As I prepare to do an internship in mediated ethnography, I’ve been reading a lot about YouTube. Of particular interests are the fears of intellectual property violations that are held by both corporate American and some private citizens.
YouTube is no stranger to copyright infringement fears: numerous clips have been removed from the site over the past couple of months in response to notices of infringement sent by copyright holders. While these acts have destructive qualities, which are often harped on by numerous media venues, no one seems to be considering the generative qualities that piracy brings to the table. More simply, no one is asking what media piracy is creating in terms of aesthetics…
Piracy is not simply a neutral conduit, but imposes particular conditions on the things being posted. Constant copying, alongside make-shift methods of data transfer and YouTube’s own compression procedures, degrade the image and sound in such a way that the “noise” (be it audio or visual pixelation) produced by the means of reproduction is overwhelming the pristine “aesthetic” of media content. Pirated videos are marked by certain aesthetics that are often appraised as “amateur” and more closely resemble those of leisure technology-based work, rather than professional. This creates a material screen through which the audiences’ engagement with media and sense of time, speed, and space are filtered. In this sense, prated content creates a set of formal qualities that generate a particular sensorial experience of media marked by poor transmission and massive interference.
In many ways, as I suggested above, this mimics the aesthetic of user generated YouTube content- it acts as a way to re-appropriate the corporate imagination as part of the populations. In this sense, we can consider the YouTube aesthetic to give us an escape from the all-to-real experience of corporate and commercial aesthetics of perfection. Where the original movie media may have aimed at reproducing the image as if it weren’t reproduction but experienced, YouTube allows us to re-draw the simulacrum (or hyper-real) of the theatre experience (where one is supposed to assume they are not in the theatre, but of the panoptican in the reality being projected) as being a simulation of reality.