In chapter 14 of his The Future of Ideas: The Fate of the Commons in a Connected World, Lawrence Lessig suggests that "the net has created a world where content is free." This is essentially true, especially regarding music - both in the gratis (free beer) and libre (free speech) sense. Copyright is intended to protect the rights of copyright owners by preventing the gratis definition of "free." However, with the rise of the internet, it seems the only way to enforce copyright is to limit the access of the music altogether. Is there a way to maintain the libre sense of freedom and still prevent "theft," or the gratis freedom?
Lessig suggests that there is a difference between "music being 'free' and music being available at zero cost." But is this the case? Below, I have attempted to embed two videos featuring "La Vie Boheme" from the movie Rent. The second wouldn't play on this site, so I have posted a link to it. The first, a YouTube video, is a clip of the song taken directly from the movie, a clear case of copyright infringement. The second, however, is a montage of clips from the first four Harry Potter films. Because the video uses both the clips and the song in a new context, it falls under the category of fair use. The user even clearly states:
Despite this disclaimer, YouTube still blocked the video until the user reposted it with different music. Granted, I can understand to some extent why the video was removed. After all, there is a lot of free software I could use to extract the audio from that video. However, I could extract this audio from the first video, or from several other videos. So what exactly is the point of copyright here? How does blocking one video help the owners when I can still extract the audio from any of the other videos?
Even if YouTube managed to block every video with the film version of "La Vie Boheme," it would then clearly be blocking items that are legitimately fair use. How do you protect the rights of the original creators without infringing on the rights of others to recreate and reimagine? However, if YouTube keeps those videos which fall under fair use, how can they prevent me or another user from extracting the music from that video? The short answer - they can't. Lessig fails to address this issue in the text. Though he suggests shorter copyright periods (which would be helpful with older songs), he doesn't address the issue of current, somewhat popular music being available on the web.
Adjusting the copyright terms does nothing to prevent content to be freely available on the internet. Although larger, corporate-sponsored sites like YouTube might block content, other sites, like the site currently hosting the Harry Potter/"La Vie Boheme" video don't censor. With the vastness of the internet, there is virtually no way for copyright enforcers to block every instance of their music from being freely available online. Thus, with the extended nature of the internet, is there even a place for copyright? Does it, or can it, still serve a purpose?
I find Terranova’s notion that local cultures are absorbed into capitalism very interesting. If one were to take the time to look at everything around them, they would find that it could be traced in one way or another to capitalism. This table is beneath your computer because it was bought as capital. The very computer you are using to read this blog post is a product, produced for selling. I read most of the Terranova article on a train, and as I read it I thought about train tracks as being one of the many lubricants for the capitalist system. Of course, it has a practical use. We need it to get to places, to see our friends. But it is nonetheless a service that is there for profit, or that exists because of the profit seeking system. There was a paid train designer somewhere along the way, is what I mean. It seems all of physical space is taken over by capitalism. But since the digital age, even more can be capitalized. Culture itself can be capitalized, and many creative people have become free laborers in a culture factory.
I was talking the other day to a friend of mine who is now a high school teacher in Oakland. He wanted to see if I could help him make a documentary that he’s making with his class about turfin. Turfin is a dance style that originate in Oakland and that is very popular there among high school students. He expressed how many of his students simply didn’t pay attention in class, and were very well conditioned by the capitalist system. This can be found in just about any high school, of course, but what hurt him most was that these were brown people, people who were oppressed by this system and who nonetheless believed and existed within it. Regardless, turfin was a form of self-expression that demonstrated something very authentic about these kid’s lives, originality, and personalities.
Here is an example of turfin. It’s a modest one, very humble, very, as they say, “local.”
