Apr 27, 2010 Comments Off
Just as I couldn’t remember when key Facebook features like the News Feed were added, I can’t recall when I started using YouTube. It’s another Internet phenomenon that feels like it has been around forever. It was comforting to read in the Jenkins (2009) article that I am not alone. I have certainly utilized all of the benefits of the “star” Internet sites- YouTube, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook, etc. – so I am inclined to view them positively since they are a fixture in my life. However, I detected a negative tone in both articles when discussing these sorts of sites. On some level, both Jenkins and Keen have hostilities toward the biggest search engines and video portals and were happy to share just what they believe is wrong with them.
Issue #1: YouTube is too powerful
Evidence: “More optimistically, human rights activist Ethan Zuckerman argues that any platform sufficiently powerful to enable the distribution of cute cat pictures can also be deployed to bring down a government under the right circumstances” (Jenkins 2009, p. 114)
Ethan Zuckerman sees the good that can come of this ability, but I feel like playing the devil’s advocate. Should a website have that much power? It really depends on what kind of government is being brought down. If a video that speaks out against the dictator of a country starts getting a million hits, then perhaps there will be some necessary and beneficial changes made in that country. In that situation, YouTube deserves plenty of credit. However, what about a country with a democratic government? If activist groups like white supremacists or fascists start producing hundreds of YouTube videos and gaining followers, what might the consequences be for innocent civilians? YouTube is so universal that it can connect almost anyone, but there are some people that should not be connected.
Issue #2: Ownership does not exist on YouTube
Evidence: “The minute we put our vids online, we expose ourselves to the world…We can’t stop people from sharing our vids without our consent or even our knowledge. We can’t control the distribution of our own work in a viral medium” (Jenkins 2009, p. 118)
After reading this quote, I started thinking about how many times I’ve posted random YouTube videos on my friends’ Facebook walls or shared them in messages. I never cited who made the video, when it was released, or who owns the copyright; I usually just told them to “Watch!”. Since YouTube is a free, public website accessible by anyone, it is assumed that all of the content on there can be taken and used by viewers. The people that put time and effort into making these videos get nothing in return. I’m not going to start attributing videos to their posters now, but I will send a mental “thank you” to the person who decided to create said masterpiece.
Issue #3: Social media and video portal sites have infiltrated our society
Evidence: “They post publicly and promote themselves enthusiastically, and why not? That’s what everybody does on the Internet, form the AMV creators to machinima-makers to Brokeback Mountain parodists to political remixers” (Jenkins 2009, p. 118)
In order to successfully promote a movie, its trailer must be easily accessible online (on YouTube or iTunes) and it must have its own website and pages on Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter. This is very different from seeing a preview in the movie theater and making a mental note to save the date. Everyone wants to keep up with the competition, and the competition is racing to be known on as many websites and databases as possible. Commercials now include the line “and visit our website at www.blahblah.com”, which takes up a few seconds of precious air time. Instead of trying to promote the content of a movie or product, our society has turned to promoting its image.
Issue #4: Have we no shame?
Evidence: “We are blogging with monkeylike shamelessness about our private lives, our sex lives, our dream lives, our lack of lives, our Second Lives” (Keen 2007, p. 3)
“YouTube eclipses even the blogs in the inanity and absurdity of its content” (Keen 2007, p. 5)
Does anyone actually care about this blog entry I’m writing? (Besides you Professor Murthy). Probably not. I’m a first year college student in Maine- I don’t think the general public is dying to hear my thoughts on YouTube’s effect on culture, although I’m happy to share them. At least I haven’t uploaded a video of myself lip syncing along to my favorite Lady Gaga song or dancing like a maniac then “accidentally” falling over in an amusing way. It’s nice feeling self-important – I have my own blog! My thoughts have been published in the public sphere! Everyone can watch me doing something silly on YouTube! – but one person’s blog or video is just as special as the next. Having your own blog or YouTube channel is not a big accomplishment because anyone can do it. To try and be noticed, people turn off their filter- that’s when they start blogging about their sex lives and posting provocative videos. We just want to feel special again.
Issue #5: How do we know what we know?
Evidence: “For these Generation Y utopians, every posting is just another person’s version of the truth; every fiction if just another person’s version of the facts” (Keen 2007, p. 3)
“Then there is Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia where anyone with opposable thumbs and a fifth grade education can publish anything on any topic…more than fifteen thousand contributors have created nearly three million entries in over a hundred different languages- none of them edited or vetted for accuracy” (Keen 2007, p. 4)
It’s not possible to create a fake news story or videotape a fake disaster and have millions of people believe that it is real. I myself have (sort-of) experimented with this: I was feeling sad one day, so a friend of mine decided to cheer me up by editing the Wikipedia page of one of my favorite childhood songs (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Love_You_(Martina_McBride_song). He added a line into the introductory paragraph that I knew was directed at me. I didn’t shut my computer down for three days because I didn’t know how long it would take for someone at Wikipedia to realize the false information had been planted. Sure enough, when I finally did re-start my browser, my friend’s addition was gone. There are some vetters and editors out there, but for some time it is possible to get away with creating lies.
Issue #6: The Great Media Shift has begun
Evidence: “Old media is facing extinction. But if so, what will take its place? Apparently it will be Silicon Valley’s hot new search engines, social media sites, and video portals” (Keen 2007, p. 9)
I am interested in newspaper and magazine publishing, so I am aware of the crisis that old media is experiencing. This shift has become evident in my personal life: if I want to find out about breaking news, do I turn on the television (now even the television is considered old media)? No, I Google what I want to know and immediately have my answer. If I want to watch a music video, do I turn on MTV? No, I go to YouTube. The list of changes goes on and on- Wikipedia has replaced actual encyclopedias or even visits to official websites, Perez Hilton has replaced celebrity magazines, online news sites have replaced newspapers. Old media are doing what they can to try and keep up and are developing their own websites, iPhone apps, and YouTube channels. I wonder if the day will come when Old media is forced to completely transition into the world of New media. Will my children or grandchildren not remember what it’s like to fold a newspaper or look up a word in a printed dictionary? Only time will tell.