominently above the rest.

The following pages will dive the folk revival period of the twentieth century and into the modern music built out of the genre spanning from the early 1940’s into present day.

In this paper I will explore the evolution of folk music as it relates to certain ideologies of authenticity and comments on mainstream music culture. Furthermore, I will argue that folk music, even through evolving digital advancements and changing consumption patterns, exists as a commentary and opposition to the generic elements of mainstream music culture.

 ~

Folk Revival

The early part of the twentieth century’s entertainment landscape created an emphasis on big band, orchestral and spectacularly theatrical genres of sound to maintain the spotlight when it came to the musical tendencies of the masses. The era of post-WWII paved the way for a new stripped-down version of music to become more readily available, a banner marking the beginning of a series of sociocultural movements signifying the rejection of conformity among a society that swayed towards tradition.

Cohen et al. (2014) describe the beginning of this revival, discussing how folk music played a role in the 1950’s cultural shift, with many wrongly characterizing this era as “the bland leading the bland.” They go on to discuss how folk, along with other variations of rock and roll such as rockabilly, doo-wop, country and rhythm and blues were all large parts of the ubiquitous counterculture beginning to emerge following the Second World War and eventually gaining more traction towards the explosion of musical counterculture during the Cold War era (p.3).

With artists such as Woody Guthrie and Lead Belly paving the way for the acoustic guitar and lyrics pairing to gain prominence, the folk scene was quickly beginning to develop a growing community of followers and churning out a repertoire of songs with such a depth, that they continue to be covered and redone today. Lead Belly’s versions of ‘Goodnight Irene’ and ‘House of the Rising Sun’ embody what folk purists might describe as core examples of authentic music and have remained incredibly iconic to both listeners and fellow folk icons – with both songs being covered by bands such as The Weavers and The Animals, respectively.

circa 1935: Promotional portrait of American blues musician Huddie ‘Leadbelly’ Ledbetter (1889 – 1949) playing a 12-string guitar and singing. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Guthrie with guitar labeled “This machine kills fascists” (1943) (Photo from Wikipedia Commons)

Additionally, Cohen et al. (2014) provide an example towards the first conceptions of the protest song coming to fruition, through the medium of folk music, around the latter part of the 1940’s. They state, “In late 1945, (Pete) Seeger, fresh out of the military, formed ‘People’s Songs’ with a group of left-wing musicians, such as Woody Guthrie, which promoted a musical agenda supporting labour unions, civil rights, economic justice and world peace.” (p.15).

This type of organization towards the concept of peaceful protest through music would only be a small taste of what was to come in terms of the genre becoming a beacon of oppositional power. The fifties established a standard of what folk music was supposed to bring to the table in terms of formal structure, but allowed for the genre to constantly revamp itself, eventually into a vessel for change and social revolution.

As the ball kept rolling and the folk community began to realize the influx of popularity that came with instilling a sense of authenticity within the listener, there was an expectation of what the medium was to bring to the table in terms of artistry.

The classic string instrument, microphone, voice and lyrics cocktail was something of an established tradition within folk music culture as it drifted into the 1960’s. However, the historically telling aspect of folk culture is that it is constantly challenging the norm. The paradoxical effect of a culture pushing the envelope of change while upholding a preconceived notion that the music should stay ‘pure to it’s roots’ was exactly what it took to create such a controversy over Bob Dylan’s iconic performance at the 1965 Newport Folk Music festival.

At this point in time, halfway into the sixties and seeing music as an absolute force to be reckoned with when it came to lighting the flame of oppositional social activism, it boasts somewhat ironic to see just how shaken up the folk community could become at the slightest modification of musical ‘norms’.

When Dylan took the stage in 1965, the crowd turned to chaos when he cast his typical acoustic troubadour persona aside and began to play ‘Maggie’s Farm’ with an electric guitar a full band accompanying him. The audience, accustomed to seeing Dylan with no more than a microphone, harmonica and an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest, were thrown into what Wald (2015) describes as a “maelstrom of conflicting impressions.” He discusses the night further by referencing a New York Times piece stating that Dylan was “roundly booed by folk-song purists, who considered this innovation the worst sort of heresy.” Additionally, Wald claims that in several accounts of the story, “Pete Seeger, the gentle giant of the folk scene, tried to cut the sound cables with an axe. Some people were dancing, some were crying, many were dismayed and angry, many were cheering, many were overwhelmed by the ferocious shock of the music or astounded by the negative reactions (Par. 2).

