"Video Writing on YouTube"
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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Origins of this content
This was first given as a talk at the Future of Writing Conference at the University of California, Irvine, November 6-7, 2008. At the conference, diverse scholars and artists were asked to push their various fields to rethink "what 'writing' is ... How are new communications technologies changing the way people 'compose, 'write,' and 'author'? How do collaborative writing spaces and social networking challenge the concepts of 'text' and 'author'? And how are emerging emphases on visual literacies shifting what we think of as writing?"
Digital rhetoric, as defined by fellow-blogger and UCSD professor Elizabeth Losh, "is not one but two literacies: a literacy of print and a literacy of the screen. In addition, work in one medium is used to enhance learning in the other."[cit]

Visual rhetoric considers how "a resurgence of interest in the ways that our means of representing experience, including mental experience, has some bearing on what can be known. In simple terms, word choice is both stylistic and epistemological; how we say or write something has a real effect on how we know."[cit]

According to John Hartley: "Public writing is produced, circulated, and deciphered or read. Each of these moments in its career has its own frequency:
* The speed of creation: how long a given 'text' of public writing takes to produce
* Frequency of circulation: intervals between publication
* The wavelength of consumption: the period a given text spends in the public domain before being superseded by later 'pulses' of text from the same source."[cit]
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More videos related to the content of this page
(This was first given as a talk at the Future of Writing Conference, University of California, Irvine, November 6-7, 2008.)

The "talk" begins with video.

My gimmick, to teach the course both about and also on YouTube allowed for a brief viral moment last Fall, itself a great lesson in the workings of popularity, simplicity, and humor within on-line social networking and its many media convergences.

Needless to say our aims for the course have always been serious. In Learning from YouTube, I am interested in participating with my students in primary research about the forms and functions of this particular poster-child for web 2.0. By together engaging the site against YouTube's primary aims of entertainment, we learn about the limits of its corporate architecture, and our own needs as new media makers and learners.For the class, students are required to do all their coursework as either YouTube videos or comments. In the process, they are remaking academic writing for the digital classroom.

In my talk today, I will introduce eight new forms of academic video writing: Public Writing, Isolated Writing, Reflexive Writing, Visual, Amateur and Control Writing, and Convergence and Censored Writing. I am not suggesting that each of these stylistics are not also used within traditional written expression, but rather, that they are modified, hybridized, and amplified in on-line academic video writing in ways that serve to demonstrate the current state of writing within web 2.0.

I will begin by naming some common forms and approaches that appear across the eight academic video writing forms that will be the focus of this talk. I have found there are three common structures for video writing: one, word-reliant (reading or writing a traditional paper on to video. Notably, this form allows for the most complex meanings and the least interesting videos). Next, probably most common, and arguably most successful for our purposes, is the illustrated summary, composed through the bullet pointing of more detailed ideas which are cut to images of YouTube as evidence. Finally, perhaps my favorite, and certainly the most creative, is the YouTube hack, where academic content is wedged into a popular YouTube vernacular form.

Besides these common formats I hope you will observe the ubiquitous use of two, often understood as postmodern, devices of tone and structure—humor (most often being cynical, sarcastic, or parodic in form) and self-reflexivity. Finally, sometimes my students will pull the power play of sincerity, which, in ways YouTube, creates productive tension with the site's expected cynacism and humor.

As you may have already deduced from my academic video writing here, detailed rhetorical analysis, the bell weather of productive scholarly expression, is not the most powerful of tactics for this venue. I would characterize my own production, as word-reliant, amateurish, public, reflexive, and also an example of control and convergence video writing. I hope that by talk's end, my own terms, tactics and practices will be clarified.

1. PUBLIC WRITING: The writing classroom ideally depends upon an intimate and "safe" gathering of carefully selected students to create a communal pedagogy. They write for the professor, and sometimes to each other, but the general public is neither their audience nor critic. Privacy and mutuality encourage the development of voice. In a YouTube classroom, where anyone and everyone can see and participate, such tried and true pedagogic structures shift. While access grows, the disciplining structures in place in a closed classroom or private paper can not be relied upon.

2. ISOLATED WRITING: Much YouTube writing, academic or not, while publicly presented, is produced in and about isolation, and in the hopes of finding community. This form of writing mirrors YouTube's raison d'etre—wasting time—and so often results in meaningless, silly, or narcissistic ruminations on self. However, its reverse is the humble stab at sincere communication, banking upon what I call "NicheTube's" guarantee that no one will actually find, see, or hear you in the uncharted and unruly sea of similarly unheard attempts at communication and self-expression.

3. REFLEXIVE WRITING makes YouTube its content and form, creating a dizzying hall of media mirrors where The Real dissolves, a necessary but unmissed casualty to a more rich, and endlessly self-referential and self-fulfilling life on-line.

4. Written expression is closed down on YouTube. Its 500 character limit, and sandlot culture, produces a dumbing-down for the word nearly impossible to remedy. So, VISUAL WRITING reigns. In this highly entertaining form, meaning is lost to feeling that is buttressed by the sound of music and cut to the speed of final cut pro. Both spectacle and humor reliant, this is also the terrain of the expert (dependent upon corporate or popular media even if modified by "amateurs"). It is hard to use for academic video writing, but students try, usually through opposition.

5. AMATEUR WRITING is word reliant. It is either the stuff of real people talking into their low-end cameras about their private pleasure or pain, or regular people demonstrating their exceptional or laughable skills. It can be popular if it seems sincere, or if a spectacle of humiliation or extreme talent is at its core.

6. CONTROL WRITING works against the chaotic, undisciplined culture of YouTube and attempts to force structure, and the possibility for building complexity, onto its pages. The significance of discipline for academic work proves the rule. Without it, ideas stay vague and dispersed, there is no system for evaluation, and you can't find things or build upon them. On YouTube it comes across as somewhat School Marmish, yes?

7. CENSORED WRITING is definitive of YouTube (usually heralded as a democratic platform) where users routinely flag content, servicing the corporation, whenever it strays from the comfortable confines of the hegemonic. To get to this video, "Blacks on YouTube final" you need to be of right age, as it is has been flagged for inappropriate (critical?) content. Blacks on YouTube Note: The video that secured the most hits in our video writing contest, "Nailin' Palin" (the ripped first minute of the Hustler hit), an example of COPYRIGHT WRITING can not be included in this tour because it was taken down.

8. CONVERGENCE WRITING: As Henry Jenkins points out, new media allows for writing that gains its impact by moving across platforms and building upon the power of ready-made media already encrusted with meaning (and ownership). So easy, even children can join the fun.