The Cultural Production students and faculty are developing an initiative we somewhat playfully term, "YouTheory." How might social networking platforms such as YouTube be refigured as dialogic space to encourage important conversations about cultural theory, the arts and social analysis? We welcome your comments and suggestions as we develop and explore these possibilities.

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YouTheory: Dialogic Adventures Through the Looking Glass

Mark Auslander (Brandeis) & Bryce Peake (Brandeis)

Upcoming paper abstract for the conference, “Unthinking Television: Visual Culture[s] Beyond the Console” at George Mason University on Thursday, March 26, 2009

Is it possible for YouTube to emerge as a dialogic space for creative collaborative explorations in cultural theory, linking imagined communities of persons who may never meet one another face to face? Many museums, universities and scholars have in recent years developed YouTube channels; in most cases, these are monologic arenas, organized in terms of the delivery of information and lectures, often slickly packaged, giving little encouragement to stimulating responses frompotential interlocutors. In these contexts, the act of recording on YouTube often seems equivalent to speaking into a mirror, reconfirming the institution’s or speaker’s settled assumptions about the world. This tendency is in striking contrast to the popular habitus of YouTube usage, in which vloggers strive for “real” and uncluttered presentations of self in a manner calculated to elicit comparable seemingly extemporaneous responses.
In our recent teaching, we have sought to explore with our graduate and undergraduate students possibilities for traveling with YouTube, in effect, through the looking glass of the computer screen. How might the popular social networking ethos of YouTube be productively linked to cultural critique? With our students we have begun to post experimental, provocative and edgy visual essays andconversations, aimed to elicit response videos and cascading video threads by persons near and far. We have sought to stimulate on line video conversations about advertisements, contemporary art, urban space, museums, memorials and human rights. We have tried to introduce the conceptual toolkits of social and cultural theory in ways that might be accessible to persons outside of the formally defined academy. We hope that these initiatives in participatory and critical new media literacy, which we rather playfully term “YouTheory,” will encourage the emergences of democratic on line spaces for the sharing of knowledge and inspiration, across the mirrored surfaces of the console.

Prof. Mark Auslander ( Anthropology Cultural Production, Brandeis University
Bryce Peake ( MA student in Cultural Production, Brandeis University