I have an article/book chapter on YouTube and other video sharing services percolating, so I’ve been following the recent discussions of the site with some interest. First, David at GreenCine points to Youtubers, an interesting montage featuring a number of YouTube personalities, most of whom are directly addressing the camera with the hope of connecting with a wider audience, as Ajit at TickleBooth points out. The montage makes especially good use of LonelyGirl15 (remember her?), who first rose to prominence because she played to that desire for connection so effectively.
Henry Jenkins has an interesting and convincing read of YouTube’s “vaudeville aesthetic,” noting that like vaudeville sketches, most YouTube performances are relatively brief. He also points out that “the YouTube performer courts a sense of the amateurish which also places a high emphasis on seeming spontaneity.” Many YouTube videos cultivate this “unrehearsed” style. Jenkins is careful here to distinguish between a sense of “liveness” and what he calls the “realness” of these YouTube clips.
Finally, we have (at least) two new cases where videographers using camera phones have been able to record and upload videos depicting, in one case, a student at UCLA being brutally tazered by the UCLA campus police, and in a second case, Seinfeld’s Michael Richards unleashing a racist tirade in response to a group of African-American hecklers (Richards later apologized on Letterman, with his apology available on YouTube, naturally). Both videos dramatically illustrate the documentary potential of these new technologies, but the UCLA video in particular recalls, for me at least, the video recording of the beating of Rodney King in the ealy 1990s (possibly more on this topic in the next few days).
Somewhat related: The most recent elections have frequently been described as the “first YouTube elections,” with Brett Arends of the Boston Herald making an interesting case that online videos might have greater potential to “pull” centrists than the more highly-polarized political blogs that shaped the 2004 elections.
I realize this entry has been all over the map, as my title suggests, but I’m intrigued by how quickly YouTube, in particular, has become such a crucial component of media culture. Even though many of these videos were seen by fewer than one million people on YouTube, they also have the potential to push stories onto television (George Allen’s attachement to the Confederacy likely would never have become a national news story without online video, to name just one example). More later, but I had genuinely planned for this to be a quick linkdump.