Being Mudcat

Oh, hey, Internet. Long time no see.

Um.

In my defense, I’ve been working on a Super Secret Project (which is not all that secret and is now finished) that has eaten up most of my brain and the entirety of my semi-idle time. [Not even kidding; I knitted straight through book club last week, which was a marathon the likes of which my fingers had never known, and have lost sleep over crocheting and how to sew pieces of knit things together.]

I have one incredulous statement to make.

AND I THOUGHT KNITTING WAS BAD?! Who invented crochet?! What kind of sick, disturbed mind thought that would be a good idea?! My fingers have trembled for days. “Chain 8, turn, sc to end,” sure, that sounds simple enough. IT IS ALL A LIE.

I am going to have to do it over and over and over again until I get it right. Curse you, OCD!

Moving on: I will eventually post pictures. WordPress and I seem to be having a disagreement over photo editing functionality right now but sooner or later one of us will emerge victorious. While I wait for technology to stop hating me, I’m going to flash backward in time to when I realized that I wanted to write my Master’s Thesis on a little website called The Mudcat Cafe. In the spring of 2008, after much agonizing and weighing the depths of my interests against the likely acceptance of a virtual community by my ethnography-oriented professors, I decided to write an overview of the community. I submitted this overview as the final paper for a class on music and technology which, conveniently, was taught by the head of the Tufts University Department of Music. Hooray for making friends in high places!

Circumstances forced me to concentrate on things other than my studies over the course of the next year, though. The year after, I decided to take a Leave of Absence from Tufts in order to get things like “rent” and “loan payments” under control. That control still has not quite settled into place, although things are definitely much improved, and I was not at a place in my life where I could conscientiously return to Tufts when my Leave ended. As such, my research, thesis and general history/music geekery continues to be on hiatus.

I woke up about a week and a half ago to discover an email from one of the denizens of the Mudcat Cafe. Well. I say “denizen,” but Max Spiegel gets a hero!sticker in my book – he established the web forum that grew into the amazing entity that is Mudcat today. He remembered me mentioning something about a thesis and was wondering how it was coming along. The answer, of course, was a shame-faced “it’s…not?” but I did send him my overview as penance.

After another couple of days, he emailed me again. He proceeded to say, in effect, “hey, you realize you have a blog, right?” My mind: blown.

I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.

And so! Because Max Spiegel has a demonstrated history of really fantastic life choices, and because although I am slow I am not that slow, I am taking his advice. 🙂 [Look out, folks, this is a whopper – 19 pages. I have tried to fix all the formatting errors that cropped up in transferring this over from Word but I will acknowledge in advance that I have really only glanced this thing over since I handed it in after a week without sleep three years ago and thus any and all egregious grammatical errors or glaringly awful turns of phrase or dropped words and hanging participles are entirely my own fault.] I now present to you:

All the reasons Mudcat.org is absolutely amazing and you should go spend time there!!

(And thus all the reasons why Meg got, like, no actual homework done while she was in college.)

[Thank you, Max!! And thanks to everyone at mudcat.org for being so interesting and welcoming and so darn much fun!]

Being Mudcat:

Performing Identity and Community in a Virtual

Folk Music Forum

Meg Wickham

May 6, 2008

In his description of the Internet as a cause of social instability and the undermining of traditional academic values, Andrew Keen defines an amateur as “a hobbyist, knowledgeable or otherwise, someone who does not make a living from his or her field of interest, a layperson, lacking credentials, a dabbler.”[1]  Internet communities designed around shared interests provide amateurs and other enthusiasts to socialize and share information, sometimes even allowing users with no credentials to manipulate or erase input from more legitimate sources and experts in a particular field.  Members of such interest-oriented forums demonstrate their personal identities and their places within the community in many ways.  The establishment of a cohesive community aesthetic depends upon the means by which users create and convey their individual identities, the types of interactions facilitated by the forum, relationships that arise between users and the development of a sense of shared discourse.