Dylan goes electric at the 1965 Newport Folk Festival
(Photo retrieved from www.thenewportbuzz.com)

This type of commotion alone highlights just how much American folk artists had begun to etch themselves into the timeline of music history. Moreover, it brings to light the paradoxical effects that came with an audience so devoted to a genre built on change and revitalisation, but refusing to accept any modifications towards the standards of music set out by a handful of iconic artists at the time.

Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2010) cite music critic Robert Palmer, stating, “What Dylan in 1965 managed to do was blast himself free from the intellectual complacency of the folk scene while daring the rock fans to listen [to the lyrics]” (p.28)

The musical landscape was shifting so rapidly and so dynamically that the notion of inspiring change through such a powerful force became the forefront of youth culture in the 1960’s. With folk artists gaining popularity in the times leading up to the sixties, once the presidential epochs of Lyndon Johnson/Richard Nixon and the Vietnam War took hold, they quickly became a beacon to a demographic of frustrated and unsettled masses, seeking a way to provoke change and oppose the powers of government.

~

Protest Through Song

Youth culture during the 1960’s had become a force unlike anything society in modern Western culture had seen prior. The small post-war grace period was over, industrialization and the pressure to a build a life upon a direction of compliancy was no longer something the up-and-coming generation was willing to tolerate.

The children of the baby-boomers were either on the cusp of, or had reached adulthood and most prominently, the United States government’s escalation of the movement to fight communism in Vietnam had provided a massive catalyst for the launch of music as a way to counter violence and oppression.

Candaele (2012) describes this phenomenon, stating that “youth ‘counterculture’ carved out new spaces for experimentation and alternative views about what constituted a good society, while a New Left made up of civil rights and anti-war activists developed as the war in Vietnam dragged out and became increasingly bloody, confounding, and ultimately unpopular (Par. 6).

Folk music had gained such a vast audience through the sheer amount of emotion evoked during such a tumultuous time, that the community had begun to stray away from creating music to counter the generic aspects of pop culture and towards creating anthems leading the masses into a frenzy of social, political and cultural change.

Poster for the April 17th, 1965 March On Washington
(Photo retrieved from: www.michiganintheworld.history.lsa.umich.edu)

Protests, marches and picketing were on the rise all across college campuses, and eventually branching out into the general American public. The youth of America had began to shift their focus onto voicing their opposition towards the acts of what they interpreted as senseless violence, particularly hitting closer to home due to the implementation of a conscription process for the men belonging to this generation of opposers.

Carr-Wilcoxson (2010) discusses one particular showing of protest at the Washington Monument on April 17th 1965, when over twenty thousand civilians arrived to show their solidarity against the war effort, most notably including folk icons such as Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Phil Ochs. The singing of era anthems such as “We Shall Overcome” and diplomatic attempts at anti-bombing negotiations marked this event as one of many sizeable organizations for peace throughout the years that would follow (p.28-29).

Moreover, songs such as “Blowin’ In the Wind” and Bob Dylan’s “The Times They Are A-Changin’” directly address the prevalent issue of conflict in succinct and authentic terms, allowing for listeners and fellow artists alike to latch onto the words and drive their cause further through the inspiration that was being handed to them:

Come gather around people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You’ll be drenched to the bone
And if your breath to you is worth saving
Then you better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changing

-Bob Dylan, 1964

 

Dylan’s poetic patterns of song writing allowed for not only previously established fans of folk music to identify with the call to change in songs like this one, but also created a sense of emotional authenticity and relatability that was easily taken on to define a generation of peaceful – yet forceful – anti-war involvement.