So the kid is wearing a shirt that clearly proclaim his loyalty to the west coast, particularly the Bay Area. And he’s at school, just dancing, filming himself, inevitably to post it on the Internet. No one asked him to do this, I imagine, but dancing is a form of labor. Even this kid can be capitalized on because he has placed himself on youtube. Not that much profit may come of it, but let us imagine they were a part of a dance crew, and they were filming their best performance so that they can look at later and give themselves self-criticism. Then they post it on the Internet, just for kicks. This performance just so happens to be very impressive and very original, and someone with money chances upon it. Perhaps Justin Timberlake’s dance coach finds it, and then masters it himself, and teaches it to Justin. And they then use it in a music video. The Internet has allowed capitalism to abridge the space it has conquered, and then through the free labor of others who just felt like posting something up, have absorbed local creativity into the mainstream. Local creativity, mind you, that comes as a result of living within capitalism, but that the capitalists would have never thought of on their own.
As a gay man, and perhaps as just as a citizen of this world, I have great respect for Madonna. When Michael Jackson died, my first thought was “Oh no! What if Madonna dies!??!?!” That established, the music video for her song “Hung Up” was incredibly plastic, precisely because it demonstrates the process I have just described. Here is the video:
So we see Madonna in her dance studio, stretching. This is intercut with “local” young people, probably a fraction of Madonna’s age, stretching to dance as well, and then dancing themselves. The cinematic apparatus, the cuts, abridge the space between the kids and Madonna. It is as though they are all dancing together. Soon enough, Madonna enters the space of these “locals” and actually begins to dance with them. Now, I know Madonna is the shit. She probably deserved the Nobel Peace Prize more than Barack Obama. But just like our President, doesn’t something about this video just seem incredibly fake? As a matter of fact, the entire video seems to be shot in a studio. Even the “local” costumes of these people seems fabricated so as to have good cinematography. As these locals are absorbed into the Madonna universe, even they become fabricated. Most of these dancers are probably professionals, otherwise how could they have gotten into a Madonna video? Just look at the video yourself, and you’ll see you can give it a good Terranovian reading.
Reading the articles for this week specifically "The GNU Manifesto", I kept suffering from this lingering doubt in my mind and I find it my obligation to play devil’s advocate.
No, not that devil's advocate...
I ask you, “Is copyright a right?” Or, more specifically, “Is free software a right?” I answer no. One of the most telling parts of Richard Stallman’s “GNU Manifesto” is the way he always skirted around the idea of profit. While he offers propositions like the “software tax,” he suggests nothing for the long run short of a radical global shift to a “post-scarcity world.” Fine, great, let’s all go sing and dance and make merry. There’s no more scarcity! Until then, though, copyright and scarcity of product exist as a means to sustain the livelihood and wellbeing of the developer/consumer model. Is it perfect? No, but until the hippie communes take over the planet...
The coders of tomorrow
...I don’t see Stallman giving a longterm solution to the problem of consumerist culture.
I should preface the rest of my diatribe by stating that I support Stallman’s intentions. He wants to foster a community of creation and innovation that operates upon openness and accessibility. That’s wonderful! I would absolutely want to contribute to this community but there is no viable profit scheme to support coding as a career. In a Capitalist, market-driven society, all they would do is put real businesses out of a job. Naturally, though, there needs to be a balance. One of the smartest things he says is, “There is no shortage of professional musicians who keep at it even though they have no hope of making a living that way.” People will still code for free because they simply enjoy it. However, Stallman tries to shoehorn a Communist structure onto this revelation when the world isn’t like that.
No! Bad Stallman!
I think that Stallman is an idealist and his projects, while well-intentioned, are not going to replace the Capitalist structure that exists today. They can exist as quirky substitutes and alternative but they are not market dominators. The average consumer is going to turn to ease and accessibility which, sorry, Stallman, Linux is not easy. Apple and Microsoft are firmly in control of the computer market. Linux, on the other hand, is more known for its cute penguin than its content.
