Video and Participatory Culture: On Tubing

September 28, 2010

I’ve published an article in a special issue on YouTube of the on-line journal, Enculturation (A Journal of Rhetoric, Writing and Culture). The editors, Geoffrey Carter and Sarah Arroyo explain the issue’s focus:

“We hoped our authors might find varying historical and conductive associations aimed at these themes in general. What we found, however, was that “YouTube” – despite our resistance to focusing on this platform exclusively – dominated the investigations into video culture. Rather than resist this emphasis, we realized that both the concepts of “you,” and even more so “tube,” were critical to the connections, themes, associations, and networks this technology makes possible. You-Tube, then, as an associative conduit, actually created the loose organization of the collection and served as the framework for negotiating video and participatory cultures. Broadly speaking, the contributors in this issue expanded these terms, finding ways to negotiate a vast video archive, becoming attuned to particular exigencies of demographics and interfaces, while also carving paths with which future scholars might engage in an inventive fashion. Individually, many of the contributors elected to embed videos to give participatory examples, and some generated and remixed videos of their own to performatively explore the implications of what we are beginning to theorize as “tubing.”

Long associated with the negative connotations of “going down the tubes,” the “boob tube” of early television sets, and the totally dated, “totally tubular” slang of Valley Girls from the early 1980s, “tubes” and “tubing” have re-emerged as concepts that make video sharing sites emblems of participatory culture. “Tubes” can be thought of as the videos themselves, “Tubers” as the participants, and “Tubing” as the act of participating and contributing material with which others will interact. Tubing captures the drift of an electrate, digital conduit that is remaking our understanding of writing. Drawing on the late Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens’s infamous gaff that the Internet is a “series of tubes,” we’ve clustered this collection in four different “series” in his honor. We return to Stevens’s tubes because, as technically inaccurate (and silly) as his description of the Internet is, the meme that resulted from Stevens’s description speaks to the generative nature of tubing itself. It also sets off a series of relevant associations that our “Tubes” explore with the intention of eliciting further sets of Tubes. As humorists like John Stewart continually remind us, participation in the Tubes means drifting with these kinds of mis-takes and re-inventing through the re-purposing of these rhizomatic Tubes.”

My essay, “On the Online Publishing and Re-Purposing of Learning from YouTube,” discusses the difficulties I have encountered as I attempt to write and publish my YouTube studies in an exclusively on-line environment that links to while addressing the limits of YouTube.


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