Racial Vine Comedy

Racial Vine Comedy

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Hey guys! In this video we’re going to  focus on the internet linguistics of   vines and the way in which vines can  be utilized to express racial humor.  We’re actually going to build this entire  discussion off a thesis called, “What,   a Black man can’t have a TV?”: Vine Racial Comedy  as a Sociopolitical Discourse Genre”. This piece   was written by Dr. Kendra Calhoun as her thesis at  UC Santa Barbara in 2016. And one of the reasons  

we’re going to build our knowledge of Vines from  this article is that Dr. Calhoun used discourse   analysis in her study of vines, and so we can use  our exploration of her work to learn more about   how discourse analysis is conducted on internet  languages. I also think it’s great to reference   someone’s thesis work because while Dr. Calhoun  has many other publications since her thesis,   if any of you are watching this video who may be  interested in one day pursuing a master’s degree,   you can see how in-depth a thesis is, as well as  how fun and interesting writing a thesis can be.  

We’re not going to learn everything about  discourse analysis from this review of her thesis,   but once we get to her methodology  and review how she handled her data,   you’ll see a glimpse of discourse analysis that we  haven’t addressed in any of our videos thus far.   Again, to clarify real quick, I’m presenting  to you a lot of Dr. Calhoun’s thesis research,   not all of it, but a bit of it, so I want  to stress giving her the credit for her work   and analysis on this particular topic. I also want  to acknowledge that she quotes a lot of amazing   scholars in her work, especially in her literature  review, so I’m going to provide you a link to Dr.   Calhoun's thesis below in the description  of this video, and I encourage you to take   a look at it when you have time. Ok, let’s get on  with our investigation of racial humor in Vines.  Some of you may be asking yourself what  are “vines”, and that’s a fair question,   because the term actually comes from the name of  a social media platform that only existed between   2012-2017, and towards the end of its existence  was replaced by competing apps such as Snap Chat.  

So “Vine” was a video sharing social media  platform that allowed you to share 6 second   video clips. It is a form of microblogging,  and microblogging is posting short,   frequent posts to a site, which is different from  a blog which involves posting really long posts.   Like Vine - Tumblr, Twitter, Facebook,  Instagram, and the like are all microblogging   platforms. So Vine, again, was a video sharing  platform, and while it wasn’t identical to  

Snapchat and TikTok, those are probably the  most similar apps we have to it this day.  So “internet famous” probably  a phrase you’ve heard before,   is a person who has acquired  their fame through the internet.   So this would be different than someone who  became famous in Hollywood for films they’ve made,   who then decide to join Twitter. “Internet  famous” people are those who got the start  

of their fame from their social media use.  Social media platforms like Vine tend to   favor people who don’t come from the traditional  celebrity system, that system including Hollywood.   On Vine especially, people preferred to  follow the “grass root ‘microcelebrities’”,   so in other words, people that were just regular  people like you and me. People who were relatable.   And some of those “relatable people” have gone on  to become “internet famous”, in Vine and beyond,   such as Zach King who used Vine to create really  awesome illusion tricks, such as these vines   and Thomas Sanders, famous for his “story time”  narrations, such as these vines. Vine was a  

platform that allowed regular people like you and  me to express ideas and share information. So Vine   was unique because it brought to the table what  wasn’t yet available on platforms like Twitter,   which was the use of video. To put it more  simply, the video feature of Vine allowed for Zach   King to present his illusions and magic in a  way that couldn’t be expressed on platforms   that only allowed for stilled images or text.  What we’re highlight here is referred to as  “Technological affordances”. The shortest simplest  definition of this term I can offer is that these   are the way a “platform allows and restricts  content production”, such as their allowances   and restrictions on text, images, and audio.  For example, Twitter has a text character limit,  

so every post has to fit within that affordance,  within that parameter, and the person tweeting   has to think carefully and intentionally about  this affordance and make narrative decisions   that allow them to communicate their message  while staying within this character parameter.   The searchable hashtag feature found on Twitter,  Instagram, and Facebook, which we just covered   in the prior video, is also an example of a  technological affordance, and we saw in our prior   video that people can use hashtags to promote  causes, also known as “hashtag activism”, so we   know that if we’re going to raise our voices for  a cause that platforms that allow for hashtagging,   platforms that have the technological affordance  of hashtagging, are going to be more suited for   helping spread discourse on social causes, because  we also know that people can click on them and be   taken to the discourse surrounding the cause.  Emojis and typological tone of voice features,   which we’ve covered in other videos, are  also examples of affordances in e-languages.  

