Wednesday, March 4, 2009

YouTube, ITube, WeAllTube: Response to An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube

An Anthropological Introduction to YouTubeWhenever I tell people I’m in MIT (Media, Information, and Technoculture), they always ask, “What do you do? Watch movies in class?” And when I say, “yeah, sometimes,” they give me this disappoint head shake, as if that’s nothing. As if what we’re doing doesn’t matter, or is so easy and fun that it’s completely pointless.

This is not the case. At all.

As Marshall McLuhan said (and I think this quote might actually be the MIT catchphrase), “The medium is the message.” The reason we watch movies, TV shows, news broadcasts, and YouTube in class, is because everyone does it. Because media affects us and plays such a major part of everyday life, us MIT-ers are just trying to find out the why and how.

In the YouTube video, “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube,” there was one line in particular that caught my attention: “When media change, human relationships change.” So why shouldn’t it be studied?

Without TV, the internet, and cell phones, we probably wouldn’t be alone as much. We might not even feel the need to be as self-expressive, to set ourselves aside form the anonymous mass. Being separated/fragmented individuals, it’s obvious we want a solid community. It just so happens that YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere is it.

online communities chart

People were offended and hurt when lonelygirl15, for example, was revealed to be fake, resulting in a YouTube “authenticity crisis.” You wouldn’t want your friends or family to lie to you, so why is it any different when your online friends (people you trust and talk to and listen to) aren’t who you thought they were? It brings the loneliness back, and people don’t like that feeling. No one likes to be played like that., every time I YouTube I find the rudest comments (and some I can’t even read because apparently spelling and grammar are a thing of the past). I almost want to tell them to shut the F up if they’re going to be so negative, but then it really wouldn’t be YouTube.

The anonymity of the “invisible audience” is what makes YouTube a place for and of authenticity; if everyone knew it was really YOU speaking, you might not say what you really think. You might not even bother to say anything.

Newspapers, the telephone, the radio, the television, and the Internet have all changed the way we work, interact, think, and basically live. But there’s one scenario that can change everything, and I mean, everything: a power outage.

Imagine you couldn’t watch TV, check your email, drive, buy groceries, check your email again, text your BFF, cook. Our world as we know it would fall in on itself; without our technology and our media, we’d be completely lost and probably very lonely.

Then again, it might mean we’d start connecting more physically, say, having a conversation with someone while in the same room. Not that we don’t do that now, but now we have a choice not to.

See? There's more to MIT than just “watching movies.”

Now watch this movie.

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