Wesch on Digital Ethnography, Considering Kony 2012-Tracy Durham


1. Michael’s Wesch‘s presentation on digital ethnography was very interesting.  It highlighted the power in which digital media, specifically Youtube, has on today’s society. This form of communication has become somewhat of a phenomenon.  Since the very first Youtube video was published it has been a platform for individuals to show off their talents, to share something they feel strongly about, to make a statement, to potentially change the world, or simply share with family and friends.

The documentary “Kony 2012” was created by Jason Russell to bring awareness to the world about the rebel forces led by Joseph Kony in Uganda who have been kidnapping, killing, and exploiting children in the country for many years.  In the video, Russell states that his intention is to “make Kony famous in 2012”. In order to do that he must be seen just like any other celebrity, but not for something good, for the bad he is doing.  The video has been shown on Youtube and other social media websites in an effort to get the word out about this horrible man.

2 &3 In Wesch’s presentation he talks about how Youtube and other social media sites have taken on the idea of “the looking glass self” because they provide the opportunity for a person to see themselves through the eyes of others. This form of media is a visual way for people to portray themselves.

He talks about “the little glass dot” which he refers to as the “eyes of the world”.  Through these eyes, the world is able to see your potential views and your feelings through this use of digital storytelling.  Wesch says that this form of communication “exposes a person to the world and tells everyone who you are”.  It is therefore important to be clear about whether you are playing a role or truly stating your values and beliefs about the subject. This will help to convey whether your story is true or not.

I found the gentleman that uses youtube as a form of therapy in the loss of his son to SIDs to be very interesting.  This form of digital storytelling is a coping mechanism for him.  As he states it is his “escape from hard times.”   Digital storytelling through Youtube “helps to make the world easier to live in and brings him life again.”  In a sense it is a form of release of negative feelings and problems.

I think Russell does a good job of clarifying whether he is playing a role or taking on a serious issue in the Kony video.  He uses a statement and a visual to convey this to the viewer.  First, one of his opening statements was, “There were more people on Facebook than there was on the planet 200 years ago”. Then, visually he shows the birth of his  son, which is a very important aspect of his life.  It is something that is very dear to him, which sets the atmosphere for the rest of the video.  I got the sense that the Kony issue was something he feels very strongly about because of the way he began his story. And if more people are on Facebook today than were on earth 200 years ago, then Facebook is the place to be.

4. Although I had seen post of the Kony 2012 video on Facebook and heard talk of it on the news in the past weeks, I had not actually viewed it.  I am not really sure why but I think I had a sense that it was negative and I didn’t want any more negativity than I have already been exposed to through the media.  But with the assignment I was finally faced with viewing it.  I think the most difficult concept for me to grasp is that no one else found this important enough to bring it to light.  No one else had the bright idea to use social media to get followers for this cause.

Russell wants to protect those things that are precious to him, like his son. And He feels in order to protect what is important to him, Kony needs to be stopped. But in the State Press article “Kony 2012: Fake Advocacy?” it states that “he has not been seen in Uganda in six years.” So how can Russell take such a strong stand for something or to stop someone that has not been in the area he is accused of being in for this period of time?

I also find it difficult to believe that this video has taken on such widespread fame if you will, when according the the State Press article, “it was given a two out of four stars rating in accountability because the group refuses to have its finances audited by a committee.” If the cause is legitimate then why wouldn’t it’s creator want to world to know it? Just like he wants the world to get behind his cause and get action kits and send money monthly.

This goes to show that the visual affects of digital media are very powerful. No matter how secretive a group or person is about the finances of their group. If they can appeal to the emotions of the people by way of digital storytelling, as the Kony 2012 documentary did, the possibilities of how it impacts society are endless.

5.  Why does a video such as Kony 2012 make people feel like they need to solve the problems of other countries?

Although President Obama sent 100 soldiers or “advisors” to South Africa, are we really solving the problem solely because this documentary was made through this form of digital storytelling?

6.  This weeks videos have given me some interesting insight on digital storytelling. Specifically how it is used to draw in an audience.  I especially liked the visual affects used in the Wesch video on Youtube and also the ideas used in the Kony video.  In my upcoming presentation I see that I need to either say something in the beginning to appeal to the audiences emotions, or show a visual that has an emotional effect.  This will help me to captivate my audience and have them rally behind whatever cause I choose to promote.


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I am a Child of the Most High God, Wife, Mother, Daughter, Friend & Breast Cancer Survivor! ...I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. ---Psalms 139:14
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