Henry Jenkins made YouTube Prophecies?

Henry Jenkins Headshot “Henry Jenkins is the Provost’s Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California. Jenkins has a B.A. in Political Science and Journalism from Georgia State University, a M.A. in Communication Studies from the University of Iowa and a PhD in Communication Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author and/or editor of twelve books on various aspects of media and popular culture” (See link at the name for further introductions into his works).

Nine Propositions Towards a Cultural Theory of YouTube written by Jenkins is based on the compilation of the ideas that he had in 2007 during a plenary session organized by Fred Turner, “What’s So Significant about Social Networking?: Web 2.0 and Its Critical Potential,” which also featured Howard Rheingold, Beth Noveck, and Tiziana Terranova, about the place of YouTube in contemporary culture. He put forth nine ideas about YouTube that some would call prophetic. I would all them theories that are fairly obvious now but don’t really sound prophetic on his platform because he posits them as theories not prophecies. Then again, he says they are adapted from the then 2007 session. Uhm.

The First Idea – YouTube is a space where commercial, amateur, nonprofit, governmental, educational, and activist content co-exists and interacts in ever more complex ways.  He illustrates his point by expanding on the more complex ways part. Complex being that YouTube is a platform for power plays by organizations that are powerful but mask themselves as less powerful to integrate themselves into popular culture. Prophecy? I would say life. I don’t know more than Jenkins but I know that every new and rare playing ground is a place for power to converge and monopolize. He is right to some extent, but I believe that although the more powerful do control a lot of ideas, it is ultimately the people’s desires that control social media. Case in point, Vines. The advent of vines might have been propagated by powerful people making their power, it is still the desires of people like you and me that propagate their need and success. The powerful people are trying to please us, not the other way around.

The vine videos are becoming more popular day by day. This is not to say that the powerful entities aren’t working, it’s just that the little people have more power than Jenkins presumes.

The Second Idea – It was the emergence of participatory cultures of all kinds over the past several decades that has paved the way for the early embrace, quick adoption, and diverse use of platforms like YouTube. I find this idea to be more or less right. Everyday, new Apps pop out of the woodworks to entice us. If the cultures of gamers everywhere didn’t exist, the translator Apps for people who are not extremely into the culture wouldn’t be present today.

The Third Idea – YouTube represents a site where amateur curators assess the value of commercial content and re-present it for various niche communities of consumers. This is becoming increasingly evident. In the past, people collected home videos and shared it within the family, now the home videos are  YouTube videos chronicled for the world. He illustrates this idea by using Steven Colbert’s appearance at the Washington Press Club Dinner. He reminds us that while Colbert saw it as a viral platform, Viacom, the communications company where Colbert’s show is hosted, saw it as a threat to them and wanted to have the remixed clips off of YouTube.

The Fourth Idea -YouTube’s value depends heavily upon its deployment via other social networking sites — with content gaining much greater visibility and circulation when promoted via blogs, Live Journal, MySpace, and the like. This is not completely true. Although YouTube has gained some of its popularity via social media, people go to Youtube.com and surf the daily videos. These videos might be there because they are popular maybe via social media but it also gains a lot of popularity just by being on YouTube alone.

The Fifth Idea – YouTube operates, alongside Flickr, as an important site for citizen journalists, taking advantage of a world where most people have cameras embedded in their cellphones which they carry with them everywhere they go. He is largely right, although I reserve the right to say Flickr is sooooo out of date.

The sixth Idea – YouTube may embody a particular opportunity for translating participatory culture into civic engagement. He is stating that social ideas like politics are being influenced by social media. YouTube can essentially be a platform for social debate during a political debate. These political ideas might not be politically corrupt, they might be racist, sexist etc

The Seventh Idea – YouTube helps us to see the shifts which are occurring in the cultural economy: the grassroots culture appropriates and remixes content from the mass media industry; the mass media industry monitors trends and pulls innovations back into the system, amplifying them and spreading them to other populations. Jenkins has hit the nail on the head here. The big companies are paying the small company to broadcast their ideas when these ideas get big, the mass media machine monitor the popularity and spreads the trends. While the YouTube machine is great for amplification, mass media is slowly taking over the world. Thus, the mass media puts something out tehre, if it is successful, then they expand upon it.

The Eight Idea – In the age of YouTube, social networking emerges as one of the important social skills and cultural competencies that young people need to acquire if they are going to become meaningful participants in the culture around them. This is true but stressing the importance of social media makes it difficult to particpate in cultural experiences in our physical world. So, he is noting tha the digital divide is closed, but the bridge between humans and other humans via physical communication is changing.

The Ninth Idea – YouTube teaches us that a participatory culture is not necessarily a diverse culture. As John McMuria has shown us, minorities are grossly under-represented — at least among the most heavily viewed videos on YouTube, which still tend to come most often from white middle class males. He is esentially stating that less diverse media is popular. This is true to some extent, but things are changing.

Jenkins has some very stringent points that are largely true, but in this ever changing world, things are changing. His propositions are enpointé and logical but things are rapidly changing.


One thought on “Henry Jenkins made YouTube Prophecies?

  1. For what it’s worth, I would not have described what I do as Prophecy either. I am describing things that I am observing in the environment around me. I sometimes observe these things earlier than other people do in part because I had access as an MIT professor (at the time) to early adapters/adopters and their practices. But, these practices can also lead you astray if you are not attentive to the differences between their culture and that of the general population. In any case, I was not trying to predict the future, just describe the present. I got lucky with this piece and the things I describe have become much more widespread and normative, even banal, in some cases. If you want to see how I have expanded on some of these ideas, check out my newest book, Spreadable Media.

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