Prof. Bickford (an alumnus of Columbia's PhD program in Ethnomusicology) will be speaking on the subject of his new book, Schooling New Media: Music, Language and Technology in Children's Culture (Oxford University Press, 2017).
Schooling New Media is a groundbreaking study of children’s music and media consumption practices, examining how transformations in music technologies influence the way children, their peers, and adults relate to one another. Based on long-term ethnographic research with a community of schoolchildren in Vermont, Tyler Bickford focuses on portable digital music devices – i.e. MP3 players – to reveal their key role in mediating intimate, face-to-face relationships and structuring children’s interactions both with music and with each other. Schooling New Media provides an important ethnographic and theoretical intervention into ethnomusicology, childhood studies, and music education, emphasizing the importance—and yet under-appreciation—of interpersonal interactions and institutions like schools as sites of musical activity. Bickford explores how headphones facilitate these school-centered interactions, as groups of children share their earbuds with friends and listen to music together while participating in the dense overlap of talk, touch, and gesture of their peer groups. He argues that children treat MP3 players more like toys than technology, and that these devices expand the repertoires of childhood communicative practices such as passing notes and whispering—all means of interacting with friends beyond the reach of adults. These connections afforded by digital music listening enable children to directly challenge the language and literacy goals of classroom teachers. Bickford’s Schooling New Media is unique in its intensive ethnographic attention to everyday sites of musical consumption and performance, and offers a sophisticated conceptual approach for understanding the problems and possibilities of children’s uses of new media in schools.
Tyler Bickford is an assistant professor of children’s literature and childhood studies in the Department of English at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Schooling New Media: Music, Language, and Technology in Children’s Culture (Oxford University Press, 2017).