YouTube was barely a year old when Teresa Rizzo’s article, YouTube: The Cinema of Attractions, was written. It went live in February 2005 (Walker, 2012) and it is constantly changing, with 72 hours of video uploaded every minute (Walker, 2012), up from 48 hours earlier this year (Marwick, 2012). For someone who had never seen or heard of YouTube, the article does a credible job of explaining memes (though they weren’t called that at the time), typical clips, and the tendency to create new media from existing material. (Rizzo, 2008, p.5) YouTube is so ubiquitous now, it’s hard to imagine the internet without it.
The article equates the characteristics of vlogs (video blogs) and YouTube clips with those of the cinema of attractions: the exhibitionist tendency, exoticism, public performance, remediation, and a blurred line between public and private spheres (Rizzo, 2008). Cinema of Attractions also makes the point that the medium of cinema is not new, and that is true – YouTube is essentially a storytelling medium.
What has changed is the creators of “cinema.” Anyone with a camera and an internet connection can create and upload content to video-sharing sites like YouTube. Viewers can choose to watch anonymously, or sign in to get the full experience of ‘liking’ videos, commenting, creating playlists and – if they choose – uploading content to their channel.
YouTube Success Stories
YouTube sensation Tiffany Alvord recently reached one million subscribers, and she celebrated by writing a thank-you song for her fans. She is well aware that her subscribers have made her amazing journey possible, because, in her words: “Started with a Kodak in my room, but now I’m HD with an 8x zoom.” – Tiffany Alvord, This is Just the Start
A creative group of writers, actors, and producers have taken the bold step of retelling Pride and Prejudice via YouTube. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a modern adaptation in serial form, uses the video sharing site as its home base. What makes this retelling remarkable? It’s a “consistent fictional world,” as described by Gunning (1994, as quoted in Rizzo, 2008). The characters do not simply exist on the dedicated YouTube channel. The writers have created Twitter accounts, Pinterest boards, Facebook pages, a Lookbook and a Tumblr – all of which are “run” by the characters, and enable fans to interact with them between episodes.
“How do you tell a classic story rooted in a specific culture and time period and not only modernize it, but retell it in a format that’s barely six years old while building immersive/interactive elements across different platforms? It’s an amazing challenge, and I love it.”
– Bernie Su, co-creator
(The Lizzie Bennet Diaries: Press Release)
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has created a viable piece of pop culture by bringing together engagement opportunities with their audience across a slew of channels, and on-demand viewing. It’s possible that Jane Austen fans make up the bulk of their audience, but then again, some of the YouTube comments indicate that viewers are slow to catch on to the source material. If that is true, Austen is being introduced through digital media.
Implications of Screen Culture and YouTube for Libraries
If the library has the space and resources, it would be possible to hold an ongoing program where other classic (or popular) novels are written, acted, and serialised for YouTube. Libraries can use the popularity of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in a multitude of ways, such as:
- Austen-themed teen events
- YouTube content creation workshops
- A discussion group that compares the book to the online series
Technical challenges can bury a library workshop. Flaky wifi, audio/video issues, the number of available computers… BYO laptop can’t always solve these problems because staff may need to help patrons with unfamiliar software. Training youth to use online tools has added challenges: online safety, content filtering and safe searches, and age-appropriate content.
On the positive side, technology and media workshops for youth are popular programs at the library. They’re current, they encourage digital literacy, and they provide access for those who don’t have laptops or fancy software at home. Brisbane City Council runs Visible Ink, a youth program with events and spaces for learning and play. Computers and rehearsal spaces are just a few of the resources available. (Brisbane City Council)
With equitable access, encouragement, and the opportunity to become digitally literate, library patrons could learn to create their own videos and build a subscriber base. YouTube is a great sandbox for creative youth. There are so many teaching and learning opportunities that could be supported by the library and digital cultural centres like Brisbane’s The Edge. Technical skills and confidence behind (or in front of) a camera don’t come naturally, but they can grow.
As an essential reading for CLN647, I think Teresa Rizzo’s YouTube: The Cinema of Attractions article misses the mark. It does provide library and education students with food for thought, but it is outdated and too narrow in focus. The author leans heavily on Gunning’s works – admittedly, five of them – and the literature is from 2006 and earlier.
I searched for other texts that might be more current than Rizzo and would provide a more balanced view of YouTube and screen cultures. Here are two recommended readings:
Bring It to Class: Unpacking Pop Culture in Literacy Learning by Margaret C. Hagood, Donna E. Alvermann, and Alison Heron-Hruby (2010, Teachers College Press)
Hagood is Associate Professor of Literacy Education at the College of Charleston, where she directs research of the Center for the Advancement of New Literacies. According to the book description, Bring it to Class features “a strong theoretical grounding and many practical examples, the authors speak to both skeptical instructors who favour traditional canonical literature and to technology enthusiasts who already use popular music or video in their classrooms.” (Google Books, n.d.)
Reading YouTube: The Critical Viewers Guide by Anandam Karoori (2011, Peter Lang Publishing)
Karoori is Professor of Telecommunications at the University of Georgia’s Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. The book “develops a conceptual language for students to use as they engage with the complex, interactive texts of YouTube and digital culture more generally.” (Amazon, n.d.)
Alvord, T. (2012, October 8). This is Just the Start. [Video file]. Retrieved October 26, 2012 from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak3fOulwu10&feature=share&list=UUR-ENZ64WL1vB8KU4YzdmTQ
Boyd, B. (2012, April 19). Literacy and the New Media Landscape. [Web log post]. Retrieved September 7, 2012, from http://literacyadviser.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/literacy-and-the-new-media-landscape/
Brisbane City Council. (2012). Youth Programs. Retrieved October 26, 2012 from http://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/community/community-support/youth/index.htm
Google Books. (n.d.) Bring It to Class: Unpacking Pop Culture in Literacy Learning. Retrieved October 25, 2012 from http://books.google.com.au/books?id=MQeCQMam7-gC&printsec
Marwick, A. (2012). Reading YouTube: The Critical Viewers Guide. New Media & Society, 14(5), 888. [Excerpt]. Retrieved from http://nms.sagepub.com/content/14/5/888.short#
Rizzo, T. (2008). You Tube: The Cinema of Attractions. SCAN Journal of Media Arts Culture 5(1), 1-6. Retrieved from Queensland University of Technology Course Materials Database.
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. (n.d.). Press Release. Retrieved October 21, 2012, from http://www.lizziebennet.com/press-release/
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. (2012). The Lizzie Bennet Diaries YouTube Channel. http://www.youtube.com/lizziebennet
The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. (2012, April 9). My Name is Lizzie Bennet – Ep. 1. [Screen grab]. http://youtu.be/KisuGP2lcPs
Walker, R. (2012, June 28). On YouTube, Amateur is the New Pro. Retrieved October 25, 2012 from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/01/magazine/on-youtube-amateur-is-the-new-pro.html?hpw&_r=0