I would like to compare the open source movement to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the USSR in the early 90’s but that would be too easy. Plus, I’ve kind of already done that. No! I like a challenge so I would like to make an abstract comparison to video games, another form of programming and code. Right now, the average video game costs $60 on launch day. I, for one, think that is quite expensive and hardly ever pay that much but that’s besides the point. The point that I am making is that they cost money. Development staffs and marketing and licensing all cost money. Something like “God of War III” or “Halo” would not exist without these costs. Innovation and creativity on a grass roots level can get one only so far without a multi-million dollar budget to back your pet programming project. This isn’t cynical, it’s not crushing innovation, it’s only the sad truth of consumerism. A game, though, like “Final Fantasy XIII” which took an entire development team several years to construct and utilizes a wealth of cutting-edge technology would never exist without the current market scheme. There are indie game markets where homebrew developers make their own games from scratch but, with few exceptions, these hardly ever feature top-tier graphics or processing capabilities. Let us compare the graphics of something like "Final Fantasy XIII" with, say, "I MAED A GAM3 W1TH Z0MB1ES!!!1" which is very popular on the indie section of the Xbox Live Arcade.
I think you can tell which is which...
While the indie games may be great games, as something like the absolutely brilliant and philosophical “Braid” can attest to, you would lose much of the market that exists today if all games were free. When a game costs $50 million to make, donations just aren’t going to cut it. Like software for computers, there needs to be a balance between those who want to work for free, offering content for anyone to use and those who want to make a profit but can present something absolutely stunning. Without the budgets to do so, though, Snow Leopard wouldn't exist, modern video games wouldn't exist, and, frankly, the state of consumer electronics would be nowhere near what it is today. Capitalism is here to stay. Sorry Stallman.
© 2007 by Ramon Perez & Rob Coughler
Come on, admit it: you’ve Facebook-stalked someone before. In some cases, it can start off as a link on the side suggesting you reconnect with someone. You then see on his profile that your buddy Craig just became friends with someone you knew back in high school. From there, it leads to a whole succession of profile-viewing and where you end up could have no direct connection to where you had started. Now, this may seem harmless (for the most part, it usually is), but there are issues of privacy at stake. In this blog, I’m going to talk about Facebook stalking with the definition of someone viewing the profile of a person that he is not friends with. Many people aren’t comfortable with the idea not knowing who is looking at their private information. I know of people who don’t even like showing their birth dates on their profile.
In Philip Agre’s reading, “Surveillance and Capture,” the author compares two cultural models of privacy, one of which concerns tracking. Agre describes different tracking models but states that they share much in common. I remember during the lab on Monday that someone said that Facebook recorded how often you looked at a profile. In this case, the tracking method very much applies to Facebook stalking and privacy. I’m not too sure what Facebook intends to do with this information, but as Agre says, “tracking systems like these can obviously be used for good or ill” (743). He provides the examples of capturing evidence against an actual harmful stalker (good) and tracking down everyone’s moves in what would normally be assumed as an anonymous situation (ill). The latter gives us an unsettling feeling about the whole situation. There are ads for applications that claim to inform you who stalks your page, but they actually just tally up how much activity you have with your friends. In fact, Facebook forbids applications to track the number of times someone stalks your profile.
In response to unwanted stalkers, Facebook allows you to block your information and pictures from strangers or even friends using the limited profile setting. However, as a somewhat experienced stalker, I have figured one loophole around this obstacle for photos. If my friend Dan comments on an album belonging to a person who has everything on private, I only need to click on the description of Dan’s action on his wall. I am then allowed access to the previously inaccessible photo album.
Though I missed most of our lab this week, I did manage to catch the classes conversation on Facebook, the social networking website that has more or less changed the interactions of people around the world. Facebook is such an interesting concept because it literally allows you to "friend request" whoever you want on the basis of whatever you want. And, with all of the status updates and profile notifications, people feel closer than ever to their so-called "friends" online.
In her essay The Public, the Private , and the Pornographic, Theresa Senft addresses the way in which the internet has changed human relationships and interactivity. One of her most compelling examples of this change amongst the human population is the idea that people, who watch others on the internet, will develop a certain level of closeness to those people. In other words, people are becoming Internet friends. However, because people are no longer meeting their "friends" face to face, there is a certain level of awkwardness when they finally do meet their friends in person.
