Wednesday, November 01, 2006

You Tube and the howling basenji - Watching the home movies of the world


I found this video of a Basenji named Lucy on YouTube recently. If you have watched the video, you can tell Lucy does not care much for the harmonica. This is one of the countless videos people have put on YouTube, many of their pets doing silly tricks or just acting cute.

Since YouTube (or GooTube as some people now call it since being purchased by Google) started pulling down videos from Comedy Central and other parties miffed about copyright infringement, I now realize that most of YouTube is home movies. These were videos that might have sat on the family shelf, shared only on VHS tapes in one family. Now anyone with a camcorder and a little Internet savvy can upload their videos for the world to watch, or wince at.

This Basenji video brought back a flood of bittersweet memories. My family once had two Basenjis. They grew up with me and were special dogs who I still miss even today. If you have ever owned a Basenji, you know the challenges that a headstrong dog can put you through. They are funny and aggravating. Watching this video made me remember moments I had not thought about in years. I admit, I got a bit teary-eyed.

That made me realize the power of YouTube in a way that ordinary TV has never replicated. Video that people shoot themselves for YouTube are of all types. You have animal comedy, but you have more serious fare as well.

YouTube users have uploaded video of visits to the World Trade Center, shot just weeks or days before the twin towers were attacked and destroyed. Their vacation footage has turned into an historical record. You see the towers and their view of New York City through the lens of a tourist's camcorder, never imagining what they were recording for future generations to see.

If YouTube stays up, or simply morphs into something else in Google's desires, it could become a giant collection of human experience rendered in video. If it lasts for years, people who shot those videos will grow up, grow old, and die, leaving their digital legacy behind for Internet users everywhere.

I can surf through YouTube videos for hours, like flipping through a thousand scrapbooks. I do not know the people, but I can see their lives of friends, family and pets. I see things that take me back to my own memories.

What is perhaps worrying for many owners of large media companies and network owners is that most of what is on YouTube is actually more entertaining that the recycled sitcoms and reality shows that they try to get us to watch. YouTube is the ultimate reality show channel, made by and starring real people.

We will have to see how Google uses the service they paid a hefty sum for. I could quote the overused Andy Warhol quote about 15 minutes of fame, but now it is more complicated than that. People can be as famous as long as they have bandwidth to burn.

There are hundreds of annoying and crass videos on YouTube too. I am just glad I was able to remember two beloved dogs that left me over two decades ago.

1 comment:

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