September 3, 2010

I am teaching two sections of my class on and about YouTube, Learning from YouTube, this Fall. You can follow us on our new group page.

The class is decidedly different from past versions, and also eerily the same, leading, as ever, to telling reflections on YouTube. Some comparisons:

1) This year, I am teaching five books (including my own), only one of which (Video Vortex Reader) existed before 2010 (new are Burgess and Green, Strangelove, Snickars and Vonderau). When I started the class it was deemed silly to study YouTube. Now it is a legitimate and common academic exercise, re-balancing the “democratic” playing field towards experts (which minimizes my students’ power, as well as everyday YouTubers). When I began, since there was no published scholarship, my undergrads got to set the stage.

2) This year, the vast majority of students already have YouTube accounts. Not so in the past, reflecting YouTube’s ever-expanding user-base and students’ increasingly networked life.

3) We are using my video-book which is made of many student videos from the past, as well as reflections, like these, from 2 or 3 years ago. This creates a dizzying doppleganger, out of time, even dream like mediated experience, where things are repeated but shifted (a la Gondry or Nolan), students look like another, or perhaps are cast as each other, then I say the same things but a bit different, but maybe it’s just another dress or earrings. This is all quite informative about a life where everything is recorded and put on YouTube: both in the ominous surveillance mode and that charming nostalgia sort of way: oh we were so naive then.

4) I find that now, having taught the course twice, and having completed the book, I too am really a YouTube expert (not to mention pundit), and my thoughts feel crystalized. Also, YouTube really hasn’t changed much: just more more more of the same. Which makes me a more more more traditional teacher, and the class a less less shared and cutting edge enterprise. This will prove a real challenge for both me and my students, as we try to invent the possibility to see YouTube newly given all that I have already said and thought, as well as the great videos of past students that say a lot, well.

I remain glad and excited to teach the class because it remains really fun to engage with students in an intellectual and adventurous way about something that is so close to their lived experience, and about which they have important things to say. Hope you’ll follow what we learn here.


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