FakeTube: Join the Search! (December 3, 2008)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This is the 2008 blog post that I shared via social networks (Facebook and YouTube) to students, subscribers, readers, friends, and colleagues to crowdsource my FakeTube project: looking for and then writing about "productive fake documentaries" on YouTube.
In semiotics—the study of how signification works— an indexical sign is a "mode in which the signifier is not arbitrary but is directly connected in some way (physically or causally) to the signified—this link can be observed or inferred: e.g., 'natural signs' (smoke, thunder, footprints, echoes, non-synthetic odours and flavours), medical symptoms (pain, a rash, pulse-rate), measuring instruments (weathercock, thermometer, clock, spirit-level), 'signals' (a knock on a door, a phone ringing), pointers (a pointing 'index' finger, a directional signpost), recordings (a photograph, a film, video or television shot, an audio-recorded voice), personal 'trademarks' (handwriting, catchphrase) and indexical words ('that', 'this', 'here', 'there')."[cit]
I am MP:me.

I use my laptop's tiny camera, imovie, and YouTube to make and network small, bad videos as part of my femi-digi-praxis. In this particular attempt, I'm out seeking productive fake docs on YouTube.

Care to help me?

In my book F is for Phony: Fake Documentary and Truth's Undoing (which I edited with Jesse Lerner), I define the fake documentary as "fiction films that make use of (copy, mock, mimic, gimmick) documentary style and therefore acquire its associated content (the moral and social) and associated feelings (belief, trust, authenticity) to create a documentary experience defined by their antithesis, self-conscious distance."[cit]

Perhaps you've noticed but such things litter, no really define, video on YouTube. While they were once the fake to a certainly dicey but notable real, on YouTube fake docs are The Real to a decidedly disappeared belief, trust, and authenticity. YouTube is dominated by mimicky gimmicks, glib repetitions, fake takes on the already untrue. So many media morsels gleefully wink at their near mirror image; so many video bloggers tip their hats to their multiple fabricated selves. That's the funny and fake vernacular of YouTube: this sincere attempt at academic discourse and communication not withstanding. Hey: you try to be earnest, genuine, yourself in this sea of parody. Believe me, no one will trust its really you ...

Now, the productive fake doc is another story. In F is for Phony we included fifteen chapters on the subgenre. But look as I may, I can't find productive fake docs on YouTube, "those that self-consciously and directly engage with history, identity, and truth in a political and formal project that links and unlinks power to the act of recording the visible world and to the documentary record produced." This is where you come in.

I've been invited to give some talks in early 2009 about shifting media boundaries—fake/real, documentary/art—and I know that this must be happening on YouTube. Everything does. But why go it alone—solo pundit braving it in the video wilds—when what I study is famously based upon new structures of collective intelligence: the wisdom of crowds and the out-sourcing of labor in the name of fun.

Will you send me your favorite productive fake doc and participate in the play (here, on YouTube or on Facebook)? Share with me a link and make sure to add a comment if you want to convince me. And I'll need it by early January to make the cut. If I like what I see and also what you say, I'll include you in my glamorous upcoming talks in Iowa or at CAA. I promise.

Oh. Also: Could you pass this on? Network it? Can I trust you? Use you? I don't know where this project will end. But you can certainly follow me online as I attempt my productive fake quest through our contemporary video mess.