Monday, August 10, 2009

Globalization: Digitizing Street Dance

We're now seeing street dance quantified in the form of video clips online. With the widespread reach of Youtube, ideas and concepts within street dance are being exchanged in the most digitized quantifiable form currently possible. This is in the form of moving images as seen in online video. Now, you can be exposed to a style that is popular in a region thousands of miles from where you live. 

Is this a globalization of dance culture at a pace we've never seen before? Hip hop culture has spread worldwide and has been well-documented by essayists, photographers, and filmmakers. Now, the added element of online video sharing and social networking has collapsed geographical borders. Of course, seeing a video online can't replace actual face-to-face instruction from a teacher or replace the awareness that happens when you are regularly part of a burgeoning dance community. But the online world is now playing a greater role in a new generation of dancers that are hungry to learn a style when other opportunities aren't available.

With the number of dance videos and instructionals exploding online, how does one find the video that you really want or that will give you the best information? On Youtube, there are popular videos that are favorited and highly rated, which can be passed around in a viral fashion. These videos seem to pop up more frequently on users' radars. Videos that aren't favorited may disappear from the top rankings of search engines over time.

There are interesting parallels to the beginnings of the Internet in the consumer world during the mid to late 1990s. At that time, web pages were popping up everywhere. When you used a search engine like AltaVista or Lycos, you'd get a wide range of results. And sometimes, you had to dig deeper to find the website you wanted. Google changed the online world when it hit the scene in 1998. Using the now-famous PageRank system, Google's team adapted an academic-inspired approach to ranking websites based on how others were referring to them via links. Therefore, more "relevant" pages would appear at the top of your search results. The world of online search has grown tremendously through the 2000s. Of course, Google is now part of our daily lives and it's hard to remember a time when we didn't use it.

Can an effective search engine be employed for street dance videos online? Youtube already has a search engine using tags and number of views as the basis for compiling search results. But is there a more effective way to organize and structure the large number of dance videos online? Right now, it seems that we've brought online video as a factor that can affect the different subcultures within the larger street dance world. We all have had frustrating experiences trying to find the best tutorial for a particular style. It can be difficult to decide which video to view, especially if you don't have prior knowledge or exposure to that style. The possibility of getting misinformation increases if there aren't "administrators" online who will critique these videos. Currently, we rely upon the whims of the "crowd" to rate or comment on these videos to determine their value.

In this present day, we live in an information economy. Ideas are being exchanged at a faster rate than ever before. Conversations are happening between parties who had less access to each other in the past. Something wondrous and terrifying is happening with street dance now online. A larger question to ask may be, how will this digitizing of street dance affect the spirit of the art form?

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