Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Listening to the Squares

As someone who frequently teaches philosophy texts, I recognize the pedagogical technique in this video. David Hume in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion uses it to explain the theodicy debate about how God could be both all-powerful and all-loving and yet have evil in the world.

This argument about global warming is remarkable in that it is specifically packaged with the rhetorical conventions of YouTube in mind and that it proposes a "stunningly easy" course of action that requires little more than "a few mouse clicks" to forward the video to others. As the speaker says, "In today's information age you can change the culture; you can help change public policy." In a form of digital DIY instructional film, he also presents it as a kind of how-to video, so that the author's talking points could be made "part of your thinking, part of your conversations."

I might say that the argument is as much about participatory culture as it is about global warming. And it is there that I might disagree with some of his propositions.

From a rhetorical standpoint, it's interesting to note that he's also setting some subtle ground rules about acceptable procedures for online discourse and general netiquette that are designed to head off possible flame wars from viewers in the future. "I'm asking you, who I've never met, but whose fate I'm still tied to, if you think I'm wrong, please tell me where . . . politely."

(Thanks to Susan Lynley Welsh for the link. Even though it is her birthday today, my former roommate is the one who sent me the present.)

Update: I've had to change the embedding of the video at least twice, because the video I received was actually taken down at first on the grounds that it was posted by someone other than the author. Check out the comments and the reply videos on the Ur-site that I now link to, which describes a devil's advocate version, which includes "being critiqued by thousands of people." For still more of the surrounding discourses, check out Manpollo or WonderingMind42, neither of which was created by the video's maker, who describes himself as a thirty-eight-year old science teacher. By my count, this humble video has gotten at least five million views in its various versions.

Michael Wesch alludes to the role of the blackboard in the end of his video about "A Vision of Students Today." The videos of WonderMind42 seem to be a kind of celebration of the whiteboard.

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