Facebook is the prime example of the awkwardness that derives from becoming Internet friends. Every day, someone on Facebook friend requests a person that he/she has never met before in hopes of expanding his/her network, trying to seem important (like he/she has a lot of friends), making a new "friend," etc. As a result, people on Facebook have friend counts up to 2000 even though they may only associate with a hundred of those friends in real life. Not to mention, when people run into their Facebook friends in public, they exhibit the awkwardness that Senft suggests in her essay. Although people know all of their Facebook friends' information from individual profiles, they may have never met their "friends" in person. And, when they do finally run into their friends in public, they experience a "strange familiarity," which according to Senft "arises from exchanging private information with people from whom [someone] is otherwise remote." It is this strange familiarity that leaves people hesitant to say even a basic "Hello."
Looking at Facebook and the Senft essay, it is clear that the Internet is changing the way people are not only interacting with each other, but also learning about each other. It is also apparent that maybe people need to be more careful in who they are befriending online. Although this blog post did not address the Internet privacy issue, privacy is definitely a major issue on the internet, especially on networking sites where anonymous individuals have the opportunity to view all of your personal information, friend profiles, and pictures. So....the next time that you sign in on your Facebook account, think twice about accepting the friend request of the next Facebook whore. If you don't, you might find yourself in an awkward situation or even worse, a dangerous one.
The arguments put forth in Senft article have lost a little steam in the past few years due to the fact that technology seems to have come to a point where webcams have lost the steam that they once had during the Camgirl Revolution. In recent history, the biggest use of webcamming seems to be via Skype amongst friends that are not in the immediate vicinity of one another. But recently, as has been discussed at length in class, there has been a massive resurgence in the popularity of the webcam experience due to chatroulette.com. I am interested to see how Senft would have handled this issue in her article. The focus of her article is on paid webcam performance. It doesn’t make mention of any truly “free” webcam experiences that exist. Understandably there is no discussion in Senft’s piece of the male population of porn webcammers. Most likely due to the fact that at the time of the article, and to this day, the female segment is much more prevalent in the porn industry as a whole.
I was very intrigued by Senft’s idea of the “counterpublic.” She likened the counterpublic to a free form space in which the voices of the female population that are stifled by the repressive patriarchal society of our times are allowed to speak freely and broaden feminist ideals. To me, this provides a clear explanation of the reasoning behind why many of these women are doing what they do. It is the same truthful reasoning that many women in the porn industry as well as exotic dancers provide. This experience of simply flashing your body and raking in the hard-earned dollars of men is a very empowering one. You simply put two lumps of fat you possess on display for a man and you are able to get his money from him. You are, ostensibly, doing very minimal work and it actually qualifies as gainful employment. However, for men involved in this industry, there is much less incentive. In truth, you DO get to have sex with gorgeous women, but you are making much less money. The real money is in the gay porn industry, which a lot of heterosexual men are reluctant to go into…surprise… But, this reason of “gainful employment” obviously does not apply to the myriad of men that can be seen on Chat Roulette putting their twig and berries on display for a great number of people to see. One could argue that they are simply looking for that small segment of women that are flashing their breasts to their webcam and hoping by the grace of god that their two paths will align.
But, what seems to happen the majority of time is that drunken groups of college kids (with which your author has done MUCH studying) log on to Chat Roulette in search of these ever-present pud-pullers and yogurt-slingers. Some cheap thrill is had by watching some random male, even for just half a second, pleasuring himself to a screen full of slurring college undergrads laughing their asses off. But, what is the joy in this for the dolphin-flogger himself? It is on very rare occasion that one of these men will happen upon a set of “sweet cans” to which he can whack off and on even rarer occasion that the female that said cans belong to won’t next his ass after the first stroke. Much of what this self-pleasurer will see is the college kids mentioned above, funny memes that turn his dong into Shrek, and other guys just like him wanking for all of cyberspace to see.
