Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Youtube is the new Public Sphere

Youtube was started in February 2005, since then it has been bought by Google, grown in popularity, and started a user-generated content revolution. Youtube has created a community of people all over the world who can post videos of anything: animations, vlogs (video blog), music videos, home videos, parts of tv shows or ads, virtually any kind of clip. The uses are endless. In An anthropological introduction to YouTube some of these trends are tracked.

This video explains the growing phenomenon, how Youtube has connected people, created stars (soulja boy anyone?), started drama, and allowed people to express themselves in so many more ways. The slogan for Youtube is 'Broadcast yourself', and that seems to be it's main purpose.It seems to me that Youtube is probably the closest thing in today's society that we have to Habermas' idea of the ideal public sphere. Because Youtube is comprised of user generated content people can express themselves in whatever way they want; it's astounding how many people are not camera shy or afraid of talking about anything. It's also impressive the amount of responses a video can get, people will respond to vlogs by making their own vlog (how many numa numa videos have you seen?). I enjoy the free hugs movement started by Juan Mann, I think it sends a great message about connectivity with others in today's society, it's even been on Oprah! It truly is a community where people can get together, it's open to everyone, where private people form a public, and have critical (or not so critical) discussion.
This isn't to say there aren't problems with it, spam gets in, advertisers use it to promote things, people make up fake stories, and there is a lot of sex and hate. However, the majority of users are using it to share something: experiences, stories, funny things, feelings, a message. They enjoy the playfulness of Youtube, they realize it is a great way to be heard.
Youtube is an asset to our media saturated world. Similar to blogs, it can be used to supplement mainstream media, hear opinions and voices that may never be heard otherwise. So I encourage you to become part of this phenomenon and start youtubing.

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