Appendix 29: Social Media & New Media as a Tools for Research

Undergraduates are often so much better at navigating social media and new media. They are able to access information quicker, especially when that information revolves around popular culture. My students have engaged in my research using the tools of blogging, podcasting, and doing photo essays.

In collaborating with me on research, my undergraduate students have scoured the internet to assist in compiling lists of artists, music, and articles. They have done literature reviews, data archiving, article summaries, and biographies. This has been very valuable in helping me find data. Many of the artists studied in my research were first brought to my attention by my students.

Student blog post on Cape Town, South Africa artist Dope Saint Jude

Because of my student’s research I was made aware of Dope Saint Jude (the artists in the image), a queer artist based in Cape Town, South Africa. Until then, it had been difficult to find female rap artists that were queer and out. Because of my student’s research, I was able to meet with Dope Saint Jude in Cape Town, and have incorporated her work in discussions of sexuality in hip hop in my research.

This has also helped the students by exposing them to various research practices, facilitating their engagement communities outside of academia, engaging them in subjects on using different platforms, allowing students to frame the material through their own creative lens, and encouraging creative thinking.

Student’s photo essay offering a visual interpretation of the song “Gentleman” by Wanlov the Kubolor and M.anifest

Students are able to think outside the box when it comes to research. Analyzing the history of a social media hashtag, or writing critiques of artists’ music, encourages students to use some of the tools they are most familiar with, to engage in serious research. The image below is part of a photo essay done by a photography major in my hip hop class. The images are visual depictions of the song “Gentleman” by Ghanaian artists Wanlov the Kubolor and M.anifest. The song speaks to the tensions between Western and African values, dress, and religion. The student’s representation was impressive, and I was able to send it to the artists, who were honored and surprised.

Students who are fluent in a language spoken in Africa have provided great insights on the works of artists that perform in a language the student is fluent in.

The ability to use blogging, podcasting, and photography as tools of pedagogy and as a way to involve students in my research has been really helpful. My undergraduate courses are made up mostly of non-majors. That, coupled with their levels of research experience, do not allow me to work with students in identifying research questions and hypotheses on their own. But it does allow me to work with them in collecting and interpreting data to test those hypotheses.