Jugendszenen.com – Individualists per Mouseclick
"I really ask myself what such Internet language resources are good for... because people are either into BM or DM or not. And if not, then dumb survey introductions like this won’t interest them, either," writes a Heavy Metal fan on a scene website and in doing so takes a critical shot at another website that seeks to make his and other scenes – including BM and DM – comprehensible to outsiders.
Five Years of jugendszenen.comBut people do find answers at www.jugendszenen.com: who belongs to what scene, where, and why? The website of the Department of General Sociology of the University of Dortmund, under the directorship of Prof. Ronald Hitzler, decodes "MB" as "Black Metal" and "DM" as "Death Metal." Both are to be found grouped as scenes, in the website’s scene catalog. With a click one can download a short profile in which the history of the scene, its ideological background and influences, trends, attitudes and life-style are presented and explained, as well as its symbols and rituals. Even current events and "in" hang-outs, structures and media, and relations with other scenes are to be found here. So far, the website offers 21 profiles, but no matter how clearly organized the page may be – the website’s clear-cut structure also inspires distrust. After all, can scenes made up of absolute individualists who deliberately and unequivocally wish to disassociate themselves from the mainstream be defined and therefore confined in a catalog?
The Portal with a TaskDaniel Tepe, the project’s coordinator, says, "Scenes arise around music styles, fashions and various typües of sport." He explains to the dpa (a leading German news agency) that the phenomenon of scenes in the 1970’s arose out of a need for both community and fun experiences. He counts the Hip-Hop, Techno and inline skating movements as among the largest in Germany in the 21st century. And the Internet is constantly producing new youth scenes: "There are scenes that live primarily through the Internet – online role-playing, for instance," says Tepe. They are all like vessels "that one can fill with the search for one’s "own" idea of what life should be, and these vessels give them a form, so to speak." And the University of Dortmund has been trying to fathom these vessels for years now.
The researchers obtain their data by means of classical sociological methodology, through interviews and observations. But many of their scene portraits are written by scene members, as well. The sociologists thus see their portal as scene ethnography that does not seek to present academic sociological information in a "technical or highly complicated" and thereby intimidating manner. "Our presentation concept is far rather to make what some people do a bit more intelligible and understandable for other people who don’t do it." The portal is intended as a platform for the sociologists’ academic colleagues and for teachers, but also for people involved in the various subcultures themselves. And the latter have shown themselves to be both very interested and critically alert. Thus, some scene members complain on their own websites about the researchers’ sponsoring partner, the music broadcaster MTV. And the Dortmund sociologists in fact admit that their website also provides basic information for "scene-oriented marketing strategies." Just the ticket for a TV broadcaster that wishes to appeal primarily to young people from all walks of life and can make good use of a practical overview of the various scenes’ lively, colorful doings.
Clicking Onto the Scenes, and Onto Life ItselfMany scene members click their way through the portal and engage in intense discussion. "Gothic Lolita comes from Visual Kei. And Visual Kei isn’t Gothic, any more than the bands behind Gothic bands are. Come on, people, first do some decent research before you publish something like that. Dozens of people read this stuff daily and take it at face value!" fumes an Internet surfer in "User Comments" at jugendszenen.com.But the homepage from Dortmund has been well-received in other portals such as forum.schwarzes-wuerzburg: "As we’ve said, at least the articles aren’t written by people outside the scene. Maybe it was thought up as an educational resource for parents and teachers, and it’s probably more reliable than Wikipedia. I have the feeling that the articles are intended for Mom and Dad so that they can find out what their child is up to (poor family communication during a certain phase of life is no rarity, after all). And for such purposes "stereotypical" presentations are probably more suitable… I can imagine an overly-concerned old '68er Mommy envisioning her son as a neo-Nazi beating up foreigners because he has a crop and wears bleachers with suspenders and Doc Martens boots… and the poor kid is probably only an Oi! or even a Sharp."
A quote like this just begs for someone to have a go at translating and explicating it. However, hardly anybody is in a position to say how successfully (or not) this is accomplished. At best the scenes themselves, if anyone. But naturally they are the ones with the least interest in reaching exactly that mainstream public from which they wish to distance themselves, or simply avoid or criticize. And are the scenes in fact so homogeneous that all of their members speak the same language, the same slang, and think in the same way? So that they fit into a neat profile? There are many in Germany with an interest in this and all other related questions – at any rate, more than 800,000 users have visited the website in the past five years, in search of insights and perspectives, perhaps also in search of their seemingly prodigal son or alienated daughter – and at jugendszenen.com they have discovered some things of interest, brief glimpses of colorful subcultures, clicking onto life itself, that - as we know – eludes being fit into a profile!
is a journalist and author specializing in the environment and social issues.
Translation: Ani Jinpa Lhamo
Copyright: Goethe-Institut, Online-Redaktion
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