Also, hyperlinks are another example of a  technological affordance, so whether or not   the platform even allows you to share links, and  then whether or not those platforms allow you to   hyperlink those links to text or if you have to  just copy and paste the whole link. It is actually   affordances like these, and the fact that a lot  of these are shared features across social media   platforms, that has paved the way for patterns  of discourse that are distinct to e-languages.  Such as [gIfs] or [ʤɪfs], however you want  to pronounce them, which stands for “graphics   interchange format”. These are 1-5 second video  clips that look more like images that loop,  

or play repeatedly. There is no audio to them,  only the image, and since there is no audio,   the speech for the GIF is superimposed as text  like subtitling around the image. We can see   GIFS used primarily as reaction responses. Such  as, “my reaction or how I feel when X happens”,  

like this stilled image of a GIF that reads, “my  reaction when I hear KPOP”. However, since the use   of GIFs have become so widespread, people now no  longer need to include the textual explanation or   textual disclaimer for the GIF to make sense, for  it to achieve the intended message and purpose.   Now we can just post the looping image and the  expression or body language in the GIF does   all the communicating for us without the text.  GIFs have a “unique ability to capture and isolate  

bodily gesture…bringing…the meanings [otherwise]  carried so powerfully and elegantly through   bodily actions” in face-to-face communication  back into what is otherwise a text-based mode   of communication.” Put shortly, GIFS  bring body language to e-language! So,   the ability to isolate video clips and loop  them is a technological affordance of GIFS.  But back to Vine. Vine had the affordance  of video, which is what, at the time,   made it different than other social media  platforms. Video clips could be 6 seconds long,  

and the affordance of video meant that creators  has choices to make in terms of special effects,   like filters that they could apply, or had to make  choices with things like costumes and setting.   Since the platform had the affordance of  audio, people had to make choices about music   and narration, and scripts. Another affordance  was text, so here people had to make choices   about the title of their piece and if they wanted  subtitling or a description for their video,   and alongside their text, they had to make choices  about what was going to be text versus what was   going to be audio, such as something in their  audio script versus something in their video   text description. Vine also had the affordance  of emojis which as you know can influence the   tone of a message. People could also use hashtags,  such as #tbt meaning “throwback Thursday” to index   their posting and give it context. So, all in all,  there were a lot of technological affordances to  

consider, and these ultimately set the boundaries  and the rules of discourse in this media space. In   fact, “viners” had to know how to navigate these  affordances, they had to have production knowledge   unique to vine in order to compress a message  into 6 seconds, which of course is going to   follow different production rules then having an  unlimited amount of video time and textual space,   or the production rules of other social  media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.  So, having a better understanding of these  technological affordances and the discourse   of Vines, we can jump into our main person of  interest today and that is Andrew Bachelor,   known better as King Bach. Now at the time  that Dr. Calhoun completed her thesis,  

King Bach was the most followed Viner on Vine.  His vines were particularly interesting because he   had the ability to share sociopolitical ideologies  alongside comedy and humor, what is formally known   as “sociopolitical humor”, and he did all of this,  quite successfully, within the constraints of   Vine’s technological affordances. We’ll jump into  a definition of “sociopolitical humor” in just a   second, but first, let’s take a quick look at a  few examples of King Bach’s work. So let’s now   look at what we mean by “sociopolitical humor”. Sociopolitical ideologies include historical,   social, and political ideas that  surround sociocultural differences,   such as gender, religion, nationality, and race.  So “sociopolitical humor” is humor that makes fun   of these ideas and ideologies. And there are two  types. First, there is hegemonic sociopolitical  

comedy. And this is humor that favors the status  quo, so this type of humor promotes stereotypes of   marginalized people groups. This doesn’t only  have to do with race, but we’ll focus on that   as part of our investigation in this video, so an  example of hegemonic sociopolitical comedy would   be the presentation of the Latina housekeeper  on the show Family Guy, who is always portrayed   as having a limited English proficiency. So  this type of sociopolitical comedy reinforces   the stereotype of Hispanics not being competent in  the English language, this humor favors the status   quo, meaning it favors ideas in our society about  this particular minority group. Conversely, we   have anti-hegemonic sociopolitical comedy, which  “contradicts or complicates hegemonic stereotypes   by constructing alternative narratives...”  Basically, they’re calling out the majority   by highlighting the other side of the  conversation, all under the mask of comedy.  

