ISSN: 1477965X
First published in 2003
3 issues per volume
Volume 12 Issue 2-3
Cover Date: December 2014
Digital hustling: ICT practices of hip hop artists in Grahamstown
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Authors:  Alette Schoon 
DOI: 10.1386/tear.12.2-3.207_1

digital ethnography,hip hop,low-income,South Africa,music production,digital media,township

Hip hop artists are early adopters of digital media in the township areas of Grahamstown. This article describes the emergence of particular media ecologies that depend on a do-it-yourself ethic where young people are always ‘hustling’ to get hold of data bundles, software and computer parts, and assembling them in novel ways. This mobile-first generation are increasingly adopting desktop and laptop computers to supplement their media production, and could provide insights into the evolution of low-income digital media practices and the transition from mobile-only to mobile-first (computer-second) practices, as well as how the computer’s increased affordances for production influence such digital media practices. Living in backyard shacks made from corrugated iron and mud, where there are makeshift electrical connections criss-crossing the roof and no flowing water inside, here there is indeed Internet connectivity, although exclusively through the mobile phone. These hip hop artists are supported by various digital service providers, such as WAP-site designers who hack together sites that function both to promote and distribute local media as well as pirated content, to backyard computer repairers who cannibalize parts from discarded old PCs to create workable township machines. This article will provide a digital ethnography of these young people and how they work collectively to record and mix music, design posters, album covers and avatars, and then distribute these through their phones via Bluetooth and online social media. The article will tie these digital practices to the identity formation of these young people, who resist ­succumbing to the despair of unemployment through embracing notions of themselves as artists, hustlers and ‘explorers of technology’, identities they attribute to the local culture of hip hop music production and its values of consciousness, creativity and resilience.
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