Tuesday, May 27, 2008

YouTube Celebrities

One of the fundamental arguments that I made in my doctoral dissertation is that whenever a new medium is introduced, it in turn leads to the introduction of a new kind of hero who becomes well known through that new medium. This pattern can be traced back to oral culture which gives us the poet or singer of tales as hero, while writing gives us the author, intellectual, and scholar, newspapers give us the reporter and editor as heroes, movies give us movies stars, radio gives us the radio star, television gives us the television personality, etc.

The audiovisual and electronic media of the past two centuries are generally associated with the rise of a new kind of hero often referred to as the celebrity. New media give us the internet star, the blogger as hero, etc. And for anyone whose been paying attention to YouTube, it's impossible to miss the fact that this new social medium has generated its own set of new heroes. Let's call them YouTube celebrities, shall we?

So, not too long ago South Park ran a hilarious episode entitled "Canada on Strike" (Episode 1204, Original Air Date: 2008-04-02). The website episode summary says, "The head of the World Canadian Bureau leads the country into a long and painful strike and the responsibility of brokering a settlement rests with the boys," and apparently you can watch the episode online if you click here.

But I'm going to add a clip from the episode here, one that deals with and provides a humorous critique of YouTube celebrity. This clip was posted on YouTube, and in order to keep it from being removed due to copyright violations, the poster added clips from the actual original YouTube videos that the episode makes reference to into the clip itself, so it's a bit of a mash up.

I should add that I got this clip from our Interactive Rams class blog here at Fordham University, where my student Luke Forand originally posted it.

Now then, another of my students, Brian McNamara (aka Prax Jarvin, his MySpace and Twitter alias), just sent out a tweet over Twitter a little while ago that read:

I really think @LanceStrate will enjoy the new Weezer video. Very interactive media!!! http://tinyurl.com/5qnukg

On Twitter, that's how you refer to people to create a link to their twitter page, with the @ sign in front of their screen name. So anyway, the blurb on YouTube says:

Watch the official video for "Pork and Beans" from Weezer starring some familiar YouTube faces. New Self-Titled "Red Album" out June 3rd, 2008!

And the video itself provides another comment on YouTube celebrity, this one not so biting and ironic, but interestingly pulling the newer YouTube celebs into the orbit of the slightly older music video celebrities (by celebrity logic, both benefit from this juxtaposition). Anyway, here's the video for your viewing pleasure:

By the way, anyone interested in my media ecological perspective on culture heroes, and celebrities, might want to read my latest publication on the subject, which came out just a couple of months ago: "Heroes and/as Communication" in Heroes in a Global World, edited by Susan Drucker and Gary Gumpert (Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press, 2008, pp. 19-45).

Well, anyway, following South Park, I can't wait to collect my theoretical dollars for this blog post. How do you spend theoretical dollars, anyway?

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