Posts Tagged ‘YouTube’

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Politics Online

July 28, 2008

Politics and political campaigns will never be the same after this one. The first US presidential campaign is taking place in the era of social media.  Or as Garrett Graff calls it “The First Campaign”, which is “defined by technology” and where for the first time “technology is both the medium and the message“. Yes, we do perceive the candidates by what they say, but we also pay attention to how they say it, by what means.

TechRepublican posted today a short interview with Jeff Jarvis of the BuzzMachine, where he briefly comments on how YouTube has been useful throughout the presidential campaign, because it gives us a lot more than just sound bites and he quotes Barack Obama’s thirty-minute speech that received a lot of attention. Asked about whether the next US President should keep posting videos on YouTube, Jarvis replies positively, because (as he puts it): “It is a new relationship.”

An interesting comment follows the brief interview with Jarvis, pointing to a link to a White House Video Tour, where President Bush takes virtual visitors around the Oval Office. Drew, who posted the link, believes that online videos give us a totally different perspective of someone. However, after seeing the seven-minute clip, my perception of the current President and his “eloquence” did not change much – he is repeating phrases and making several silly comments. Ironically, Drew’s comment claiming that presidents posting videos “is already happening and becoming history” misses the whole point of Web 2.0. YouTube features user-generated content, it is a dialogue, where you can actually see how popular the posted video is, vote, post comments and video responses. I can not even begin to draw the huge difference between a video placed on an Web 1.0 institutional monologue-style website and the dynamic exchange that makes YouTubea social media platform.

Reading this comment provoked me to sum up an up-to-date comparison of the YouTube activity of presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain. Obama’s campaign is pretty tech savvy and this is no discovery, but ho much ahead of the game is he on YouTube?

Total Number of YouTube videos:

  • Obama – 1,200 videos
  • McCain – 200 videos

Number of subscribers to their YouTube Channel

  • Obama – 65,000 people
  • McCain – 8,400 people

Most watched video

  • Obama – 4,700,000 views (that is the 30-something minute video Jarvis refers to above!)
  • McCain – 400,000 views

It is clear that where McCain is in the hundreds, Obama is in the thousands. Where McCain is in the hundreds of thousands, Obama is in the millions.

Here’s one of the things YouTube does best – work as a repository of TV-produced pieces, prolonging their life and the buzz around them. Like this sophisticated satire of Obama+Messiah=Obamessiah:

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YouTube Censorship

July 27, 2008

A recent post by TheMachineisUs about his visit to Istanbul, where he whitnessed first-hand Internet censorship reminded me of my own reaction of amazement, when I first learned that YouTube is banned in Tunisia earlier this month. The reason why the Turkish court banned YouTube is the exchange of offensive videos between Greek and Turkish users, which turned into an on-line war. The reason for that in Tunisia was to conceal government’s repression over protesters. I have so taken access to the Internet for granted both here in the United States and in Bulgaria, that these examples of censorship woke me up to fact that this may be very different in other countries. It suddenly occurs to me to try and find out online evidence of how many countries have ever banned YouTube, who they are and for what reasons. Perhaps there is a register kept somewhere…

Yes, there is! After googling for a while under several search criteria, voila – I find that Wikipedia has taken care of this on a page titled Blocking of YouTube. Thirteen countries are listed there.  They have blocked temporarily or permanenty acces to the entire YouTube site or parts of it. I am glad Bulgaria is not part of the list even though we know first-hand what political censorship means from the no-so-far-away past before 1989. But of course that was the pre-Internet era, when offline books were “arrested”.

freedom of expression behind bars

Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Armenia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Pakistan, China, Thailand, Indonesia and Brazil are in the blockers list. What’s common is that with only a few exceptions most of them are countries in Asia. I am not drawing any conclusions here, just sharing an observation. The reasons for the Blocking of YouTube worldwide range from politicial censorship, through religious concerns to adult content bans. The case with Pakistan’s blocking of YouTube in February this year raised not just censorship issues, but an alarm about security and trust on the Internet, as Brian Krebs of the Washington Post argues in his Security Fix blog post. Due to a technical glitch YouTube acces was blocked not only in Pakistan, but in the entire world for seveal hours. Krebs asks the challenging question: “What would our government make of it, say, if all of a sudden all traffic destined for .gov domains wound up in China or North Korea?” He suggests that diplomatc trouble can be stirred up by jeopardizing Internet trust.

My question after reading all this is: Are we to expect the list of countries blocking YouTube to grow in the future?

I would be curious to keep an eye on it.

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Trip to Tunisphere

July 13, 2008

The mere coincidence of the first letter of my name and Tunisia made this small North-African country a relevant pick for my class assignment this week to plunge into and explore the international bloggoshpere via Global Voices Online.

