Letting some of it trickle out while trying to soak it all in

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Tube, I Tube, we all Tube

This post is for my brother Tom who is laid up in a hospital bed for a few days. Hopefully it will offer some diversion during your recovery.

You Tube is one of my favorite cyber things. True, it is a cornucopia of distraction (check out the BBC's new it's a wonderful world), but it also plays a role as a forum for serious art and a medium for expressing our sense of humor and wonder.

My first Weatherport tent at Toolik
I first spent quality time with You Tube during the summer of 2007, working as a research tech at the Toolik Field Station on the North Slope of Alaska. Toolik had just gotten hooked up, via a data spur off the Dalton Highway. Contact with the outside world had previously been maintained with a meteor burst communications system, where radio messages were bounced off meteor tails over the Brookes Range to Fairbanks (no joke, check it out: MBC). In those days, Google had only recently acquired You Tube, which was still mainly a curiosity for early adopters. Home videos like Charly bit me and the Star Wars kid dominated the You Tubian landscape, competing with pirated TV series and movie clips. At Toolik, with over 100 people in camp scrambling for bandwidth, you could only do your You Tubing in tiny spurts, or with a lot of advance planning. To watch a clip after dinner you had to start buffering before going into the field that morning.

While we did upload a few rudimentary clips like the Toolik bike jump that summer (for a more recent and sophisticated Toolik clip, check out Arctic thriller) we were mostly just trying to figure out what You Tube was good for.

You Tube has very little in common with traditional television. You don't watch it as much as you search it. Furthermore, like with literature and music, You Tube is so big that you have to rely on your friends to let you know what to search for (though I did find Queen's music video for "I want to break free" by myself, but that was largely in response to prayer). The reason videos go viral is because people love to show off new You Tube discoveries. Every link you spam out to your friends (and every video I've linked to here for that matter) buys social credibility. It says "I'm the kind of person that likes this" and, more importantly, "I found this first." But this sharing implies something more complex about how you found the video. Since you originally received the OK Go Rube Goldberg video from someone else (ostensibly a sophisticated urban socialite), when you pass it along, you're not just sharing the video, but also advertising how well connected you are. Me and my cyber tribe have a more hilarious, stunning, and eclectic video vocabulary than you.

Fluency in You Tube has become another symbol or adornment with which we identify ourselves as fit, stable, and successful individuals (though, like having lots of friends on Facebook and all flavors of cyber savvy, You Tube literacy is also somewhat embarrassing). Like having opinions on F. Scott Fitzgerald and Frida Kahlo will get you scholarships in the English department, sharing good You Tube videos at the right parties will get you a date.

You may have seen this dimension of video sharing in a You Tube battle, where two or more alpha personalities in the group try to out-You Tube each other.

"Have you seen the Literal Videos version of Total Eclipse of the Heart"?
"I almost died. But wait, have you seen their version of Under the Bridge"? By quoting another video in the same family (in this case by the incredibly funny Literal Videos group) he or she has shown knowledge of the first reference and on-upped it. On the same token, it's OK to follow up with something totally different (especially if your not trying to impress the same person),

"Those are pretty funny, but what about Marcel the Shell"?

