Tuesday, March 10, 2009

in the spirit of spring break - take off your top...oi

Let's take a look at what the topoi can do for my poor, exhausted, writer's soul.

CONTRAST: there exists an obvious paradox in the research I have found, in that youtube is viewed as a 'level playing field' by many, while others remain convinced (or are certain and are undertaking efforts to convince the world) that youtube is merely a plaything of the business world and a new means to purvey a product. While many 'viral' phenomena have indeed been aided and abetted by various youtubing firms (for lack of a better word), a business model of youtube still falls short of explaining the absurd level of success obtained by certain individuals, such as Tay Zonday and his now-infamous "Chocolate Rain."

CAUSE/EFFECT: What are the implications of viewing youtube as a cold, soulless selling device? Implied I suppose would be the 1984-ish idea that as users, we are unwittingly consuming and accepting propagandistic content that has been mislabeled as 'user-generated.' Possible consequences of such a revelation? Possibly the invention and first ever implementation of an online riot, as duped users rebel against their corporate oppressors. Youtube comments may become even nastier, more racist, and contain worse spelling (although I feel we may have already reached the pinnacle for many of these)

CHANGE: Was youtube truly conceived as a 'level playing field' for all to publish upon or has it been a corporate tool from its inception, or at the very least since its buyout by google. If there truly exists a method for garnering more hits with return of investment in mind, is this a recent development, the potential of which has only begun to be explored? Should this be viewed as the moral decay of what was once a humanistic medium, the inevitable plodding evolution of an artistic platform (reminiscent of the commercialization of other art forms throughout history), or a hostile revolutionary takeover by greedy financial-minded corporations?

Apparently, the topoi take me down the worn path of the individual vs. corporation, of art and expression vs. greed and finance

funk soul brother check it out now

How silly of me to forget an entire post, especially one devoted to someone who is in one way or another my 'soulmate.' It is spring after all- the season when a young man's something or another turns to cliches to overcome initial writer's block.

Somewhat ironically, it was a sunny afternoon that found me in the park, blogging outside for once when I happened upon Chris Punke, my social bookmarking soulmate whether he knows/likes it or not. From Des Moines, Iowa, with his industry listed as 'internet,' his bookmarks present an interest not only in the humanistic possibilities of youtube, but of the economic ramifications as well. I came upon his lonely Diigo profile (indeed, he only has one friend, but who am I to talk with a grand total of zero) quite simply by rifling through the endless list of people who have 'youtube' listed as one of their most prominent tags. While many 'suitors' had the youtube tag embedded in a maelstrom of 'web2.0googleinternetbloggingwordpresstwitter' and the like, the word shone bold and clear and larger than all the others in Chris' tag cloud. It was then I felt the chemistry between us.

Further examination of the tag cloud revealed that his interest in youtube and user-generated content at large lies largely in the emerging trend of viral marketing. His tags are fairly well organized around this issue of marketing, although any comments or annotations on any of the bookmarks underneath the tags are not to be found. Of 131 total shared bookmarks (he is apparently a generous guy too, as he has no private ones), 67 are tagged for youtube and 55 are tagged for 'marketing.' Examples of sites in the overlap include a page titled "Youtube Tries a Little Harder to Protect Copyright Holders" and the techcrunch post "The Secret Strategies Behind Many 'Viral' Videos."

The latter provides a uniquely cynical perspective on the phenomeon of 'viral' videos, with the author boldly claiming "There are tens of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube each day (I’ve heard estimates between 10-65,000 videos per day). I don’t care how “viral” you think your video is; no one is going to find it and no one is going to watch it." Videos with a puzzling number of hits are explained - "Chances are pretty good that this didn’t happen naturally, but rather that some company worked hard to make it happen – some company like mine." Judging by this particular bookmark and the overwhelming number of similar ones, it would appear that Chris has some form of vested interest in youtube as a marketing tool, yet sites like "Wisconsin based sub sandwich shop chain creates the first human flipbook video to promote it's restaurants" and "Google Earth Blog: New Youtube Layer in Google Earth" speak to a basic fascination with youtube.

Chris Punke provides a wide array of bookmarks on both the business and artistic ends of youtube, although he does appear admittedly more invested in the business side. As a resource for myself and my 'readers,' he provides a kind of balancing pole to maintain sanity in the face of an overwhelming wave of user-generated content, while retaining a love of the platform itself.


Now that it is up for all the world to see, why not spend another five hundred words telling the world just what exactly they're looking at. Easier than making museum placards and sticking them to the screen, I suppose.

Starting in the top left, we have the universal blog search and universal news search loaded with the slightly obvious keywords "youtube" and "viral video." Honestly, the scope of diction I have found in blogs surrounding this topic is so vast and this particular flake is so temperamental that any additional keywords (attempts include 'phenomenon,' 'popular,' and 'media') make for irrelevant information (believe it or not several pornography blogs made it in when 'phenomenon' was included - how that happened, I have less of an idea than I may have had about anything in my life). At any rate, youtube is a fairly new and expanding medium/phenomenon and the discourse surrounding reflects this in its apparently erratic, schizophrenic nature. In other words, if my keywords seem a little broad, it is because my subject matter is a little broad and is broadening by the second.

