I have been thinking about the badness of this set of videos. About how when I make conventional vlogs, I never worry about form, and that’s liberating: YouTube as soapbox. About the fact that I do actually make “quality” documentaries (my most recent is SCALE, see much about it on these pages), and for that work (which I also characterize as DIY), I hire a cinematographer and an editor, it take several years of my life to complete, another year or more to distribute, and loads of money to do all this work (in comparison to the insignificant amount of time, capital, planning, or execution required for any of my YouTube videos).

What does this tell us about form, expression, and politics on YouTube?

1. Form mandates where you sit and how you move on YouTube. Bad form relegates you to the conventions of the vlog, “good” form is your passport out of  NicheTube.

2. Form effects how well and how much you are heard on YouTube. The bad form of a vlog propels its movement in that this marks its veracity and authenticity. Bad form on any other form of video limits the effectivity of your message, both in how well it can be understood and in how many people will be moved to watch and listen. Bad form marks the hand of an amateur, and the space of the mundane.

3. Bad form is intimately linked to the private, humble expression of the vlog; good form (aesthetics) is required for effective expression outside the personal.

4. Politics demands the building, feeding, and inter-relating of individuals to make committed communities. If you are using media as part of this program, the media must inspire conversation and connection: because the words, images, and sounds are compelling in combination. Need they be “good” to do so?

So where does the humble YouTuber fit into this? How trained need she be? How articulate? Does this need to be her job? Isn’t the point that she is an amateur? When we actually use our own material, and the skills we have, what and who can we effect?

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I turned the manifesta I wrote for these pages (2007-08-27) into 7 YouTube videos about YouTube as part of an experiment I am trying for this year’s SCMS (Society for Cinema and Media Studies) meeting.

This is the fourth from my YouTube series “Mp:me Variant of a Manifesta.”

For the panel, “Technologies of the Self, ” instead of a talk, I will technologize myself and appear only through these 7 autobiographical/theoretical rants mixed into a specialized tour of videos on YouTube. Given that my manifesto is ripped from Dziga Vertov’s 1922 “WE: Variant of a Manifesto,” almost all the other videos on this tour are YouTube variants on his “Man With A Movie Camera.” You can watch the tour by hitting Playall and they will roll for you.

I believe the experiment is a failure, but that’s really okay: it tells us things we might need to know about this newest technology of self. First off, my videos are really truly superbad. I’ve been trying to think how badness affects things on YouTube, and certainly for vlogs it is the mark of sincerity, but since my videos attempt not for sincerity but rather a little “artiness” (but done DIY), they simply look messy, especially compared to the visual brilliance of what I attempt to learn from: the “cinematography” of Dziga Vertov (part 6 of my Manifesta calls for the Death of Cinematography [to be posted here soon], but can I really want that?!) Aesthetics matter if you are trying to convince people in a visual language. I need to keep thinking about BADNESS for sure. Furthermore, the cuts between my videos and those I highlight (which I make YouTube perform for me by using the Playlist function), lag, and so are also sloppy. This again compared to the brilliant rush of editing that is Vertov.

While my critique of YouTube may be pointing in the right direction (as a theory), I do not have enough talent as a DIY maker to produce a powerful enough YouTube form to artfully relay the critique (that’s why he was a genius and I am a hack). Yes, the majority of YouTube videos are “morally dangerous, contagious” in that they promote distraction, consumption, and inaction. And sure, we need to think about how context and community can compliment the best work on YouTube. But as I long as I make these efforts alone, they will stay as limited as those I critique. However, since YouTube need not hold great art, but rather, new forms of communication; and since slogans work through their elegant if invisible but persuasive beauty, perhaps I’m not as far from the zone as I might worry…More soon.

Slogan Ten

October 1, 2007

“The boundaries between the subject, if not the body, and the ‘rest of the world’ are undergoing a radical refiguration, brought about in part through the mediation of technology. ”
Allucquere Rosanne Stone

On-line documentary presentation on YouTube disturbs the public/private binary, like that of the self/other, opening things up to produce combinations inconceivable without the technology. Yet YouTube forecloses the construction of coherent communities and returns production, consumption, and meaning-making to the individual, re-establishing the reign of the self.

Slogan Nine

September 28, 2007

“The more we assert our own identities as historically marginalized groups, the more we expose the tyranny of a so-called center.”
Pratibha Parmar

YouTube serves the de-centering mandate of post-identity politics by creating a logic of dispersal and network. Yet it fails to re-link these fragments in any rational or sustaining way. There is no possibility to make collectives through its architecture. Information can not become knowledge without a map, a structure, and an ethics.

Slogan Eight

September 24, 2007

“What is in question is not the expression of some lost origin or some uncontaminated essence in black film-language but the adoption of a critical voice that promotes consciousness of the collision of cultures and histories that constitute our very conditions of existence.”
Isaac Julien and Kobena Mercer

On-line media presentation should promote critical reading practices as well as liberated voices explicating the conditions, including media practices, that are necessary to engender this freedom. YouTube is defined by empty and endless collisions unlinked from culture, history, context, author, or intention. Collision without consciousness.

Slogan Seven

September 20, 2007

“By empowering ordinary people to speak as experts, they question a basic assumption of dominant ideology, that only those already in power, those who have a stake in defending the status quo, are entitled to speak as if they know something.”
Barbara Halpern Martineau

YouTube allows everyone and anyone (with access to the technologies) to speak about everything and anything they please. Alone in a room, caught at a lectern, the much-maligned (confessional) talking-head proves to be the entitlement devise of choice. I speak, you listen, but without context, so who cares, and more critically, then what?