The Mudcat Cafe is a treasure trove of folklorist and folk musician culture on the Internet.  It houses the Digital Tradition Folk Song Database and serves as a discussion forum for aficionados of folk music from across the globe.  Its users come from many backgrounds and levels of experience with traditional and folk musics. What Keen is overlooking in his critique of user-maintained webspaces is the presence and importance of interaction between amateurs and experts, hobbyists and professionals; a professional might not always put as much energy into a job as an amateur would put into something he loves doing, but is likely to have more practical experience.  The Internet does not separate the knowledgeable, experienced professional from the enthusiastic beginner.  In this regard, websites function similarly to the interest-oriented magazines analyzed by Paul Théberge, making music approachable to all by inviting the input from readers without asking for verifiable credentials[2].  Music magazines do this on a small scale, incorporating reader contributions in the form of letters to the editor and topical polls and interspersing them with official articles by members of the industry or experts in a field which present a particular point of view.  Magazine editors determine which articles, surveys, and letters are published, thereby controlling, to a degree, the type and depth of information readers receive.  Internet forums, on the other hand, seek not to inform readers of particular advances or events but rather to allow readers to discuss such occurrences and thereby inform their own opinions by the collective input of experts and amateurs alike.

The function of newsgroups, one type of online discussion forum, has been discussed in ethnomusicology and other fields related to cultural anthropology[3].  The Mudcat Cafe does not operate exactly along the model of the newsgroup; where the majority of newsgroup forums are structured around debates monitored by official moderators, the Mudcat Cafe has no default hierarchy. The community welcomes interaction from complete beginners, greeting new posters with warm welcomes and volunteering information on their own interests and websites which may help a new hobbyist find instruments, equipment or other important learning materials. A degree of deference is granted to certain users who have been frequent contributors to the site for a number of years, since their statements are understood to carry the weight of lengthy association with folk music and its performance practices.  What sets the Mudcat site apart from standard Internet forums, however, is that this pseudo-hierarchy does not include a controlling, moderating position.  Nor does the Mudcat follow the example of completely open-access resource sites such as Wikipedia, wherein any visitor has the power to anonymously edit or erase entries made by others.

As Joe Offer states in the “Mudcatiquette” section of the website’s Frequently Asked Questions”:

Mudcat is governed by a principle of civil anarchy, and that principle gives Mudcat much of its spontaneity, intelligence, and friendly spirit. We don’t want to see anything here that’s too organized or too slick. It’s OK for people to have to use their heads and explore a bit. There’s a well-known Mudcatter who occasionally sends me a personal message to remind me how much this place resembles Golding’s Lord of the Flies. There are times when I agree with him, but I generally find our anarchy and lack of organization to be quite wonderful.[4]

The community is, essentially, unmonitored.  What Joe Offer refers to as “civil anarchy” is a code of tolerance in which no single authority has the right to decry or remove posts by another. Each user has the opportunity to present their views and respond to the opinions of others but posts cannot be edited once added to the thread.  In stark contrast to the “citizen editors…defining, redefining, and reredefining” which Andrew Keen sees as plaguing open-access resources such as Wikipedia[5], each entry to the Mudcat Forum is permanent and unalterable.  Content may be elaborated, supported or rejected through direct responses in later posts, but every user is guaranteed a place for their views.  Users are expected to exercise common courtesy with regard to others’ postings, allowing for the expression of ideas without ostracizing or attacking those individuals with whom one does not agree.  Visitors to the site are expected to respect others’ rights to express philosophies and opinions which do not concur with their own.