And, again, we’re focusing on race, so in regards  to race, we’ve traditionally seen this type   of humor in black stand-up comedians, and on  shows like the Chappelle show and Key & Peele,   people who use anti-hegemonic sociopolitical  comedy to represent minority groups and   challenge the misled ideologies in our  society. And what our author, Dr. Calhoun,   wants to investigate is how this is the type  of comedy is used in King Bach’s work on Vine.  So Dr. Calhoun wanted to explore King Bach’s  use of sociopolitical comedy on Vine, which is   referred to as “vine racial comedy” - a unique  genre of racial humor that had emerged on Vine.   To do this, she collected a dataset of  30 of King Bach’s vines, all of which   engaged in humor around race and ethnicity.  Dr. Calhoun wanted to explore how King Bach was  

able to use Vine as a medium for expressing  and challenging sociopolitical ideologies,   because given the affordances of Vine, the  technological affordances, King Bach’s methods   would be quite different than the methods that  could be used by stand-up comedians, or skit   shows like Key & Peele. So in order to be able  to see these complexities and to understand how   King Bach was able to achieve his messages inside  the context of Vine, part of Dr. Calhoun’s work   involved performing a discourse analysis. So we’ve  eluded to discourse analysis in other videos, and   we even practiced a little discourse analysis in  an assignment on #blacklivesmatter, but now we’re   going to see a little more of the methodology  that goes into analyzing language in context.  A discourse analysis is a through exploration of  language, context, and practice. So Calhoun began   by taking detail notes of key features following  her own framework which consisted of indexing   first, the metadata, so the captions/titles of  the vine, any hashtags included after the title,   and the date the video was posted. Secondly,  summarizing the main idea, or point of the joke.  

Thirdly, noting the linguistic features, such as  the speakers’ dialects, use of slang, etc. and   fourthly, looking at relevant effects or editing,  such as background music or costume changes.  She also noted the characters and their roles  in each Vine, taking note of the demographic   information, the roles they played (such as a  cop, or a friend), and whether or not characters   were based on racial or social stereotypes. Now because the study included audio-visual data   rather than just audio data, which would be  like listening to an audio recording only,   she also had to note and transcribe non-speech  features, which included non-linguistic features,   such as body movement, facial expressions,  and hand gestures, and features that were   unique to the “story telling” or context, such as  costumes, background scenery, and scene changes.  In addition to all the aforementioned items,  she then had to transcribe the oral data,   so the speech. Now transcribing speech for  a discourse analysis, doesn’t mean we just   write out what someone has said. So for example,  a transcription of a line from one of King Bach’s  

videos wouldn't simply be, “What a black man  can’t have a TV?” That’s only the start because   there is so much more to speech than just WHAT  is said. HOW it is said it also important. So   we want to be able to transcribe the tone, stress,  and pitch, for example. To do this, she utilized   some pretty standard transcription conventions  in linguistics by Du Bois and company, and these   transcription conventions allowed her to really  investigate the oral speech. So in using these   transcription methods, we now have “What=<rising  pitch> a ^Black man can't have a TV?</>”   which is much different than “What a black man  can’t have a TV?” So let’s take a look at an   example of one of her transcriptions following all  the data handling methodology we just reviewed.  So we’re going to look at the vine, “Getting out  of situations using the race card”, and we can   see that she has taken note of the metadata at the  top, and proceeds to breakdown the initial frames   of the clip following her framework. She notes the  speakers’ initials in the second column and in the  

third column she explore the scene’s context. She  notes that there are “two white police officers   standing in a parking lot outside of a building”  and also “two Black men carrying a television out   of building into parking lot, wearing Tshirts  and shorts”. She then notes that one of the   characters points to two other characters and says  “Wha:t're you do:in.” And notice specifically that   she transcribes the speech to say, “What're  you doin’.” and not “What are you doing?”   And this distinction is important for those that  really want to explore language in context because   the creator of this clip, King Bach, intentionally  scripted this line to read a certain way.  

