MSVU Social Media Course Blog

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It’s long, but a goodie!

Since there hasn’t been any new material posted to the blog I decided to try out the website Professor Wesch links his blog from. I found this amazing video of a presentation he gave at the Library of Congress last year. The interesting thing is Wesch decided not to use a PowerPoint but rather prepared over 40 minutes of video – mostly YouTube videos.

The title of his presentation was “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube”. Wesch and his students study the culture of YouTube and together collaborated to build this incredible presentation. The video I’m referencing for this post is 55 minutes long, so I’ll spare you the summary and allow you watch it yourself. (Just a word of advice: don’t watch it in the library, you may LOL at any point and “apparently” that annoys people…just sayin…)

In a nut shell, the video tells a story about how YouTube gives people an outlet to create  “new forms of expression, new forms of community, and new forms of identity”. The video is captivating from beginning to end, and touched on some things that Kimberly and Ben talked about last class.

Wesch says there is a “cultural inversion” where people are increasing expression of individualism and simultaneously increasing their value of community. Humans are becoming increasingly independent while longing for stronger relationships and we see increased commercialization all around us but we long for authenticity. As Kimberley and Ben addressed the “argument of authenticity”, I thought about the many organizations we learn about who try to mimic authenticity, and fail horribly. The “wigging out”, “I killed my best friends” and lonelygirl15 vlog that created an explosion of drama all over YouTube are just some examples. It seems almost commonsense to me that a foggy YouTube campaign would fail, and I wonder why, after so many have proved it doesn’t work, organizations continue to try and fool their audience. Clearly all the YouTubers are much smarter than these organizations and will no doubt do their research.

But, back to authenticity, I wonder how authentic one can really be? What about the saying “put your best face forward”? Do we have more than one face, more than one self? How we define ourselves changes depending on who we are defining to and the desired outcome of that definition. Maybe I’m going a little too far, but Wesch makes a great argument for authenticity. He asks, “Can YouTube be authentic?” When everyone around the globe is uploading a video, ripping someone else’s and editing it to create a different product, aren’t those people actively producing content? If we are uploading videos of ourselves, aren’t we producing ourselves? Aren’t we toying with our identity?

I’ll take it one step further, how many times do you “un-tag” a picture of yourself on Facebook that someone else produced? Is that not editing your identity? People get an understanding of who you are by studying your profile, looking at your picture, reading your interests, and watching your videos. By editing or deleting a picture are you not censoring your identity? Which is the real you?

It is important for us, as individual users of these social tools, to recognize this struggle and tug-of-war we have with authenticity. Without understanding it on a “self” level, I don’t see how we could understand it on an “organization” level. To be effective social communicators we must understand how we as individuals identify with the tools themselves and the communities we belong to, and ultimately how we identify ourselves in these spaces.

Are you authentic?

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June 6, 2009 - Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , ,

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