Joe Offer is referred to by other users as “the closest thing the site has to a moderator”[6] who possesses the power to remove posts and delete or block ISPs[7] from the forum.  This function has been used in the past but only as a last resort when community members are agreed that every other method of mediation has failed.  While the impossibility of users’ deleting posts by others facilitates freedom of expression, personality clashes and hierarchies of perceived authority contribute to the alleged resemblance to William Golding’s volatile island culture.  In an email to me, Joe Offer outlined some of the site’s dynamic:

My feeling is that there was a rather large influx of Mudcatters in 1999, and many of them were more interested in chit-chat, than they were in folk music…. I think the number of non-music threads increased greatly at the time, and we had to crack down to prevent prayer chains and the like from overwhelming the folk music discussion…. With the switch to other topics, I think we also experienced many more of the problems connected with Internet forums – trolls and general bickering.[8]

Mudcat does not have an official policy about posting conduct but users are expected to exercise common courtesy.  Members are advised to alert Joe Offer to posts that directly attack or threaten another user so that mediation may be attempted, but threads are left unaltered unless racism, intimidation, or other forms of harassment are present[9].

Mudcatters’ usernames and a timestamp are automatically added to every post, firmly placing each response along a distinct temporal axis, with new posts added to the bottom of the thread.  The sequence of comments thus progresses linearly and allows visitors to position themselves firmly within the continuum of community evolution.  Just as outlined by Christine Hine in her discussion of newsgroup dynamics[10], members of the Mudcat Cafe perform their conversations by situating themselves chronologically within the discourse of the community and responding directly to posts by others within topical threads.  Although the forum lacks a physical stage for interaction, members work together to create an identity for the Cafe that includes active dialogue which progresses just like spoken conversations.

Users’ individual contributions to the Mudcat community are many and varied.  As already mentioned, the site grew up around the Digital Tradition Folk Song Database.  DigiTrad, as it is known by users, spawned from the efforts of one dick greenhaus[11] to combine the folksong notebooks of two of his friends, Susan Friedmann and Dennis Cook[12], and later to add “any song somebody liked well enough to submit[13]”.  DigiTrad predates the internet.  As Friedmann informed me, the database began in 1988 as a collection of floppy disks and was maintained, updated and shared completely through volunteer efforts; the founders therefore “vowed that it would always be available free”[14].

DigiTrad existed for a brief time in the early 1990s on a Xerox site, but Xerox asked the archivists to leave after issues of copyright were raised.  The archive officially went online in 1996, when Max Spiegel, a young web designer interested in the blues, offered to provide bandwith on a site located at “www.mudcat.org”, which had previously served as a test-domain for Spiegel’s programming ideas.[15]  The discussion forum opened that same year and began growing exponentially as more and more longtime users of the DigiTrad archive discovered the additional feature.  Moving the Digital Tradition to its own digital domain gave the DigiTrad archivists the opportunity to expand the materials within the database to include samples of music.  MIDI files, created by either the archivists or average DigiTrad users who felt the desire to contribute, have been added to many of the songs in the database as a point of reference for musicians just beginning to learn a song[16].  As services devoted to the transmission of folk music and lore, both the Digital Tradition and the Mudcat Cafe are now registered non-profit organizations.

In its current form, the Digital Tradition archive and the discussion forum are extensively cross-referenced and hyperlinked.  A PowerSearch function on the Mudcat Cafe homepage allows users to choose which aspect of the site to search for information.  By default, both are searched.  Forum posts are indiscriminately keyword-searched without consideration of thread purpose, so indexed DigiTrad results, which are always fewer in number, are listed above the Forum discussions for clarity.  Following hyperlinks to DigiTrad listings or searching only the database does, however, provide further opportunities to connect directly to pertinent discussions in the forum which may enrich the searcher’s understanding of the song’s background or variations. Much like a printed song collection, the Digital Tradition readily offers a handful of lyrical variations and related pieces but the bulk of song permutations are located in the hyperlinked discussion threads, along with the important and interesting debates surrounding each song.