This takes the argument that Senft has put forth for the female webcammers that she is defending and completely flushes it down the tubes for the male segment. The vast majority of men that webcam their naked forms are not getting paid to do it. This, to me, means that there is really no counterpublic for men. This makes perfect sense considering the fact that it is not needed. With the great dominance that we as males possess in public spheres, we don’t need to even fathom creating a safe space in which we are able to just be. And on account of the fact that we do not need to spend such a great amount of our time finding ways in which we are able to have our voices heard, we are able to develop a few kinkier behaviors than those of the majority of our female counterparts. While there are most certainly women that cam for the thrill and for validation of their beauty and satisfaction of their kinks, the majority of women do it for the empowerment and for the money. Very few women will pay to see a man jerkin’ the gerkin for “teh intarwebz” and very few gay men either. The largest portion of the male population that is part of this webcam fapper society is simply there for exhibitionistic purposes. There is an inherent thrill for them in being seen by people on the web, even if only just for a split second. And while many of the men pleasuring themselves will immediately next you if don’t have tits, there is a small sect that doesn’t. And upon inquiry as to their sexuality, most will say heterosexual but they just enjoy being watched. Women are trying to regain ground and produce an equal footing, and in their struggle for this, men are given free rein to be kinky sons of bitches.
The Other Side of the Coin
surprising oversights in Lisa Nakamura's Cybertyping
Lisa Nakamura’s essay “Cybertyping and the Work of Race in the Age of Digital Reproduction” seemed pretty well thought out and well constructed overall, but her analysis of stereotypes as they relate to the dissemination of memes over the internet had two fairly significant oversights. Firstly: what about Latinos? Do they use the web? Are they portrayed on the web? Apparently not, as far as Nakamura is concerned, which seems odd because they are presently America’s largest minority group and will actually become the ethnic majority in a matter of years. In fact, the 2010 census may reveal that they are already in the majority.
Secondly, consider the following passage: “In 1997, Bill Gates indulged in a moment of foot-in-mouth cybertyping when he declared during a visit to India that ‘South Indians are the second-smartest people on the planet’ (for those who are guessing, he rated the Chinese as the smartest; those who continue to guess should note that white people, like Gates, do not get classified, since it is the white gaze, in this incarnation, that is transcendental and able to do the classifying!)”
The first half of this analysis is right on the money. Gates certainly committed a faux pass in stereotyping, or “cybertyping” an entire culture of people. After all, in the words of Harlan Stone, “distinctions between citizens solely because of their ancestry are by their very nature odious to a free people whose institutions are founded upon the doctrine of equality.” But Nakamura misses the boat entirely when she expresses the belief that white people, as the progenitors of racial classifications, are themselves beyond the reach of their own creations. All of the stereotypes about Asians in Michael Lewis’ New York Times article she finds so objectionable are but one half of a coin. As there can be no Self without the Other, so can there be no Other without the Self. The conceptions of Southeast Asian immigrants as industrious, intelligent, and sober are predicated upon another set of extremely widespread stereotypes that Nakamura overlooks: white people born in America, or rather white men born in America, are fat, lazy, and stupid. In fact, when I typed "fat, lazy man" into Google image search to get the pictures recreated below, I went through 64 images before finding a subject who was not white.
incidentally, this is the first non-white image listed by the search:
the internet is not without a sense of irony
text messaging: why?
no, seriously... why?
Vicente Rafael's account of the role of text messaging in the 2001 "People Power II" demonstrations that led to the overthrow of corrupt Filipino President Joseph Estrada was eye-opening to say the least. I would never have imagined that text messaging could accomplish something socially redeeming, though it should have been no surprise that the people of the Philippines would manage it if anyone could. The two characterizations of Filipino citizens consistent in every travelogue I have ever read are their irrepressible optimism and their skill at retooling the detritus of Western society in ingenious and improbable fashions. It stands to reason they would be able to take a medium best known in America for its ubiquitous use by teenagers to send each other poorly spelled inanities and transform it into a tool for positive grassroots activism.
the jeepney: a discarded WWII-era American military vehicle, salvaged and converted by Filipino mechanics into a functional taxi cab
In addition to the unexpected utility of text messaging in the Philippines, I was also surprised to read about its practicality. Apparently in the the Philippines it is cheaper to communicate through text messages than it is to make an ordinary phone call, which seems strange because the opposite holds true for most American wireless service contracts.
