Thursday, July 26, 2007

YouTube phenomenon

I’m not over my fascination with YouTube, not quite yet. I’m still reveling in being able to upload video clips. My efforts are described here. I dream about running around with my camcorder, capturing all sorts of fascinating stuff to upload.

My awareness of its impact on society has increased 100% this week. It’s everywhere, apparently even affecting schoolground fights (see cartoon).

Even Juan Cole, “my” Middle Eastern expert, posted a video clip from the Democratic presidential candidates’ debate at his blog, Informed Comment yesterday morning. Check it out: it has nothing to do with the Middle East.

I received several thoughtful comments to yesterday’s post, YouTube steals the Dem debate...but what about poor and older people? The consensus appears to be that everyone, including those who are most likely to feel disenfranchised, i.e., the poor and elderly people, are better off with this wondrous tool that allows ordinary citizens to be heard.

Yesterday editorial observer Adam Cohen’s column in The New York Times, YouDebate: If Only the Candidates Were as Interesting as the Questioners wrote: “The most striking questions in the YouTube Democratic presidential debate were the ones about sick people. Two brothers from Davenport, Iowa, submitted a video of themselves feeding a parent with Alzheimer’s and asking, “What are you going to do to fight this disease now?” A 36-year-old Long Island woman who said she hoped “to be a future breast cancer survivor” removed a wig to reveal a bald head and asked, “What would you as president do to make low-cost or free preventive medicine available for everybody in this country?

“ What the format did … was make the proceedings more entertaining, and it injected real people into arid public policy debates. In a modest but real way, it worked.

“The debate was certainly more lively than the usual candidate face-off. Not even CNN’s selection of the videos, or the fact that the subject was an election 16 months off, managed to squash all of YouTube’s offbeat charm. If the now-familiar line-up of Democratic candidates is going to provide yet another familiar answer to yet another question about global warming, why not have it asked by a talking snowman?

“…The entertainment value alone made the new format worthwhile. American democracy is going through some rough times. Many ordinary citizens are apathetic, while special interests are drowning the system with campaign contributions and attack ads…”

Cohen’s article concluded with, “…bringing the people into democracy is a healthy thing.” YouTube is doing this. I’d add the suggestion from John of Cincinnati, Ohio, who commented to yesterday’s post, “One of the things we're doing in Cincinnati is attempting to change the nature of the public conversation in a way that's more inclusive. See A Small Group.

(cartoon –

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