No people like #showpeople : Broadway performers' ethnographic social media
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The occupational folk group of Broadway musical theater performers uses folklore in public spaces as a kind of representational strategy for the group as a whole. This strategy is significant in representing the group’s identity to itself as well as to outsiders who are invested in knowing more about them, such as Broadway enthusiasts. That is, the group can and does tell the story of itself, representing itself ethnographically, by way of its individual members. Social media technologies provide a platform for Broadway performers to present these native ethnographies both to the public and to other members of the folk group. I argue that these native, self-conscious ethnographic works by musical theater performers are both concerned with representing themselves as individuals, and with representing the cultural group of musical theater performers as a whole. Exploring the folklore and folk identities performed by members of this group in online social media suggests new ways of understanding the politics and practices of ethnography, particularly on social network sites in our postmodern global economy of attention. In this project, the first in any field to consider musical theater performers as a cultural or folk group, I investigate actors’ recognition of and group use of vernacular creative expressions—folklore—as a representational strategy. Through this work, I explore the ways in which self-representation on the part of the ethnographic participants claims voice and authority for the group, while simultaneously performing group membership and identity for multiple audiences.