Contributions from Argentina

2 entries (click on the titles to navigate, or scroll down to read both entries):

Rebel Seniors, Teens Falling Asleep in Class and Digital “pans and pots protests”

Author: Ximena Díaz Alarcón,  current PhD Candidate in Sociology (UCA – Universidad Católica Argentina). You can contact her at xdiaz@youniversalcontent.com.

Field site: In strict lockdown in Buenos Aires, Argentina, connecting with informants via Whatsapp via mobile phone. Informants are 45 + years old women of middle-upper socioeconomic levels living in Buenos Aires.

In Argentina, we are going through the 45th day of lockdown and being in “full-face-mask-mode”. In this lockdown, different responses from two ends of the life stage spectrum grabbed my attention: teens and seniors.

On the one hand, teens (and kids) have had to adjust to online classes due to quarantine restrictions and after a couple of weeks of being in a virtual classroom, Zoom-bombing scares and intense “wi-fi wars” at home (where parents fight for wi-fi to work while youngsters use it to study), they seem to be trying to build up new routines. But the strong migration to full online-life caused by the quarantine is not necessarily easier for younger people.

Teens -or at least some of them- certainly seem to manage digital devices in a more “fluent” way than other generations do, but being “digitally fluent” does not “inoculate them” (to use a topical, vaccine-related metaphor) against fear and tension in the midst of the pandemic.

In different interviews I held with them over the last couple of days, they expressed the fear of missing parties and fun, as well as missing face-to-face contact and flirting. They also fear they won’t be able to have all the experiences we adults have already had if a vaccine against Covid- 19 is not found soon. “You have to understand – a 14-year-old teenage girl told me- you as an adult might miss something from the “real world”, but I least, you have ALREADY LIVED!”.

Maybe that’s why girls still put makeup on and giggle and laugh out loud in Zoom parties, and boys and girls stand up and dance alone in their rooms with the music blasting. They seem to be trying to emulate all the embodied emotions of meeting in person as much as they can while having to connect online.

Besides all the “real life” elements teens seem to be missing, they also comment on the fear of not ”really learning” via online classes, mention that connection gets lost in streaming and that crowded classes made it harder to participate. Some parents are also expressing concerns about that and some even feel it’s “unfair to pay the same school fee” during these times since they consider classes to be less structured and teachers seem to struggle to grab kid’s attention. At the same time, teachers are concerned about their own struggles to keep up and the extra hours spent (not necessarily paid!) to transform their usual classes into virtual ones.

A case of extreme boredom made the news a couple of weeks ago when a student literally fell asleep during class and started snoring online. Jokingly, the teacher said that he had many a student falling asleep in his classes before, but never snoring in their own beds! (as it was the case with the teen that made the news).

Student falls (literally) asleep in virtual class. The photo was shared in TV, social media and newspapers. Source: https://www.24horas.cl/coronavirus/profesor-viraliza-a-estudiante-que-se-duerme-en-plena-clase-online-4113195

At the other end of the life stage spectrum, we find the “rebellion of the old”. A couple of days ago, the government of Buenos Aires wanted to implement an additional legal restriction which would ban over 70s from being on the streets, under the directive of taking care of this high-risk population for the virus. But this was fiercely rejected by seniors.  So much so, that the restriction was not even implemented.

In the midst of this debate, an 83-year-old woman took matters into her own hands and went sunbathing in a public park, ignoring the lockdown. Police officials had to drag her out while she explained that beyond lockdown limitations, she ” needs to sunbathe due to health-related reasons”. This case also made the news and sparked a public discussion about individual freedom versus state control.

A rebellious 83-year old sunbathes, ignoring lockdown restrictions. Source: https://www.clarin.com/sociedad/jubilada-salio-tomar-sol-vote-larreta-medidas-generan-rechazo-ganas-cachetearlo-_0_K0V7HmBp_.html

In terms of more general “responses” in Argentina, both ‘analogue’ and digital reactions were displayed.