Tips and trivia for the You Tube debutant, intermediate, and advanced users.
  1. Most You Tube videos fall into the following genres: home videos (primarily pet, child/baby, or accident related), music videos, political/news videos, wildlife videos (a special subcategory is the "vs." category), movie/TV clips, how to videos, science/technology videos, and made for You Tube videos (humorous, human tricks, hipster, or artistic).
  2. Pop music videos dominate You Tube as far as views go. Justin Bieber's music video Baby is #1 with over 686 million views (every woman, man, and child in the U.S. has seen this two times). Just for the record, he really is that cute, and a good bowler to boot.
  3.  If you go off looking for new material you might find yourself saying like the man who fell across the Tiger kills Crocodile video, "Oh crap, I'm at the weird part of You Tube again. . ." Don't worry, just click on the You Tube icon at the top left side of the screen and it will bring you safely back to Justin Bieber's music video Baby. 
  4. You Tube literacy is more than just having seen clips. In order to successfully flex your growing repetoire you've got to be able to quickly find them again. Any self-respecting clip has multiple versions and remakes. There is the Auto-tuned version (where the clip has been turned into a song), redubbed version (with alternate sounds), cat version (reframed with a picture of a cat), etc. I can't tell you how many times I've tried to find the clip of the great whites hunting seals on Planet Earth, only to bring up remakes with bad resolution and cheesy Jaws music.  Rooting around for an original clip isn't always bad (I just ran into great white shark accident), you just don't want it to happen when you're trying to impress that special someone.
  5. Use the autofill suggestions. It's a good indication you are on to a You Tube classic when you only have to type in the first few letters of your term into the search bar and the autofill brings up the rest. This can help you find the specific version of the video you were looking for.
  6. As You Tube becomes increasingly commercial, more and more annoying pop ups appear during video playback. If you click on the "Hide annotations" red icon in the lower-right corner you won't see so many
  7. In a pinch you can download videos from You Tube (or just the audio) from websites like www.listentoyoutube.com, though the quality isn't great. This can be useful if you want to show off some clips around a campfire or any other time you find yourself beyond the edge of the network.
  8. Don't get fooled into thinking You Tube only has fluffy, funny content. Sure there are three thousand videos of cats on glass but there is quality content on serious subjects like the LDS church and homosexuality or Autism.
  9. Throughout You Tube there is an internet meme (evolving running joke) about Rick Astley. Once you've seen the original video you understand a whole body of quality work, like in this 2008 McCain gets Rick Rolled by Obama clip.
  10. Just the links in this post represent several hours of footage. You Tube fatigue and overexposure can happen during personal viewing and almost certainly will happen when viewing in a group. Three videos is usually a good limit. 
  11. The links in this post shouldn't be watched sequentially, they should be viewed as You Tube intended them to be enjoyed, during work hours when the boss is in the other room.

And here are some videos to get you started or get you through the day (Jan 2012 view count in parentheses). Thanks to family and friends for suggesting clips. Please suggest more if I've missed your favorite clips.

You Tube classics
Home Intruder autotuned (96 million)
I like turtles (34 million)
Double rainbow (32 million)
Honey Badger (vulgar language warning 30 million)
Double rainbow autotuned (28 million)
Home Intruder (40 million)

Artsy music videos
Her morning elegance (21 million)
OK Go (10.9 million)
Pomplamouse Beat It (7.3 million)
In Your Arms (4.4 million)
I will possess your heart (1.4 million)
Grapevine fires (989 thousand)
Cassiotone for the Painfully Alone (553 thousand)
Pollywog (good for kids! 400 thousand)
Pete Seeger Foolish Frog (good for kids! 60 thousand)

Made for You Tube 
Just two guys (8.4 million)
Indian video translation (8 million)
Ask a ninja (4.9 million)
Guy on a buffalo (2 million)
Performance (1.9 million)
Glass Harp (1.8 million)
Bad Lip Reading Mitt Romney (1.4 million)
Dances Moves (955 thousand)
Dear Reader Wizard People (670 thousand)
Pushups for freedom (991 views)

Peanut butter jelly time (18.6 million)
Russian singer (9.5 million)
Yatta (3 milion)
Russian singer 2 (2.5 million)
Russian singer 2 remix (I thought this was the original the first time I saw it. 2.2 million)
Indian Thriller (1.8 million)
Fake English Italian music video (1.2 million)

Home videos
David after dentist (105 million)
Jessica's Daily Affirmation (9.3 million)
Single ladies fail (3.7 million)

Battle at Kruger (64 million)
Super cow (25 million)
Boston Dynamics Big Dog (12.7 million)
Lion attack (7.7 million)
Bad Project (3.2 million)
Ferro fluid (3 million)
Theo Jansen (2.6 million)
Eagle vs. Wolf (1.7 million)
Chemical Party (1 million)
Thermokarst (3.3 thousand)

TV and news clips
Susan Boyle (83 million)
Most beautiful girl in the room (5 million)
Exploding whale (2.6 million)
Hellzappopin' Swing Dance  (798 thousand)
Irish road bowling (2 thousand)

1 comment:

  1. http://youtu.be/uwTxJUanlxo
    My roomies and I have put a hundred of those views on this baby.