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Title:Spaces for togetherness: Jason Mraz and RKOPers in concert and online
Author(s):Morris, Hilary
Advisor(s):Turino, Thomas R.
Department / Program:Music
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):music and the internet
Jason Mraz
cultural cohorts
performance studies
internet ethnography
American popular music
music and social group formation
Abstract:This thesis investigates the relationships between twenty-first-century American popular musician, Jason Mraz, and the most active members of the internet-based Official Jason Mraz Discussion Board: Right Kind of Phrase (RKOPers and RKOP, respectively) as a case study that aims to understand what online social networks, especially musical ones, may do and mean for their members. I propose that the combination of Mraz’s persona and his music, in concert and online, generates a set of values and practices that foster social cohesion among a subset of his listening audience, and that the use of computer-mediated communication is handled in such a way as to enhance, rather than detract from, this cohesion. As such, computer-mediated interaction via the internet becomes an additional variable in the dialogic constellation of modes of interaction as a means of asserting and maintaining individual membership in this social collective. Furthermore, Mraz takes advantage of internet technology and shared knowledge and practices of his fellow cosmopolitans, intentionally cultivating this sense of what he calls togetherness, both on the internet and in the concert setting. It is my assertion that listeners are first attracted to Mraz and his music because of their appeal to young (largely female) cosmopolitans with a certain constellation of dispositions, but those that become active members of RKOP do so because they value this togetherness with each other. In other words, Mraz’s popularity within this cohort lies less in his musical abilities and more in the fact that his ability to project a participatory engagement that creates togetherness and intimacy through playfulness, informality (antivirtuosity in a sense), and a “be here now” imagery. This results in a social scene for RKOPers, wherein the music is initially a platform of contact but fades in importance as people get deeper into the scene and each other’s lives. This research presented herein demonstrates how Mraz’s persona, his music, the concert event (in person and via amateur recordings), and the internet (as both an access point and an interactive vehicle), all work together to index the concert experience and the values that are exposed within it, and furthermore reinforce togetherness. I also present the results of my ethnographic research with this cohort in order to understand how such social and musical relationships are navigated within a digital environment, and often eventually or periodically realized in face-to-face scenarios. Of particular interest is the fact that this may be accomplished in such a way that concert attendance is not always one of the primary entrees into the cohort, and, while knowledge of concert recordings is vital, physical attendance is not. Although not a direct substitute for concert attendance, knowledge gained via online recordings and participation in online discussions go far in enculturating RKOPers in ways that would not have been possible prior to internet technology. Understanding this phenomenon may be useful in future theoretical considerations of transstate cultural formations (cosmopolitan or otherwise), studies of social networking via the internet, and the use of music and media as a vehicle for social cohesion. Mraz’s and RKOPers’ reflexive and intentional exploitation of digital media brings to light some of the ways that music-makers and consumers adapt twenty-first-century tools to suit their needs and values.
Issue Date:2012-05-22
Genre:Dissertation / Thesis
Rights Information:Copyright 2012 Hilary Brady Morris
Date Available in IDEALS:2012-05-22
Date Deposited:2012-05

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