A few days before lockdown and in imitation of the applauses and recognition that Spanish citizens dedicated to their health professionals, Argentinians also started to clap on their terraces and balconies at 9 pm, each night, to celebrate their own health professionals.

This ”social date” coincided with demands from the health sector to have more and better materials to protect them in the fight against the virus.  Some arguments were made regarding the need for practical and material recognition for doctors and nurses, rather than symbolic recognition such as “clapping”.

The fact that in some buildings, doctors and nurses were asked by their neighbours to leave their own homes for fear of contagion was publicly denounced. So much so, that INADI (the National Institute against Discrimination, Xenophobia and Racism), had to issue a statement asking the public not to discriminate against doctors.

An open invitation to clapping in support of doctors and nurses at 9 pm. This has been shared on social media.
“Stay at home” – an official street advert sponsored by the Ministry of Health
INADI Twitter Communication against doctor´s discrimination “The virus does not discriminate, let not be us the ones that discriminate”. Source: INADI Twitter account – https://twitter.com/inadi/status/1246944092103282690

On a final note regarding responses in the country, in a sort of “twist” from the “clapping at 9 pm” ritual, balconies and terraces also saw many Argentinians “banging their pams and pots” (”cacerolazo”, a local expression of protest), only this time, it was to protest against judges’ decision to release a number of prisoners and allow them to spend the quarantine at home, given the overcrowded conditions of local prisons.

Again, social media and Whatsapp were the media through which this was organised en masse in the whole country and some memes about the protest started circulating, repurposing the “stay at home” government campaign with a play on words that means “stay in jail”.

Social media communications inviting the public to express protest on the balcony against prisoners going home to spend the quarantine. The “stay in jail” meme repurposes the “stay at home” communication. Both have been shared on social media.

Argentinian creativity kept flourishing amid the pandemic, as expressed by a tip an informant shared with me: the “Cacerolazo app”, an application that emulates the sound of pots and pans being banged without having to actually beat your kitchenware. She told me it was a Chilean app created during the last episodes of social unrest in Chile and that she recommended it to me. After all “it is better to go onto the balcony and protest digitally, so you don’t ruin your pots and pans. God knows we have to keep them safe. We are all doing more home cooking during quarantine!”

The app can be downloaded here: https://apps.apple.com/do/app/cacerolapp-app-de-cacerolazo/id1489831471

 

Zoom parties in everyday life

Author: Victoria Irisarri. Postdoctoral researcher at IDAES/CONICET. Lecturer in Anthropology at the University of Buenos Aires. You can contact Victoria at victoria.irisarri@icloud.com.

Fieldsite: Cultural producers in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Buenos Aires city is known for its cultural events, music being one of the activities that concentrates most of the attention compared to the whole country. In particular, parties have also been one of Buenos Aires’ main attractions and income generators. As it has been largely studied, while digital devices for music production have become massively available, recorded music as a source of income has significantly decreased, especially for those musicians that are not mainstream. In this context, live music has become a fertile exploratory terrain to generate new ways of becoming a musician for those engaged in this sector. Parties have become collective performances in which complex levels of production and knowledge intersect in live events that last a whole or part of the night. But what happens to these face-to-face upcoming, mobile and mostly body-engaged activities when there is a quarantine with restricted social and physical contact, especially for those that involve crowded events?

Musicians have developed new ways to relate to their publics through different social media. In this lockdown, the app Zoom has become a response to social isolation for everyone in general and also for musicians. In particular, DJs have started to throw parties through this app, which has become a global trend (see also Asad el-Malik in this blog). In this context, a new configuration of night sociability emerges. Even though the pandemic brings exceptional hours, the parties are still at night. Online parties introduce a full range of possibilities in quantity and type, including a variety of musical tastes and different kinds of audiences.

These kinds of parties have not only called anthropologists’ attention, but also that of journalists who have been writing at high speed a vast number of pieces to tackle the new pandemic phenomenon. These articles, in general, emphasise the novelty of the virtual dance and how all private living rooms have now been transformed into dance floors as a way of “resisting” the pandemic situation. However, this arguably romantic position equalises all parties and sets aside how these are produced and managed and all the interactions needed for these parties to emerge.

