YouTube – friend or foe?

Dear All,

Following, I will try to remediate my own perspective on YouTube considering what we discussed on Friday and heard on Saturday.

“YouTube has opened up a new forum available for the uploading of manipulated and edited images allowing the creators and audience to share their personal perspective of a star image in a community based platform thereby allowing for a new crosscultural dialogue and the (re)creation of multiple innovative star texts.” (Thornton 2010: 22)

This quote from Niamh’s paper is focused on star texts but takes up almost every aspect of YouTube described in Grusin and Jenkins’ texts. She points out that fans select scraps even from different media and remediate a new ‘product’. Depending on quality or content fans get to have fans themselves. What makes YouTube especially valuable to transculturality in this respect is the availability of material. YouTube offers a global archive giving more people the opportunity to access material that otherwise they would have a marginal chance to obtain. YouTube and other web platforms could be seen as “media-archive interfaces” which create a immense cultural contact zone.

This, in my opinion, is what Grusin sees as extension and complexificating. YouTube helps people from all over the world creating a profile and also creating a self or at least a projection of self; they extend their ‘actual’ person (6) into even several selves or fictionalized selves. This process results in a hybrid persona which is not located in one place but in multiple places and can therefore be seen as transcultural.

For Jenkins, on the other hand, leaving traces of the self is not equal to curating yourself (123). Interestingly, I think this could also be compared to the mask effect and Goffman’s concept of different roles which Julia brought up in the post about M. Butterfly. We take on roles that we think are appropriate or useful for a certain social context (Goffman,Erving. 1983. Wir alle spielen Theater. Die Selbstdarstellung im Alltag. 19-65; -. 1986. Interaktionsrituale. Über Verhalten in direkter Kommunikation. 10-53. [Sorry, I only have the German editions]).

This according to Grusin causes positive affective feedback loops to develop (7). But this does also happen outside YouTube in the ‘real’ world. Usually anybody will try to re-produce whatever was rewarded by positive reactions. This is a basic principal of general development. It could maybe be seen as problematic when thinking about creating a self which is completely dependent on YouTube. Depending who sees your vid you will get positive feedback which leads to the problem of niches in relation to divergence and convergence culture. How do we find people’s traces (124)? Being a fan alone is not good because if nobody sees your ‘self’ you might not get a feedback at all though your product is highly aesthetic or has important content. Again, it can be argued that this also happens outside the internet. YouTube/ the net in general even offers more of an opportunity of directly addressing the part of community the ‘producer’ wants to reach out to, even if it is on the other side of the world.

On Friday, this also led to a discussion whether or not YouTube itself is democratic. Jenkins sees a problem with the majoritan logic YouTube uses (124). And I agree that this procedure appears to undermine the idea of horizontal communication as it ‘hides’ minority perspectives. This is why I think it would be better to leave out the term democratic in this context, at least if talking about YouTube’s structure.

On the other hand, I would certainly agree to see YouTube as an instrument of the democratic process. The clip Heather posted about the news anchors all using the exact same words to introduce a story could be seen as proof for this. YouTube, in this case, is promulgating what is going on in the media world: Therefore, YouTube indeed has a very important task as a kind of public watchdog. But – as Prof Lozano pointed out – the channel itself is privately owned, so you cannot know, if what you see is ‘real’. A nice example for this is that of young women who have become famous on YouTube as trend scouts. They post, for example, make-up tutorials and sometimes when the number of followers increases they are ‘bought’ by make-up companies – sometimes officially by offering them a job. Accordingly, the clips on YouTube are from then on labeled as ads

But sometimes this did not happen officially. The danger, in my opinion, is that of the same illusion of plurality and diversion which we already have with magazines and TV channels. This is not to say that YouTube is a source of evil or that I want to see it shut down To me, the problems described above are not necessarily only connected to YouTube but to anything in the public sphere (if there is something like this). So, YouTube could still offer the possibility to initiate personal meta-communities, giving every person the opportunity to find space independent of place and accordingly maybe overcoming the ‘powergeometry ‘ to a certain extent

