May 3, 2010
At the beginning of this course, I said that my favorite website was YouTube. In retrospect, I think that my favorite site is actually Pandora, but I still like YouTube. Sometimes I watch it on my own to entertain myself or to listen to music, but it also serves a social function. Watching YouTube videos is an activity that I can share with people who I do not have many interests in common with.
In the introduction to Andrew Keen’s, “The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture”, Andrew Keen compares individuals who post content on the Internet to Huxley’s “infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters”, saying that the result is an “endless sea of digital mediocrity”. I was not indignant to read Andrew Keen’s bashing of YouTube or Jenkins’ urging to look beyond the site for the roots of phenomenon of participatory culture. At first, Andrew Keen came off as seeming snobbish, but after watching a video of an interview with him (on YouTube!), I came away with an appreciation for the fact that you can be critical of the way a technology or institution alters society and still take advantage of its affordances.
After taking Principles of Microeconomics last fall, I can see how the paradigm shift in information media is a source of concern, especially to the old-school types in the entertainment/journalism/music industry. Supposedly if property rights of digital goods (music, movies, news stories) are not respected, the economic incentives for production of high quality material deteriorate. Jack Black agrees…
Still, is economic profit really the only motivation for the release of creative works? Is there not just as much talent on YouTube as in Hollywood? True, it may be found at considerably lower densities, but personally I find more value in some of the material that I find on YouTube than in some of the movies provided by Hollywood. For example, I was introduced to this animated video based on Costa Rican colloquialisms and the infamy of directions given by ticos.
Also, YouTube challenges the notion of a market because it is a space where lots of consumption and production occurs, but videos are not exchanged for money. Jenkins likens this to the “gift economy where goods are circulated freely for shared benefit rather than sold for profit.” Digital information is a non-rival good, meaning that your use of it does not detract from my use of it.
Jenkins wrote that, “YouTube seems to ofer an inexhaustible supply of user-generated content. Yet, this very plentitude (McCracken, 1998) may discourage us from pondering what materials are not to be found there” (p.125). I believe that this extends beyond YouTube into the Internet in general. What is slipping through the cracks in terms of online content? What happens when we assume that if something is not online then it does not exist? This then ties into issues of digital divides, because the ability to post YouTube videos or blog is not distributed equally, both within the USA and at the international level.