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iTube, WeTube, we all scream for YouTube

Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University has yet to update their blog, so I went back in time, to my birth month and found another YouTube related blog post from one of Prof. Wesch’s students, Becky.

Becky posted a blog titled “The Internet has a Face”. The blog post discussed her interest in vlogging as “meaningful interaction (with others) beyond the limits of text”. She produced a video compiled of some vlog videos that were posted to YouTube. She says her video was “created to explore the content and purpose of vlogs, as well as the networking and interconnectivity as users respond and reach out to each other within and beyond the YouTube website.”

Once upon a time people wrote in a diary, kept a journal, wrote a letter or phoned a friend. Today people are text messaging, video calling, blogging, tweeting , poking, writing on walls, nudging and emoticoning.

 Oh, and vlogging.

People are vlogging about very personal and private things and posting it to the Internet for the world to see. This at first might seem odd, but it’s working for them.

In class we regularly discuss the pros and cons of social media vs. face to face communication; a very worthy discussion. Becky takes our conversation a bit further; beyond the boardroom and rows of cubicles we will all eventually come to despise and focuses on the “YouTubers” themselves. She argues that the Internet is “no longer just text to text, the Internet has a face. The Internet has a heart. The internet has humanity. …with YouTube.”

The video is actually quite moving. I think that YouTube allows people to connect more than any other social media tool. It allows people to be real and express whatever it is they want, whether it’s humility, honesty, humor, compassion or love. And people are connecting. People are just being themselves, telling a story and other people are coming to support them and share with them. It’s actually quite powerful.

Becky says “if there was a fear that the internet was making society antisocial, vlogging would seek to prove otherwise.”

And I think she’s right.

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June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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?

June 6, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment