Digital Ethnography

Spreading Ideas – Politics on YouTube

Posted by

As has been seen in previous videos, it shows that in many vlogs people are selling themselves, but what drew my curiosities mid semester was the selling and spreading of ideas on YouTube. My initial direction involved the religious ideological movements on YouTube, but as the current 2008 presidential campaign blossomed, it changed my focus on the spreading of ideas. In the video below, I have provided my most recent draft which looks at the use of YouTube in political campaigning.

What I first show in this video is the question which I stated in the previous paragraph describing the spreading of ideas YouTube. Through time, the mediums used for the spread of political and ideological beliefs have changed. Through speeches, monuments, paintings, radio and many others, the primary in effect prior to the creation of YouTube was television. In the short video, I show some of the shifts in methods and relationships in campaigns.

I asked the question concerning why YouTube was becoming popular on the political level and I use British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s comments describing the YouTube method as one that allows viewers to remove the media interpretations and hear exactly what the speakers are saying. You can hear speakers “unmediated, fresh, and first hand what [they] are about.”

My next scene starts with a statement by Canadian philosopher and scholar Marshall McLuhan (1911-1980) where he describes as people wearing masks which are not private, but corporate role-playing masks for the wider audience. I show the mask being worn by U.S. presidential candidate Ron Paul’s announcement where the family photos on the fireplace mantle. This building of a setting helps create visual dialogue beyond what is being said, but allows viewers to add other elements such as the ‘family man’ approach shown by Paul.

I also make point to show the negative advertisements that are used on YouTube. Dr. John Geer made a statement on Fora.TV, which was reproduced on YouTube where he speaks of the importance of negative advertisements in a democracy. He describes that we must criticize and make others accountable for their actions. The first example I show is a negative ad done by Veterans for Progress against Marilyn Musgrave. This add is a description of what some view as a problem with Musgrave and her healthcare system with U.S. war veterans. This video is then followed by a negative ad which is against Hillary Clinton and supports Barack Obama. This is a video that mimics the 1984 Macintosh commercial by replacing IBM as the ‘Big Brother’ with Hillary Clinton. The hammer throwing was for change, in support of Obama. The creator of this video is unknown, which shows the anonymity of YouTube and the ability of users to create political ads without the approval the politicians involved.

After discussing negative ads and visual settings, I next take a look at what is said in these YouTube videos. The example I use is Hillary Clinton’s announcement speech. In this video, she emphasizes the importance of creating a ‘conversation’ between herself and the general public. This interaction is key in building the relationships which can be seen in YouTube. This means that those asking politicians questions is changing. What was once done mostly by reporters and television personalities can now be done by your average YouTuber. Any individual who has access to YouTube can create video questions or text questions which now stand a much higher chance of being answered.


  1. Martin

    November 24, 2007

    I agree with the idea that youtube is a magnificent democratic resource, able to give voice and dialogue to to common people. But beware, this gargantuan organization is full of inevitable power relations that we don`t recognize yet. Studing this right away can avoid the abuse from those in obscure power. Is up to everyone, but specially us, social sciences students (among others), to avoid become a new type of slaves.
    Youtube is just a tool, it can be used for mindnumbing control or as a multicultural thinking machine.


Add a comment

About Digital Ethnography

Our work explores how humans use media, how media uses us, and how we can use new media to reveal our insights in new ways.

CC by-nc-sa