Kairos 19.3


Daniel Cavicchi (1998) has observed that Springsteen concerts validate a Springsteen fan's reasons for being a fan. Fans see a concert as a "ritual rather than as entertainment" (Cavicchi, 1998, p. 95). In other words, concerts are part of the practice of being a fan, which includes an awareness of events that tend to take place from one concert to the next.

What's Happening?

On November 11, 1980 at Rosemont Horizon Hall outside of Chicago, Springsteen fans spontaneously began singing the first verse and chorus of "Hungry Heart" while Springsteen and the band played along. In 2012, Springsteen told Jimmy Fallon,

"We kick into ['Hungry Heart'] and people start singing. Now, the strange thing is this was before there was an Internet. There were telephones, but the next night it happened again 500 miles away; the next night it happens again. There's some sort of osmosis that occurs once something starts to happen. Now, of course you can put it all down to social network. But, previously, it just happened, and once it happened, it always happened after that."

Tweets that showed elements of Perpetuating reinforced a continuing narrative of Springsteen concerts: rare songs or tour premieres will be played; the set list will be substantially different from night to night; Springsteen will interact with fans and a few lucky ones will be brought on stage; a child will be given the microphone and will sing the chorus to "Waiting on a Sunny Day" to a hushed crowd; Springsteen will chug a fan's beer, crowd surf, and play for lengths of time that seem to defy what a 63-year-old man can do; and something spectacular will happen that transforms one's life in meaningful ways. Fans anticipated these activities and then celebrated when they happen:

Example Corpus Tweet

8 shows into the #WreckingBall tour and #springsteen has played 47 different songs. Will he get to 50 tonight at Izod?

Example Corpus Tweet

#springsteen mixes it up with 5 tour premiers last night at Izod. Now played 52 different songs in 9 shows

Example Corpus Tweet

Bruce Springsteen will be crowd surfing right on top of me - I'm fine with that!!! What r u doing tonight? #UWishUWereHere

Example Corpus Tweet

yup, he chugged a dude's beer then crowd surfed back to the stage. #springsteen

black and white photo of Bruce Springsteen crowdsurfing, Izod Center, April 2, 2012

The narrative of Springsteen concerts has evolved over decades of performing, and has been rewritten by fans in fanzines, blog posts, and now in ekphrastic tweets that attempt to describe in words what is a visual, aural, and emotional experience:

Example Corpus Tweet

Bruce Springsteen is sweaty to the touch #Itouchedhim #letmedie

Example Corpus Tweet

I've seen Bruce Springsteen around 13 times, each time I cry like a little baby

Example Corpus Tweet

The BEST Bruce Springsteen show I've ever seen!! He give me he's guitar pick AND GET THIS HE SHOOK MY HAND AND THANKED ME !!

Example Corpus Tweet

Also, the most rocking version of Johnny99 that I've ever heard and that girl in the front row lived out my fantasy during DITD #springsteen

Example Corpus Tweet

Did anyone see the face of the little girls Mom during Sunny Day. She looked like she was going to faint. I would have too. #springsteen

What's Happening?

On May 22, 1974, Jon Landau wrote "Growing Young with Rock and Roll" in the Boston alt-weekly, The Real Paper, in large part creating the narrative of Springsteen as performer:

"But tonight there is someone I can write of the way I used to write, without reservations of any kind. Last Thursday, at the Harvard Square theatre, I saw my rock'n'roll past flash before my eyes. And I saw something else: I saw rock and roll future and its name is Bruce Springsteen. And on a night when I needed to feel young, he made me feel like I was hearing music for the very first time."

These tweets perpetuated the activities one can expect at a Springsteen concert (and perhaps other concerts, as well, but I've no insight on that). They are examples of what Etienne Wenger (1998) described as reification: "the process of giving form to our experience by producing objects that congeal this experience into 'thingness'" (p. 58). Wenger (1998) has observed that communities of practice "produce abstractions, tools, symbols, stories, terms, and concepts that reify something of that practice in a congealed form" (p. 59). Reified objects have the potential to become the "focus around which the negotiation of meaning becomes organized" (Wenger, 1998, p. 58). While all tweets in the corpus reify fan practices, tweets that emerged as perpetuating are particularly interesting because they function as both reifications of personal experience and reifications of the larger Springsteen narrative.

Coding a Tweet

Example Corpus Tweet

I will never forget this night. I am officially the girl who danced on stage with Bruce Springsteen during dancing in the dark. So. Amazing.

  • Open Coding

    The first stage in a grounded theory analysis is open coding. During open coding, researchers create an extensive list of characteristics about each unit of analysis. For my study, each tweet was a unit of analysis. The goal of open coding is for researchers to get to know the data more fully.

    During open coding for the above tweet, the following open codes were applied:

    a tweet posted after the concert or about post-concert events

    a tweet that contains a Springsteen song title

    a tweet where Springsteen himself is mentioned

  • Axial Coding

    After open coding, I decided to focus on tweets posted before, during, and after the April 4, 2012 concert at the Izod Center. Because this tweet was posted after the concert, it was included in the study.

    The next stage is axial coding. During axial coding, a researcher is looking to better understand phenomena within the unit of analysis. When completing this stage, I asked myself, "What is this tweet doing?" I asked this question because the answer is active, often in the form of a gerund, which Kathy Charmaz (2006) recommended using when axially coding data. More than one code can be applied to each tweet, so I applied a primary code and one or more secondary codes where appropriate.

    Primary Code: Narrating: A tweet describing or depicting one’s own events at a concert.

    Secondary Codes: Critiquing; emerging; integrating; intertextual; perpetuating

  • Why Perpetuating as a Secondary Code?

    I did not assign Perpetuating as a primary code because the author's intent is to share an experience that happened to her at the concert. However, her tweet also perpetuates the narrative that Springsteen will bring a fan on stage to dance with him while he sings "Dancing in the Dark."

    The tweet also contains intertext: Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" music video, in which Courtney Cox is brought on stage to dance. The author locates her experience at the concert within a lineage of women who have been brought on stage. The author's statement, "I am officially the girl," composed without any context, presupposes her followers will understand her experience because that experience exists within Springsteen fan discourses and the narrative of Springsteen shows, as one fan made clear: "that girl in the front row lived out my fantasy during D[ancing] I[n] T[he] D[ark]."