‘The clubbers kit: Everyday technology for everyday politics’Sarah Riley, Chris Griffin and Yvette Morey, University of Bath The case for dance culture as a site for ‘everyday politics’ • What themes make up the concept? • Evidence for these themes in our data. • How might we conceptualise the role of technology in enabling everyday politics. • Part of a larger study ‘Reverberating rhythms: Social identity And Political Participation in Clubland’, funded by an ESRC award (ref.RES-000-22-1171)
Intro: the study and our research questions • exploring social and political identities enabled through participating in electronic dance culture (partying, raving, clubbing ) • Urban drum and bass and rural free party sound system • Opportunity sample: 30 interviews, 8 follow up interviews, 2 follow up focus groups, 10 participant observations • 22 male:9 female; 20-41 years old; 75% ‘white British’, 10% ‘mixed ethnicity’; 50% employed, 21% unemployed, 25% ‘other’.
What our participants do and the technology they use to do it [it] involves a lot of (.) driving around and getting lost and finding (.) finding a (.) a remote place or an abandoned place and uh (.) turning up and then (.) going out finding some drugs generally that’s the beginning bit (.) uh probably .h going around seeing if anybody’s got any K [ketamine] .h probably or and a pill [Ecstasy] or just some K and (.) um (.) standing around having a dance and looking around seeing if there’s anyone there you know (Steve, Free Partier) well usually we go out quite late like ten or eleven usually drink at home meet up with some friends go into town ( ) go to a club er::m (.) we usually yeah drinking start of with catching up with people(.) dancing sometimes take drugs, sometimes just drink (.) erm smoking a lot chatting to people ye::s(.) yeah basically just meet up with friends(.) just catch up […] we have a small circle of friends and we go out the same sort of night all together(.) […] going to a club is kind of exciting (.) there’s a bit more to it (.) I don’t really do that much (.) apart from chatting to my friends and drink and dancing (Lauren, Drum & Bass clubber)
A strong sense of belonging, identification and community • Key practices are: access, socialising, dancing, and getting intoxicated: • ‘take the drugs, get fucked and have a wicked time’ name • Key forms of technology used to do this are: • Car • Soundsystem • Mobile phone • Internet • Drugs and alcohol
Why consider this political? • Decline in traditional politics • Potential rise in alternative forms of politics (unofficial, informal, local) • Leisure activities: “forms of politics, often misrecognised as entertainment” (Harris, Carney & Fine (2001, p.12). • Dance culture: alternative forms of subjectivity (Malbon (1998); gender relations (Pini , 2001; McRobbie, 1994); or inclusive value system, PLUR ( Wilson, 1996). • Limited empirical work on leisure as political engagement (Bennett, 2000; Griffin, 2005)
The case for dance culture as a site for ‘everyday politics’ • Maffesoli (1996) Time of Tribes • Contemporary society: a highly social, neo-tribal formation • Neo tribal memberships are plural, temporary, fluid and often elective, with own set of values and behaviours • Neo-tribes may “make it possible to escape or at least relativize the institutions of power” (Maffesoli, 1996, p. 44). • ‘Everyday politics’: Sociality, solidarity, hedonism and sovereignty over ones own existence.
Sociality and proxemics: sharing a space or activity that leads to a celebration of being together for no other reason than the pleasure of being together. when I’m out clubbing its all about seeing my friends (.) cause that’s where, you know, that’s where they’ll all be sort of thing (.) um (.) maybe I’ll like you know sort of go dance for a bit (.) but generally I’m just chatting to people in different places (Jenni, Drum & Bass) the main reason really I think (.) well apart from the music (.) is (..) going to meet friends (.) see people (.) meet new people (.) catch up etc (.) that type of (.) thing. (Noy Z, Free Partier).
Solidarity and belonging: we move within a (temporary) clan structure that brings a sense of warmth through solidarity and belonging. “Its nice to have a sense of belonging isn’t it? There’s pleasure in being part of a group. There’s no cliqueyness, everyone’s welcome and anything’s welcome, so then, you know, it’s really nice because it’s like a sense of warmth” (Lu Lu, Free Party)
There’s about five of us who have coalesced over the course of the evening – Hamish and I went together with the aim of meeting Rebecca and Alan there, when we do they’re with Lucy (who I’ve met before) and Anja (who I haven’t met before but we have mutual friends in the circus who I’ve met before thro Rebecca). At one point a very young (muscular, tattooed and handsome) man comes up rather proprietarily to Anja – it turns out he’s her ‘adopted younger brother’ – his name is Steve, he’s a bouncer at a pub-club in West Town and Anja and her friends took him out with them, since then a friendship has developed. Over the course of the evening I see a really nice symbiotic relationship where she tells him when he’s had enough [drugs/alcohol] and minds him that way, he goes off with his mates but clocks in every now and then with her and is clearly mindfull of her safety (e.g. re other men). There’s also Lucy’s x boyfriend with us – so while other people come and go we end up – Steve, Rebecca, Lucy, Anja, Hamish, me and x boyfriend (never get his name) – as a group that’s comfortable with each other and enjoy a bit of dancing and mucking about. Also taking care of each other, e.g. making sure we all get passes for the after party. (Fieldnote from a Christmas Drum and Bass night in a large venue).
Hedonism, vitality and puissance: a hedonistic celebration of life and the will to do so. Its all about having fun and it’s like a prime directive, particularly in this city, its like having fun is pretty much number one on everybody’s agenda (Rebecca, Drum & Bass) It’s more of like a celebration thing (.) it’s more of a kind’ve hey we’re alive we’re together we’re having a party (.) there’s nothing deep in this (.) this is a good time. (Steve, Free Party).
Sovereignty over ones own existence: being able to live out (if temporarily) their values and appropriate behaviours. It’s easy to think of politics as just (.) Tony Blair and people voting and all that, but I think really politics is more about the way people want to live their lives and how they live their lives. I reckon that probably about two or three percent of people in the rave scene actually vote or pay a blind bit of attention to the actual English political system. I think with our generation there’s very much of a ‘well that doesn’t really make any different let’s not bother with political parties and stick to parties’ [laughs] (Trevor, Free Partier). I love just being able to do what the hell I wanna do (.) when I wanna do it (..) and that’s brilliant (.) that is probably one of the major reasons why I like free parties (..) yeah no one telling me what to do (Genie, Free Partier).
How we might conceptualise the role of technology in enabling everyday politics • Sound System: Rietveld (in McKay, 1998) a dance space, a public space and a common leisure space. Sound systems enable all aspects of everyday politics. • Cars: “a source of freedom, a facilitator of our social life, creating distinct ways of dwelling, travelling and socialising” (Urry, 1999). Cars enable: sociality and belonging, hedonism and sovereignty. • Mobile phones: “create and enable clubbing-community activities and … music and attendant substance consumption”, (Moore, 2005). Phones enable: sociality, belonging, puissance. • Internet: a ‘technology of freedom’ offering opportunities for meeting others and consumption – both produces and represents communities which constantly shift from online to off-line spaces (Moore, 2005). Internet enables – sociality, belonging and virtual proxemics. • Drugs: (combined with electronically produced music) can produce hyper real empathic, euphoric, and trance like states (Wilson, 2006). Drugs enable – sociality, belonging, hedonism and sovereignty. • Mobility: mobile forms of technology that enable the movement of participants and the event to occur temporary pockets of sociality that may have very different values and associated behaviours to that in the dominant culture: a TAZ (Bey, 1991).
Conclusion • evidence of lived experience of everyday politics • a seamless mix of old and new technologies • technologies used to enable physical real time socialising– to celebrate being together