Monday, December 25, 2006

Have Youtube a Merry Little Christmas

Time magazine recently named "You" on its annual Person of the Year cover, officially dated today. In "Yes, You are the Person of the Year," Frank Rich of The New York Times ridiculed the political import of this decision and pointed out that more YouTube viewers checked out reports of Britney Spears nude on a beach than video dispatches coming out of Iraq.

Rich compares contemporary practices of cultural narcissism to the self-absorbed "me" consciousness during which Life magazine similarly ceased to be relevant. This autoerotic narcissism, perhaps best expressed by male and female YouTube viewers, like photographer Noah Kalina or graphic designer Ahree Lee, who document each day of their lives through webcam-style photographs in a fast-forward spectacle of aging, was parodied in the recent Ben takes a photo of himself every day.

At least in Canada, however, YouTube looks outward as well as inward. The video sharing site was thought to impact civic life enough to lead law enforcement authorities to undertake "Fighting Crime Using Videos on YouTube" and deploy a distributed model of collective surveillance to catch wrongdoers.

While The Los Angeles Times would seem to agree with Time by ending the year with "Ten Moments the Web Shook the World," new digital divides and forms of inequality also appear to be emerging in the culture of social media and user-generated content.

The results of a recent Zogby International poll indicate that the future may be unclear now that the powers of traditionally privileged U.S. stakeholders were being undermined by new technology. Unfortunately, during this transitional period, neither "citizen reports" nor the ideas of elected representatives were trusted sources to guide Internet policy. The 463 Blog on Tech Policy summarizes the results in their lead line: "The next Bill Gates is not going to be American and 12-year-olds should start tutoring congressmen."

Update: Siva Vaidhyanathan has a great skeptical response to the TIME designation on MSNBC.



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