YouTube & KONY 2012 – Christina A. Pascucci

Photo edited/created with GIMP and Musical Note background found at:

1.       An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube was quite interesting; it gave an overview of how YouTube became such a sensation around the world starting with something as simple as someone enjoying a song and deciding to post a video of himself dancing and singing to the music, which turned into numerous people reposting their versions of what he originally did to a song they had probably never heard before.  Professor Michael Wesch also introduced a number of other media during his presentation when talking about YouTube, he talked about a Digital Ethnography course he offers at KansasStateUniversityin which he and his students study YouTube and vlogging, and he also discussed media and how it is mediating human relations by connecting us in different ways.  The video The Machine is Us/ing Us is a short YouTube video made by Professor Michael Wesch demonstrating how media has changed our world essentially and that video ended up topping YouTube charts because of how often it was watched, even beating out Super Bowl commercials.  The Kony 2012 is a viral internet film that has been now viewer over 84 million times since it was uploaded on March 5, 2012.  The 30-minute video is about Joseph Kony, the Leader of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) who was leading terror in Uganda and kidnapping child soldiers, but has since (6 years ago) left Uganda.  Many are calling this viral video, made by Invisible Children, Inc., propaganda and misleading and are questioning the finances of this charitable organization (Joseph Kony 2012:  Growing Outrage in Uganda Over Film – by Mike Pflanz, Nairobi & reader commentary).  Lastly, the article Kony 2012:  Fake Advocacy? discusses the Kony 2012 video talking about how quickly it caught on to so many viewers and pointed out how there is some information missing from the story, so it is important to seek out further information when deciding to support causes and other things of the sort.

2 & 3.    In regards to media and leadership, I thought the concepts discussed in An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube talking about user-generated organization, user-generated distribution, user-generated commentary (blogosphere) were very interesting.  The users are the leaders within this media because they are able to create and distribute the messages they want to get out there and have the ability to get it out to as many people as they want through their own promotion.  The media has given whoever wants to say something a voice and a method of delivering it to others, even if the message is just to share something that they found funny and wanted others to be able to enjoy as well.  “We are producers, producing ourselves” (An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube).  The media allows leadership to happen from whomever and wherever and allows people to connect in ways they may not have been able to previously due to differences in time and distance, like bloggers mentioned in the video who would send different videos back and forth to each other in response, but for others to view in addition to just the two communicating back and forth.

We are the center of the media-scape, living in an integrated media-scape as mentioned in An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube.  Media is thought of as mediating human relationships, so when media change, human relationships change as well.  This is an interesting concept because some are very hesitant to the change, such as people from different generations, as expressed in one of the videos with politicians discussing the changes and impact of different media.  The younger generations have embraced new media, especially the 18-24 age range, since over 50% of videos on YouTube have someone of that age within them.  I also found it interesting that the most commonly uploaded videos are home videos and many of these are viewed less than 100 times, so people are finding their own home videos interesting enough to post online, but they have very small viewership.  Therefore, most things posted on YouTube are not reaching large populations and perhaps were never intended to, but on the other hand, some home videos ended up having very large audiences, like the two babies (twin boys) that were filmed “talking” to each other and laughing.  That video was even picked up by the Ellen DeGeneres show and “translated” by adding subtitles of what the babies were thought to be saying.  Some other things mentioned within the video in regards to what is posted on YouTube that I found interesting are:  You are talking to webcam, and you don’t know who will be watching you or when (asynchronous); context collapse – you do not know what will happen to your video, if it will be remixed, you never know when a camera will be around and if it will be uploaded to YouTube, etc; it was described as a private space, yet possibly the most public space on the planet depending on how many people see it; and it gives freedom to experience humanity without fear or social anxiety.

Created with Inkscape

The part about the YouTube authenticity crisis was intriguing to me; I had not thought about the concept of people feeling tricked or duped by things that are put on YouTube.  The video mentioned the 2006 YouTube love story in which a guy and gal were vlogging to each other back and forth via YouTube with many others watching as well.  It turned out that the guy was not really who he was saying he was, but pretending to be someone else.  Then, the video also discussed “LonelyGirl15” which had lots of people feeling bad for this girl who was supposedly grounded by her parents often and not allowed to do much, but it turned out to be a planned/scripted vlog, leaving people feeling duped or fooled by this person/people who were producing it. Some YouTube-ers were quite outraged by these fakes/liars/actors because they felt like they were simply being someone else to get more views.  I imagine this idea of misrepresentation is an issue that comes up when using digital media to communicate.  I even heard something on the radio this morning about online dating sites trying to protect their users better as they move forward because there have been instances of felons attracting people via online dating websites and I guess the sites have been getting some kind of feedback regarding this.

