"Celluloid Heroes", The Kinks
When our world disappears in a puff of methane gas in a few years time, I hope the YouTube server remains, like Shelley’s “vast and trunkless legs of stone”, a monument to this decade’s vanity and self absorption.
It was a good way to make a quick buck though.
• YouTube is 11 months old.
• It receives more visitors than e-Bay, Wikipedia, or Amazon.
• It was bought by Google last month for $1.65 billion.
Some videos are very endearing, including the now famous 79-year-old geriatric1927:
“I got addicted to YouTube. It’s a fascinating place to go to see all the wonderful videos that you young people have produced, so I thought I’d have a go at doing one myself.” (About half of all registered YouTube users are said to be under twenty.) He was wearing a beige V-neck sweater and glasses, and sat in front of nineteen-seventies-era wallpaper and a small painting of a motorcycle. “Oh, yes, and, incidentally, I really am as old as I look,” he said. “What I hope I’ll be able to do is just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person who’s been there and done that.”
And there are some cute kittens, as readers of this blog will know.
Still when all’s said and done, overall YouTube is not a cultural artefact to be particularly proud of. The martian who stumbles on that server in the desert will find a testament to a generation unwilling or unable to compose anything that requires more thought than a simple point and shoot, a tribute to immediacy rather than reflection, and a shrine to self-importance and egotism.
Still, it’s early days and I guess the YouTube wave will bring with it more original and insightful work in due course. The question is, how will we ever find it in the video tsunami of babies, teenagers running through MacDonalds, and “sexy girls”?
Sources: This post was prompted by an excellent article in the New Yorker, from which the quote from geriatric1927 was taken. The Wikipedia entry is a good source of information on YouTube. Perhaps the biggest sting in the tail for Google will be the enormous copyright implications of YouTube (since many of the videos it hosts were ripped off from other sites)—these questions are dealt with in an intriguing analysis posted by Blog Maverick.
Finally, the “mediatization of the personal” was covered in a thought-provoking review of the documentary Tarnation by Carla Montemayor in Newsbreak a few months back. I couldn’t find it in cyberspace though – perhaps she will supply a link if it exists.