The two characters then “stop walking” and the  camera does a “close-up on angry faces”. Ok,   so let’s now refer to the actual clip and  see how this transcription matches up.   Ok we’re going to watch it again but this  time I’m only going to let you watch the   part that aligns with this first part of the  transcription. It is interesting to see how   much transcription has to go into analyzing just  one second of an eight second clip in order to   serve Dr. Calhoun in her research objective. I  also want to highlight her transcription of the   actor saying “What're you doin’.” because you  can see that she worked to accurately reflect   the dialect that the actor chose to use, because  in a discourse analysis, these type of details   cannot be overlooked, so you’re going to see us  talk about that point again a little later on. 

We then get to the latter half of her  transcription and see just as much detail   in her analysis of this particular vine clip,  and Dr. Calhoun actually had to do a detailed   transcription like this one for each of the  30 vines that she reviewed. So I’m going   to let the vine clip play on a repeat three  times so you can see the Vine alongside Dr.   Calhoun’s detailed transcription of the data. What does a discourse analysis tell us about   how King Bach’s comedy aligns with sociopolitical  humor? Well, actually a lot, but for the sake of   time, I’m just going to highlight a few features  here, but I encourage you to read her more in   depth summary in her thesis of this particular  vine because she talks about a lot more features   than I can cover in this video. But let’s  highlight some interesting ones. So again Dr.   Calhoun's goal was to investigate how King Bach’s  vine racial comedy reflected sociopolitical humor,   and how he used this unique discourse space to  accomplish that. From the video we’ve reviewed  

together, we can see that King Bach is addressing  several key social issues in this short clip,   the primary themes being the racial profiling and  targeting of black men by police. As viewers, we   can identify this issue immediately in the set-up  where the police officer immediately questions the   black men on what they are doing with the T.V. The officers seemingly hold a position of   authority in this exchange, both in that they  are white and in uniform. It is interesting   though to know that some of this “authority” is  challenged or stripped away as the officer utters,   “What're you doin” in a southern dialect. Recall  how the white cop said “What're you doin’.” in  

a twangy southern voice? This is actually a  crucial element of that character’s portrayal   of a white, southern cop, because it plays  into the ideologies of first, cops being white,   and secondly, the ideologies of southern speakers  of English sounding “slower” or “dumb”. So   while the cops are in positions of authority, that  authority is mocked by the way these cops speak.  King Bach titled this video as, “Getting  out of situations using the race card”.   The title of this piece immediately adds  context to the black man’s reaction,   “What a black man can’t have a tv?” which performs  the speech act of questioning and challenging   the cop’s implied accusations. The cops react to  this “challenge” in a way that reflects society's  

sociocultural discomfort with racial conversations  and racial topics. In addition to the cops feeling   foolish, the cops then attempt to play it cool  and distance themselves from perceptions of racial   profiling as reflected in their speech and  agreeability in the rest of the clip. So   the way the cops are positioned in this story  is what reflects this piece as anti-hegemonic   humor, in that the cops and their actions  portray under-questioned ideologies on   majority groups (in this case white people).  We also see in this same piece how King Bach   incorporates hegemonic humor in the same video. So  on the one hand the video explicitly make funs of   the authority of cops and white people, which is  anti-hegemonic humor, but at the same time plays   into hegemonic humor that reflects ideologies in  society about minorities playing the race card   to get ahead in life, and the fact that in the  end, the two men were actually stealing the TV. 

This intensive study of King Bach’s work  highlighted a few important takeaways. One   of which is that the his work demonstrates the  ability to use online spaces as a way to highlight   social issues that are not necessarily accurately  and adequately covered in mainstream media. And we   saw this also in our video on hashtag activism,  which served a similar purpose. Also compared   to hashtag activism, we know that social media  is a platform that hears all voices, and that   represents marginalized groups of people that are  not often equally represented in mainstream media.   So, social media provides that platform for these  topics to be addressed. An analysis of King Bach’s   comedy also show that “technology’s role in  “reiterating tropes of Blackness in the cultural   arena” (Catanese 2005: 701) is now being critiqued  by Black people themselves, who are using social   media to destabilize these tropes and insert their  own narratives, very often through humor.” Vine  

racial comedy utilizes performance to give voices  to ongoing racial issues and creates an easily   accessible cultural forum for initiating dialogue. Again, I want to ensure that the credit regarding   this presentation is given to Dr. Kendra  Calhoun. This presentation was really just   a simplified review of her thesis, so again,  if you are interested in learning more,   be sure to check out her thesis by going to  the link below in the video. Until next time!

2021-10-05 03:03

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