Why A Global Community

I started looking into Youtube’s ability to connect people from all over the planet. It is a free arena where anyone can post a video from their own living-room. My project proposal was initially instigated by my study of the question, “Why do You Tube?,” it was here that I listened to people’s confessions, and reasons for taking the time out of their lives to post videos. I then began to hear some trends and the word “global” started to ring in my ears. I heard people say that they posted videos because they, “wanted to see what the world was like.,’ or because they like looking at other cultures and events.

One night I was online and was communicating with my fellow digital ethnography researchers through gabbly chat when I saw that along side their deep philosophical insights into youtube’s reality, fields, popularity issues, and so on… they were also sharing information about how to make green tea Ice cream. This is a funny dicussion for a group of digital ethnography researchers, and I decided to go to youtube and see what kind of culture recipes I could scrounge up. Along side hanoi worm cooking I found many other traditional meals. This lead me to thinking about youtube as a community and what it means to have a true global community. One that has members of many countries from all over the world, and possesses direct displays of ways of life from those cultures. From here I decieded to see who was communicating with who, because I suspected that there was a lot of multi-continental communication going on.

I found music that had been played by annaclaramatos. This song was played by a woman in south America. She had video responses as well as text response that spanned the globe, including America, France, Austrailia, and germany. I also found a video taken by some people in Bangladesh who watched a sun rise on the Himalayas. This video had responses of sunrises from Utah, and many other countries. This ability to show people your, “neck of the woods,” breeds cultural sympathy, and when enough people believe in the same thing they have started to create world-wide movements that involve people all over the planet.

Free-Hugs, for example was a video posted by a man from Austrailia, who walked the streets with a sign saying “free hugs.” He gave them to anyone that wanted them. This received a response by and American garage band that laid music behind it. This video quickly spread the world over and received responses from Korea, Scotland, America, Italy, and Austrailia. This kind of multi-cultural, multi-continental movements are a wave of the future.

Seeing the power of Youtube I began to think about why. Why here, why now, why this cite. I think the answer may lay within the evolution of the television. Although Youtube is not on T.V. the very nature of its name conjures connotations of television. However, historically the television has been a tool that has kept people from coming together and uniting in the good life of the here and now. It has been a tool that glues people to their couches all hours of the day and spoon-feeds information that is distributed by they hands of a few. What youtube has done is put people with remotes into the directors chair at the same time. This power is being express through movements and by direct communication. I walk around campus and see students walking pass me with a cellphone in one ear, and an earbud in the other. I can’t help but wonder what this has done to our ability to govern ourselves. What does it mean that some people spend hours daily watching television shows, but have never attended a once a month, one hour long city-hall meeting. People who have starved for that ancient feeling of community, that feeling of being able to interact with the people around them have found it. However the people most available to them may be millions of miles away. Humans are social creatures, and television doesn’t support this trait, youtube however does. I would hypothesize that youtube is stealing television viewers and re-involving them into their own world. These movements, then, are ritual celebrations which re-inforce the values of the community of youtube.


Associate professor of cultural anthropology. Ed Traceur. Hacker. Car-free.

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7 Responses

  1. Prof Wesch says:

    That’s interesting. When I was growing up in a small town in Nebraska in the 1980s I watched Wal-Mart destroy the downtown. But then I noticed that other downtowns were not exactly booming either. The town of 1,800 where my parents grew up was also dead. I asked my Dad what killed it. “Gunsmoke,” he said. Saturday nights downtown were buzzing until Gunsmoke came on TV. Then everybody huddled around TV sets on Saturday night instead. There was still community there as long as there was only a handful of TVs in the whole town, but as more people got their own TVs the community suffered.

  2. Adam says:

    Yea that is interesting… we’re increasingly becoming producers instead of consumers.

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  1. March 29, 2007


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  2. March 30, 2007

    [...] Porque tem tanto sucesso o You Tube? 30 03 2007 Michael Wesch e o seu grupo de ‘etnógrafos digitais’ andam em busca de respostas para uma pergunta simples: “Why do you tube?” A primeira tentativa parece um promissor ponto de partida: Humans are social creatures, and television doesn’t support this trait, youtube however does.  I would hypothesize that youtube is stealing television viewers and re-involving them into their own world. [...]