My Orientation (toward YouTube and ThirdTube)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
I wrote this texteo in the Summer of 2010, as I was finishing this video-book for publication, because my readers for the MIT Press suggested it would be useful for users to enter the text with a realistic expectation of my (rather unique for cyber studies) orientation and goals for the work, in particular my commitments to engaging with YouTube (and this video-book about it) via self-reflexive processes committed to social justice.
Cyber studies is often bifurcated by a euphoria/pessimism divide focusing on questions like whether the internet opens or closes conversation and community, is democratic or corporate-controlled particularly around issues of copyright and intellectual property, and produces new forums for expression or calcifies prevailing borders as well as possibilities for surveillance.

Independent, radical, or committed media refer to uses of mediation technologies that take place outside corporate and conventional structures of finance, form, or function—that is, media that is meant for personal or artistic expression, community building, political intervention, or education. YouTube at once is and is not alternative media.

John Dewey writes: "For what is the faith of democracy in the role of consultation, of conference, of persuasion, of discussion, in formation of public opinion, which in the long run is self-corrective, except faith in the capacity of the intelligence of the common man to respond with commonsense to the free play of facts and ideas which are secured by effective guarantees of free inquiry, free assembly and free communication?"[cit]

Feminist film takes "a threefold form. Women either entered the existing system with ambitions of breaking it, proceeded to make films outside of the commercial system, and women developed a feminist film theory—the overlap and interrelatedness of all three measures being obvious. Their challenge was to the traditional representation of women in cinema, and the aim was the displacement of patriarchal dominance in the cinematic world."[cit]
In 2007, I came to YouTube (to teach and to learn) after twenty years of making, writing, and teaching about alternative media, particularly the community video work of AIDS and antiwar activists, feminists, people of color and queers of many stripes.

I am a committed media scholar and maker whose work has focused on individual and community empowerment and, by design, projects to which I am personally related. The wholistic integration of teaching, writing, media-making and politics—what I call media praxis—is central to my life's work, which I hope will contribute to change.

I like to work within the forms I am analyzing and hoping to (use for) change. My reflexive process grounds the questions I ask of YouTube and where I try to push it. The project is both personal and political (i.e., feminist), as well as formal and structural in nature. (User, don't fail to note the HOW TO video here!)

Thus, a critical pedagogy aiming toward digital literacy and a civic engagement in the hopes of creative democracy are also central to my praxis. I believe that under the right conditions, citizens and students (Web 2.0's much-celebrated "users") can make expressive, critical, beautiful media that makes relevant contributions to our culture. Thinking through (and in) these conditions is a defining orientation of my project.

While most of YouTube and its many many users do not succeed at (or aspire to) these lofty goals of collaborative and public learning, some users do, and many more could. I suggest that my teaching and publishing on YouTube is only one example of many productive or radical uses of the site, many more of which you will see evidenced across this video-book. While access to production and distribution have become ever more readily available, and widely taken advantage of, I look for and try to model here the harder integration of media literacy, theory, history, and politics with people-made or user-generated media. And this is what I call ThirdTube.

User beware! This tour is by far this most theoretical, historical, and political of the bunch, and thus the least oriented toward (mimicking of) the fast, lite, generic fun of YouTube (or does that make it the most?). Regardless, my specific orientation leads me in two directions in this YouTour: backward toward utopian visions of earlier generations, and forward toward contemporary examples of productive dialogue found at the intersections of social video-networking, academia, and a truly democratic participatory media.