Digital reality and social media can release a person’s ability of self-expression and challenge people to communicate well.
New Media, according to our Lievrouw reading, involves reappropriation, networking, ubiquity and user participation.
The brilliant Benjamin Bratton of UCSD critiques social media practices where activism becomes a passive consumption activity. (video)
While social media has raised red flags over incidences of cyberbullying, these new media usages allow and encourage responsible communicative practices. Myspace used to get a knock for sucking teens out of real life by making online lives more interesting, while several teens in one study argued that it enhanced their experience of real life because ‘they could be listened to online in ways that didn’t happen in real life’ (paraphrasing…there’s a study where I read this in another class, but I couldn’t find it online 🙁 ). Youtube, while it sucks hours out of a person’s life in clicking and consuming pieces of entertainment, also has poetic uses of new media.
The particular New Media in youtube that I’m going to talk about is using youtube itself as an artistic expression. This project has its roots in youtube instructional videos and the beginning of Khan Academy, which started as an online resource for homework help. Here they teach art by inviting all participants on youtube—all those youtube commenters—to create something self-expressive and to work with (or receive challenges from) artists. This is comparable to Life in a Day. For those who haven’t heard of it before, Life in a Day was a project where the producers collected over 192 simple videos, a few thousand hours of film, from participants answering a few basic questions about that day. They turned this whole record of July 24, 2010 into a 1 hr video. The film seemed to be organized by themes from the day–festivals that had gone on, and questions that people in the videos answered, such as “What are you afraid of?” “What do you look forward to?” It’s quite an amazing, well made video.
Here is an example of a rendition of faith and/or doctrine that I particularly liked. It’s a depiction of God that is low-key, but noticeable. Even described as ‘creepy’ by some. My favorite part of this report is how the artist described this work as a visual translation of Scripture. My favorite part of this other report is that the statue becomes a place/ an area or zone where people feel like praying. It’s as if the deep poetry of the tradition is re-embodied as a sort of activist medium.
Communication is important. It’s amazing how new media can involve people as participants and as contributors and create an expressive environment. I will hazard a prediction that the more users participate in these types of projects, the more they will link their online identity to their real-life selves. Given the challenge of producing their own perspective on a single theme I think that people will be challenged to think about the theme, and see it in many ways. If this is the case then maybe the mediated activities have the positive potential to enrich real life and vice versa. The variety of real-world experience brings endless ways for a viewer to look at a single idea represented in these thematically organized, participatory, youtube projects.
Spiral of Silence on Social Media from Pew Research Group