“Thus, the spatial is socially constituted. ‘Space’ is created out of the vast intricacies, the incredible complexities, of the interlocking and the noninterlocking, and the networks of relations at every scale from local to global. What makes a particular view of these social relations specifically spatial is their simultaneity. It is a simultaneity, also, which has extension and configuration. But simultaneity is absolutely not stasis. Seeing space as a moment in the intersection of configured social relations (rather than as an absolute dimension) means that it cannot be seen as static.This aspect of space has been referred to elsewhere as a kind of powergeometry.’” [emphasis by me; Massey, Doreen. 1992. “Politics and Space/Time.” In: New Left Review 196.1 (1992). 65-84.]

Maybe, as with any other media, we need to ensure that people are aware of its constitution (in the sense of structure). As Professor Lozano put it: We have to develop and share Media Literacy. This concept has already been used, for example,  by the discipline of source criticism in the field of history (starting in the 19th century; Leopold von Ranke, Hegel and Historismus at the base). Especially the University of Bielefeld had a Special Research Group about source criticism as part of teaching history (Rohlfes, Joachim. Geschichte und ihre Didaktik, 59-96; Pandel, Hans Jürgen. Quelleninterpretation. Die schriftliche Quelle im Geschichtsunterricht [these, as far as I know, are only available in German]).

I really like the idea about YouTube being a transcultural archive and a contact zone that basically is accessible for anybody. And its decentralizing power provides a high degree of diversity, there is no doubt about it. I am curious about the further development of this meta-community; and [irony on] of course that is the only reason why I visit YouTube regularly [irony off].

YouTube – friend or foe? The truth is somewhere, not out there, but inbetween…

Thank you everybody for an inspiring week!

Take care,

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Dear All,

My first part of my post, or before editing, is rather a summary of the theoretical texts about YouTube. It helped me to get an overview and (at least for me) to connect YouTube to the topics we encountered this week.

A helpful link for me has been:

as I have not been aware of the terms Grusin uses in his text.

I have left out Niamh’s text so far because while reading it I got the impression that it nicely ties up this week’s topics.

Richard Grusin (2009) tries to explain what, if anything, was new about YouTube; and whether it is at the end of the ‘new media’ or the starting point of something beyond. In this explanation he firstly refers to the concepts of remediation and premediation (I cannot see any page numbers due to my printing; in my copy it would be page 4).

Remediation basically is the refashioning of already circulating material, not only from the internet but also from the ‘old’ media. Premediation appears to be more complicated, so hopefully, the following simplified explanation is correct. As far as I understood, Grusin argues that after 9/11 the media try to ensure that a possible future is presented in a way that keeps anxiety level low for the masses (4). So, the depiction of future as to be modeld before it can be used in the present. To achieve this, remediation may be used. Material might be re-fashioned to aim at a certain perception with the audience (4). In how far this might border on censorship is not explored in Grusin’s text.

The terms immediacy and hypermediacy, could be seen as posing a dichotomy or even a “double logic” (6). Immediacy in his sense is what the new-new media (OpenWeb or YouTube) aim at: “unconstrained connectivity”, “uninterrupted flow”, and “opposition to mainstream media” (4, 6). The concept of immediacy comprises that, for example, even if an individual sees a horror movie on television (through a medium) its fear still is real. Hypermediacy, on the other hand, stands for the awareness of the users of exactly this aspect. Users according to Grusin are aware of their use of these media that provide them with their real experiences (6).

Affective feedback loops (7) are connected to the mentioned concepts because the internet and YouTube, at least as the author describes it, fosters a feeling of almost pressure to leave a memorable track on the internet. And one way to create a self on the internet is to remediate. This then is perceived as a pleasurable experience, especially if the ‘product’ is positively received by the net community and evokes the longing for more participation. Again, this is a very simplified version of Grusin’s theory.

Divergence and convergence culture should not necessarily be seen as juxtaposed as the author states (7). Grusin claims that convergence can arise from divergence as YouTube offers the possibility of a multitude perspectives have equal opportunity to be viewed, as a “24/7 global archive” (7).

