Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Must-See: An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube

I just spent 55 minutes of my life watching this video, and if you haven't done it already, I strongly recommend you do that too. It shows a presentation called "An anthropological introduction to Youtube" by cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch. Wesch made the presentation to the US Library of Congress in June 2008, which might make it seem dated in internet terms. But really, there are some amazing insights (and incredible video montages) here. (The Numa Numa history is alone worth the (free) price of admission.)

I think this video also holds some jumping off points of particular interest to the art world, for example:

1) Is is possible that Youtube, with its self-reflexive, intimate-yet-distant nature, brings some of the dynamics of artmaking to the general internet-accessing public? After all, as Jerry Saltz famously has said, artists are like cats, always putting objects between themselves and their humans. I wondered watching this if Youtube provides the same freedom/set of conditions to a wider population.

2) There has been a lot of interest in the art world of late in re-enactment, and a lot of tiresome conference sessions that have revolved around the question of "Why are so many young artists interested in re-enactment?" There are many possible reasons in my estimation, but I think the contextualization of YouTube re-enactment that Wesch builds provides great insight into one possible answer -- that people re-enact in order to express that which is important or entertaining to them, and to become part of a wider community. If such re-enactments are instinctive in the mediasphere, why not in the artsphere?

Overall, a very worthwhile viewing experience -- fleshes out in words and reason what Margaux Williamson's Dance Dance Revolutions video circled around in a more oblique way.

FYI this video was called to my attention by Twitter user @Prof_K linking to the blog for We Are Social

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