As Hillstrom and Hillstrom-Collier (2012) explain, “these songs did not just react to events, they actually inspired new actions and levels of participation in the anti-war and civil rights movement.” (p.23)

Taking the protest song movement even a step further, was the song “For What It’s Worth” By Buffalo Springfield:

 

There’s battle lines being drawn
Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong
Young people speaking their minds
Getting so much resistance from behind

-Buffalo Springfield, 1966

 

Highlighted by Carr-Wilcoxson (2010), these lyrics followed by the refrain that sings “I think it’s time we stop, children, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going down,” not only provide a commentary on the goings on of protest culture, but boast the need of awareness into the issues.

The lyrics emphasize a need for goal-oriented opposition, not merely allowing for each side to stand against each other, wave their picket signs and expect change to simply come as it may (p. 59).

Additionally, the discussion regarding mass gatherings of youth counterculture through music would be a falling short if not to examine the 1969 phenomenon that was Woodstock. The iconic three-day music and arts festival held on a dairy farm in the town of Bethel, New York, brought to the stage some of the most iconic rock and folk artists of that time, singing their songs of social change and defining the era of non-conformity through loud music, free love, mind-altering drugs and togetherness.

“The ‘counterculture’ emphasis on ‘doing your own thing’ and rejecting the ‘uptight’ morality of older generations was in full swing at Woodstock (Hillstrom, Hillstrom-Collier, 2010, p.74). With folk acts like Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing alongside rock legends such as Jimi Hendrix, The Who and Santana, the festival was the ultimate gathering of some of the iconic talent that defined a generation of change.

Jimmy Hendrix performs for thousands at Woodstock 1969
(Photo retrieved from woodstock.com)

The sixties and early seventies brought some of the most massive and influential social revolutions of the twentieth century. The groundbreaking method of using song as one of the most forceful catalysts for activism was not a new concept, however it grew to a level unseen before this time. An era of non-conformity matched with a level of political unrest and distrust from one of the biggest demographics of that time created a new use for folk music – to speak the truth of the people, provide a non-violent vehicle for political opposition and to contribute to the revitalisation of youth counterculture as a whole.

~

Modern-day Folk and Musical Subcultures

Almost fifty years after the golden age of folk, the mainstream concept of music has shifted substantially. Gone are the days of young Dylan and Baez inspiring thousands to rise up against the oppressive institutions and gone are the days where only a small handful of artists, boasting an even smaller repertoire of folk-inspired genres, ruled the popular music scene. A sense of authenticity and intimacy no longer seems to be valued in today’s popular music scene, with factors such as mass commercialization, digitization and genre fragmentation contributing to their downfall.

However, as it always has, folk music has learned to adapt with its circumstances and take on a new set of standards and values. Although the mass influence of protest music and folk singers gaining legions of fans may no longer be the norm, folk music and the demographics that consume it have figured out ways to maintain the sense of authentic emotional connectivity with the songs, lyrics and artists that create them.

Musical subcultures have been around since musicians had desire for uniqueness and listeners had ability to demand choice. McGwin (2013) discusses musical subcultures in a sense that they are “acting as a solution to a problem or contradiction in the dominant culture, and served as a way for its members to resist through ritual and style” (p.1). Although this notion of counterculture is not nearly new, the difference between the sixties and today is that folk music is no longer striving to resist political power, but is instead striving to counter the generic, mass consumer culture attached to much of today’s pop music.

Over the last half-century, the shift in digital technology has been astounding. The patterns of rapid introduction and replacement of old technologies has been a massive contributor to the changing landscape of music production, with the main form of music playing technology becoming almost obsolete every ten to fifteen years. From records to tapes, from tapes to CDs and from CDs to file sharing and digitally downloaded content, the music industry and genres within it have had to fight to adapt in order to remain relevant.

In today’s media market, music is no longer something that remains tangible in the same ways it was back in the days of obtaining albums by simply walking down to the local record shop. We can be selective about the content we want, we can select songs individually to add to our repertoire and we can access all of this for free via the many copyright evading loopholes that file sharing provides.

