Pushing around Henry Jenkins: YouTube Criticism as Cynical Circling

October 14, 2008

So, I’ve been teaching the second Learning from YouTube class this fall. The more normal one. The one with books. And lately, we’ve been reading Henry Jenkins’ Convergence Culture, after learning from Paul Willis’ related and anticipatory Common Culture. (A quick aside about the use of books in this course: while it allows for a more focused discussion–the professor makes sure the students get the ideas in the readings–it has clearly limited their YouTube creativity–their analysis is inserted into the ready-made framework of an expert).

That said, we had a really interesting class yesterday, and I wanted to share some of our work with Jenkins. When I say we were pushing him around, I use this both as a catchy title, but also to note something more meaningful, something about the linked tone, content and process of our YouTube studies. Which is to say that with Jenkins’ ideas, like seemingly everything else they think about, the approach and take home conclusions are a kind of cynical circling:  the students hover near his ideas, prodding at them gently, perhaps sarcastically, while offering their own criticisms ambiguously, circuitously. Analysis as ironic presentation. Criticism as parodic re-play. I keep asking them to STATE their opinion, and this is their opinion: unsaid, smug, vague, readable both ways. Like the YouTube videos they learn from, their point of view is expressed through self-reflexive and soft satire (note: the videos I linked to here, under soft satire, are from others students’ Jenkins research, you can see more of these projects on our class page: http://www.youtube.com/groups_videos?name=lfyt08).

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