YouTube Specificity/History

May 21, 2008

My previous two posts point towards a new phase in my blogging, my digital life, where I’m beginning to find my niche, locate my cohort, engage in “conversations,” make new friends…

Some more of that today.

First: “Over the weekend I went to the Getty Museum to see the show on “California Video,” where many of the genres now being produced by vernacular content-creators for YouTube could be seen in the avant-garde practices of video artists of the sixties and seventies: parody, pastiche, remixes of news and political speeches, confessional, and many experiments with the affordances of the technology were well-represented in the exhibition.” Liz Losh, VirtualPolitik

Liz’s observations, ones I did not make myself when I saw the show because the viewing context was so MUSEUMY (dim lighting, round plastic stools, multiple stimuli, random viewers), are interestingly linked to a thread of conversation begun by Chuck Tyron about another video artists’ exhibit in New York, explicitly inspired by YouTube, and then Chris Cagle’s response: “Does You Tube employ a different type of montage?” Category D

We see evidenced here media scholars modeling what we are trained to do: ferreting out what might be specific to this medium, on the one hand, and establishing how it continues tactics and forms from previous media traditions, on the other. While I agree with Chris and Liz that there would be no reason for a YouTube video to use montage, or video form, any differently from how artists have developed traditions over the history of their medium, this question of viewing context and platform seems critical. Videos (YouTube or otherwise) function differently on a box, in a room, on a screen, and this is a type of montage, albeit not within the text itself. YouTube artists have a new sort of palette for cutting (either from one YouTube video to another, as I have attempted to experiment with in my Vertov project described recently on this blog), or across the digital field using and including comments, descriptions, and advertisements as part of the image (as Eisenstein suggests montage within the frame). Chuck’s observations seem useful here: “Her [NYTimes reviewers, Heffernan] comments here vaguely remind me of Benjamin’s approach to the Paris arcades, in which Benjamin sought to make sense of commodity culture through montage, through the connections between things.”

3 Responses to “YouTube Specificity/History”

  1. Chuck Says:

    That’s what I was trying to articulate in my comparison between Virginia’s comments and Benjamin’s approach to the Paris Arcades. I almost always watch YouTube videos on a computer screen, which certainly conditions how I watch and the links that are made for me to watch follow-up videos, responses, or whatever. So, for me, it’s not only (or even primarily) montage *within* videos but montage between videos that I’ve been finding interesting. That being said, I quite like Chris’s post-Metzian reading of the dialectic between belief and disbelief that seems to be operating in some of the fake trailer and presidential parody mashups.

  2. Chris Cagle Says:

    To clarify, I do think that YouTube offers editing and formal strategies that are new – if not unprecedented then at least noteworthy in their new emphasis.

    Moreover, I agree that context is important. Analyzing textual form does not tell us everything about how these clips are used or watched.


  3. […] obvious shout out goes to Prof. Alex Juhasz.  Respect to you.  I see how researching YouTube will be a lifetime’s work!! […]


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