chrisfoxenglish

Blogging is coursework, n'est pas?

Response: Wesch

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YouTube is the touted so frequently as the new horizon of artistic and creative expression on the planet. Yet this does not come without its share of controversies, prompting a more in depth and insightful investigation and understanding of the actual application of the service in the public sphere.

Wesch, an anthropologist known for his unique video showing the transition of media and culture in his video “The Machine is Us/ing Us,” discusses this in his hour long discussion at the Library of Congress. He provides an anthropological view of YouTube, from its early inception, to his own experiences with his own personal use, as well as the use by users across the planet, and how people interepet this new social form of media on the internet.

Wesch discusses many issues that remain extremely relevant regarding YouTube to this day, as well as outside of YouTube. Wesch makes an amazing comment about living in “a new mediascape,” in which everything uploaded to the internet is inherently interconnected, and spreads “virally” – as the term implies, with excessive liberation and with complete lack of control. How does YouTube fit into this mediscape, one might ask? His explanation of how Wesch’s video went viral is a pragmatic application of the “mediascape.” However, the larger ideas that can be garnered hearken back to his earlier comments about the “Numa Numa Guy,” who’s much more simply made video garnered international attention and acclaim. Our new mediascape exists in a realm no withheld by borders, inherently anarchical, and at present relatively free. We can say, do, and be whatever we wish, coexisting harmoniously in this mediascape. A person sitting in his room, singing an Italian pop song has the ability to speak on the same level as a learnèd academic of anthropology. They are placed on even footing, and both of their words are seen as equal. They are instead judged based on their content, and people appreciate or depreciate the value as a community across multiple applications of internet usage.

In short, the new mediascape as Wesch coins it is a digital land of community. Where not one voice is stronger than others, but all voices are inherently interconnected. A handful of people who dislike a video on YouTube can be trumped by the thousands connected to that video on Digg, and the spread of information is so rapid, someone can appear on millions of people’s radars literally overnight. It’s a realm that could never existed prior to the realm of  Web 2.0, given the totalitarian structure of the mass media. And I would think that Welsch would agree with me in saying that this extreme ability of sharing is a benefit to not just the few, but the many, and by the many, the world.

As mentioned, YouTube places all people on essentially the same footing, and content is judged by quality, which is a purely subjective term. This has allowed for immense innovation in the creation of creative content, and the aftereffects of such content being launched out unto the public. One prominent example of this interconnectivity of multiple-media usage is the Vlogbrothers. Originally under the handle of Brotherhood 2.0, the series was created by Hank Green and his brother John Green. Their goal: to end the ambiguity of textual communication between these two brothers by communicating regularly through videoblogs (vlogs). Their experiment worked with impressing successess, and eventually, they gained a following of subscribers on YouTube, people sincerely interested in both their commentary as well as their beings, as they were human themselves. Eventually, a community was formed from this group of random commenters. The age of Brotherhood 2.0 eventually had to come to and end, but was continued via their new “program,” coined the Vlogbrothers.

How much can vlogging change the world? Well, in the case of Hank and John Green, drastically. They were the first people to ever attempt strict communication via this format, and this format has become the standard for hundreds of content creators around YouTube. Furthermore, this community created – dubbed “Nerdfighteria,” its members known as Nerdfighters – is a real, existent entity, even though these members are spread all across the world. Nerdfighters collaborate, coordinate, and do fascinatingly amazing things. It’s a community that fosters awareness, values education, and values charity. And the inception of this community was two brothers speaking to webcams. This community has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Water.org, has aided in the success of Hank Green’s career as a musician through solidarity in the community. And, most importantly, it has helped John Green’s latest novel, The Fault In Our Stars, still unpublished became the highest selling novel (topping all books on the New York Times Bestsellers List)  on Barnes & Noble for 8 days straight with NO ADVERTISING. To repeat, and unpublished novel with no advertising was instantly a best seller, with nearly 300,000 pre-orders before the product is even COMPLETED. That is history, created by interactive community.

Other creators have spawned their own workings. Tobuscus (aka Toby Turner) has dominated the “nerd” market of YouTube with comedic commentaries and general goofiness; WheezyWaiter quit his minimum wage waiting job to become a YouTube comedian full time; Philip DeFranco, a struggling actor and star in Hollywood, ditched aside the shackles of his constraining mass-media jobs to open his own video production studio; and charlieissocoollike, a geeky kid making vlogs in his bedroom, has found a career in video creation and remains the most subscribed to European vlogger ever.

This speaks to Welsch’s comments of fame, in that literally anyone can pursue a dream of becoming famous, no matter how remote the dream might be. As Welsch said, all that is needed is a camera and the will to see it out. All of the previous “YouTube celebrities” I mentioned are all full-time artists; their only job is creating content for YouTube, supporting themselves through music, t-shirt sales, as well as AdSense money via Google Ads. The thought that anyone could become successful as an artist before now was simply not possible before the onset of YouTube. The creation of YouTube, and the mass sharing of YouTube opens us to a new realm of conception about our planet. We need to figure out new ways of looking at information, understanding information, and sharing that information.

This also gets to concepts of ownership, as Welsch also discusses. He mentions the ease with which he was able to collaborate with a musician through Creative Commons licenses, as well as the many illegalities of copyright and pirating. These are new, serious issues that are needing to be addressed. I’d ramble on, but I had a similar conversation on YouTube with another content creator, where I made a video-response to her addressing ideas and issues concerning copyright and the sharing of information. This is a conversation that happened disconnected from our own class, in the public sphere, even though we speak to these same effects in our classroom. The classroom is outside of academia with YouTube. I would ramble on, but for any more information on YouTube is better experienced through immersion. So, watch a video, and get to experiencing.

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Written by Chris Fox

25 September, 2011 at 20:20

Posted in assignment

One Response

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  1. Again, the marvel of social media combined with charity truly amazes me. Sometimes you see money raised by communities that you would never expect. Seeing things like that goes along way in keeping my faith in humanity alive.

    jamesuss

    30 September, 2011 at 11:06


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