However, given that the American landscape offers neither the economic nor political incentives for texting that were listed in Rafael's article about the Philippines, I am forced to ask one question to all my fellow digital natives: Why? Why all the texting? Why not use your phone, as, well, a phone? Obviously there are some situations when it would be impolite to make noise and the text message makes a nice alternative to a voice conversation, but I've noticed many of my peers rely on text messages to relay information that could have been sent much more quickly, and much more cheaply, with a simple phone call. The whole apparatus of truncated messages and tapping keys over and over seems to me to be more like a regression to the days of telegraphs and Morse code than an advancement into the brave new world of wireless communication.
tap tap tap...
Struggling to survive amidst the social networking giants such as Facebook and Myspace, Friendster for was a site left for dead on the net. The SNS service, established March of 2003, was a pioneer in the world of social networking; yet ever since it's peek in 2004, the site continues to battle diminishing membership. However, now armed with a new logo, fresh marketing, and revamped key demographics, friendster is repositioning itself to once again stake claim to a piece of the online SNS pie. Roughly 58 million users currently subscribe to friendster...yet you may find that hard to believe considering many of us have never heard of friendster before (even as a social networker myself, this week is the first time I've head of friendster). Perhaps friendster is just popular in other places. Here is a breakdown the site's worldwide traffic according to Alexa.com:
- United Arab Emirates
The highest ranking English speaking country is Canada, ranked 10th, while the United States is ranked 16th. Asian countries clearly dig friendster...but why? Did certain communities just flock to friendster in the first place, or did the site target certain key demographics. It's a classic what came first, the chicken or the egg scenario: did Filipinos adopt friendster, or did friendster adopt Filipinos? (not in the Angelina Jolie sense) Here is a new ad for the new friendster that might shed some light on the subject:
Clearly friendster is targeting a particular audience in the video. As summarized in the article "Social Networking Sites:Definition, History, and Scholarship", authors danah boyd and Nicole Ellison argue that particular sites just gain popularity with certain groups. In particular, in the heyday of friendster, the website "gained traction among three groups of early adopters who shaped the site, bloggers, attendees of the burning man art festival, and gay men" (boyd). Note: Asian populations are not a part of this group of "early adopters". According to the data, appears as if there was an Asian flight to friendster, to borrow from boyd's concept of the white flight from myspace users. But why? Is there some inherent characteristic in the SNS's interface that attracts a certain contingency? For the myspace/friendster case, does the ability to embed music, Jack Johnson videos and sparkly backgrounds to one's profile page make it inherently "skanky", especially compared to facebook's rigid formatting, lack of flexibility when it comes to personalization, and universal aesthetic (everyone's profile looks the same). "You can express yourself the way you want to!" claims the friendster video above...Does the user of facebook play by the rules and conform while the non conformist defies convention with personalization (for example, are there any emo kids on facebook? Goths?). However, one thing all these networking sites have in common is the egocentric model, as theorized by boyd. You are at the center of attention, and as the video preaches, friendster provides a place where "I want MY own space, MY own music, look...My own style...its you, upclose and personal!". And with friendster, "you" belong to an Asian communitiy more likely than not.
Back to the Filipino/Asian phenomenom. Perhaps it wasn't the chicken or the egg that distinctively came first. From her piece, "Taken Out of Context", donah boyd once again offers us insight into the demographical world of social networking sites. "As technology systems are socially constructed through usage, the socialtechnical practices that emerge shape the cultural landscape of both mediated and unmediated environments" (boyd 51). In other words, technological determinism and social determinism simultaneously coexist with each other when it comes to the world of social networking. Users shape SNS's, and SNS's shape users. Interestingly enough, these online communities are somewhat, and perhaps, will always be segregated to a certain extent. After all, people do join SNS's just to meet new people. Despite being egocentric, many networks pull people with similar backgrounds closer together. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I doubt a completely unsegregated online space will ever exist, even in real life unfortunately its hard to imagine, but only time will tell...
