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YouTube ranting – even less cool than Rebecca Black…

21 Mar

by Ben Miller

Just look at this video:

It epitomises everything that’s wrong with YouTube. Over the last 2 or 3 years, an internet fad has rapidly become a widespread obsession – especially on the other side of the Pond.

Scores of home-made videos began to appear on a site which had previously been a hotspot for people searching for music videos and free films.

Controversially though, is it journalism? Most of these video ‘bloggers’ air their [mostly tedious] opinions in a distinctly journalistic fashion, but is that purely due to the channelling of information?

One thing they most definitely are not is impartial, meaning that in the traditional sense of the word these would be (slash wannabe) professeurs de grâce can’t be considered journalists. Actually, screw the info, this is a severe case of cyber-bitching gone mad.

What really gets my goat is the sheer audacity of it all! Most of these uploaders, who usually ‘broadcast’ from a webcam in their bedrooms (or in Chris Crocker’s case under the sheets), drone on and on about how irritating their chosen subject is. How very dare they!

Justin Bieber, Lady GaGa, Britney Spears and scores of other frequently victimised celebs are torn apart by absolute nobodies! I don’t understand why some of these morons have millions of hits! Who are they? Why should anybody care what they have to say about anyone!? Especially someone who’s achieved far more with their life than they ever will!

A blogger called Megan O’Neill wrote a piece last week on a specific area of internet ranting that is not celebrity-oriented, but whose principles are the same. She notes that people judge entirely on what they see in the video, as they don’t know the poster as a person, meaning there’s a massive danger of being defined purely by what you say in your rant. Many of the responses to Megan’s blog post support video bloggers’ freedom of speech.

So why do they bother doing it? I believe that it’s purely an attention thing. Every idiot who uploads a bitchy vid striving for hits is hoping to be the next Perez Hilton – and God forbid there should ever be another one of him unleashed on us all!

Sure, advertising revenue stemming from YouTube’s commercial highlighting of those videos whose number of views starts to approach the million mark and its repercussions (popularity and interest leading to television contracts and appearances) is a definite incentive. But surely they must all realise that this type of success only comes to a smidgenous percentage of YouTube ranters.

Those who do start to attract a sizeable number of hits, however, often get rather big. And it’s this popular attention that makes YouTube a wholly social medium.

Luckily, not many peoples’ opinions (amongst my peers at least) seem to be in any way altered or affected by what they see of online rants.

Hopefully the trend will die out as quickly as it sprung up. Unfortunately, with all the millions out there desperate to have their nothingsy voices heard, platforms offering audio-visual uploading facilities are likely to carry on being clogged with this rubbish.


Linguistic Chinese whispers – the dangers of cross-national news sharing on social media

4 Feb

Ben Miller


“If you’ve ever played ‘Chinese whispers’, what comes out the end is usually gibberish, and more or less when we speak to each other we’re playing this massive game of Chinese whispers”.

This is evolutionary biologist Mark Pagel’s summary of informative change – a phenomenon that affects conversational syntax and lexicology between speakers of different mother tongues.

The process of lexical morphology – en vrac the sharing of information – is being constantly sped up by the modern-day ease in which people from all corners of the Earth interact with each other. The main vessels that have facilitated this over the last decade all come under one collective name – social media.

In terms of journalism, then, this can prove extremely hazardous. 85% of read and reported news in the UK comes from abroad, and popular knowledge of news and current affairs is often spread by word of mouth (well, more appropriately ‘word of keyboard’ in this case!) between ordinary members of the public. And given that over 70% of Britons under the age of 25 have at least one account on a social media site, there is an enormous amount of news-related cyber gossip going on – a transfer of information that has increased 30-fold since the year 2000.

Lots of Facebook, MySpace and Bebo users have, in these days of easy travel, media globalisation and multiculturalism accumulated swathes of friends and contacts abroad. The inhabitants of all the politically free countries of the world are permitted to access each others news sources and media agency websites. This leads people to interpret news stories in other languages, which naturally has a tendecy to lead to fundamental errors in perception.

The problem with English being such a globally important language is that most of the world tries to read, listen and watch Anglophone publications and broadcasts. If a certain key fact or sentence is misunderstood, then the wrong information can spread indefinitely as the topic is discussed with others.

One ideal example is found in a Facebook message sent to me by a friend in France. On hearing the news of Prince William and Kate Middleton’s engagement from a BBC emission, my friend’s somewhat limited English led her to believe that the couple had in fact got married, apparently in secret without anyone finding out! It is easy to imagine the confusion that might arise amongst her other Facebook contacts if she had then ‘published’ her error without being corrected.

The global rise of Twitter (which is yet to claim the social network crown from Facebook but has done a seriously good job of clawing its way up from the depths of cyber obscurity over the last 18 months), is a playing field that only accentuates the dangers of linguistic misinterpretation. The extreme informality of publishing your thoughts and a clear emphasis on news (as opposed to Facebook’s greater range of features) means that Twitter is a danger-zone potentially rife with inaccuracy. People read alien languages, they misunderstand, they perceive incorrectly, and they tweet their response. This is a danger not only for unrelated tongues, but also for the mutually intelligible. Speakers of Spanish notoriously misinterpret Portuguese, lulled into a sense of security by the two languages’ similarity and unaware of the prominence of ‘false friends’ – words or phrases that appear very similar but actually have a completely different meaning.

In short, linguistic Chinese whispers are impossible to moniter or control in the online environment. The only thing that assures that popular error doesn’t become widespread journalistic disaster is the enormous number of news sources and the benefits of modern globalisation – any newsworthy piece of information that happens anywhere on the Planet can be instantly exported (and translated) for any audience.