Consider a search for the title of the well-known ballad “Wild Mountain Thyme,” usually published in modern folksong collections as a traditional Irish song.  Three song entries from the Digital Tradition database contain exactly that search phrase; five hundred individual forum posts, ranging from 1997 to 2005, are also listed.  The forum messages are labeled with a timestamp, author tag, and post title that references the topic of the thread to which each message was a reply.  Some are tagged as additions to the Digital Tradition archive, some as requests for different versions of lyrics or for tablature, some as part of a semi-intellectual discourse on the nature of folk tradition and categories of folk songs, members’ favorite songs, and many other logical and surprising topics.[17]  Selecting the link to the title “Wild Mountain Thyme” in the DigiTrad results takes the user to a new page with a similar display of songs earmarked as related to the song currently being viewed, an updated list of forum results which represent only entire threads based around that song and includes current forum contents, and finally a songbook-style archival entry with pertinent copyright information, lyrics, important notes about the song, and a link to a simple MIDI file of the tune.[18]

The “Related Threads” section of DigiTrad search results is most representative of the collaborative nature of the Mudcat community.  One of the threads is labeled: “(origins) Help: real origin of Wild Mountain Thyme.”[19]  The thread was begun on April 4, 2000 by Kim C, who described herself as “sort of a newbie” and went on to ask for insight into which of the several origin myths she had heard was, in fact, the earliest appearance of the song in the folk lexicon[20].  Replies to Kim C’s question include references to earlier discussions in the forum, tales of the song’s arrival in the US, personal anecdotes about authors of various versions of the songs, and citations of historical published versions of both the text and melody.

Contributions to the thread demonstrate the multifarious ways in which various Mudcatters perform both their personalities and membership in the community.  Much of the discussion revolves around the possibility that “Wild Mountain Thyme” was written by a member of the McPeake family from Northern Ireland.  One comment directed Kim C’s attention to an earlier thread for more sources of input but fell short of providing a “definitive answer,” (emphasis in original) to which dick greenhaus, the originator of the Digital Tradition, promptly, and somewhat cryptically, responded, “The only definitive answer is that if you make a record of it, Mr. McPeake will sue you.  Whether or not he wrote it.”  He provided no elaboration for this statement, although the case was later summarized by another user.[21]  That greenhaus felt no need to qualify his statement reveals confidence in his position as a voice of authority within the community, for although other users might request an explanation of the reference, he did not need to worry about being lambasted for making unsupported, possibly defaming, statements or for derailing the purpose of the thread.

Other users went to extremes to qualify their views.  A member by the moniker of Scotsbard quoted information from a photograph of a circa 1850 publication, including “references to similar airs”[22].  Bruce O cited an earlier publication, including the pertinent page number, and emphasized that he had seen that version, published in 1816, but hadn’t verified the existence of an even earlier version because it was housed in the Library of Congress[23]. These users clearly felt the need to prove that their contributions to the discourse were legitimate, including complete citation information when simply the publications’ titles and years would have sufficed. Bruce O, in fact, commented in the thread several times with citations from various sources, performing the role of an active research scholar providing updates on his findings.

Sandy Paton volunteered this story of the song’s arrival in America.

I recorded it for Elektra Records in 1959 (and taught it to Judy Collins in that year when she and I worked together at the Exodus in Denver). I had learned it from a field recording made of the McPeakes which I found in the BBC Recorded Programmes Library which was then housed at the Cecil Sharp House in London. Elektra was never sued by the McPeakes, which makes me wonder about the date of their copyright filing. Perhaps it was simply the obscurity of my Elektra album that served to protect Elektra. It did not, to put it mildly, overwhelm the early folk revival world. (wry smile emoticon inserted here)

In earlier threads on this subject, I think I have pointed to several other traditional versions of the song, including those collected from Carrie Grover in Maine. There is plenty of evidence to show that Francis McPeake’s song is an adaptation of an older Scottish song derived from a Tannahill poem. I’ll let the chips off of the old copyright block fall where they may.[24]

Sandy Paton’s comment placed him in a real-life context as well as embodying his Mudcat identity.  The production of the Elektra album and the presence of the source recording in the BBC library are both verifiable statements.  His claim to have taught the song to Judy Collins is also, at least to an extent, verifiable, since employment records at the Exodus would presumably uphold the assertion.  In terms of his Mudcat identity, Paton’s post demonstrated his belief that his credentials as a renowned folk musician absolved him of any need to elaborate upon the song’s history.