Continuing in a downward manner (no, not my general outlook on life) on the left in the skinny column we find all ten RSS feeds included in my blogroll. Media Praxis is a blog whose voice I have detailed in its very-own post, and many others made it onto the blog in a slightly more abbreviated state, leaving only Youtube Reviewed, Virtualpolitik, The Tubefilter News and The Youtube Bibliography Project left undiscussed. Youtube Reviewed and The Tubefilter News share very similar mission statements with my blog, so their inclusion here is without mystery. Readers may balk, however, at Virtualpolitik or The Youtube Bibliography Project, as their purposes exist slightly tangentially to mine. While Virtualpolitik does contain discussion of youtube and online video, it is largely geared towards discussion of media practices at large, a topic whose exploration, I find, proves valuable when attempting to nail down the flightier trends of such an ever-changing medium. Readers may also ponder my inclusion of The Youtube Bibliography Project, as they will find a perfectly acceptable Citeline bibliography directly to the right of it. As a satellite to Dr. Strangelove's "Watching Youtube" (another blog with an analytical outlook similar to mine), the YBP is incredibly thorough in its organization of writings about youtube, from books to articles in scholarly journals right down to blog posts (a list probably far more valuable to my readers than that provided in the blog search window), and provides quick, if minimal instantaneous research into what is being written about this rapidly expanding trend.

Finally, back to the top right in the fat column we have my actual bibliography - an interesting amalgamation of once again tangential topics. For my book sources I have included two very different works - one details the effect of the internet on traditional television consumption in quite the scholarly tone, while the other reads as more of a DIY manual for aspiring youtubers. I also tried to maintain a sense of variety in my selection of articles: two concern themselves with viral video as a marketing device, one with the issue of copyright law and another the effect of youtube on politics. In this wide array of mostly-scholarly texts I have attempted to create a cloud of information that hovers above and around what I am getting tired of emphasizing as a malleable, expanding platform. Youtube is new and powerful, we know this, yet it does not have a single, spoon-fed, highly apparent function. I have tried (coming as close as I feel is possible in a paper that does not exist in writing) to present as accurate a portrait as can be drawn given the nature of the topic. Art critics hated "Nude Descending a Staircase" when it was painted anyway.


Here 'tis.

Monday, March 9, 2009

sources and annotations - slightly out of order/context

Rather than do them the sensible way, two at a time when they are due, I decided to purposefully build suspense and unleash them all in an annotative torrent that will blow your mind, my dearest imaginary readers. Ta-da.

"Beyond the Box: Television and the Internet" - Sharon Marie Ross, Blackwell Publishing 2008

Author Sharon Marie Ross probes how the development of the internet has altered the production and consumption of television. The perspective offered focuses largely on the shift in audience experience, using as examples the online voting practices of "American Idol" and the youtube discourse following the lineup of Cartoon Network's "Adult Swim" and the popular series "Lost." Illuminating the trend that Americans no longer merely watch tv, but rather participate in, lobby for, respond and relate through a number of online media, her thesis declares that what was once the domain of cult fanatics (using the fans of "Star Trek" and "Xena Warrior Princess" as examples) has entered the mainstream through various forms of online media, youtube among them. While her discussion of viral video is limited, the examination of online viewing practices at large provides valuable perspective on youtube as a phenomenon.

"Evaluating viral marketing: isolating the key criteria" - Danilo Cruz and Chris Fill, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol 26 Iss. 7

Authors Danilo Cruz and Chris Fill report on various forms of research undertaken to determine the key criteria that viral marketing practitioners believe should be used to measure the success of viral marketing campaigns, as there is little current evidence of efforts to measure their effectiveness. Using semi-structured interviews with some of the UK's premier web masters, Cruz and Fill identify two forms of viral marketing - "random" and "placed" virals, and within these present a fairly thorough viral marketing evaluation framework. Pertinence to the phenomenon of viral video is apparent in their examination of the "random" virals - videos that exist seemingly without any pretense of its status as an advertisement. Various cases of unsuccessful random virals and the resulting backlash from the youtube and general online communities provide a unique statistical backdrop for media experiences of the average youtube user.

"Word of mouth and viral marketing: taking the temperature of the hottest trends in marketing" - Rick Ferguson, The Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol 25 Iss 3

Author Rick Ferguson studies examples the emerging marketing trends of word-of-mouth and viral marketing in an attempt to determine their measurability in terms of 'return on investment.' The study examines campaigns from well known companies, raising the question of how much of an actionable response can be evoked and measured from these campaigns, ultimately concluding that even the best efforts at viral marketing are 'not always a sure bet,' although well-placed and calculated campaigns sometimes have an intangible ability to spark a firestorm of 'brand awareness.' Ferguson details how viral marketing should not anchor an overall marketing strategy, but rather be used as a form of 'ace up the sleeve' in an effective, calculated campaign. His conclusion that there is no definite model for a return on investment for a viral campaign speaks to the inexplicable, unfolding nature of youtube and viral video as a humanistic, collective medium.

