YouTube on the news: (main)streaming the margins?

In a previous post I talked about YouTube. About it becoming another branch of the mainstream media. About its promotion of certain videos over others. And about how this combination undermines the formation and nurture of online communities. Especially marginal ones.

But wait. There may still be hope yet. I’ve got some good news, from watching the news.

The mass media is realising the power and popularity of posting on YouTube, but it’s also working in reverse. YouTube videos are increasingly being shown on the mass media. It’s in this partnership that lies a glimmer of hope for some (definitely NOT mainstream) communities.

Chat show hosts like Ellen De Generes and David Letterman are inspiring video trawling copycats around the world. In Australia, Channel 7’s ‘The Morning Show’ has been at it for a while, and now the evening news programmes are getting on board.

Allow me to elaborate.

I first saw this clip on the Channel 10 news.

Amazed, I immediately started researching “parachute skiing”. Hardly the type of thing you can read about in the sport section of the local newspaper. Though maybe it should be.

**UPDATE: I recently found this little gem. Yeah, I’m hooked.**

Initially I was shocked, but delighted, to see something like this on the news. Though it’s not even a new trend. In fact, the mainstream media has long been a handy way to discover some of the more obscure, yet interesting (they have to be to get a gig during prime time) things in life. You just need to know where to look.

For instance, I saw this on 60 minutes a long time ago:

From which I discovered

And now I’m seriously considering booking tickets to Norway. Well, in my dreams at least.

Yet, wicked videos aside, this does show the power of mainstream and alternative media working together. As mainstream content moves onto YouTube, (arguably) alternative content is also moving onto mainstream media. And, if they are lucky enough, some of these more obscure communities will undoubtedly benefit from the widespread exposure in the mass media. Hopefully helping to promote and develop these communities on a scale that they probably never predicted.

It can be so simple, yet effective. I see one video, I show a friend, he shows someone else, they put it on Facebook and bam! Thousands of new wingsuit BASE jumping enthusiasts are born, just like that.

**UPDATE: One more recent example. Planking. The social media phenomenon that began with a bang. It popped up all over Facebook, jumped into the mass media spotlight (and the police’s for that matter) and is now a dinner table, or perhaps bar stool, topic of conversation around the world. Not bad for a sport that consists of lying down, well, anywhere.**

Whether parachuting avalanche-starting skiiers, or grown men lying on the floor, the line between the mainstream media and (what has typically been considered) alternative media continues to blur. Hopefully, this can breathe new life into the many marginal communities that are just waiting for some good news, and more views.

(On a brief, but slightly related tangent. YouTube recently announced a YouTube Live service; where, according to their blog, you will soon be able to watch “the most compelling live events happening on YouTube”. Could this be another way for marginal communities to get exposure? Here’s hoping that this is more than just computer TV, and we get to see some new, interesting stuff!)

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Blogging for who? Sorry, not you.

Week 7:

B) Lovink also argues that: “No matter how much talk there is of community and mobs, the fact remains that blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self” (Reader, page 222).

Discuss this argument, giving an example of a blog.

I’ve never understood the thinking behind a blog. I’m neither that interesting, nor that selfish (I hope). Not to be rude, but it’s true, blogs are inherently personal. They’re a means to rant, to complain, and to comment without restraint. They provide a voice, in a world where less and less voices are heard.

The argument that the blogosphere is the ultimate democratic tool of the 21st century is a highly contested one. Rather, I agree with Lovink’s argument that for all the talk of communities and mobs, “blogs are primarily used as a tool to manage the self” (2008: 28). Lovink argues that “blogs are part of a wider culture that fabricates celebrity on every possible level” (2008: 28), and that ultimately blogs just “perform the introspective duty of the online diary” (2008: 29). Arguably, the majority of blogs are “too personal, even egocentric” (Lovink, 2008: 28). West raises the interesting notion that blogs are simply “media influenced modes of escapism” (2004: 176) and indeed, many people I know write blogs because it’s therapeutic. I disagree, however, that this is fuelled only by “personal depression” and “loneliness” (West, 2004: 176). Sometimes it’s just healthy to get things off your chest.

Interestingly Shirky defines blogs as “social software”—that which “supports social interaction” (Quoted in Lovink, 2008: 29)—and yet “most sites either have ‘no comments’ or [have] closed down the possibility of responding altogether” (Lovink, 2008: 28). Extending this, Trueman argues that “when everyone in general thinks they have a right to be heard…nobody in particular is listened to” (Quoted in Lovink, 2008: 27). So if bloggers are neither listening to nor commenting on other blogs, then clearly, as Claire E. Write argues, “the essence of a blog is not the interactivity of the media: it is the sharing of the thoughts and opinions of the blogger.” (Quoted in Loving, 2008: 28) Thus, regardless of any community involvement, blogging is always fundamentally a personal endeavour.

Let’s look at a real life blog. It took me three seconds to find this one, conveniently promoted on the WordPress.com homepage.

Stevil (http://stevebetz.wordpress.com/) is the personal blog of Steve Betz. Steve is your average protein chemist-cum-structural biologist-cum-endocrinologist drug discoverer. He’s in his mid-40s (guessing from his pictures) and lives in San Diego with his wife and beloved dog (who features in the majority of these pictures).

Steve seems like a smart guy. Yet he posts stuff like:

“Boys will be boys”: An insightful post about two elephants urinating and rolling in their own faeces during his recent trip to the San Diego Zoo. In case you still don’t get it, there are 6 action shots, in glorious colour.

And “Rise and Shine”: A photo of a snail with the reminder “Time to get moving this morning”. (Source: Stevil)

Now forgive me for being harsh. But the fact that a grown man woke up and felt the need to post, in public, on the Interweb, that it was “time to get moving” — and then illustrate it with a picture of a snail — is, frankly, ridiculous. (It’s also contradictory. If you need to get moving, why are you blogging?) The elephant story isn’t much better. Nevertheless, whether or not I find Steve’s posts interesting, or read them at all, is irrelevant. That’s the beauty of a blog: it’s written fundamentally for oneself.

(Still not convinced? While explaining blogs, this video highlights their personal and often trivial nature.)

And, yes. I do realise the irony of writing this on a blog…

Words: 551

References:

Lovink, G. (2008) Zero Comments: Blogging and Critical Internet Culture, London, UK: Routledge. pp 1-38

Stevil – Blog: (http://stevebetz.wordpress.com/) [date accessed: 24 April 2011]

West, C. (2004) Democracy Matters: winning the fight against imperialism, New York: The Penguin Press. pp 176