Friday, July 17, 2009

YouTube Culture and the Politics of Authenticity

One of the most talked-about sessions at the Personal Democracy Forum conference we attended a few weeks back in New York was Professor Michael Wesch's speech, "The Machine is (Changing) Us: YouTube Culture and the Politics of Authenticity." Michael teaches cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, and has most recently focused on the impact of social media and digital culture on society.

Working alongside his students as digital explorers, Michael set out to learn about the YouTube phenomenon through experimentation. Just like a team of anthropologists living with tribes in the rain forest to learn about their culture, Michael and his students went "native" into the YouTube ecosystem, uploading videos, sharing them, talking with other YouTubers, and recording their thoughts along the way.

In essence, Michael and his students are exploring how our media shapes us. If the revolution of TV created a society where mindless suburbanites fixated on one-way conversations being blasted at them through their television sets, then the Internet has brought new opportunities for 2-way communication and community building through our computer screens. Yet the web also creates infinite opportunities to amplify the inane, and allows a new kind of anonymity that can lead to malaise and lack of responsibility. YouTube - which allows for both personalization and anonymity - represents this phenomenon in unique ways, and what Michael and his students discover in their research is thought-provoking. So much so that National Geographic recently named Michael an "Emerging Explorer." Not bad for a guy whose research involves watching a lot of YouTube videos.

This 30-minute speech he gave at the Personal Democracy Forum is well worth watching for anyone who's interested in YouTube and modern culture.

8 comments:

monster said...

ali

Anonymous said...

fascinating. I consider myself very lucky to live in the middle of this social revolution.

Anonymous said...

I liked it.

Rosie Phipps said...

Great video - thank you!

Simon Carpentier said...

Michael Wesch is brillant! His other lectures are as interesting and awesome. Check out his youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/mwesch

Tanith said...

wow that was amazing

SoreThumb said...

No matter how many times I see his presentation, or newer forms of it, I can't get enough. I wish he had an 'answer' for us, though.
Michael presents himself well every time, however. I don't think the 'future' whatever will occur, sadly...

Axel Schultze said...

extrillionated awsomness
whatever :-) hahaha

Gotta see this what so ever
Axel
http://xeesm.com/axels

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