Once upon a time, each of my roommates in college and I went to different places to study abroad, and we all came back with the obligatory Study Abroad Soundtrack from our individual experiences. On the night of our big reunion from our times away, each of us took turns playing our soundtrack/s. I played my soundtrack first, and a Brazilian dance song, “Festa no Ape”, came on. It had always made me laugh for its insipid lyrics and irresistible beat. As they listened, my roommates became confused, and each went to retrieve her soundtrack. They removed my CD- that’s what we had at the time- from the stereo, and one by one each of them put her individual soundtrack in and played a different version of “Myahee”. We had all come back from different countries with an alternate remix of the same song. When I got my first definition of what a meme was, this song and situation were the first things I thought of.
The song emerges as a platform for Michael Wesch to discuss the ways that Youtube reflects certain changing aspects of culture based on digital literacies, so when I watched his “An Anthropological Introduction to Youtube”, I got pretty excited in my reminiscing.
For more reasons than the fact that he reflects on some of my happy college days, Wesch’s theories have almost single-handedly revolutionized my ideas about the internet and connectivity. I had always sort of considered the internet to be an alienating force where teenagers and lonely people could make up idealized versions of themselves to present to a hyper-reality of life, but Wesch shows it to be as a mighty, massive tool for connection between people from all over the globe. In fact, he does so in such a way that as I watched his video, I began to marvel that I hadn’t seen it this way before. He takes the time to examine the paradox between simultaneously talking to nobody and (hypothetically) everybody, and discusses almost the almost Lacanian “mirror” state of being able to watch ourselves as entities on Youtube.
Wesch’s video made me appreciate the idea that we can continuously remake ourselves online, and that we have also become more accountable for single, out-of-context events (he talks about an off-the-cuff remark made by John McCain about bombing Iran). It all seems more true to reality than I had every considered these online constructions to be; we are always remaking our identities, and we have no control over the way people perceive us based on a single encounter. Whereas I would have seen people on Youtube mimicking the Myahee guy as derisive, Wesch sees them as paying homage to a stranger’s obvious and infectious joie de vivre. I had never considered this angle, and I sort of like it a lot more than my previous notions of the internet.
Wesch’s video makes the internet exciting for me; it turns the internet into a world of opportunity. What multitude of possibilities could Youtube alone hold for teaching? The idea of remix, cultural scripts, identity, the problematization of copyright, fine lines between plagiarism and paying homage to art, music, visuals… the possibilities seem endless and exciting.