It is quite possibly the scariest place imaginable. Once you are there, there is no chance for escape, as it addictive lure keeps you hostage. It is a cesspool of hatred, disease, societal decay, and links to porn sites. I am talking, of course, about the comments section on YouTube.
YouTube, as any digital native knows, is a site for watching, sharing, and commenting on online videos. Content can range from music videos and movie trailers, to vlogs, to the ever popular formula of "song + lyrics + iMovie = gold." There are fan videos dedicated to favorite actors and actresses, videos of children's post-dental acid trips, and a fair amount of videos aiming for the goal of fifteen minutes of celebrity. A video like this:
The "literal version" of "Total Eclipse of the Heart":http:/
But in the same way that YouTube has become a cultural staple, its comment section has become a place where happiness and hope in humanity goes to die. While some commenters stick to the classics, "OMG! LOL!!!!" or "RPATZZ IS SOOOOOO HOT!!!!," some engage in racial, political and sexual slander, arguing with other users and using derogatory terms (the type that I'd rather not include).
The following are examples of the types of negative comments (please pardon the language) that can be found on YouTube videos (ignore spelling and grammatical errors, as YouTube commenters tend to also be constitutionally incapable of following the rules of the english language):
A comment on a Dave Chappelle bit
A comment on Glenn Beck's Keynote Speech at CPAC
A comment from Taylor Swift's "Love Story"
Not exactly prime examples of the perseverance of the human spirit of generosity, kindness, and brotherhood. Why is the comment section on YouTube, like the comment section on many other websites, so derisive? Though it is impossible to answer for sure, I believe that the negative nature of the YouTube comments section is caused by YouTube's unique brand of social networking. YouTube is, in the loosest sense, a social networking site that does not encourage social networking. Instead, it encourages what I called the "social sphere," where you may interact with others without any of the concerns normally associated with social interaction (be it virtual or physical).
Nicole B. Ellison and danah m. boyd define social networking sites as "as web-based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system, (2) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system" (boyd, Ellison, paragraph 4) According to this definition, YouTube can be considered a social networking site. In order to comment, users must have an YouTube account. YouTube accounts allow you to comment on other's videos, subscribe to other's channels, and "view and traverse their list of connections" by exploring the channels to which they are subscribed. Though, as Alex Juhasz points out in her "Learning the 5 Lessons of YouTube," YouTube is in no way the perfect social networking site, nor a useful one, but it still has the ability to function in that capacity.
YouTube is unique in that it's primary purpose is not to provide a social network, but instead to allow users to share video content that they create (or in many cases, steal from other places); the social network of YouTube is side effect of this goal. As such, YouTube becomes a social networking site that doesn't actually encourage social networking. Instead, what it encourages through its interface of subscribing and commenting is a "social sphere," where one can engage with others without consequences and backlash (apart from the digital kind). Unlike Facebook or MySpace, YouTube is more interested in "connecting" users who do not know each other in "real life," creating a "safe" space to say whatever the user so desires. For instance, if, on Facebook, a friend sent you this video:
I always dreamed I would one day find a way to incorporate Lady Gaga into my homework. See the whole "Bad Romance" video here:http:/
You would probably respond with something akin to "I just don't understand her. What a weird video. Catchy song though." (Blasphemy).
And not something along the lines of:
I had no idea "Bad Romance" is really about the debate over gay marriage!
And this relates to Lady Gaga how...?
Funny, as I saw no "homosexual" fights in the video...