Jenkins (2009) mainly focuses on the, supposedly, problems YouTube might cause. He mainly sees decontextualization of material as a source of conflict; although he argues that this can also be seen as potential for progression. His examples for both are videos that have been created by perpetrators of violence. These clips can either be used by people outside their original context to encourage violence; but they also have successfully been used by human rights campaigns to establish a sense of solidarity with the victims. (my copy is not paginated but on the first page it says 109… so to my count the quote is on page 122).

Another problem might be the number of clips on YouTube. This is, where Jenkins and Grusin differ greatly. Where Grusin sees an opportunity of the multitude, Jenkins is afraid of the immense overflow of individuals. The sheer mass of videos might keep people from exploration and encountering difference because they only rely on what they already know (124). Like people traveling to foreign countries and trying to find the familiar there. This is tried to be counteracted by “You might also like” suggestions. But these depend on collecting information about individual users again and puts users into a more potent place who have the time and money to participate excessively in YouTube. To support this statement Jenkins cites John McMurria’s (2006) critique that “a particpatory culture is not necessarily a diverse culture” (124). YouTube uses a majoritan logic, meaning that videos that appear to be widely supported usually are pushed up. At a first glance this seems democratic but in fact might be “hiding minority perspectives” (124) and thus might not be a ‘real’ democratic process.

Still, the long term effects in Jenkins eyes could be that people without proper access and means to participate “will be trapped on the wrong side of the cultural divide” (Ivey and Tepper: 2006, B6 as cited by Jenkins, 125). To me this is a very pessimistic view on culture and its development. It implies that only wealth can create culturally important artefacts; of course I am aware that financial independence makes it easier to focus on a creative act. But, as today’s session about Sandra Cisnero showed: Even if a person does not have the means to afford ‘ a room of their own’ they can still be creative.

In the second part or edit of my original post I hope I will be able to focus more on the aspect of YouTube as trans cultural platform, maybe even as a contact zone.

Good night everybody!


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M.Butterfly – epic?

Two protagonists, both of them playing more than one role: Gallimard is acting as narrator, commentator, Cio-Cio-San, and Song being a male spy plays his own version of Cio-Cio-San and Pinkerton…

Before the play starts, the turning point of the narration is revealed – the spectator knows what is being played the whole way through.

Not an illusion is created, but merely a narration constructed, allowing more liberties: the story is interrupted, reflected upon by the protagonist, contains a play in a play in a play, foreshadowings (“Prophetic.”), several cross-dressings indicating different roles and identities – not quite in the Aristotelian tradition, that’s for sure.

All of these features point to postmodern ideas of playing with identities and dramatical forms and refer to the concept of epic theatre as coined by Brecht in the 1920’s.

A brilliant twist is achieved by creating a past-present-future narrator blind-folded by self-delusion: he cannot stop believing in having the perfect woman by his side who is male and a traitor. Identities are blurring – the author does not answer the question if Gallimard did not (want to) notice the sex of his partner because he had homosexual tendencies himself or whether it was his narrowed perspective on the world that impeded him to understand the farce played on him. His being trapped in his own ways of thinking is a thing he doesn’t seem to be aware of:

Song: Well, education has always been underestimated in the west, hasn’t it ?
Gallimard: (laughing) I wouldn’t think that’s true.
Song: No, you wouldn’t. You’re a Westerner. How can you objectively judge your own values?

The question Song poses in this moment is crucial for the methodology of Cultural Studies: Grossberg points out: ‘cultural studies, as it moves outside the determinations of modern thought […] must escape culture […] to describe, understand and project the possibilities of lived material contexts as organisations of power’ (1997: 31). The first dialogue reflects on many theoretical discussions on postcolonialism and reveals a very self-confident personality incongruent to the one acted out later.

Gallimard is sure of his powerful position and never feels threatened by the assumed weaker part in the relationship, the Asian woman. Song can play her role to perfectionism because she is conscious of his ideas on Asian women and only tells him precisely what he wants to hear, thereby even enforcing his stereotypes.