The preceding comments about the origins of “Wild Mountain Thyme” raise the question of authenticity within user-maintained webspaces.  How is authenticity determined?  How is the concept of authenticity addressed in terms of individual contributors’ authority or in the validity of sources for song lineages?  dick greenhaus, as the originator and chief maintainer of the Digital Tradition, gains implicit authority by virtue of his lengthy association with the scholastic pursuit of compiling the archive.  Scotsbard and Bruce O established the authenticity of their comments by providing the sources of their information and situating those sources within tangible points of reference, such as photographs and the Library of Congress.  Sandy Paton earned authority in the real world through his performances prior to joining the Mudcat community; his statements in the virtual realm contain a tacit authority which comes from the longevity of his association with the performative aspects of folk music.

The discussion forum is not used only for debates about song origins and variations.  One important aspect of the forum, previously alluded to in a comment by Joe Offer, is the non-music-related dialogue which takes place simultaneously.  Threads which have little or no ostensible connection with the scholastics or performance of the folk tradition receive a unique tag and are relegated to the lower half of the forum’s front page.  The location of the non-tradition discussions keeps the forum page neatly organized for those visitors who prefer to partake only of the more academic discussions which pertain directly to their musical hobbies.

Creators of off-topic threads select “BS” from a short list of general topic markers meant to give visitors a vague idea of the thread’s contents. There is no set limit to the length of forum posts and it is in the BS section of the site that the advantages and shortcomings of that lack make themselves known.  Posts marked as off-topic may be about any subject, from innocuous word games to childhood memories, or even nothing at all.  Threads with no apparent topic provide users with a stage for developing their Internet community along more standard, real-life, models of interaction, since the focus is on the exchange of personalities rather than information.  These threads invite users to continually add to the melee of discussion and, because they are open-ended, may run within the community for perpetuity.  One particular thread, “BS: The Mother of all BS threads”, has garnered more than 23,300 comments since its initial creation on May 5, 2003[25], and attempts to load the page can overwhelm processors to the point that a user’s computer briefly turns completely unresponsive.

The “Mother of all BS” conversations has progressed almost daily since the original post proclaimed

We can save time which we spend searching through all the BS threads very easily. Henceforth, post all BS here in this thread. Soon there will be only one BS thread. We won’t have to look for particular threads as this will be the only one and it will contain all the BS we have to offer.

My Gawd!! Why has this not been thought of earlier? It is so obvious!

I swear, sometimes I even amaze myself![26]

This introductory post, while obviously tongue-in-cheek, reflects a sentiment within the Mudcat community at the time of the thread’s creation that there was a need for the separation of on- and off-topic threads, a conundrum later remedied by the positioning of BS discussions on the latter half of the forum’s main page.  The contents of this post set the tone for the entirety of the thread to follow: sarcastic, reflexively mocking, humorous.  At some point, Joe Offer exercised his unique editorial ability, adding to the initial post, in very small text, a wry “Thank you, khandu.  I worship at your feet.”[27]  In this particular BS thread, the general Mudcat anarchy is given full reign and users are allowed to tease, insult, misguide, and confound each other with a universal spirit of playful interaction.  The camaraderie felt between users of the Mudcat forum can be seen in the delighted commentary and rejoinders to khandu’s acknowledging that the idea for the original post arose from a conversation with several other Mudcatters:

From: MMario – Hey! How come Carol the Sailor, spaw and Tweed get to have an ilk? Favouritism? And do they each have their own ilk or do they have to share? At least if they share it’s not quite as bad, but if they each have their own ilk then I’m really upset.

From: Little Hawk – I don’t mind Spaw’s ilk as long as I don’t have to clean it up.

