My first Youtube video

How to fake your death online through the eyes of Zizek

Higher quality version available on Vimeo.

An analysis of how suicide, amateur online video production, and the notion of the ‘reality of the virtual’ can come together with the help of such intellectuals as Immanuel Kant, John Stuart Mill, Albert Camus, and Slavoj Zizek.

Bibliography

Kant, Immanuel. Fundamental Principles of The Metaphysic of Morals. Chapter 2 retrieved from: http://www.bartleby.com/32/603.html

Mill, John Stuart. (1859). On Liberty. Chapter 5 retrieved from: http://www.bartleby.com/130/5.html

Camus, Albert. (1942). The Myth of Sisyphus. Chapter 4 retrieved from: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/keefer/hell/camus.html

Zizek, Slavoj. Lecture: The Reality of the Virtual. Retrieved from: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5b_Q_KOGqE

Video Footage retrieved from Youtube in Order of Appearance

“Mrnick1990 commits suicide live on camera!!!!” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciWP-zjeRdQ

“Suicide on Webcam” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rE-aBIaUSVg

“Sad Real Suicide” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jlsk19DdYgs

“Faris Suicide!” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uA2Rd1hBYg

Fla. Teen Commits Suicide With Live Web Audience” – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OhCH9mt0Pow

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Published in: on February 20, 2009 at 5:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Notion of Authenticity: Internet Sex Video, Cyber blackmail, and Privacy. Part 1. (11) (video 4)

A recent drama which unfolded in the virtual Youtube community is at the same time part cautionary fable and part illustration of the dynamics of Internet rule breaking and making – the exercise of ethics and the discourses of confession, truth, shame, and vengeance.

If what Fakesagan claims is true, the drama went something like this…

Some time ago a user named Capnoawesome (Kevin) and Oshunavani hooked up, and recorded their sexual adventures on digital video.

Then along came a user named Fakesagan, who stole away Oshunavani with his niceness and principled openness versus Capnoawesome’s apparent neurotic behaviour and abusive control.

Cap’n and Fakesagan began an online spat the details of which I know little, suffice to say a spat which culminated in Cap’n calling for a boxing match.

Later, frightened by Fakesagan’s superior intellect and physical size, Cap’n blackmailed Oshunavani into silencing Fakesagan’s attacks and calls for a physical confrontation. If Fakesagan did not stop his online effrontery then Cap’n would release the digital video and images of Oshunavani having sex to his sizeable Youtube audience of 20,000 subscribers.

Oshunavani convinced her boyfriend Fakesagan to halt his campaign against Cap’n and the videos and images were not released at the time.

But Oshunavani’s immense fear of being publicly humiliated was not put to rest as Cap’n arbitrarily decided to release the images on Feb. 9/09 (not a link to the images, but a cache of his video diary) on Encyclopedia Dramatica, making it unlikely that they will ever be removed.

Previously unaware of the blackmail or the sex video, Fakesagan reacted to Cap’n in an emotional and authentic manner on his Youtube account:

“If I really believed you could make that shit go away I would do whatever the fuck you wanted. I would leave Youtube … I would say I’m a bitch … and Kevin is a big man. But you can’t make that shit go away. A million people have fucking downloaded it so if you take it down its going to be up again in five minutes. You have no power to reverse this and you have nothing left to blackmail me with. My videos are the only fucking revenge I am going to get.”

In one particularly emotional and authentic moment, Fakesagan says “I’ll wear gloves, I’ll tie a fucking arm behind my back… I will walk into an ambush. I don’t give a shit if I get my ass kicked. I just want to feel my fucking fist connect with your face one God damn time! … You said you didn’t put that shit on the Internet to hurt Oshun. Bullshit! You fucking humiliated her!”

In a later video, Fakesagan swears that Kevin will face consequences. If not criminal or civil charges, then he says the matter will “be settled” otherwise. Presumably in a physical confrontation.

~ Analysis Continued in Part 2 ~

Published in: on February 12, 2009 at 9:22 pm  Comments (4)  

Scamming the internet. Ethically and economically bankrupt. (10)

Its tempting to think of the Internet in idealistic terms. The lack of censorship and the ability to create content without advanced knowledge or training has created a system fundamentally different from corporatist television.