"YouTube: An Insider's Guide to Climbing the Charts" - Alan Lastufka and Michael Dean, O'Reilly Media, 2008

Authors Alan Lastufka and Michael Dean detail the steps neccessary to produce media for online consumption and the methods to increase potential audience, speaking from their perspective as veteran youtubers - Lastufka especially, who has upwards of 10,000 youtube subscribers and millions of views. Through informative interviews with such youtube stars as LisaNova, Hank Green (vlogbrothers), WhatTheBuckShow, nalts, and liamkylesullivan, Dean and Lastufka emphasize networking and interaction - key components for success in the youtube community. Careful to point out that there is no definitive manner in which to attain fame and notoriety, Dean and Lastufka also detail the finer points of video optimization, endcoding, uploading and promotion. While the scholarly attributes of the book are few, the portrait of hypothetical successful youtube channels and examples from their concrete successes allow for academic insight into the humanistic 'level playing field' that youtube and online video present.

"Fair Use, Film, and the Advantages of Internet Distribution" - Cinema Journal, Vol 46 Iss 2

Author Fred Von Lohmann details that by uploading a film to any of the hundreds of websites catering to user generated video (specifying youtube and yahoo video as ideal examples) a filmmaker can reach a global audience without having to satisfy the rights clearance requirements imposed by 'traditional gatekeepers' of the film world. Von Lohmann goes on to explain that filmmakers who desire an even greater level of control over their 'online destiny' can opt to make their films available directly from their own computers, purchasing bandwidth directly from an ISP. Similar to video hosting services like youtube and yahoo video, an ISP that provides internet connectivity to their subscribers are protected by a DMCA safe harbor from having to pay monetary damages in copyright lawsuits, a pressing issue for the platform of online video. Von Lohmann's analysis of traditional 'fair use' laws in a new era of web distribution illuminates the possibility that user generated video sites have irreparably altered traditional views of copyright - an issue highly pertinent to the inherent trends of self-marketing and viral distribution.

"YouTube: The Flattening of Politics" - Steve Grove, Nieman Reports, Vol 62 Iss 2

Author Steve Grove examines the media ecosystem of the 2008 election cycle, one in which candidates and voters spoke directly to one another in an unfiltered manner. Detailing news organizations' use of the internet to connect with and leverage their audience, Grove emphasizes the fact that in this latest election, activists, issue groups, voters and the campaigns themselves all advocate, discuss, and gain knowledge of issues on the same unprecedented 'level platform' offered by youtube and other online video sites. By offering new opportunities and challenges alike, Grove concludes that youtube has irrevocably reshaped political coverage. Grove's thorough examination of the many facets of political coverage on youtube present a compelling argument for the sheer social weight (a trait we are only beginning to comprehend) youtube carries as a collective, social medium.

Monday, March 2, 2009

trip over

Tonight I will finally be writing an eloquent, original and poignant post about a youtube video of my choice. Just kidding. Lets get down on our knees and throw a few hundred words in the general direction of SOCIAL BOOKMARKING SITES. I could easily spend this time following the prompt and detailing how de.li.cious is probably the most practical of these sites and has the most to offer my 'readers,' but instead feel compelled to discuss the semi-schizophrenic stream of sometimes-helpful information that is stumbleupon, specifically the 'stumble' function of their service.

Indeed, the site is so effective at snaring and misdirecting attention that the space between this paragraph and the one preceding it represents half an hour of time spent not writing- and all I did was open the homepage to use as reference for this post. While this may not be the best tool for a focused, academic blogger with a pertinent task at hand... hm. I didn't really have a counter to that. Honestly, the service is fairly impractical when it comes to focused searching and categorizing, but something about its random nature is perfectly in line with how I spend time on youtube. Let me explain -

Upon registering for an account, you are prompted to check all boxes that apply in a long list of interests. This serves as the starting point for the stumble function, which is pretty much just what it sounds like. Based on what it thinks it knows about what you like, it will take you to one of many many sites already approved by like-minded visitors. Once there, you can (providing you have installed the toolbar) give it a thumbs up or down: aside from remembering whether you liked it or not and using that to more effectively direct your next stumble, it also saves all your upturned thumbs into a favorites section (the only downside to this being that it is organized only by date visited. Thus far, I haven't been able to figure out a way to get around that). Every so often, the stumble button will take you back to a more refined version of the original list, giving you the opportunity to revise your interests and presumably get the most out of the service.

While it is a little irritating that after several weeks of stumbling it still seems to know very little about what I really like, I cannot deny being thoroughly entertained every time it screws up. To avoid this not-entirely-efficient omnipotent HAL-like aspect, you can stumble a specific word or phrase from a search tool found on your dashboard, which yields more specific results. At any rate, the sparkly feeling I get when I discover something really great on youtube just by clicking from video to video seems to emanate from every stumble, relevant or no. For all of us postmodern schizophrenic MTV-edit-addicted attention span-less youtubing twenty-somethings (what I fantasize my demographic to be) - this is right up our alley.