Dr. Janice Waldron is an Associate Professor of Music Education at the University of Windsor; research interests include informal music learning practices, social media and music learning, online music communities, vernacular musics, and participatory cultures. Dr. Waldron is published in Music Education Research, The International Journal of Music Education, Action, Criticism, and Theory in Music Education, The Journal of Music, Education, and Technology, and The Philosophy of Music Education Review and has forthcoming chapters in the Oxford Handbook of Music Education and Technology, The Routledge Companion of Technology and Music Education, and the Oxford Handbook of Community Music. She also serves on the Editorial Boards of The International Journal of Music Education, The Journal of Music, Education, and Technology, Action, Criticism, and Theory in Music Education, and T.O.P.I.C.S. in Music Education and is a reviewer for Music Education Research. Dr. Waldron was named the 2012 “Outstanding Researcher: Emerging Scholar” at the University of Windsor.
Old Beliefs in New Bottles: Questioning 20th Century Assumptions About 21st Century Music Practices
The rapid pace of technological change over the last decade, particularly in relation to social media and network connectivity, has deeply affected the ways in which we interact socially (and musically) among individuals, groups, and institutions to the point that it has become difficult to grasp what it would be like to lose access to this everyday aspect of modern life. To paraphrase William Gibson, “the future is with us now, only spread around thinly.” Although Gibson wasn’t referencing music (and music making) specifically, his words aptly describe current 21st century music making (and music learning and teaching) practices. Like the fish that can’t perceive the water in which it swims, neither can we easily comprehend the importance of digital technology and communication in our daily lives. Because of technology’s all encompassing pervasiveness, it’s also not easy to recognize the implications of the challenges it brings either. Which brings me to the point of this essay, the purpose of which is to critique the below two questions derived from MayDay Action Ideal VIII:
1) Given the pervasive use of digital technology and communication, how do we integrate alternatives; for example, acoustic, live, hands-on, face-to-face, and culturally situated interactive music making, as an essential component of human cooperation and community?
2) How can we use contemporary media and technology to empower people to assert their own local and personal identities, and to critically resist the onslaught of global marketing and branding aimed at their particular demographic?
The larger implicit “meta” concern both inferred in and underlying the above questions can be explained by what communications scholar Henry Jenkins believes is “the moral panic about digital technology [that often is] a case of adults not understanding a world that has not been a part of their childhood experiences” (in James, 2015, p. xviii). Although Jenkins writes from his perspective as a new media educator, his thoughts here also encapsulate the fear (and/or naiveté) surrounding similar issues in music education; I draw on his work as well as other new media researchers to deconstruct and critique the above two questions from a 21st century music practices perspective.