“Digital Anthropology” is a vague term that can be interpreted in a variety of ways. Yet Dr. Wesch from Kansas State University, is able to ‘succinctly’ describe the field in his 55 minute talk at the Library of Congress in 2008. Although much has changed since ’08, many of the points he makes still ring true today.
YouTube has been around for nearly as long as I can remember, and has had a profound impact on the way information and entertainment has spread since its creation. YouTube exists as an online community that fosters creativity and individuality.
Throughout his talk Dr. Wesch makes many good points, but below are the points that stood out to me the most.
- Context Collapse: When talking to people in-person, the key to a good conversation is context, yet when speaking into a webcam and recording a video for the internet, there is no context; you don’t know where the listener will live, or even when he/she will be listening. You must act as if everybody is watching, while in the moment, nobody is.
- Self-Awareness: We live our lives, viewing ourselves based on the reactions from other people, recording and posting videos, allows us to watch ourselves in the same way we view others. Viewing your face, and listening to your own voice, provides a strange out-of-body experiences that creates a heightened sense of self-awareness.
- Anonymous Watching: Perhaps the biggest complaint about the online community is the rude and hate-filled environment that comes with anonymity. Although anonymity can lead to hatred, it also leads to creativity and allows individuals to act freely, and watch other people without feeling like you are staring. As an anonymous viewer, you can just watch and see others simply being human.
- We are all producing ourselves: People get angry and upset with YouTube creators who aren’t necessarily who they claim to be, yet everyday we put on a show to appease those around us. Just because someone puts on a character to create a YouTube video, does that make it any less real?