What I found most interesting in the play is the depiction of how societies are staged (as Goffman understands social roles as being framed by certain expectations of society and taking on requisites to fulfill these roles) and how these mise-en-scènes are culturally dependent, but same in their nature. This was an aspect we discussed in reference to the film: the masquerade for court (wigs and robes) and in the Chinese opera (wigs, robes). Both are roles played by men – the first dress up in business suits to represent masculinity – the second dress up like women and – by playing “the weaker sex” – occupy the stage fully for themselves. (Different strategies also for the world markets?)

As we have seen throughout our discussions and also in the short clip Hop Sing of the Pondarosa, Chinese characters in the US media were often depicted in a childish, feminine way – and ridiculized in the way they were speaking English. That’s why I want to conclude with a question to all of you: When watching the Ponderosa-clip, I had to think of the children’s show “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver”

I’m sorry that it is in German and it’s just very short clips – but what do you think of the representation of the Chinese in these clips?

Thanks for today, everybody!

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Global Flows as reflected in Literature: Migration, Minorities, Colonialism and Postcolonialism – Short Summary

A literal tour de force through three quite different literary texts was on our program today – a tour that started with a closer examination of Chicano/a Literature (The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros), stereotypes of Asian Americans (as shown in the play M.Butterfly by David Henry Hwang and the Bonanza episodes), and concluded in the afternoon session with an introduction into the history of novels in the Latin American context and a closer analysis of extracts of One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez in regards to postcolonial theory.

What I intend to do now is to organize in a way today’s session, my notes on it and to point out certain aspects crucial to our analysis of themes and topics in the session today. Because I really enjoyed reading M. Butterfly I will look into certain aspects that struck me in a second post.

We discussed the topics of marginalization, identity, modernism and postmodernism, colonialism and postcolonialism. What might be the tenor of today’s discussions is the notion of plurality, diverse ways of perceiving the world and one’s surroundings and the realization of how different stories (and history) are to be told depending on the perspective.

All texts seem to reflect on a struggle to find a voice of one’s own, a way of narrating oneself and to create an identity. The concept of identity – such as the concept of culture – has shifted from a merely homogenious concept to multi-layered, complexe, dynamic and fluid constructs denying being pinned down in simple terms. This can be seen in how Cisneros allows different voices to appear in The House on Mango Street, and of course in the parodistic ways of García Márquez to retell the story of colonialisation – but with much more emphasis on the local family saga.

Always addressed were stories of dependencies – dependencies of women on men, men on women, societies on migrants, colonizers on colonized and vice versa, marginalized groups on gate keepers within a mainstream society – there are many examples. The importance and role of knowledge and education was another aspect in the different texts – the deprivation of education, the lack of knowledge, the unequal status of different kinds of knowledge and memory (the written chronicles of the conquerors replacing the traditional coding systems). Literature as a way of finding a new voice and as a means of political engagement is examined and tested to its limits. It can – as Galeano points out in Open Veins of Latin America – serve as a contact zone in which different cultural traditions can be appropriated, represented and communicated.

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Music and perception

Today we talked about global flows and traveling sounds. We saw (perceived) a really special music-talk-performance by John Miller Jones who I think did a great job singing Beatles songs, folk songs and Samba. We also discussed musical flows between Mexico and the U.S. and we looked at the musicality of film in the case of Jarmusch’s ‘Dead Man’. It would be too much to comment on everything, so I would like to focus on the power and perception of music, especially referring to Danijela Kulezic-Wilsons article „The musicality of film and Jim Jarmusch’s ‘Dead Man’“.

