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Mashups and YouTube Effect April 11, 2007

Posted by Joanne KY Teoh in Convergence, YouTube.
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We are just seeing the early glimmer of what a fully networked public culture might look like. The success of YouTube and other Web 2.0 sites has led to the idea that video clips shot by ordinary people and shared online can change the world.

Do-it-yourself media is celebrated by scholars such as Yale’s Yochai Benkler and MIT’s Henry Jenkins for engaging ordinary folks and promoting a participatory global culture.

Foreign Policy editor Moses Naim observed that 15 years ago, the world marveled at the “CNN effect” and believed that TV would bring greater global accountability. To some degree that was correct. But the YouTube effect, he said, will be even more powerful.

Thanks to the ubiquity of video technology, Naim noted that the world could witness a murder in a remote mountain pass in Tibet.

In this YouTube clip, Chinese soldiers shot down Tibetan monks, women, and children in cold blood, but a climber caught them on tape. The video first aired on Romanian TV, but it only gained worldwide attention when posted on YouTube.

Today, casual communication, personal stories and amateur works can be made easily available to large audiences. By mashing up, remixing, playing out alternative narratives, niche publics can create new cultural forms.

This viral video mashup casts the Iraq war alliance between George Bush and Tony Blair in a new light. Created for a Swedish TV program,’ this parody syncs images of Bush and Blair singing Diana Ross and Lionel Richie’s ballad “Endless Love.”

The Asian Tsunami in 2004 saw sophisticated use of new media. The lines that once separated participants, reporters, and audiences grew porous. The web was the most dynamic source of information for videos, images, stories and podcasts.

New ways of gathering, creating and sharing information and culture will challenge traditional sources of authority for knowledge. But the traditional media apparatus, though chastened, is still powerful.

This potentially seizmic shift in modes of cultural production will not bring on a coup d’etat. It will be gradual though disruptive. The voices of an engaged citizenry may be loud, but standards of authorial voice and journalistic integrity are cultural values we will not yet tune out.

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