Reflections on Building TOUR #1

February 6, 2008

As I built the fist tour, on education, I was working from an outline I had created for a talk (which will, in fact, be the tour) that I am slated to present this Friday, at USC’s DIY Summit (proposal below). To move these ideas from the academic page to YouTube, I did two things: I quoted my own words directly as comments on the videos I selected (working against the standard form of the YouTube comment: LOL!, loved the video):

1: Maia plays with the destablization of the aural/visual binary by using her well-written words in a self-consciously “bad” video (it rolls too fast; it has no images) to illustrate the decline of the word on YouTube, and yet, how we still rely upon and need words, in long-form, within higher education.

2. Dan pushes us to consider what we might gain from, and how we need to approach, the waning of the strength of the entertainment/education binary. On YouTube, learning comes best from speed, summary, repetition, humor, and the popular.

3. Ben celebrates YouTube’s “limitless supply of knowledge.” Signature YouTube, he cynically but comically parodies this newly available library of the inane and private, while displaying what results when the binaries of public/private and expert/amateur are undone. YouTube does humor, sincerity, the democratization of voice, and the increased access to an immense archive of moving images and viewpoints really well. But none of these are particularly conducive for higher learning.

4. Delaine’s self-referential performance, as is true for many successful YouTube videos, does and shows the thing itself, in this case the unsettled and unsettling separation of the Aural from the Visual, the Cyber from the Real.

5 Sonya performs a new mode of viewing the same old popular culture. Now, YouTube uses its users to create banal content, self-censorship, and ad revenue providing in return a postmodern television/townsquare whose corporate ownership promotes dominant culture, while forecloseing complex conversation and sustained community in favor of the aimless, disoriented pleasures of the individual (eyeball) or ear.

6. Salim, and his partners in crime, contribute another self-referential video about and formed by YouTube videos about and formed by popular culture, where critique is not popular. Like all the videos in this tour, it is “bad,” at least by the standards of film school. YouTube demands and creates new video standards based upon brevity, consolidation, humor, self-reference, and popular opinion.

And I summarized (always the summary…) in the video I created to begin the tour:

That’s the beginning of the tour. The whole thing takes 20 minutes.

And here’s is what I said I’d cover when I proposed my talk to my fellow panelists via email:

“YouTube is not a successful educational site or site for education.

While many things work well on the site–entertainment, humor, sincerity, viewer control, viewer’s ability to gain voice, increased access to images, and immensity of offerings–none of these are particularly conducive for higher learning. Meanwhile, the site inadequately provides many of the elements most critical for critical pedagogy: the ability to search, link, comment, version, use written language or long-form, and particularly to connect across texts or individuals so as to build and maintain ideas and community. YouTube uses its users to create content, self-censorship, and ad revenue providing in return a postmodern television/townsquare whose corporate ownership forecloses complex conversation and sustained community in favor of the aimless, disoriented pleasures of the individual (eyeball). While my students learned to hack YouTube by reformatting its standard forms to hold academic content, we are certain its best pedagogic use is in tandem with other digital and non-digital resources. This said, using YouTube as a learning platform/subject did allow us to see exciting if destabilizling tensions between several dyads which are usually kept in better isolation within more standard sites and forms of pedagogy: public/private, aural/visual, reality/cyber, entertainment/education, amateur/expert, control/chaos. While interesting to observe, each of these destablizations made the course hard to teach, and the content difficult to learn. The course begs us to consider what education will/does/should look like as it becomes a more public, corporate, digital, amateur-created, but uncontrolled form of entertainment.”

Perhaps I’ll reflect on what worked and what did not after I present at USC on Friday.

2 Responses to “Reflections on Building TOUR #1”


  1. Alex:

    You wrote: “Meanwhile, the site inadequately provides many of the elements most critical for critical pedagogy: the ability to search, link, comment, version, use written language or long-form, and particularly to connect across texts or individuals so as to build and maintain ideas and community.”

    I do not fully agree with you here, but it is a qualified disagreement. If you want to retain and contain the conversation entirely to YouTube, then yes, I believe you are largely correct. However, YouTube’s ability/aspect where you can paste the URL for a specific video and repost it in your blog does allow for written and long form analyses. I could argue that by using a blog at blogger.com (owned by Google like YouTube) it remains within the corporate territory of YouTube.

    Also, some of this raises the binary you discussed in the post on the 6th: Expert/Amateur. Commentary is entirely possible, especially with map-ups, online editing, and the relative ease of simplistic editing. If you search “Brokeback Trek,” you find a slew of videos using the music and form of Brokeback Mountain but with visuals from various seasons of Star Trek. Most of these, I believe, are fan-made and produced–many are based on homophobia and humor. Regardless, they demonstrate that the critique can take place in the genre. And, if memory serves me write, some of your colleagues have work akin to this at futureofthebook.com. Effectively and efficiently creating mashups is a skill set–and one I do not have. How many college profs have the skills and time to create mashups on a regular basis? Most of us would rather write 2K words.

    One factor you did not mention but implied is interruptions. YouTube is filled, just like much of the web, with distractions, advertisements, and links to other materials. This can be very distracting. In the classroom, a smart student can ask leading tangential questions and get us off track. However, if they do it all the time, we know how to shut them down and keep the class focused and on track. This maintains the discussion, focus, and dialogue. Attempting to have this kind of respected and focused presence at YouTube–where anyone can interrupt–must be nerve-wracking.

    It is hard to focus, and it is hard to make serious progress, when interruptions abound. Similarly, potentially interested audience members who seek connection or interaction may well avoid the discourse simply because they do not want to be interrupted or turned into Spectacle themselves.

    Best,
    gz


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