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:

4 Responses to “YouTube Tour #1: Education”

  1. wairere Says:

    Kia ora from New Zealand,

    I just found your site through my Google Alerts for Critical Theory and Critical Pedagogy. I have read your material and enjoyed what I found. I especially liked your video and Youtube tour. It inspires me to have a go myself. I think that you may enjoy my own website – which you are free to use as a resource. I am a retired academic with more than 40 years teaching Architecture at the top Universities on three continents (the UK, U. C. Berkeley and U. of Auckland, New Zealand). I have a PhD in Architecture – specialising in the interface between design education and critical theory/critical pedagogy. I am writing because I thought you might find my own website useful. I have a distinguished teaching Award from the University of Auckland (where I taught for 20 years), and for the last five years served as Director of Academic Programme development at Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi, (one of three Maori Universities) in New Zealand, giving me a unique perspective on issues of Colonisation, Education and Cultural Pluralism and Critical Pedagogy. I retired a year ago and have set up the website as an educational resource, covering issues such as:

    Critical Theory
    Critical Theorists
    Critical Practice (Praxis)
    Critical Pedagogy
    Critical Education Theory
    Colonisation
    Postcolonialism
    Postmodernism
    Indigenous Studies
    Critical Psychology
    Cultural Studies
    Critical Aesthetics
    Hegemony,
    Academic Programme Development
    Sustainable Design
    Critical Design etc. etc.

    The website (www.TonyWardEdu.com ) contains more than 60 (free) downloadable and fully illustrated PDFs on all of these topics and more – offered to students from the primer level, up to PhD. It also has a set of extensive bibliographies and related web links in all of these areas.

    The website (www.TonyWardEdu.com ) contains more than 60 (absolutely free) downloadable and fully illustrated PDFs on all of these topics and more offered to students from the primer level, up to PhD. It also has a set of extensive bibliographies and related web links in all of these areas.

    I would be very grateful if you would have a look at the website and perhaps bring it to the attention of your students for them to use as a resource.

    There is no catch!

    It’s just that I believe the world is going to hell at an unimaginable rate and I want to do something to help to turn it around – for my children and my grandchildren All that I ask in return, is that you and they let me know what you think about the website and cite me for any material that may be downloaded and/or used.

    I would also also like to post a link to your site from my own and would appreciate a reciprocal link to my site from your own so that others may come to know about it and use it.

    Well done and many thanks

    Dr. Tony Ward Dip.Arch. (Birm)
    Academic Programme, Tertiary Education and Sustainable Design Consultant

    (Ph) (07) 307 2245
    (m) 027 22 66 563
    (e) tonyward.transform@xtra.co.nz

  2. Danny George Says:

    What a brilliant idea!–I learned about your project in The Horizon Report from the New Media Consortium. My name is Danny George and I’m presently a Ph.D candidate in Medical Anthropology at Oxford University. I’ve recently co-authored a book with Dr. Peter Whitehouse called “The Myth of Alzheimer’s: What You Aren’t Being Told About Today’s Most Dreaded Diagnosis” (St Martin’s Press, 2008). Peter and I are challenging the “tragedy narrative” in our culture and attempting to tell a new story that replaces our fear of dementia with hope. My particular interest has been in how we can harness the Web 2.0 universe to change peoples’ perceptions of Alzheimer’s, and I’ve started a blog on our website (www.themythofalzheimers.com) and created several youtube videos below.




    Wanted to put our work out there to see if it would be of any help to your class. We are trying to use websites like YouTube as learning tools to change the discourse about a disease–could be an intersting case study to track. Anyhow, if nothing else, wanted to say that I admire what you’re doing and am eager to see how everything plays out,
    take care,
    Danny George

  3. MP:me Says:

    Thanks for letting us know abot our work! Tony, you provide the kinds of resources YouTube and YouTubers are in sore need of. Even as we can celebrate the rise of “amateurs” into our conversations about our culture, the hard-won knowledge of academics, or “experts” can be used as part of the conversation. My students beg us to imagine new models of education where access and ease grow, while maintaining clear routes to more complex information. Here is one model to be sure.


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