4 & 5.     I thought the discussion about loss of community (women joining the work force, massive communities of suburbia, where we are only connected by roadways and TVs), “Networked Individualism”, and cultural inversion was interesting, but I was a little lost during this.  I think the part about suburbia being a loss of community was confusing to me especially.   As someone that grew up in a suburban area, I thought that part of the concept of living in that type of area was the connections with others because you live in close proximity, attend the same schools, activities, stores, etc.  Is this what they mean by networked individualism because you are your own person and/or family, but you are doing so within a network/community?

I thought the concept of “Participant Observation” that Professor Wesch talked about in regards to what he and his Digital Ethnography students do within the course he teaches was interesting, saying that they must experience the phenomenon to understand it.  I thought it would be interesting to discuss how we practice participant observation within our organizations at times.

6.       “It gives freedom to experience humanity without fear or social anxiety” (An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube).  I found that phrase from the video particularly interesting because this topic concept often comes up in my interactions with students.  Just Monday, I had a conversation with some students about how they are able to express something that is bothering them on Facebook where potentially hundreds of people or more could read what they have “said,” but they are not able to articulate what is bothering them to the very person they live with (and are even friends with on Facebook where the comments can be seen anyway).  A student’s response to that was that it is more non-confrontational, which they prefer, but then I posed the question, “but what if someone then comments on what you have said?”  Student did not know what to say except for that she would have preferred to delete the whole comment than respond to the comment.  As Professor Wesch mentioned, “connecting deeply without feeling the deep responsibilities of that deep connection.   YouTube offers this possibility.”  On a bright note, the two roommates were able to actually talk out the issues that they have been having with one another and come to some agreements about how to handle conflict between them particularly when it comes to Facebook (or other media if applicable).  In my organization, digital media is often very helpful and has been embraced in various ways, but it is also often the source or catalyst of issues and conflict, sometimes to the point of judicial action.  Information that is seen on Facebook (and other media) has been a topic of training and a basis for firing or not hiring student staff members, which makes me think that personal branding would probably be an excellent topic to discuss at Summer Training for all of our student staff members.

7.       I had not watched the KONY 2012 video or knew much about it until our last class and now having watched it for this assignment, but it was definitely something that was all over Facebook within my circle of friends included.  Friends of mine were sharing the video left and right and making statuses about it.  However, one friend of mine actually took the time out to do some further research on the topic and found much more than what was being said within the video.  She even made various status updates with further reading that could be done on it and made the below status with commentary about some of the concerns that she had read about regarding the topic (which is very like her and I greatly appreciate her use of media for information and informing others).  I also thought this was a good example of how the Spiral of Silence, as we discussed in our last class, was broken amongst the people I know on Facebook.

Additional Questions:

I would say that this KONY 2012 video was so successful in getting its message across and leading viewers to take part because it shed light on an issue and made it personal to others.  It pulled “at the heartstrings” of people, like by using his son (who just happened to be adorable) and the son’s emotion about the issue, and people tend to respond to stuff when they feel like they can relate to it or if it bring upon emotion.  Also, the video was very visual and appealing/eye catching.  When thinking about what I could do within my own projects this semester and the work I do in general, hopefully I can make my efforts lead people through motivating them or inspiring them in some way and make my projects appealing and entertaining as well.

Focusing on a person (Kony) and putting a face to a cause and making it personal perhaps helped many people feel invested or become aware of the issue:  In a comment I read attached to the article Joseph Kony 2012:  Growing Outrage in Uganda Over Film, which mentioned that the goal of the video may have been to make Kony famous (bring more awareness) and someone compared this issue to Hitler, saying it “wasn’t that the United States and other countries were waiting to fundraise enough to afford the troops to stop him [Hitler].  No, I think it was because we knew very little about what was going on and, once enough people discovered it and ‘made Hitler famous,’ governments saw stopping him as a priority” (comments from Jacob Ford, March 14, 2012).  He also went on to say, “in the first few minutes, Invisible Children’s video is called an experiment.  I’m not blindly putting myself fully behind it, but I do think it is an exciting experiment and I’m curious to see if it works.”  I guess what I am getting at here is that perhaps the video is meant to entice emotion and bring awareness to an issue that many had no idea was happening.  I feel like this happened while I was in college with the Save Darfur efforts as well; it might not have been linked to digital media as much, but the basic idea was the same.  Tell people what is going on and they will care even if it is happening thousands of miles away from them.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.