FOX it is and FOX is it

September 21, 2007

I went to bed last night exhausted, relieved and resolute. I had survived one week in the media limelight and it was over, ending on a mid-note with my mediocre performance on CNN (see youtube.com/mediapraxisme). At last I could return to my life as teacher, scholar, and documentary-maker, speaking in a language I know to people who talk as I do and who really want to be having this conversation. I was glad enough it had happened because it was a really great learning experience about both SCALE and YouTube. Living it confirmed much I already knew, although of course until the lived experience I knew this only theoretically: for me, it is preferable to speak to people I can see and who can reply, people I know share a discourse and values about American and media culture, and in a context where ideas can be exchanged and knowledge and feeling can grow. While I am certain that there is real value in amping SCALE through numbers, exposure, reaching out, simplifying while staying honest, and speaking to people who are not yet exposed to one’s concerns or approaches, I learned last week that I am not the person to do that. The attention makes me feel self-conscious and self-critical; not to mention I spent a significant portion of last week with my stomach-clenched (not pleasant); I was distracted from the things that really matter to me (my teaching, friends, family, and intellectual and political work); and I refused reducing my thoughts to pre-orchestrated but effective sound-bites. I just don’t want to talk that way (note rambling and repetition here!), so in the end, I’m just not that good at it.

And then FOX emailed this morning. And I decided quickly… no. No more fear; no more second-guessing myself; no more wasting my time on something that proves at once inconsequential and stressful to me. But then, of course, finally… yes. I started this thing: it’s my responsibility; if I won’t stand up to say why I’m attending critically if playfully to YouTube, who will? My students? The blogisphere? That’s not fair. So, I must play the media professor, maker and scholar who wants to think about using this sudden expansion of access to media production and distribution to do better what media has always done: to try to enrich and change the lives of individuals and community, self and world. And this I will say, as best I can, and as me, when they ask me to speak, and I hope I can stay focused, and I hope I can keep on mark. I can only do my best, but I shouldn’t run away. And that’s my last post on celebrity and YouTube even if I continue to have to play this game for the time being.

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On YouTube Celebrity and SCALE

September 15, 2007

An article about my class ended up on the AP wire and less then 24 hours later, I’ve done or scheduled 10 print and radio interviews, including a visit from CNN to my class scheduled for next week. It’s been on the local news in Florida, on my sister’s elevator in NY, and in the Herald International Tribune. It’s all over the web; can’t track it. Heart-pounding, adrenaline rushing, I’ve been able to do nothing else all day but worry about how I represent myself, my ideas, my course through a mainstream media which does not usually talk my language or acknowledge my concerns, given their erudite nature and political leanings (see my blog!). But reporters have been polite and intelligent, I’m an expert after all, a PhD; as have I. Why?

I knew that the form, and even content, of Learning from YouTube would be sexy, getable, marketable but I did not know what that would mean for me. Most strikingly, it has made me engage in thoughts of self-censorship (whether I will follow through or not is another matter), where I worry that the radical nature of my work will disallow me to be taken seriously, thus closing down channels before they open, and minimizing my credibility, as well as the more general and less ideological intellectual ideas raised.

But beyond this, given that my documentary, “SCALE: Ending the Bush Agenda in the Media Age,” is all about celebrity, and the power of not being known while still doing good work, and the left’s inability to successfully think through how or why to use the media machine as a way towards power and change, it seems downright ridiculous that I’m suddenly having just such a moment after having determined that the nature and focus of my work would, by definition, keep it small, intimate, in my control, and as radical as am I.

At the end of the film, I ask my sister why she never got on the morning talk shows, and she suggests that it is because she is “too left and also too right, too correct.” So, why am I being invited? I’m not too left and also not too right? That sounds correct to me. How am I being seen and used? And what can I make if this access, if anything?