From: CarolC – I don’t know, MMario, I think you’re probably of our “ilk” also. khandu probably didn’t include you because he couldn’t remember how to spell your name. I think LH is one of us too, but khandu is jealous of him because LH knows more fancy words than he does.

From: Morticia – Spaw’s ilk??? What’s the matter with him?

From: Allan C. – The word I had was that Spaw had been stricken with pusillanimous; but reports are not from reliable sources.[28]

It is through these BS posts that the Mudcat community truly comes alive, displaying users’ personalities.  The blithe references to other users, puns, and facetious interjections are all indicative of the easygoing relationship of these assorted users.

The BS section of the Forum also contains threads that are geared toward more local concerns.  Threads about topics such as American politics and current events[29] provide American Mudcatters with a venue for airing their views and opinions with the assurance that they will be allowed to have their say, while allowing Mudcatters from other nations to express their own impressions and provide insight into the sociopolitical concerns of their native countries.

Mudcatters also use the Internet community as a stepping stone toward the creation of true international friendships.  One thread in the BS section of the forum in May 2008 advertised an American Mudcatter’s upcoming trip to Ireland and welcomed the chance to socialize with other users in Dublin[30].  The virtual acquaintances made through the forum ensured that the tourist would have ready sources for recommendations on places to visit and events to attend.  Specifically, the shared interest in folk music between Rapaire, the American, and a handful of Irish Mudcatters meant that Rapaire would be made aware of folk music gatherings which would enhance his experiences abroad.  Getting to know native inhabitants through the forum also promises to give Rapaire people with whom to socialize in person throughout the course of his visit.

Shared dialogue, whether virtual or in person, is crucial to the establishment of a community.  Benedict Anderson wrote of the importance of shared narratives and a shared sense of participation within a community and their impact upon the formation of both community and individual identity[31].  As Anderson argued, the creation of a sense of community amongst individuals depends upon their combined ability to interact and develop shared experiences.  Although visitors to the Mudcat website come from different realms of society and experience, their joint creation of seemingly pointless discussion threads acts as the catalyst for the development of worthwhile interaction.  The off-topic banter on the Mudcat forum locates posters within smaller social groups of those who share interests in non-folk music discussion.  Debates and dialogue on current events places users in specific real-world matrices of place and philosophy, frequently giving insight into how a particular user forms opinions or has been taught to view the world.  Rambling, random queries into favored memories or speculations on life experiences[32] allow users to compare their own lives with those of other posters, finding similarities and differences upon which to build relationships.

The conversations enacted within the BS threads of the forum allow users to get to know more intimate details of each others’ lives and find points of reference besides folk music around which serious discussion can occur.  As these conversations progress, Mudcatters orient themselves within the established community and find others with whom they can form strong bonds.

One of the Mudcat’s greatest strengths is its position within the Internet and the lack of physical boundaries to interaction.  As a virtual forum, the website creates tacit anonymity for its users; nationality, ethnicity, philosophy, caste, or other social distinction need not factor into the community’s discourse, and any delineations arise as a direct result of members’ volunteering personal information.  According to theorist James W. Fernandez, “Borders and boundaries are, although to some extent natural or geographical, largely mental and material devices built in the presence of the tension, as far as the human species in concerned, between continuity and disjunction[33]”.  The Mudcat Cafe hosts no overt disjunctions, since its only, merely recommended, criterion for joining the community is a professed enthusiasm for folk music.  Even the particular tradition of folk music in which one is interested is irrelevant to membership in the community, which has its origins in several different American folk music traditions and now includes musics, curiosities and cultural references from around the globe[34].  Certainly the participants in the discussions in the forum, especially those oriented around folk music and the continuation of various traditions, bring to their parts in the conversations unique personal histories and knowledge.  It is these very contributors to the forum’s discourse who inadvertently establish a sense of stratification within the community by volunteering information about their own experiences.  Practical experience within a tradition grants posters tacit authority in the eyes of other users, leading individuals within the community to formulate their own concepts of Mudcat hierarchy.  Fernandez pontificates:

