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Weekly #10: Danke, YouTube!

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Although by Canadian time I am a month and change too late, I would like to give thanks to YouTube during this time of Thanksgiving. YouTube, you have become so integral to my everyday life over the past five years that I don’t remember a time before your birth. You’ve given me laughter, tears, laughter through tears and, most importantly, information of all sorts. You have done this with grace and wisdom, never charging me or making me break a sweat.

Sure, you didn’t make the billions of videos on your site, but you host them and let me find them in lightning speed. And you even let me watch them with minimal wait time. Sample me this, Batman, and feast on the harvest of videos that have made you glorious in my mind: kittens, David, the cutest laughing baby in history, Charlie’s finger biting, SFG, JK wedding dance, Antoine Dodson a.k.a. my love, and Justin Bieber. You also act as my one stop shop for movie trailers, clips, interviews, fan videos that turn me into a fan, and complete songs.

Perhaps I am most grateful to you, YouTube, because you put the power with the people. Anyone with an internet connection and camera (now already installed in laptops) can contribute to your site. You embody the central ideas that we have discussed in class this semester. You lower barriers for participation, welcome user feedback through comments, and celebrate and reward the long tail. You have become a main point of reference for all, and not a day goes by without someone saying, “Did you see that YouTube video?” This is true for videos of things as trivial as the double rainbow and as momentous as the protests of the 2009 Iranian presidential election. You hold them on equal ground, letting me find, watch, share, and discuss what I want.

In other words, YouTube is conversation. (Aw, the Cluetrain authors must be so proud!) You allow for greater connectivity and shared experiences, doing what television did for Americans in the 1950’s (and much more). Your links are ubiquitous and sharing them is a main way video gets passed along on the internet.

You may think you are just the medium, YouTube, but in your case the medium is the message. Being able to post a video of my talent, thoughts, or anything I see fit to record tells me that I’m worth just as much as footage of Princess Di’s fairytale wedding. In fact, you’ve ripped up Coase’s floorboards so much that my contribution may be worth more to the people than coverage of the People’s Princess.

The point is, YouTube, you are getting a hearty shout-out during the family prayer and share in two days. I imagine the conversation going something like this:

Mom: “I’m grateful for having my family all together in one place.” Translation: “Thank God you’re all here, I need help decorating the tree, and many of you owe me money.”

Dad: “I’m grateful for having a healthy family.” Translation: “You heard your mother. Start bringing down the ornaments.”

Brother A: “I’m grateful for the food we are about to eat.” Translation: “This is worse than torture. Just let me eat now. Tara’s about to say something stupid…”

Me: “I’m grateful for YouTube, which gives me plenty to laugh and cry at. Plus, I can learn, share, and connect on there.” Translation: “Look, family, look at what I’m teaching you!”

Brother B: “I’m grateful that Tara is leaving in three days.” Translation: None required.

Brothers C and D nod in agreement.


Weekly #9: One Life to Live

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I cannot believe that Aladdin for Sega Genesis is on YouTube! This might be the only video game that I didn’t mind playing. Of course, I was terrified the whole time. Fact: I’m terrified of video/online games (shock, I know). To be fair, I’m not a big fan of any games, including board games, trivia, Jeopardy – you name it, I have little use for it. And I have absolutely zero interest in online gaming, whether it be by desktop, console, or hand-held device.

Hear me out. I grew up with three older brothers and one younger brother. All played the various games on the popular consoles over the years (Sega Genesis, Nintendo 64, XBox, PlayStation). Oh, don’t forget Game Boy. That was the first portable item that had real value for them. I tried my hand at each game, but I was quickly killed by my opponent, or more likely took the wrong turn and got myself killed all on my own. You might be saying, “Big deal, everyone gets killed off at some point.” True, yet I managed to be killed every single time, and all within five minutes or less. There were those games where the loser wouldn’t necessarily “die,” but not being able to get the Giants quarterback on Madden NFL to even throw the ball sure felt like death.

Needless to say, I don’t have that competitive edge that makes me keep going until I win. But I wanted to fit in with the boys. So every once in a while, instead of just singing show tunes alone in my room, I would pick up the controller and dread the moment my life would come to an abrupt and seemingly unfair end in each world. The anxiety that would plague me later in life probably was born in these moments.

No game caused more angst than the GoldenEye 007 first-person shooter game. My very real and daily fear that I’m going to die by magnified gun wielded by an MI6 agent on the fourth floor of a missile silo in Russia — yea, that comes from playing this.

I literally wanted to vomit and cry, simultaneously, whenever I participated in a mission. One brother would always coax me with, “Don’t worry, I’ll help you figure it out.” False. At no point did he or the others offer any advice other than “Just push A! Not B, IDIOT, A!” Usually we played in the “Normal” mode, the goal of which was to kill your opponent as many times as possible in a set period of time. If three of us played at once, it was always 2 vs. 1, them vs. me. I quickly found out that they were excellent strategists, and they were excellent marksmen. The worst was when we played in the “You Only Live Twice” mode. It was the same deal except I was eliminated even faster (two deaths and you’re out). This swift knockout should have come as a relief, yet it only served to worsen my tachycardia.

What message did I take away from this? My brothers are trying to kill me, over and over again, and they are highly capable of doing so in a coordinated fashion. Sometimes I’d just find a cement room and stare at the wall, shooting random bullet holes in it until they found me. (I’m sure that says something about my proclivity towards learned helplessness.)

That’s all my way of saying that, no, I have not and likely will not participate in MMORPGs. I once watched someone “play” Second Life and lost interest in 30 seconds. I feel like I am already living a kind of second life via my presence on various social networking sites. I know there are benefits to using MMORPGs and many find great value in them (including being able to write your own story/narrative in real time and with others). However, this is not my preferred avenue for fictional living. My lack of experience and serious fears (see above and watch the film Gamer to understand) will prevent me from becoming a regular user of such games. That’s not to say that I don’t want to learn about them, especially how I can use them in my professional life. I do, which is why I am excited for tomorrow’s class.

At this moment, however, I can’t imagine spending my personal time or money on gaming. I only have one life to live, and this just isn’t my cup of tea.