Saturday, February 20, 2010

Queer You(th)Tube

Alexandra Juhasz and I have often questioned the participatory culture hypothesis that was once championed by many at the Digital Media and Learning Conference, so it was nice to be presenting with her again, albeit virtually, because Juhasz was in Berlin for the debut of THE OWLS. Fortunately for those who couldn't be at our session, which looked at sexual education, identity politics, and coming out narratives on YouTube, Juhasz's talk is available entirely on YouTube.

My colleague and co-author Jonathan Alexander opened the panel by reading from parts of our forthcoming article in the forthcoming LGBT Online collection coming from Routledge, which argues that coming out videos have become a recognizable YouTube genre that has even been parodied and remixed. I followed with a talk that showed our analysis of specific case studies to support our reading of the complex and rhizomatic practices of queer youth online. Juhasz then followed with a critique of our article, which included examples of fake documentary and homophobic homage on YouTube, to argue that supposedly subversive forms that undermine the supposed integrity and wholeness of more traditional coming out narratives have become so part of the mainstream that they can no longer be called "queer."

There was a lively discussion afterwards about what it means to be "queer online" and whether "queer" itself might have two sometimes conflicting definitions in these videos. One meaning of queer would be to identify with a specific community, while the other might be to undermine mainstream discourses and systems of signification.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz: It's funny that you thought I was disagreeing with you and Jonathan in this presenation. Quite the opposite: my goal was to build upon your observation that style (mash up, parody, homage) is only as valuable as the more disruptive (queer) ideas, rhetorics, or selves that these or any form might allow. You wrote, and I quoted: "we would argue that those forms of production could also invite queer participation that contests normative ideas about authenticity and stability and could allow subversive rhetoric to be seen, disseminated, and iterated." My fear is that the consolidting vernaculars of YouTube support what appear to be styles of destablization that carry ideas that are quite stable (straight).

7:46 PM  
Blogger Liz Losh said...

I think we are actually in agreement, both in our interest in YouTube rhetorics and in our mutual engagement with a larger critique of narratives that can be too easily commodified. I read your critique of our critique not as "criticism," but as an additive gesture that looks at these videos not just against reality TV or public service announcements as we do but also against the genre of fake documentary, and we're all looking at forms of pseudo-subversion that actually play as normative.

9:55 PM  

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