But have these underlying values resulted in a system that democracy advocates dream of at night after heavy doses of tvo and davos debates?

A relatively old post by viral marketeer Dan Greenberg should lead some people to say … probably not.

One of the main complaints of Marxists and cultural critics of corporate programming is that the content of a TV program, news story, or music video has all but ceased to matter. As long as it doesn’t offend sponsors and generates revenue, objective and balanced information falls by the wayside.

But the ranking systems popular to Internet video sites like Youtube aren’t much better, and have led net-savvy marketers like Greenberg to declare that “Content is NOT King.”

In place of content stereotypical titles, tags and thumbnails attached to videos are the greatest predictors of popularity. Add in some paid-for fake commenting, blogging and e-mail forwarding to take advantage of the system and you have yourself a contagious hit.

But the ethical and economic consequences of this are saddening. Of the 500,000 to 2 million user generated videos uploaded everyday only a few might get lucky enough to be featured on Youtube’s front page and receive mainstream exposure. The fake videos with a team of viral marketers behind them have the advantage of a high exposure to budget/talent/political relevance ratio.

Economically speaking a system which profits those who can generate fake attention shows just how low advertisers have to go. It may be easy to trick consumers but they probably won’t enjoy it in the long term. The corporations who employ this type of marketing, if caught, could stand to lose reputation, and rightly so.

From a media ethics point of view the stereotypes employed are of the lowest caliber. They contribute to a stereotypical view of gender, race, sexual orientation, and often reduce human nature and experiences to an objectified status. Giving them more attention through viral marketing just aggravates the problem.

youtube-popular

Youtube's most viewed videos of all time are a good example of the stereotypically offensive images and titles that lead to viral "success."

Published in: on February 5, 2009 at 8:41 pm  Comments (1)  

Google’s motto: Don’t be evil. (9)

In the final minutes of a Google Authors talk by Slavoj Zizek, professor and philosopher, one of Google’s employees asks Zizek what he thinks about Google’s informal motto: “Don’t be evil.” In essence, what are Google’s unknown knowns, or as Freud would say, unconscious elements?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

Is Google aware of its potential for abusive power?

As discussed in the previous post, Google’s ownership of Youtube has led to increased detection of copyright infringement and the removal of videos that contravene its pornography and obscenity guidelines.

Zizek responds by wondering why Google is worried about being evil, and which model of evil they subscribe to. Perhaps being the most powerful search engine, they could be open to manipulating what the public sees when they search for a term like “McDonalds” versus “McDonalds food poisoning.”

Zizek defines evil as something which “brutally interrupts the normal running of things, evil is a cut, which is why for certain pagan religions, Jesus Christ is evil embodied. And in a way they are right,” because he signalled an end to obeying Karma and believing in reincarnation.

Zizek interprets Google’s motto as “we are doing something terribly great lets not do it too fast.”

Google does fit Zizek’s simplified model of evil, in that they have broken ground (from a software perspective), and changed the way a new generation watches video and finds its information. This affects, according to Zizek, normal community life and a small part of what it means to be human.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 4:09 pm  Comments (3)  

Youtube – The new video monopoly? (8) (video 3)

“No freedom, no content”

Fakesagan, a quasi-famous Youtube user with 6,010 subscribers, has recently decided to quit supplying Youtube with content.

After receiving a second strike to his account for including a segment of his girlfriend’s amateur cartoon which included a cartoon depiction of breasts and buttox which Youtube deemed to be pornographic, fakesagan claims Youtube’s censorship has gone too far.

“Its about power, that’s what censorship is really about,” says fakesagan. The popular misconception that censors hate offensive art is wrong, he says. Its more about a jealous control over artists.

Fakesagan claims he stopped watching TV and made his home on Youtube to escape TV’s “banal corporate fluff” which insulted his intelligence. But the corporation has followed him onto the Net.

As Strangelove has said, Youtube has cornered about 60 per cent of the video watching market on the Internet. Youtube’s inital autonomy and relatively lax rules for posting didn’t last long. Under the economic pressure of powerful corporations, they have just recently become more stringent.

