23-24 February: Child pop stars and talent perceptions on YouTube

Friederike Merkelbach has researched the child star phenomenon and perceptions of musical talent on YouTube in her doctorate. On 23 and 24 February, she will defend her work.

Portrait photo of Friederike Merkelbach

Friederike Merkelbach will defend her doctoral thesis in the PhD programme Teaching and Teacher Education at INN University with a trial lecture on Wednesday 23.2 and a public defence on Thursday 24.2.2022.

Photo: Private

Friederike has worked qualitatively.

By analysing and discussing YouTube comment fields and music and interview videos by The BlackSheeps, Marcus & Martinus and Angelina Jordan, online musical talent is identified as the result of a comprehensive co-creation process, or cyborg talentification.

“The study shows how YouTube produces specific notions of child stars, their musical talent and artistic identity. It examines how these performances, together with the artists’ own musical interpretations, affect the development of their careers, both online and offline,” the research fellow writes to inn.no.

The close relationship between man and machine, the possibility of an anonymous user identity and the blurring of clear distinctions between private and public, children and adults, and present and future, characterize the talent perceptions on YouTube.

The thesis sheds light on the ethical and conceptual conflicts and opportunities that lie in this breakdown of traditional categories.

The main findings of the doctorate

  • The artists’ music videos and fans’ comments are archived, commented on, and shared on YouTube. This means that the stars’ digital footprints immortalize their child star status. This can be challenging when artists try to establish a new artistic identity later in life.
  • Child stars’ talent and authenticity, as communicated on YouTube, are closely linked to their – constructed – innocence.
  • Musical talent, as it appears on YouTube, is a dynamic and context-dependent trait that is co-created in an identifiable process (cyborg talentification).
  • The artists’ accessibility on social media creates a close, online relationship with fans that is challenged in the physical space. In this sense, online music videos can counteract and diminish offline concert experiences, but, not unlike the Beatlemania phenomenon, they can also amplify these.
  • The term cyborg talentification, or just talentification, put into a music pedagogical context, represents an innovative approach to musical talent.
  • Internet communication, as practiced on YouTube, is a specific form of communication in which traditional concepts are challenged, covered, and transcended, which also affects perceptions of musical talent.
  • Child stars on YouTube use distinctive musical strategies that show that they interpret and translate pop music in their own unique way, which also places them in a cultural cosmopolitan context. These strategies are supported, but also opposed, by YouTube mechanisms.
  • The informal learning platform YouTube has governing mechanisms that can facilitate unique musical learning experiences and online Bildung.
  • Social media (YouTube) both reflects and fixes society's expectations of talent, while at the same time creating their own versions which in turn can influence offline perceptions of musical talent in music institutions and music classrooms.

About the public defence

The title of the thesis is: “Cyborg Talentification: YouTube as a Hotspot for Child Pop Stars, their Fans, and Critics”

Place: Auditorium 3 at Hamar campus and digitally via Zoom.

The trial lecture starts on Wednesday 23 February at 14:00. The topic for the trial lecture is: “Discuss how the Internet and social media (including YouTube) operate as arenas for knowledge exchange in musical contexts and address some of the principal opportunities and challenges that are generated by using these arenas in the music education classroom”.

The public defence starts on Thursday 24 February at 14:00:

The evaluation committee consists of: 

  • First opponent: Associate Professor Tyler Bickford (University of Pittsburgh, USA)
  • Second opponent: Associate Professor Åsa Bergman (University of Gothenburg, Sweden) 
  • Chair of the Evaluation Committee: Associate Professor Kai Arne Hansen (INN University) 

The chair of the public defence is Professor Susan Lee Nacey.

The PhD candidate's main supervisor has been Professor Ingeborg Lunde Vestad. The co-supervisor has been Professor Petter Dyndahl.

The PhD position has been funded by the Research Council of Norway (the programme FRIPRO-FRIHUMSAM) through the project DYNAMUS – The Social Dynamics of Musical Schooling and Upbringing, 2018-2022. INN University is the project owner with the Norwegian Academy of Music as a partner. Professor Petter Dyndahl (INN University) is the project manager.

Opposition ex auditorio:

Potential opponents ex auditorio must sign up during the break between the first and second opponents’ contributions. This is done by registering via text message to the chair of the public defence (telephone number is posted in the chat during the public defence). Those who are physically present can make direct contact with the chair of the public defence during the break. Such contributions must be well prepared and precisely formulated. They should not exceed 800 words / 10 minutes of speaking

Guide to using Zoom

Join Zoom Client. All participants must download the program in advance. If you do not have it already, you can obtain it here (free). Select the topmost, "Zoom Client for Meetings".

Log in 5-10 minutes before the start of the session. The people in charge of the sessions are in place 10 minutes before the sessions begin.

Network cable instead of Wi-Fi. It is more reliable to use a fixed network cable than a wireless network, as it minimizes the risk of choppy sound and blurred video.

Using the chat function is not allowed during the trial lecture or public defence. If you have technical questions, these can be sent by e-mail to mehran.amirnejad@inn.no.

Leaving the meeting. If you wish to leave the meeting along the way, press “Leave Meeting” at the bottom of the screen. You will be able to re-join the session by using the same link above.

Tags: disputas, public defence of thesis, YouTube By Ole Martin Ringlund
Published Feb. 17, 2022 10:08 PM - Last modified Feb. 17, 2022 10:28 PM