This, in addition to the ever-growing emphasis on consumer culture, had contributed to the mass commercialization of popular artists. Meier (2006) notes that within this social climate of consumer culture, many mainstream artists have taken on co-marketing strategies for themselves and they products they align themselves with.

The use of mediums such as television to advertise products, all the while promoting the faces and music of mainstream performers as a brand for the product, provide a marketing cycle financially beneficial for both the artist and the big corporations (p. 55). This type of cross promotion has become wildly prevalent in modern music, creating a culture built upon emphasizing capitalist promotion of products over emotional connectivity and authentic content.

Furthermore, content is being created and churned out so frequently that musicians now have to fight to stay relevant. In a culture that upholds the process of constantly searching for the next best thing, it can be next to impossible to maintain an attentive and devoted group of followers when the content is generic and easily replicated like many pop songs are.

This is where subcultures come in. Over the decades, subcultures have existed in opposition to something – whether that’s to a system of power, a set of constructed values or even another genre of music.

As aforementioned, the subculture of folk music no longer relies on political resistance as the forefront of their audience appeal. By upholding similar standards of authenticity however, they have managed to maintain a sort of refuge from the tendencies of disconnect that can come with generic, mass produced mainstream music.

Although the digitization of music culture has created widespread fragmentation within the genre itself, the folk community has managed to take this in stride by widening the boundaries of what can be defined within it.

Modern-day troubadour Gregory Alan Isakov bringing a mix of haunting melodies and meaningful lyrics reminiscent of the legends of the past
(Photo by: Blue Caleel, retrieved from: gregoryalanisakov.com)

 

Additionally, with much more of the population straying towards pop music and consumer-directed content, folk music has learned to adapt to smaller fan bases by maintaining the sense of intimacy through performing. Smaller venues, crowds and followings may have come with the effects genre fragmentation, but if a community devoted to avoiding the mainstream wants to stay true to its core values in a digital consumer world, this is sometimes means sacrificing the mass followings that once defined a prior generation of folk artists.

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In conclusion, the last century has brought about a massive shift into what can be defined as folk music. Through the diffusion of genres, the rise of musicians at the forefront of political movements and the digitization of the music industry itself, folk has managed to adapt and remain malleable to the ever-changing landscape of musical expectations.

It has inspired the creative processes of thousands, thrived as a beacon of hope during tumultuous periods of history and provided a cornerstone of counter-culture within a world so devoted to exploiting music for its consumer properties.

Although it is not to say that the folk community had not resisted the processes of revitalisation in the past, as devotees occasionally have had the propensities to cause a commotion over breaking a set of standards set out by a small handful of musical pioneers. What has remained true however, is the sense of peaceful opposition the twentieth and twenty-first century folk music has maintained over the course of its lifetime.

Whether it is a differentiation from societal norms, conformist culture, political oppression or mainstream consumer habits, folk music has upheld its values of fighting closed-mindedness and resisting power. A sense of authenticity within both the musician and the listener comes from the place of intimate emotional connectivity that folk music thrives upon and is not something that cannot be branded, mass produced or diminished by anyone who chooses to oppose it.

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Bibliography

Candaele, K. (2012). The Sixties and Protest Music. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.gilderlehrman.org

Cohen, R. D., & Donaldson, R. C. (2014). Roots of the revival: American and British folk music in the 1950s. Urbana: Univ. of Illinois Press.

Hillstrom, K., & Hillstrom, L. C. (2013). Woodstock. Detroit, MI: Omnigraphics.

McGwin, Katharine, “Music Subcultures Online: The Indie Folk Scene and How Facebook Influences Participation” (2013). Open Access Master’s Theses. Paper 44. http://digitalcommons.uri.edu/theses/44

Meier, L. (2006). In Concert: The Coordination of Popular Music, Youth Practices, and Lifestyle Marketing (Master’s thesis). Simon Fraser University.

Rodnitzky, J. L. (1999). The sixties between the microgrooves: Using folk and protest music to understand American history, 1963–1973. Popular Music and Society,23(4), 105-122.

Wald, E. (2014, July 24). The Night Bob Dylan Went Electric. Time Magazine.