How readily do we conceive of knowledge as a landscape that we explore and journey through and demarcate in preferred ways.  How readily do we set or seek to establish ‘boundary conditions’ for our thinking.  Our very identities as intellectuals, it might be argued, are bound up in our mastery of these ‘metes and bounds’.[35]

According to Fernandez’s view, a person’s ability to negotiate different social strata and extract pertinent information is inseparable from their ability to participate in scholastic discourse, to know where they stand in terms of ability to contribute in meaningful ways.

Jaques Attali opined, “all music, any organization of sounds is…a tool for the creation or consolidation of a community, of a totality”[36].  Although Attali was referring specifically to the purpose of music as a tool of political activism, the sentiment of his statement is universally applicable. For members of the Mudcat Cafe, music is the unifying interest which bonds users of all backgrounds into a discernible community.  The permanence of forum posts and the carefully cross-referenced musical discourses enact a shared history for all users.  The Mudcat Cafe and the Digital Tradition Folksong Database provide folk music enthusiasts with a dynamic, shared outlet for exploring their traditions as well as non-music interests and hobbies, expressing their opinions about music and current events, researching the history and travels of a particular song, establishing networks of friends and acquaintances for real-world interactions, and participating in a little healthy civil anarchy.

Bibliography

Anderson, Benedict.  Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of

Nationalism.  London: Verso, 1983.

Attali, Jaques.  “Noise and Politics.”  In Audio Culture, ed. Christoph Cox and Daniel

Warner.  New York: Continuum, 2007.

“FAQ.”  Mudcat Cafe.  < http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=19340#196922&gt;

(accessed April 10, 2008).

Fernandez, James W.  “Peripheral Wisdom.”  In Signifying Identities: Anthropological

Perspectives on Boundaries and Contested Values, ed. Anthony P. Cohen.  London: Routledge, 2000.

Hine, Christine.  Virtual Ethnography.  London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2000.

Joe Offer <joe@mudcat.org>.  April 16, 2008.  FW: Questions for research – here is my

answer [email to Meg Wickham <mewickham@gmail.com>].

Keen, Andrew.  The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture.

New York: Doubleday/Currency, 2007.

khandu [pseud.].  “BS: The Mother of all BS threads” [Discussion].  Posted May 5, 2003.

<http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=59418&gt; (accessed May 2, 2008).

Kim C [pseud.].  “(origins) Help: real origin of Wild Mountain Thyme” [Discussion].

Posted April 4, 2000.  <http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=20021&gt;

(accessed April 20, 2008).

“The Mudcat Cafe.”  Mudcat Cafe.  http://www.mudcat.org/

Rapaire [pseud.].  “BS: Okay, Ireland, I’m Coming.  Be Afraid…” [Discussion].  Posted

May 2, 2008. <http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110918&gt; (accessed

May 4, 2008).

Susan of DT [pseud.] <susan@digitrad.org>.  April 14, 2008.  Re: Question Time!

[private forum message to Meg Wickham <mewickham@gmail.com>]

Théberge, Paul.  Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology.

Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 1997.


[1] Andrew Keen, The Cult of the Amateur (New York: Doubleday, 2007), 36.

[2] Paul Théberge, Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press), 121.

[3] For examples, see: Paul Théberge, Any Sound You Can Imagine: Making Music/Consuming Technology and Christine Hine, Virtual Ethnography (London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2000).

[4] Joe Offer, Mudcat Cafe FAQ, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=

19340#etiquette (accessed April 10, 2008).

[5] Keen, 20.

[6] Susan of DT, forum private message to author, April 14, 2008.  All users quoted in this paper are referred to by their self-created Internet tags, including unconventional capitalization and alternate spellings, regardless of how they are referenced in quotations from other users.

[7] “ISP” is shorthand for “Internet Service Provider”.