New detection technology has targeted the audio tracks of videos automatically detecting copyright infringements when a protected song is used without permission and removing it from the video.

Fakesagan is perhaps correct in his decision to “stick it to the man” by halting content creation.

“I’ve always understood something about the nature of freedom that other people don’t. Freedom is ephemeral. You can’t bottle it. You can’t engineer a free society. You can’t develop a philosophy or a religion that’s conducive to ‘setting one free’. You can’t write freedom into a constitution or any document. Freedom is fleeting. You can’t catch lightning in a bottle,” he says.

Fakesagan promises to take his anti-establishment political v-logging to another website. But he understands that freedom on any given website can only last so long.

The good thing about the internet, is there’s always another website just waiting for users jump ship. Youtube will have to be careful that its monopoly doesn’t evaporate as quickly as it appeared.

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 3:32 am  Comments (1)  

Lululemon pant-demic at Ottawa U and the myth of mass customization. (7)

You wouldn’t believe the number of girls that do Yoga at the University of Ottawa these days. And you’d be right not to, because they don’t. They just pretend to with their Lululemon yoga pants.

Most guys would think it odd to complain that these figure-clinging pants are the latest fad to stick to young women’s butts everywhere. But here I am doing it, because part of me doesn’t understand it.

"WHY!?"

One frustrated word: "WHY!?"

What’s interesting about Lululemon’s yoga pants is that they are advertised in such an ironic way that matches Strangelove’s criticism of similar products beautifully.

Lululemon’s website advertising literature attempts to give their pants an aura of liberation through personal meditation by riding on the back of Yoga mythology which preaches such empty promises as to “integrate the various aspects of the body-mind through a combination of postures, breathing techniques, deep relaxation, and meditation.”

Strangelove’s argument that “it is intensely ironic that this latest trend in highly customized marketing is celebrated as liberating” (p. 39) fits the Lululemon booty conspiracy perfectly.

Additionally, pants with titles like “hook my eye” and “groove” play right into the male gaze. It is curious that women would find such themes “liberating.” You can see why I am so confused.

But Strangelove’s analysis with the help of Hannah Tavares does make things a bit clearer. “What looks like diversity and freedom of choice turns out to be stereotypical constructions of feminity and race” (p. 147).

The only question left is “When will the booty pants fad end?”

Published in: on February 4, 2009 at 2:54 am  Comments (26)  

The citizen’s war. (6) (video 2)

The latest ramping up of violence in the neverending Israeli-Palestinian “war” has been accompanied by a different type of media coverage according to Strangelove.

Palestinians used handheld cameras and cell phone videos to show the horrors of war they were experiencing.

Rather than consuming the pro-Israel corporate media story that is well known to dominate U.S. airwaves and news print, people had the option of hooking into Youtube or other public internet video sites to view what Palestinians were recording on their own.

But how reliable are these videos? From a skeptical viewpoint, not very. The following video is labelled as showing Israeli war crimes. People lie in the street wailing in agony. But all we are shown is the result of some explosion, not the source. Admittedly, if it were an airstrike, this would be hard to do.

Detractors commenting on the video claim that this was not an Israeli attack, but an accidental explosion on the part of Hamas. Who are we to trust? Online video does not help the viewer at all as long as we do not know who the source was, when it was recorded, where, and so on.

Additionally, this video, if it is even legitimate, was very difficult to locate on Youtube’s servers. Strangelove’s statement that citizens have alternatives to corporate media stories is true only insofar as citizens behave independently of their TVs and seek out amateur war coverage online. Its an argument which requires empirically tested backing.

Raw amateur footage:

Al Jazeera footage:

The media coverage of a separate attack during the same conflict is very different. We see the Israeli airstrike occuring. Death toll statistics accompany images of bodies on the streets. The source of the coverage and the clarity of the video lends legitimacy to the occurrence. Its a much more convincingly crafted story.

My point is that online amateur war coverage still has its limits. It is not nearly as prominent, reliable, or well done. We can be glad that alternatives exist, but we should not over estimate their power.

Published in: on February 1, 2009 at 8:22 pm  Comments (1)