May 3, 2010 Comments Off
In the first reading assignment for this week, Andrew Keen offers a scathing view of YouTube. He views YouTube and the related video content as a dilution of our culture. In Keen’s worldview, the culture of our time is held up by “the very traditional institutions that have helped to foster and create our news, our music, our literature, our television, and our movies.”He views YouTube to be so threatening to our culture that he essentially compares the users to the monkey-typewriter example of T.H. Huxley. If the users of YouTube are the monkeys at the typewriters, then Keen is still waiting for them to produce a masterpiece.
In the second reading assignment for this week, Henry Jenkins offers a compiled review of the different purposes and viewpoints on YouTube and what it can offer groups with different interests. Essentially all the groups desire to put out content that reaches people through conversation, but the end goals are different. The first perspective he offers is one from a “do-it-yourself” perspective. In this view YouTube offers an outlet for conversation and cultural exchange despite the question of whether it can truly occur over a commercial platform. Other views espouse YouTube as a means to promote issues with an alternative view of the issue, others seek to promote issues (like human rights abuses), and others just seek to expose themselves through their own personality or culture.
Overall, the two viewpoints offered by these articles represent skepticism and idealism. I believe that the skeptical view is the best lens to examine YouTube through. I think that the idealist viewpoint is just that. It ignores the plethora of other YouTube content that offers nothing to conversation. An example of that is how YouTube is essentially a music streaming site. I particularly approve of the typewriting monkeys example. I can understand how the author feels that YouTube has yet to produce a masterpiece despite the millions of users posting inane content. The question becomes what defines a masterpiece on YouTube or even what gives a video a kind of legitimacy that cannot be attacked using the typewriting monkeys example?.
I believe that the answer to my question is that it is dependent on the individual. For me, the pinnacle of YouTube media is Harry Potter Puppet Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise. I love that video so much, but if I would place myself into Keen’s shoes, I don’t expect that he would view it as a masterpiece or the pinnacle of what YouTube has to offer.
Keen states in his article that the Huxley he was referring to was not Aldous, but his grandfather T.H. However, I think that it is useful to look at the work of Aldous in understanding YouTube (in a sense). Over the last few weeks, I had been reading A Brave New World (but I’ve stopped because the text was too confusing for me to continue). For the 3/5th’s of the book that I have read, I have gotten the impression that the purpose of the World State is to condition people from the reality of the human condition, which is a lot more harsh than even the Epsilon Morons (the lowest caste in the World State) can imagine. I think that if we take Aldous Huxley’s World State and replace it with YouTube, then we realize that YouTube has the capacity to shield us from reality in a way that allows us to think that we are engaging with others on a dynamic level, when in reality, we are being “drowned in a sea of irrelevance”.