Kulezic-Wilson is „showing how sensitivity to the rhythm of the film’s inner breathing inevitably evokes the logic of musical structuring, which in the interactive context of audio-visual synthesis also produces an affective impact similar to that of music“ (p. 12). Here she points out two important aspects: sensitivity and interaction. Both are fundamental for a reasonable audio-visual synthesis and to obtain what she calls the ‘inner breathing’ of a film. Nevertheless, I think that many alternative movies try to break with those traditions of a perfect synthesis: „However, in many cases the exposure to MTV culture has influenced film-makers to develop an awareness for the audio-visual as opposed to visual perception of films“, says Kulezic-Wilson (p. 11). So, what influence does music have on its recipient? First of all, perception is an active process. You do not simply consume anything without any consequences. The person perceiving is a participant. Perception means that there is a difference to what has been before, how you see things, how you hear things, how you perceive. Perception is both cognitive and emotional. I understand that (film) composers use techniques in order to create a certain emotion or a specific thought. You can even find this in classical music. Vivaldi for example uses special strategies in his „Four seasons“ (summer: Hirtenklage) in order to present sorrow. There is a tritone (melodic jumps), a sigh-figure (grace note) or a pain pattern (chromatic bass line), also there are dissonant intervals. A descending major fourth will surely strive for a different effect than an ascending fourth: the first one would be exhilarating, the second sad. The way musical patterns can influence our emotions makes me think of the power and also the responsibility that composers have towards their audience.

Another aspect that I find really interesting is Husserl’s idea of retention of music in the mind as a way of “extending the present“ (Kulezic-Wilson, p. 14). Through retention you can keep previous sound impressions in your consciousness and connect them with your current impression. This is also a theory you can transfer to literature. Retention is more than simply remembering, you kind of refresh your remembrance and complement it. I would say that this theory of perception is important when talking about music and film. We realized today how hard it was to tell when exactly the music starts and when it ends in the introduction of ‘Dead Man’. The flow of the pictures somehow distracted us when we only had to focus on music.

There is an interesting concept which draws the attention to only one sense perception – listening. It is called „Concert in the dark“. Also, it follows the idea to take mobility literally as Greenblatt points out, as the musicians move in the room with their instruments and make the music spatial. If you like, you can have a look here:


Good night and good luck,


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I have a short question for discussion-when researching a bit for one hundred years of solitute, I came across the term “magic realism” again. Does anyone know the difference between magic realism and surrealism?



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Sections of One Hundred Years for Discussion in Workshop tomorrow

—Dear All,
—Please look at the pages assigned to you (and if possible the other sections mentioned) and think about any possible themes connecting the novel to the colonial and postcolonial issues we have discussed, such as the Conquest, the indigenous, the connection between the family history and the conquerors, the representation of history, the Church, unequal power relations, lack of real exchange or communication, etc. PS Christine can you please look at pp 10-13 and p 19?
—See you tomorrow,
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Hello Everyone! On music and film

I would like reflect on some central aspects of today’s session and I’d like to focus on the effect of music in film and how a films’ editing can be influenced by music.

Today’s session was both revealing and emotionally stirring. As I didn’t know much about the Zapatista uprising and the dimensions of the rebellions in the South of Mexico until this day, I am very grateful for this very informative introduction to the topic.

Both the documentaries we watched seemed genuine and didn’t only present a one-sided version of the political events in Mexico. All in all it was quite different experience as opposed to watching e.g. a Michael Moore documentary which very early on assumes a strong point of view and which, despite their high quality, present a rather one-sided view from the very beginning. In the context of the documentary (and here I already have a question: Is a documentary a genre film as defined in our reading on genre film?)

When going deeper into the musical component of the music utilized in the two political documentaries, today’s discussions only reinforced my standpoint that music works without film but film doesn’t work without music. This general assumption can be supported by simply looking at the history of cinema. Even in the early era of silent cinema, film was accompanied by music at all times, for example in the form of a pianist assuming a spot in the cinema. I think the mass will agree with me that e.g. any Hitchcock movie would be quite pointless without sound or even with a different kind of sound.Interestingly enough is that our reading on MTV editing  emphasizes the fact that “the sound of music…is even more concentrated than the film experience” and furthermore quotes Bergman, who stated that “film experience should be like music” (189).