All together through a screen on your own dance floor

For these parties to happen, multiples subjects and objects take action. Digital technologies play a key role to bond all the actors involved. Not only because these parties happen to take place on a digital platform, but also because most of them are promoted through other apps. For example, the party Hasta la Pista, organized by Dj Villa Diamante, is publicised through Instagram and also enables access via Zoom. In order to get in, all guests need to send a direct message requesting the party’s Zoom ID and key. Together with that data, a set of rules is sent to the participants that needs to be followed strictly: cameras must be on in order to virtually dance together with the other participants, otherwise, it is suggested to leave the spot for someone else on the dance floor; mics are muted and only operated by the host, while private and public chats are available for everyone. In addition, the flyer says “please, do not insist if someone doesn’t want your attention and let us know if someone is bothering you”, while taking care of your own image by using a nickname or mask is eagerly stimulated to get partygoers into the festive mood, reminding the participants that the party could be recorded and played somewhere else. Also, dressing up, setting up your space for dancing and preparing a cool drink are encouraged. Body and behaviour discipline at Buenos Aires’ Zoom parties appears to be quite rigorous.

Once inside, the party starts, and music sets the rhythm and intensity of the dance in the living rooms. At each home, the view from any screen is a panel board of multiple squares with low, disco or coloured lights. Those haptic surfaces propitiate the path in between private and the collective, blurring the difference between one and the other. Some dance alone, others in pairs, and others just hang out trying to guess who is around. The way music configures emotional and embodied states cannot be predetermined by music. As Tia De Nora[1] has stated, music not only affects how people feel emotionally but also affects the physical body by providing a ground for self-perception. Music, understood as a prosthetic technology, extends what the body can do. In these lockdown parties, through the Zoom fragmented windows you can see some people perreando (a kind of dance similar to twerking) in front of a mirror and a screen, others dancing traditional cumbia steps, or just hanging out. The first layer of overcoming isolation is through the own body and screen.

Hasta la Pista Saturday night Zoom party

But are these parties just a(nother) narcissistic activity to cope with the confinement anxieties during pandemic times? I wouldn’t say so. Just like the production of the party, the interaction among participants also relies on a set of multiple technologies. Music and visual designs are played on YouTube, dancing is on Zoom, and chats take place on both platforms. At one point, the DJ mixes the images by overlaying Zoom dancers on YouTube visual designs. People smile, dance and cheer at home praising the juxtaposition of the images. The party happens through different platforms at the same time and each platform with its affordances helps the party to succeed.

Hasta la Pista Saturday night Zoom party

Part of their success also relies on “party promoters”. As those known from face-to-face parties, Zoom promoters are also built by subjects that turn the party as visible as possible on social networks, through posts, reposts, likes, live-streaming and any other actions that might call attention to the targeted audience. Depending on their promoters’ popularity and music style, parties can vary between having 80 to 65,000 assistants. This disparity is not only due to the promoter’s work, but also, as a DJ suggested, responds to the number of followers that each party has captured on social networks, especially on Instagram.

So, what are Zoom parties? We can approach music activities as a diversified network of technical objects, material supports, instruments, devices, on which the musician must operate in order for music finally emerge as such, as Antoine Hennion[2] has proposed. I would argue that from this ‘mediation perspective’, these parties happen by a collective redistribution of creation that covers an extended network of people, technologies, music, and social networks. In this way, Zoom parties are not just an aesthetic proposal with the power to make people “resist”, neither can they be reduced to “new virtual rites” stimulated by an unprecedented pandemic crisis. Thinking through Zoom parties allows us to identify the “progressive appearance of the work and its reception” (Hennion), which distinguishes one Zoom party from another and gives a taste of the local sense of the ways to overcome isolation and experience new socialities in Argentina.

[1] DeNora, T. (2000). Music in Everyday Life. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511489433

[2] Antoine Hennion, The Passion for Music: A Sociology of Mediation, Translated by Margaret Rigaud and Peter Collier, Farnham, Ashgate, 2015, 339 p.