Slate on YouTube
A couple of fairly new articles:
A Grand Unified Theory of YouTube and MySpace and The Fab Four Million: YouTube and The Neglected Art of Lip-Synching.
What I'm completely enthralled with on YouTube is the almost masochistic exhibitionism. So many of these people's sort of video-diary type of things are so bizarrely intimate - videos of their strange eating habits, for example, or of their awkward lip-synching to bad pop music, while writhing in non-trained dance-ecstasy.
The aesthetic quality is much like in the Jonathan Caouette film Tarnation where what's beautiful about it is how sickeningly personal it is.
On YouTube, what goes further, are the follow-up videos, as I call them. Here's what I mean: someone will submit some video of themselves eating, or talking directly to the camera about something philosophical, or examining themselves in the mirror, or singing their hearts out. After this video, viewers are able to make comments. Some of these comments are harsh, as one might expect. Then, the original filmmaker will make another video, usually called something like "Sorry Haters," and this video is usually whining nerd (and I can say that because I was that whining nerd) going "I don't care what you say! Sticks and stones may break my bones!" and usually goes something like this: "I don't care if you don't like my video because I'll bet you haven't even made a video and you're probably, like, twelve years old, so shut up!"
Many of these videomakers are teenagers. Which brings me to the whole MySpace controversy. Why are we upset by these kids posting nude photos of themselves on the Internet? Revealing all their deepest secrets to the intimate community of the whole computer-accessing world? Not because we think they lack agency or don't know what they're doing but because most of us (I include myself here )were total idiots when we were thirteen and we all cringe to think what we'd have done if we'd had the Internet and a video camera.
What's cool about this is that, by the time this generation is grown up and running for office, indiscretions like these will be basically irrelevant because everyone will have them all over the World Wide Web.
What's more interesting to me, though, are that there are these truly bizarre people (and it's a horrible thing to say, I know, but I'm being honest) who are in their twenties and thirties and have jobs and stuff, but who are putting themselves and their everyday lives on YouTube to be critiqued by thousands of kids. What is going on there?