Here, I would also like to mention  essays that I read trying to explain the how and why film music works(Film Music-a very short introduction by Kathryn Kalinak). In various sections, film is presented as a medium that is by its nature marked by discontinuity, a medium to which music is essential for it provides a temporal frame. It makes sense if you think about it-all films, a sequence of irregular shots, make use of stylistic devices like flashbacks, montage, slow-motion. This altogether appeals to a consistency. Since music has this structure that films is lacking, it has the power to unify it and thus make watching a film bearable/meaningful. This theory seems to be reversed when it comes to MTV editing/video clips in which the music is officially in the center of attention but is in fact not. Although vision is still the humans dominating sense of perception, the acoustic is more important, and for our liking and eventually buying the record doesn’t really depend on the quality of the film. In terms of shooting a documentary, I think choosing the song first has a different effect than choosing the background music afterwards, although its importance remains equal. In this way, one documentary is supported by Rage against the Machine as its soundtrack, immediately evoking bias and addressing a certain age group and attitude. Higgins documentary whose editing didn’t rely so much on the particular music chosen (that is not to say that it is still central to the editing process; only in “Var”, beginning and ending were more lenient and the music much more subtle), leaves us with less bias, addressing a wider audience.

In addition to this, there are more directors who created their films around a son, inspired by it–  Bergman, Bunuel and Tarantino are just few examples of the many directors who discover music first and edit their visual work accordingly.  I am sure Jim Jarmush, who we are going to talk about soon, was very fond of “I put a spell on you” by Screaming Jay Hawkins prior to creating Stranger than paradise.

I also like how our readings emphasize the fact that music synthesizes human emotion but I strongly disagree with what is implied about lyrics(-based) music. There is enough evidence to assume that music with lyrics and human voice are as effective in synthesizing human emotion as music without lyrics. Not only if the lyrics perfectly match the context but also when the singer’s voice and the mood he/she conveys with it match the picture, I think the audience is just as prone to leave the cinema with tears in their eyes.

There is also an interesting biological component to the question why and how (film) music has such an emotional effect on us and that is simply, that we experience music already before we are born.  We experience the rhythmic patterns of our mother’s heartbeat, breathing pulse, all that has a continuity that we become familiar with. We can already hear her voice although we can’t react to it yet. Because this state is so desirable, we long to return to it for most of our lives. The combination of music and image thus gives us the greatest satisfaction- This is a very interesting theory and I’d be happy if someone commented on that. It kind of reminds us on how babies love to be surrounded by water, having been surrounded by it for 9 months.

With a lot of digressions I would finally like to refer to some interesting works about film music that are worth reading:

Claudia Gorbman: Unheard Melodies: Narrative Film Music

Caryl Flynn: Strains of Utopia: Gender, Nostalgia, and Hollywood Film Music.

In addition to his, I found a clip on youtube underlining the effect music has on narrative. In the Museum of Moving Picure in Queen, NY, in which four different scenes are projected on a little screen. The visitor can watch these scenes after the other, the only difference is that every scene takes the music of one of the other scenes. Among them were Romeo and Juliet and Godzilla. I can’t recall the other scenes, however it was quite impressive how the whole mood of the story changed by “simply” adding a different, sometimes heavily contrasting song.

Take a look at what is being done to a famous scene of The Shining


All the Best,

Sara Tanski


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Framing the Self Online

Click here for the presentation from the Monday afternoon class on blogs.

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Questions on Elephants in the Americas

Dear All,

Some questions to guide your reading of the text,

See you tomorrow all the best, Catherine.


•What are the complicating factors identified by Coronil in creating a body of work about Latin America that can be termed “postcolonial (p.396)?”
•Why does Coronil believe that Latin America does not really belong to postcolonialism “as a term and conceptual category” (p.398)?
•What distinctions does he make between modernization theory and dependency theory (p.398-9)?
•What objections do Latin American thinkers raise about the application of postcolonial studies to the region (p.405)?
•What two fundamental points does Coronil identify with reference to Latin American postcolonial studies (p.413)?
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