YouTube Tour #1: Education
February 5, 2008
Today, I posted my first “tour” of the work and lessons-learned by the Learning from YouTube class.
I will try to post one per week, with accompanying blogs, for the next 8 weeks, resulting in 9 tours on: education, entertainment, popularity, vernacular, visual, user, owner, community and archive.
It took me awhile to decide how I’d like to present the many things I think we learned during that hectic semester, and I was pleased when I remembered the “tour” method, one we had devised during the semester to try to work YouTube against itself by creating a linked, sharable, and repeatable path, with associated comments, through its chaos. It seemed right to “publish” my results on YouTube, continuing to hack and use its forms to hold our analytical content and designs; to continue to use it to speak to, and about itself.
Attempting to present my analysis of the site on its pages, rather than, say, in those of an academic venue, demanded profound changes in the nature of my work, as a media scholar and educator that, as ever, prove telling about the workings of YouTube. The key differences were a matter of: time and brevity, vernacular, audience, professional standards, and language.
In brief, time is of the essence on YouTube. As I made the video for my tour, and the tour itself, I was hyper-aware that I needed to keep cutting, condensing, summarizing, and simplifying to speak effectively on YouTube (to keep the attention of its distractable, easily bored, viewer), which of course, is also a major part of its vernacular: there is a premium put on ease and efficiency, condensation and simplification. Where as my students are forced to hear me speak, or at least pretend to, the YouTube viewer must want to stay there because of my media skills, useful information, because I entertain her. A language of bullets: quick, exciting, and mobile. And here I would also add, the necssity for non-specialist language, so as to be heard effectively, which gets me to audience, for I assume a general and diverse audience on YouTube, one I do not imagine on this page, and one that has no relation to who reads me in academic journals. I can count on no shared references or lingo, other than that of popular culture, which diminishes the complexity of my thoughts even as it expands their reach. Unlike a classroom, where one speaks to undergraduates equally unschooled in scholarly discourse, but where you can and work to school them and together grow a shared language, the scattered, random nature of YouTube’s viewership demands that one always stays at the basic level, never giving the audience an opportunity to grow its vocabulary.
On a different note, the systems of proof and authority are diametrically different on YouTube from those of academia. My proof on YouTube is always another video, any video. Its existence, and mine, on YouTube’s pages gives us as much and no more authority than any other user, that is, of course, unless we have the power of numbers, glorious hits, on our side. Academic writing, on the other hand, also relies upon the affirmation of outside voices, however, what differentiates these voices is that they are accredited (through the systems of veting of publishing and other forms of accredidation) and that their arguments build relationally, one argument building slowly, and in dialogue with a tradition rather than the piecemeal character of the solo rant, or private confession, of YouTube.
Clearly, these reflections make me sound a snob, and not the proponent I have always been of a democratization of access to and discourses about the media. However, expanded access can not itself be a stand alone only goal, as I believe my remarks above attest. Access to media production, and dissemination, needs to be accompanied with the tools that allow for the growing complexity of discourse: and these are quite simply the capacities to work together and to learn from what has been done before. I speak about these ideas in greater length, and through scholarly discourse, as a “real academic talk” stuck on YouTube here: