Tube Technoculture One of the Most Successful Essay

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¶ … Tube Technoculture

One of the most successful web sites since Napster, is YouTube. YouTube needs little introduction since the site gave meaning to the term "gone viral." The term defines the number of hits on extremely successful and widely viewed videos posted on YouTube, usually in the millions, and ranging from Gary Brolsma's chair dancing, lip synching performance to Numa, a Romanian pop tune, "Dragostea Din Tea" by O-Zone (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UCmo31FNpc); to the more recent Britain's Got Talent video introducing singer Susan Boyle to the world beyond television, with her version of I Dreamed a Dream, from the successful stage musical Les Miserables (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxPZh4AnWyk). Brolsma's performance drew more than a million hits, while Boyle's performance stands as the most successful, viral, YouTube sensation to date with more than 41 million hits. Neither Brolsma nor Boyle received financial remuneration from YouTube, nor have the millions of other less viral, yet widely successful videos. YouTube, as an appropriator and exploiter of other mediums, has become a technocultural success story.

When Gerald Emmanuel Stearn (1968, pp. 172-180) examines the question asked by Luhan (1968): "Is it natural that one medium should appropriate and exploit another?" which was asked by Luhan in the context of the time and space of pre-internet technology. Luhan's point, of course, was that the appropriation of one medium by another, such as the printed book novel by film. The question, however, stands as perhaps an even more appropriate one today in terms of the fact that the internet is the fastest, most expeditious, disseminator of information that exists today, superseding the traditional information media television, print, and radio mediums (Levinson 1999, p. 146).

YouTube appropriates and exploits other mediums from a technological vantage point, and as such has created a technoculture, and one which:

"is actually employing a refined concept of 'replaced' -- a medium becomes art and/or content, when it is replaced, not necessarily in its entirety, but in its peak usage, in its performance as the medium or spirit of an age, if we may borrow a page from Hegel. There is no doubt that many more people now watch movies than read novels, and many more than that watch TV (Levinson, p. 146)."

Now, of course, many more people, especially young people, use the internet than watch TV, at least in terms hours in the day comparison. YouTube is now the "go to place," to see contemporaries in original video formats expressing their interpretation of current events, music, government, and society in general. "The movement of information at approximately the speed of light has become by far the largest industry in the world (McLuhan and Zingrone 1995, p. 180)." YouTube reflects that lighting speed, and the traditional mediums, like television, now utilize as a tool to enhance and extend viewership. It has in many ways replaced the need for public relations specialists in creating a larger audience or consumer base. It was no mistake, certainly, that Simon Cowell, of American Idol genius and fame, chose YouTube to expand Susan Boyle's potential fan base beyond the UK and Scotland (where Boyle was from). With the largest number of hits in YouTube history, Boyle's first commercial CD, produced by Cowell, sold more than eight million copies worldwide (Aceshowbiz 2010, online).

While YouTube has a commercial use for expanding viewership, it has created a new culture of self-made comedians, musicians, and other artists, and has provided those independent artists a viewership and fan base. The case of Gary Brolsma is one case in point. Brolsma was a relatively unknown high school student when his Numa went viral, propelling him to YouTube stardom. Subsequently, Brolsma was debuted as the originator of his performance, and was interviewed by every major television network in America, such as Good Morning America.

Others have enjoyed the same success and notoriety as Brolsma, debuting their home made films, art, and music on YouTube. Some, like Raven Zoe (2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w86GanPn80M&NR=1) are talented young artists, have gone from hits on YouTube to developing a fan base that searches her "On the Couch Series" for her latest performances of her original songs (Traded for Gold), and her performance of songs by other artists, like Jenny Lewis (You Are What You Love). Raven's videos of her performances are better than home movies, because she is a hugely talented singer. Unfortunately, she is limited in production, and her on the Couch Series is confined to a seemingly small room, that is completely wrong as a background or stage set for her performances. As a result, her performances seem more like a series of audition tapes -- and they probably are, because she is virtually unknown, but an increasing fan base on YouTube could quickly propel her into the fast lane of the pop music industry. What is really interesting, is that she sings Jenny Lewis better than Jenny Lewis does, and Raven is much more interesting than Lewis. Those who find Raven might, for the first time, find Jenny Lewis too.

Traditional artists are covered on YouTube too. The popular pop/rock/stage show performances of Blue Man Group are regularly featured on YouTube with a guest artist singing their popular song, I Feel Love (2010 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5d04D3CgSIQ&feature=related). These productions are professionally done, usually while the performers are playing before live audiences in concert. it's as clear, and well produced as a television broadcast of the concert.

The problem, beyond the entertainment factor of YouTube, is that it lacks credibility as an information medium. One can find everything from Big Foot, to UFOs, to conspiracy theories on YouTube. There is no way of knowing whether or not these videos are legitimate, or the product of creative imaginations -- unless they are so horribly done that it is obvious, and there is no shortage of those on YouTube. Still, others, like the videos suggesting a cover-up of September 11, 2001, when terrorists hijacked commercial airline jets and flew them into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and one attempt to fly a third jet to Washington, DC, but crashed in a Pennsylvania field when passengers attempted to take the plane back. The video has arrows and circles pointing to the basis of the conspiracy, alleging that blowouts in the windows just floors beneath where the plane crashed into the building are U.S. bombs. There are numerous numbers of these videos on YouTube, and they have received millions of hits. Some of the ones with the most hits are combination conspiracy, and outlining the face of the devil, or Osama Bin Laden in the smoke. None of these kinds of homemade videos would be shown on national television, at least not on the major news networks that report news.

To the extent that we would be seeking newsworthy and verifiable information, we would have to choose carefully if we were searching for that on YouTube. Yet there are other videos on YouTube that have clearly been appropriated from other media sources, and the footage is used to further the idea of conspiracy, or to influence the audience in their political ideas and affiliations. One such video features the actor Matt Damon criticizing former vice presidential Republican candidate Sarah Palin (2010, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BvKFJ6iyGrI&NR=1). Damon criticizes Palin's lack of experience, and Damon says that the prospect of Palin becoming vice president, and, in the case of unforeseen events, becoming president, is a really "scary" idea to him. Whether or not Damon published the video on YouTube is unknown, but certainly if the actor's image in one of his films was published, he would have the right to have the video pulled, and if it impacted his income as a film actor, we would expect that he would. However, Damon has left the video of himself criticizing Palin on YouTube, apparently without being concerned about it, because it expresses his political ideas. There is no equal time given the Republican party; nor any opportunity for Palin or her supporters to be heard. The video is commented on by two would-be commentators, whose journalistic training and abilities are anything but professional. If it's a potential audition tape, the pair would benefit from rethinking their approach and journalistic styles.

We find it all on YouTube these days. It is the "media substitute all-at-onceness for one-thing-at-a-timeness (McLuhan and Zingrone, p. 180)." It is a substitute, but not the replacement, for television, and the reason is that it is for the most part home videos, whether those home videos are intended to be audition tapes, they still come across as home videos because they lack the professional production, and because the makers of them who want to attract attention to themselves are amateurs at what they are doing. There is no real effort to perfect the product, to make it comparable to a commercial production. To this end, television and the motion picture industry have little to worry about as far as YouTube competing with them for film or news audiences.

Entertainment can be found in abundance on YouTube, and if one… [END OF PREVIEW]

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