“Say it’s Possible”: YouTube and New (Media) Directions in the Myth of Total Cinema

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Since December, 2005, YouTube has invited the world to “broadcast yourself,” and, in so doing, video’s latest platform reformed post-cinematic motion picture aesthetics and called forth a new form of video interactivity, one that represents video-sharing’s myth of horizontal community through an adaptation of older motion picture aesthetic conventions. Many user-generated YouTube videos blend elements of webcam photography and early motion picture actualities in still, tight close-ups that interpellate of an audience of fellow user-generators as a community. Thus the 2006 winner of YouTube’s Best Music Video Award, “Say It’s Possible” by Terra Naomi, has received over two and a half million hits and inspired over 250 covers that copy the video’s production as well as Naomi’s music. Indeed, the video’s unparalleled viral reproduction speaks to the significance of the digi-actuality even as the YouTube community gives way to corporate channels and “participatory video ads.” The digi-actuality thus represents both new media’s attempt to record the spontaneous moment, “the myth of total cinema” according to André Bazin, and the desire for communion behind that myth. Naomi’s video in particular exemplifies the digi-actuality’s affinity for its distribution medium and thus its status as the video-sharing aesthetic, because its low-bandwidth, consumer-grade digital video demonstrates how “lo-fi” YouTube videos both foster and belie the illusion of connection that video-sharing attempts to provide.


Keywords: YouTube, Video-Sharing, Aesthetic, Distribution, viral Reproduction
Stream: Human Technologies and Usability
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.


Caetlin Benson-Allott

Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, Cornell University
Ithaca, NY, USA

Caetlin Benson-Allott recently defended her doctoral dissertaion, "Imperio-Video: Motion Pictures, Spectatorship, and the Politics of New Media," which addresses the lack of any formal or political analysis of video spectatorship in film or new media studies. She argues that after VHS distribution became the most popular and lucrative motion picture platform in 1987, US viewers adapted by forming a newly interactive, although also paranoid, relationship to their media while the film industry itself responded by changing how political filmmakers could communicate with potential audiences. Her articles have appeared in _The Journal of Visual Culture_, _Jump Cut_, and _The Quarterly Review of Film and Video_ and she teaches at Cornell, Ithaca College, and Wells College. Her current research interests include new media censorship, gender and technology studies, queer theory, and planned obsolescence.

Ref: T08P0241