April 10: reaction or empathy culture

Looking through YouTube yesterday I came across a phenomenon I had not registered before: Reaction culture. This is when a young person, mostly of colour, reacts to a piece of music from a classic white band or artiste from the 70s or 80s. So, we see the face of a twenty-year-old hip-hop aficianado as she listens to a track from Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon for the first time, her eyes exploding as the weird sound explorations evolve or tears flowing as she listens to Wish you were here. What is happening? Are they sponsored by record companies wanting to introduce modern youth to classic rock to shift more units? There is something pleasant about communing with another person in listening to a loved piece of music. It flatters a baby-boomer to commune with another generation and another ethnicity maybe. It’s also part of pattern. The mediation of reception through others. We see it in X-factor and co. We are shown how to react by the judges. The programme Gogglebox where we focus on viewers watching telly and their reactions is another example that comes to mind. I suppose we have always had critics pointing us in the right direction; few zero-degree confrontations ever take place in aesthetic judgements. This seems different, however. It’s empathy culture in action. I am a believer that empathy is a more efficient pedagogical system than the magisterial system. A student responds better to a teacher reacting to material spontaneously than to his usage of prepared material. If the teacher sees, say, a text for the first time and reacts to it spontaneously in front of the students you see their process. The teaching is not dead meat; it is dynamic and questing. We like to see a spontaneous reaction, and as with the hip-hop fan reacting to Pink Floyd, we re-experience our first audition of the song through our empathy with the other’s reaction.


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