2006: The Year of You

December 11, 2006

News: Jon Pareles has written an article in today’s New York Times titled “2006, Brought to You by You.” In it he analyzes the growing phenomenon of YouTube, MySpace, and other sites that allow users to create content of their own, sometimes mixed in and mashed up with the content of others. This is the so-called “user created” content or peer production. Pareles goes with the classic First Amendment description: “self-expression.” I like that.

Analysis: Hands down, this is the best news article I have read about the YouTube phenomenon. The article deserves several readings. I will try to write several posts about this article over the next few weeks. Today’s post will focus on this wonderfully written paragraph of Pareles:

“It’s often inept, but every so often it’s inspired, or at least worth a mouse click. It has made stars, at least momentarily, of characters like the video diarist Lonelygirl (who turned out to be a fictional creation) and the power-pop band OK Go (whose treadmill choreography earned far more plays than its albums). And now that Web entrepreneurs have recognized the potential for profit, it’s also a sweet deal: amateurs, and some calculating professionals, supply the raw material free. Private individuals aren’t private anymore; everyone wants to preen.”

I think Pareles is exactly right. Most of the “user created” content on YouTube probably would not make anyone’s Top 1,000 list of favorite material, or Top 100,000 list, for that matter. Many of the videos are silly, bordering on inane. But creativity should not always or usually be expected to produce gems. Once in a while, it does. And that’s when you hope that someone in a position to do so can find the “gems” on YouTube or MySpace, and shine the light of public attention on them. Undiscovered talent becomes discovered, all through the Internet.

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