Drawing off of Diana Taylor’s descriptions of the archive and the repertoire, I’m attempting to see how, if at all, these descriptions connect with my own conception that a website, like YouTube, can be considered The People’s Archive. ‘People’, in this case, is intended to match the democratic notion and tone put forth in the United States Constitution. You know, the ‘we, the people’ people.

What is The People’s Archive? It’s where we post, upload what we deem as valuable and it’s stored on a server somewhere out/in there; you know, in cyberspace. Taylor describes the archive as a storehouse of enduring material objects. The repertoire is depicted as the ephemeral ‘immaterial’ experience. The People’s Archive exists in a synthetic binary that operates in an immaterial world of 0’s and 1’s. This archival object, a video clip, (in this case, any clip specifically related to Crank Dat Soulja boy) is an intentionally constructed representation. Consequently, given an archival location like YouTube, it (the video clip/content) is here (available on the website) today, and quite possibly here forever; as long as there’s enough server space. Or, it is here one day and quite possibly gone the next.

“we’re sorry, this video is no longer available.”

Nonetheless, the idea of permanence has shifted. YouTube users often assume that it(the desired video) is there. The next assumption is that if it’s not there (on YouTube), right now, it’s somewhere (in cyberspace). Furthermore, if it’s not anywhere, it will show up again. This assumption is based on a user’s casual theoretic notion or hope or fantasy that somewhere in the collective mind field there is somebody like them that wants to see/share what s/he is searching for. This notion has taken (thought) form in the consciousness of most current Internet users who have become accustomed to searching for information expecting a rapid find. In some cases, the potential user becomes an information provider when s/he digitizes, uploads and posts what s/he was searching for in the cyber digi-sphere. Another common scenario finds the user clicking her/his way toward another search topic that will yield results in the now. This level of expectation is indicative of how digital quantity and time are perceived and is governed in Web 2.0. Frankly, the fluidity of Web 2.0 has bred a new species of impatience but that’s a topic for another time. Let’s get back to The People’s Archive.

"There are several myths attending the archive. One is that it is unmediated . . . Another myth is that the archive resists change, corruptibility, and political manipulation."—Diana Taylor from The Archive and the Repertoire, Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas

The suggestion behind the slogan The People’s Archive is directed toward the intrinsic gap between the hierarchical structures of permanent institutions and the seemingly more democratic preferences available within the sphere of cyberspace. Open source archiving on YouTube involves a communal curatorial practice. The website boasts a vast and highly accessible video database. The content that spills out of this cornucopia of audio and visual media is “user-generated” content. Which means, the previously posted and proverbial ‘people’ are the archivists.

The traditional role of archivists is to maintain information and manage its life cycle. Numerous duties like acquiring; assessing and appraising materials, arranging records, as well as, retaining control over and providing access to information are performed. Archivist, and the organizations and institutions they serve, wish to ensure long-term preservation of various forms of media that have ‘enduring’ value. Now, with the digital revolution in full swing individuals are able to bypass traditional routes from creation to archiving and preservation. Thousands of people who, most likely, do not consider themselves to be archivists are fulfilling the role. Their contributions reflect more than their personal interests but also what they, not an institution painting a fresh coat of formaldehyde on a particular canon, deem to be valuable.


The quote above tickles me. I mean it’s funny to imagine Soulja Boy composing, choreographing, staging, and then recording ‘creative’ product specifically and strategically packaged for the YouTube audience(s). All the while, consciously intending to present his product for analysis. Okay, maybe it’s not that funny. Matter of fact, that’s exactly what he was doing. Right? He was producing a ‘postable’ object for mass consumption. Is consumption a form of analysis?

Middle English, from Middle French or Latin; Middle French consumer, from Latin consumere, from com- + sumere to take up, take, from sub- up + emere to take
Date: 14th century (www.merriam-webster.com)

If the song lyrically invites the listener/audience to participate in a choreographed dance, and the accompanying video demonstrates the said dance, isn’t that also an invitation of participatory investigation? Call me crazy but Soulja Boy, in the original and the instructional Crank Dat Soulja Boy videos, takes on the role of dance instructor. Therefore, he is casting himself in the role of pedagogical performer. YouTube becomes the virtual information dissemination station wherein the audience(students/participants) are provided an opportunity to critically engage with the physical, political, social, and cultural dimensions of embodied knowledge connected to Hip Hop, in general, and Black dance, in particular. Through Soulja Boy’s commonplace yet cyber-spatial exercise of performative pedagogy students/participants/viewers/users are afforded the opportunity to address his/the performance textually or visually or both. The participatory experience is then re-staged, and at times, re-choreographed, and recorded to then be up-loaded and posted as an in/direct response or video comment by certain students/participants/viewers/users. Additionally, this type of discourse continues mapping a path that removes Soulja Boy from the central role that he once occupied. As a result the students/participants/viewers/users feedback, textual or video comment, speak to and/or through performance as imitation, representation, identity politics and embodied knowledge to name a few.