My perception of Tunsia has developed in three stages over the years. Stage number one – wishful thinking. Stage number two – the mediated reality check through the eyes of a friend. Stage number three – the virtual reality check.

During stage one Tunisia has always seemed to me like a very attractive travel destination. I remember seeing an article about some gorgeous Tunisian Mediterranean seaside resorts several years ago in a flight magazine. Then, last year one of my best friends made a trip there and provided an exciting account with plenty of photos, but emphasized that the place looks and feels far from the polished tourist magazine image.

Here I am concerned mainly with stage number three – expriencing Tunsia through its blogosphere or as they call it over there – the Tunisphere. This online trip proved to be the closest to reality from all my previous impressions. In my wanderings throughout Tunisian blogs I arrived at several observations. First, it is a vibrant community of bloggers, many of them rightfully concerned with the issues of political freedom, human rights, social justice and freedom of expression, which apparently are seriously threatened there. Second, Tunisian bloggers fill in a void space that official media do not reflect and the consequesnces of being a blogger and a journalist in Tunsia often include censorship, closing down of your blog or publication, job loss, personal freedom restrictions and even imprisonment. That was the case with Slim Boukhdhir, who remains in detainment since December, 2007, and has gone on numerous hunger strikes to protest the harrassment he experienced in jail by Tunisian authorities.

What is happening to blogger and journalist Slim Boukhdhir is terrible and at the same time not surprising in a country, where YouTube is banned. Yes it is, believe it or not! You can not access the biggest online video sharing service anywhere in Tunsia, because the government is affraid that you might stumble upon footage of police violence on Tunisian workers in the rich Phosphorous mines of Gafsa, Redyef and Oum el Arayess, who went on strike earlier this year to defend their right of employment. Many people were seriously injured. Official media remained silent, as if nothing was happening. This was the first case when Tunisian bloggers joined forces with human rights activitist in getting the story of repression out to the rest of the world. They even posted videos, showing wounded protestants.

The Tunisphere is a land of contrast. Just like Tunsia itself – it has both a serious and a casual face. Aside from the serious human rights and freedom of expression issues, there is obviously a young, hip, fashion and style-conscious generation in the country, which also contributes to the bloggosphere. A good example is one of the winners of the first ever Tunisia Blog Awards. Yosra World received the “Most Trendy Blog” award in 2007. Another top Tunisian blog is Subzero Blue, which is one of the few written in English.

A curious news that circulated in the Tunishere very recently is about Dahsha – the new online Arabic encyclopedia. Tunisian bloggers introduce and discuss how it is similar and different from Wikipedia. The principle of volunteer contributors is the same, but Dahsha publishes also video materials, studies and books, which are not supported by Wikipedia as types of content. It currently holds over 32,000 articles and is aiming to “enrich Arab content on the Internet”, according to blogger Mohammed Marwan Meddah. I wonder what are the chances of Dahsha joining Wikipedia one day? And I ask myslef – does it really have to? No doubt it is a different voice in the virtual conversation of knowledge and perhaps it is better for us to be able to draw on a multitude of authentic voices and viewpoints instead of trying to merge the sources.

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Stand-Up Comedy Lives Online

June 25, 2008

I love stand-up comedy. My fascination with it came twelve years ago after hearing (not even watching) some early stand-up comedy audio tapes done by Woody Allen in the 1970s. He is awsome! He set the bar of my expectations really high. It is strange though how people in America do not associate him at all with his early career as a comedian. I rented the tapes from the BBC Center in Sofia by a reccomendation of a friend and ended up literally memorizing them. I have to make it clear that stand-up comedy is not a popular genre in Bulgaria except for a couple of recent attempts at launching stand-up shows on TV in 2005 and 2006. To my utmost disappointment, I have so far discovered only one YouTube video of these early Woody Allen stand-up comedy performances. Here it is – the one and only:

Thanks to the proliferation of videos and channels on YouTube I have discovered many exceptional comedians. One of them is Russel Peters, whose entire career and huge current popularity is built exclusively on word-of-mouth marketing. Thanks to the web and mostly YouTube I have come to adore his comedy for a year already and you bet I was among the first people to buy a ticket three months in advance for his live performance in D.C. last week-end. He is big on making fun of ethnic differences and draws a very versatile audience.

Other great comediansI have discovered via the web are the Middle Eastern bunch that made the Axis of Evil Comedy Tour. They are very efficient in breaking stereotypes about the Middle East through comedy and similarly to Russel Peters they appeal to a vast multi-ethnic public.

I have found immense gratification in exploring amateur or user-produced comedy online, which is in many cases as good as professional comedy. Among the best picks I have come accross recently are Barats and Bereta. Their videos can be found in MySpace, YouTube and their official website.

And since this is my school blog, let me fullstop this post with my all-time comic YouTube video called “Effect of education on men and women”: