YouTube “Participant Observation” Project

In order to analyze new media, it can be very helpful to gain experience composing it. As a way to help you become more critical analysts of participatory culture in online video, this project asks you to compose a short video (at least 30 seconds) for the YouTube community.

Your goal is to research a popular genre of YouTube video and then make a new video which contributes to and extends that genre.  Some genres you might consider:

  • Political Video Remix (re-edit political speeches to satirize a politician or comment on an issue)
  • Personal Vlog (tell us about yourself, perhaps try the 50 or 51 things memes)
  • Commentary Vlog (share your thoughts on political or popular culture topics, perhaps including clips from original media)
  • Video Response (Make a video that responds to another YouTube video)
  • Public domain remix (Make a new movie using public domain footage from the prelinger archive or internet archive)
  • Re-cut television show / movie trailer (edit movie tv clips to tell a different story than intended)
  • Music Video (make a music video using found footage or original footage)
  • Cultural Commentary Remix (compile a series of related clips to highlight a cultural phenomenon)
  • Let’s Play (record yourself playing an online game or other online text and audio record your thoughts about it)
  • Technology Tutorial (create a video that teaches people how to use a particular piece of software)
  • Local Promotional Video (create a video to promote a local/campus organization or event)
  • Genre of your choice (find a “genre” of youtube video, tell me about it, and then make it; you probably know about cool things I haven’t even heard about)
  • Another form of participatory culture (if you would like to work in a different medium than video, talk to me in advance and I may be willing to adapt the assignment; for example, you might contribute to an online fan fiction community or an audio editing community instead of YouTube)

To be successful, your project will need to:

  • Have a clear sense of genre (what particular subtype of YouTube video are you inspired by / responding to)
  • Have a defined audience (who exactly on YouTube do you want to see this work, and how will you help them find it)
  • Have a clear rhetorical purpose (how do you want your audience to respond? Do you want to inform, entertain, and/or persuade? What’s your point?)
  • Show a concern for the craft of video editing (multiple shots arranged with a clear sense of purpose)

Your rhetorical purpose can be wide open, and it is fine if you wish to provoke laughter; please refrain, however, from using humor that denigrates people based upon their race, class, gender, sexual orientation, religion, disability status, or nationality.

Beta Draft (20 Pts): Due 10/14

Your beta draft should be at least 30 seconds long (including multiple shots) but it is okay if it is still rough and unfinished. (You get full credit at this point just for making a good faith effort). On this day, you also will write a blog post in which you talk about the audience, purpose, and genre of your video, the revisions you still plan to make to your video, and the kind of feedback you would like from your peers and from me.

Final Draft (80pts): Due 10/21

Your final draft video should be between 30 seconds and 3 minutes long (depending on genre and purpose). In addition to turning in the final video, you’ll also write a reflective essay (at least 500 words) in which you address the following questions:

1) Who is the audience and what is the rhetorical purpose for your video? What action will you take (or could you take) to reach a wider audience with this video?
2) What is the genre of your video? How does your video both build upon and *extend* the rhetorical moves of other videos of its type?
3) What kinds of ethical choices did you make about intellectual property and fair use? Is their a risk that your video may be removed from YouTube and if so why are you wiling to take that risk? (Defend your choices and cite the readings to support your point of view)
4) How has the experience of composing this video caused you to rethink concepts from course readings, lectures, and discussions? How might you theorize your own work through the lens of one of the theorists we read? How might your own experience challenge or critically extend one of the theoretical persepctives we’ve encountered?(Discuss at least three key theoretical concepts from class)
5) How did you revise this video based on feedback from peers (in and out of class) or the instructor?


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