“Say it’s Possible”: YouTube and New (Media) Directions in the Myth of Total Cinema
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
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of English, Cornell University