Even if the above were the exact thoughts that watching the video caused, you might not be entirely comfortable expressing these ideas to the friend that sent you the video, or on an online site with your name and personal information. This example is rather trite and simplified, but it does help to demonstrate the under the visage of the YouTube comments section, where anonymity and the "anything goes" attitude is encouraged, people may feel more comfortable expressing certain types of thoughts and opinions; they might feel more inclined to share their "true" opinions in YouTube's social sphere.
It is important to consider that there is the possibility that those making the hateful comments are doing so purely out of entertainment, or for some other deviant purpose. A person who engages in this type of behavior is typically called a "troll" and Geert Lovink defines "trolls" as an "individual who chronically regularly posts specious arguments, flames, or personal attacks to a newsgroup, discussion list, or in an email for no other purpose than to annoy someone or disrupt a discussion" (Lovink 291). As YouTube was launched after the publication of this piece, he does not include YouTube in his list of possible targets, but his definition is still applicable. Is it possible that at least some of the negative comments on YouTube are trolls? Absolutely. But in the case of Lady Gaga's Video, which has over 127 million views and 155,369 comments, it's unlikely that every negative or hateful comment is the result of some bored teenager with nothing better to do.
In conclusion, YouTube is a social networking site in the loosest sense, one that fosters a social sphere that allows users a degree of anonymity while still allowing for them to interact with other users. The comments section of YouTube, long discussed as an area of intrigue, danger, and absolute ridiculousness, provides an example of how a "social sphere" is capable of fostering an unpleasant environment, filled with hate, derision, and most importantly, horrendous grammar.
Here are the links to all the videos I referenced in this post:
Glenn Beck's Speech:http:/
Taylor Swift, singing about boys (again):http:/
In Vicente L. Rafael’s article “The Cell Phone and the Crowd”, he discusses the effects of cell phones and texting on the Filipino crowd, and it’s political implications. In his discussion, he spends much of his time exploring the idea of texting. He says about texting:
“Sending text messages by phone is an irritating skill to master, largely because 26 letters plus punctuation have to be created with only 10 buttons. […] Digital communication requires the use of digits, both one’s own and those of the phone pad, as one taps away. But this tapping unfolds not to the rhythm of one’s speech, or in tempo with one’s thoughts, but in coordination with the numbers by which one reaches letters: three taps on 2 to get a C, for example” (Rafael 301).
Rafael goes on to explain the emergence of an almost new language that evolves from the need for short hand with this difficult typing system.
We’ve all gotten that text message: C U soon, L8TR maybes, G2G, TTFN. To a certain generation, these messages have complete meaning, to another generation, they’re gibberish, random letters joined in a random fashion. It would appear that texting has created this new culture, in which convenience has subverted proper grammar, spelling and punctuation in favor of an abridged language that is easier to type with one finger, fast.
But I almost feel like this text message slang-language is soon to be a thing of the past. Although many people still have phones with number keypads that hinder quick typing, most of my peers have iPhones, which has a QWERTY keypad, and a self-correcting system that facilitates correct English in texts. Furthermore, most phones in Verizon stores come with pull our QWERTY keyboards. I even saw a phone that has a keypad that switches from QWERTY to numbers depending on how you orient it.
Does this mean we’ll see the last of this texting slang? Are these acronyms and shortcuts merely a pidgin language springing from our transition into the more technologically advanced digital age?
I know I for one have stopped using these shortcuts and slang terms. There was a time when typing “you” seeming long and arduous, and “u” that much easier. But now that I have technology like fast computers, streamlined keyboards, and QWERTY keypads on my phone, I opt for the more correct “you” whenever possible.
Perhaps these acronyms are a way of slipping certain things under parents’ watchful eyes. Phrase like FTS (F**l this Sh*t) and LMAO can be used in front of stricter adults, who as digital tourists may not truly understand just how vulgar their son/daughter is being. It’s true that this digital language can sort of be seen as a code that gets by people who are not “in the know” when it comes to texting and chatting.
I guess I’m just wondering: is text slang a product of age? Convenience? As a sort of impenetrable code? And if it is indeed a product of one of these things, will it remain? Or will it fade as technology evolves beyond it?