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Pinoy Kasi
We are YouTube

By Michael Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:29:00 07/10/2009

Filed Under: Newspaper & Magazines, Internet, Entertainment (general)

The cover of Time magazine?s last issue of each year features a Man (or Woman) of the Year, but in 2006, they innovated by showing what looked like a mirror, their way of saying that ?you,? all of us, qualified to be Man of the Year. Inside that issue was an explanation for why suddenly everyone was Man of the Year: ?For seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, Time?s Person of the Year for 2006 is you.? The magazine was referring to the way people had come to use digital information technology, especially on the Internet. It specifically cited Facebook, My Space and YouTube.

Being of the pre-Internet era, it took me some time to figure out that the mirror on the cover was supposed to be a YouTube Flash player. Neither could I figure out what the big deal was about YouTube, which I thought was just a modern version of those excruciating sessions where a friend or relative bores you to death by showing photographs and videos from their childhood, or their last vacation.

With Time?and time?I?ve come to better appreciate YouTube. YouTube is, as it claims on its screen, an excellent way to ?Broadcast Yourself.? But beyond that, YouTube has become a powerful medium for connecting people, for building bridges across borders.

No doubt, some of YouTube?s stuff are cheesy and crass, and the comments posted in reaction to the videos often show a darker side of people, from plain unkindness to outright viciousness and prejudice. And yet, because it is an interactive forum, it?s also encouraging to see how people try to respond, sometimes with kindness and encouragement, even to the mean and uncouth.

YouTube then isn?t just an ego-centered place to post stuff about ?I, me, myself.? It is part of a digital democracy where people express themselves and interact. Ultimately then, YouTube and the Internet are about ?us.?

I didn?t want to ramble on about YouTube and thought of referring you to some of the videos which reflect the point about YouTube being us. I?m not going to give the exact web addresses for each posting because it will make this article difficult to read. Instead, I will give you key words which you can use to search when you enter Youtube.com. That will produce choices and you should be able to find what I?m recommending.

I?d also suggest you get the latest free version of Real Player loaded in your computer because if you have that, every time you view a YouTube video and enjoy it so much that you want to save it, you can go to the upper right hand corner of the YouTube screen and there will be a pop-up box ?Download video.? Click there and Real Player will save you a copy of the video, which you can watch again at your leisure. (I find this save function especially useful because even our high speed DSL connections can be erratic, which means many interruptions if you try to watch YouTube online. Download a copy for smooth viewing, even when you are offline.)

One more thing: Don?t bother searching for the Kho-Halili videos. YouTube doesn?t allow explicit sex videos although it does have many soft porn postings, including quite a few of and from Filipinos, which tells something about us to the world.

YouTube anthro

Because YouTube is about ?us,? about humans, anthropologists have caught on to studying the Internet. Visit the site of ?Michael Wesch,? an American anthropologist and professor, where he has a video, ?An Anthropological Guide to YouTube.? It gives an excellent overview of what?s on YouTube, including some of the most widely viewed videos. Learn how a kid in a New Jersey suburb, dancing to the music of an Eastern European pop song, set off a craze around the world with literally millions imitating him. A touching segment in Wesch?s video looks at how millions of people around the world took up an invitation to paint faces on their thumbs and show this on YouTube.

?Demokrasya?

Some time back, I mentioned that there was a global competition for videos (maximum 3 minutes) reflecting on democracy. There were hundreds of entries from all over the world, and in the end, six were chosen as winners, one from each geographical region. The winner for Asia was a Filipino video, ?Mabuhay Ang Magiting na Tao,? which translates for international audiences as ?The Fearless Man.?

It?s an almost cynical view of democracy, clearly based on our Filipino experiences, and it?s something I?d recommend for classrooms, to get students to think not just about how democracy often ends up mangled and endangered. To find the video, do a search for aissathesheriff. That?s Aissa Penafiel, who produced the video together with Migs Ocampo.

I have to comment that on the last day of the competition, when I visited, it had only been 4,786 hits and I wondered if the video had a chance of winning. But win it did, and then I realized that the other winners also had fewer than 10,000 hits. Compared to millions of hits for Michael Jackson videos, or even the Cebu prisoners? dancing, it does show that serious stuff still has a long way to go on YouTube.

Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle was the runner-up in ?Britain?s Got Talent,? a TV show similar to ?American Idol.? She made headlines because she is middle-aged, single, comes from a small town and is rather plain and unsophisticated. Yet her performances were impressive, even stunning. In the end, Boyle had a nervous breakdown, unable to tackle all the attention, positive and negative, but she seems to have recovered and has made a name for herself.

There?s something to the Boyle videos that reminds us to look for true talent, beyond the glamour and glitter of big-time performers. I thought of our own Nora Aunor when she was just beginning to make her mark in Manila as a young probinsiyana from Bicol.

Susan Fernandez

Another Susan with a powerful voice was Susan Fernandez, who touched the lives of many with her many causes, from gender equality to political prisoners. Susan waged a long battle with cancer, at times almost victorious, at times less hopeful, and all through that battle, she continued to sing her way into our hearts, whether in fund-raising benefits or during gigs at the Conspiracy Caf. Susan passed away last week, and I thought to myself, when I first got the news, ?Who will sing for us now??

The weekend that followed, I wondered if she might be on YouTube and indeed she was. People had started posting their homage to her, mostly thanking Susan as a mother, a tita, a comrade, a friend. There are quite a few of her videos posted and you?ll have to bear with differences in quality (there?s only so much you can do when trying to capture a performance in a bar). But make sure to click on her singing Pete Lacaba?s translations of popular Western songs. Also click on a video, posted right after her death, where she sings ?Lupao.?

YouTube allows those who have passed on to continue living with us, through vivid images and sounds.

* * *

Email: mtan@inquirer.com.ph



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