[8] Joe Offer, e-mail message to author, April 16, 2008.

[9] Joe Offer, Mudcat Cafe FAQ, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=

19340#censorship (accessed April 19, 2008).

[10] Christine Hine, Virtual Ethnography (London: SAGE Publications Ltd, 2000), 11.

[11] For his username, Dick Greenhaus has opted for leaving out capitalization; I have decided to refer to individuals by keeping their chosen names intact.

[12] Joe Offer, e-mail message to author, April 16, 2008.

[13] Ibid., quoting dick greenhaus, founder of the Digital Tradition Folk Song Database.

[14] Susan of DT, forum private message to author, April 14, 2008.

[15] Joe Offer, e-mail message to author, April 16, 2008.

[16] The addition of MIDI files to the DigiTrad archive has been so exciting a development that Joe Offer has solicited contributions thusly: “Dick Greenhaus, curator of the Digital Tradition, is eager to get any tunes he can get. He’ll foam at the mouth, sit up and bark, or do all sorts of other tricks, just to get a tune.”  For more information about MIDI contributions, see: Joe Offer, Mudcat Cafe FAQ, http://www.mudcat.org/

thread.cfm?threadid=19340#posttunes (accessed May 5, 2008).

[19] Ibid.

[20] Kim C [pseud.], http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=20021 (accessed April 20, 2008).

[21] Ibid., Annraoi [pseud.], comment posted April 5, 2000, 06:48pm (accessed April 20, 2008).

[22] Ibid., Scotsbard [pseud.], comment posted April 5, 2000, 01:44pm (accessed April 20, 2008).

[23] Ibid., Bruce O [pseud.], comment posted April 5, 2000, 05:56pm (accessed April 20, 2008).

[24] Ibid, Sandy Paton, comment posted April 5, 2000, 06:48pm (accessed April 20, 2008).

[25] “The Mother of all BS threads,” created by khandu [pseud.], http://www.mudcat

.org/thread.cfm?threadid=59418 (accessed May 2, 2008).

[26] Ibid., khandu [pseud.], original post created May 5, 2003, 08:31pm (accessed May 2, 2008).

[27] Ibid., Joe Offer, in undated edit to original post.

[28] Ibid., MMario [pseud.], comment added May 6, 2003, 10:53 AM; Little Hawk [pseud.], comment added May 6, 2003, 03:10 PM; Morticia [pseud.], comment added May 6, 2003, 04:08 PM; Allan C. [pseud.], comment added May 6, 2003, 04:23 PM (accessed May 2, 2008).

[29] For examples, see: “BS: Popular Views on Obama,” created by Amos [pseud.], April 27, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=101088; “BS: Texas Polygamist Colony Raid,” created by open mike [pseud.], April 10, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110284 (accessed May 1, 2008).

[30] “Okay, Ireland, I’m Coming.  Be Afraid…” created by Rapaire [pseud.], May 2, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110918 (accessed May 4, 2008)

[31] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities (London: Verso, 1983).

[32] For examples, see: “BS: Read any good books lately?” created by dulcimer42 [pseud.], February 28, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=109001; “BS: Why do we age-is there anything we can do about it,” created by EdT [pseud.], May 2, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=110909; “BS: De-cluttering – part two,” created by Liz the Squeak [pseud.], April 26, 2008, http://www.mudcat.org/

thread.cfm?threadid=110733 (accessed May 4, 2008).

[33] James W. Fernandez, “Peripheral Wisdom,” in Signifying Identities, edited by Anthony P. Cohen (London: Routledge, 2000), 120.

[34] Consider, for instance, the “Aussie Glossary,” http://www.mudcat.org/aussie/

index.cfm (accessed May 1, 2008).

[35] Fernandez, 122.

[36] Jacques Attali, “Noise and Politics,” in Audio Culture, edited by Christoph Cox and Daniel Warner (New York: Continuum, 2007), 7.

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