Hip-hop is a competitive form of popular culture characterized by an on-going process of aesthetic renewal and reproduction that is expressed through carefully selected media and communications technologies. Hip-hop is also a segment of the pop music industry that manufactures a wide range of commercial products featuring stereotypical images of young black people. These stereotypes disproportionately mark young black men and rarely reflect the technical sophistication and cultural literacy mobilized in hip-hop expression. This thesis begins with a reading of hip-hop culture through its use of media technologies, moves on to a historical examination of the hip-hop mixtape economy, and concludes with an analysis of the “Crank Dat” online dance craze. Foregrounding expressive deployment of media and communications technologies in hip-hop challenges damaging stereotypes with compelling narratives of young black men driven by a spirit of competition, creativity, and technical innovation.
Kevin Driscoll is an assistant professor in the department of Media Studies at the University of Virginia. His research explores popular culture, political communication, and the history of computing. Some of his recent work explores everyday and emerging uses of social media such as live-tweeting, joking about politics, and spreading rumors. His dissertation traced the pre-history of social media through the dial-up bulletin board systems of the 1980s and 1990s. Currently, he is writing a technical and cultural history of the French Minitel system in collaboration with Julien Mailland from Indiana University.
Thesis: Stepping Your Game Up: Technical Innovation Among Young People of Color in Hip-Hop