I am a late-adopter. I know this is at least true of me when it comes to technology and social media and fashion. It has been revealed to me over the last eighteen years of marriage because my husband is an early-adopter.
For example, Justin slept on the street in Dallas outside an Apple store the night before the first iphone was released. Why?? I remember he was the first of our social circle to get a Facebook account while I had barely gotten started on MySpace. We all laughed at him and told him it was for college students and would never be mainstream. When capris became a thing in fashion years ago, I held my ground. Why would I spend a dollar on short pants when I was sure that fad would only last a season or two? Well, I was wrong about that one. (Justin does not wear capris, although many men now do.) I wish his trends were more fashion-related and less technology-related. Short pants are much cheaper than a Tesla.
Simon Sinek during a TED Talkintroduced the law of the diffusion of innovation in 2009 and this articulated what had been playing out in our home. Justin is often on the front end of the curve when it comes to what is new and next, and I often lag behind. Most people are some where in between with their reaction to and adoption of innovations. (This video, by the way, has 41,153,240 views.)
No matter where we most often find ourselves on this curve, in the areas of social and visual media, we are all participants and impacted by it at some level. I cannot even begin to catalogue the number of pictures, videos, stories, and visual input in my ‘inner library’ over the years. I can bemoan the effects of Instagram and YouTube on young people but they are realities that will not be going away any time soon. They are culture shapers and influencers and we should pay attention.
I am wrestling through my thoughts on what Pink asserts and where the dangers are for us in the digital age we find ourselves in. But her attempt to borrow from others to define ethnography was helpful. Pink offers that it is a method that “involves the ethnographer participating, overtly or covertly, in people’s daily lives for an extended period of time, watching what happens, listening to what is said, asking questions—in fact, collecting whatever data are available to throw light on the issues that are the focus of the research.”
Watching…listening…asking questions…collecting whatever data is available…over time…in order to give insight on the issues. This sounds like good missiology and the work of someone who wants to participate in the Kingdom of God coming to earth. And as we do this difficult work, it would benefit us to consider what culture is watching and listening to. This is where my late-adopter tendency does not serve me well.
Why is YouTube a thing again? I do not know. YouTube has made a comeback of sorts and I am curious as to what there is to learn from it. I hear my kids talk about it more and more. So I did some light research – a method called ‘googling’. 🙂 The video with the highest number of views is currently the music video for ‘Despacito’ by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee. I have never heard these names before. It has over 5.6 billion views and was launched almost two years ago. It took Gangnam Style, a previous most watched video, five months to hit 1 billion views. In comparison, Despacito took just 97 days.
Why? What is the message in this song? How do we leverage this to understand and communicate in our culture? In our communities? In our homes? What questions can I bring to what over 5 billion people have watched? What can I learn about culture and what the values are? Where is the line with how far to take cultural relevance? What are my assumptions as I listen and watch? Because as Pink points out, the ethnographer always brings themselves to the subject.
I broke down and watched ‘Despacito’ because I thought it would be foolish to mention it here without doing so. It is a Spanish song with overtly sexualized dancing. It is very ‘catchy’ and inappropriate all at the same time. I want to lecture, bemoan and ‘soapbox’ about it. But I am not sure that is good enough ethnographic work. I should listen and ask better questions in order to understand so that when and if I do get to lecture, it can actually connect with the audience.
I may be a late-adopter in many ways but I know that visual ethnography is no longer a question of relevance or necessity. Thoughtful engagement with it at some level is required. And I am challenged to watch…listen…ask questions…collect whatever data is available…over time…in order to give insight on the issues.
 Simon Sinek TED Talk video
Sarah Pink. Doing Visual Ethnography. (London: Sage Publications, 2013) 34.
9 responses to “YouTube.why?”
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Hi Andrea, I used to consider myself an early adopter of technology. I no longer consider myself as such. I wonder if it’s because I’m just getting older. If I make the following claim I’ll just be labeled by my kids as old so why even bother. Hahaha! I’ll state it anyway. The reason I no longer go for the latest stuff is because I’m seeing a trend in which all the hype is all about new packaging. Some of what’s purported as new is not really new. Technology is so fungible. It used to be smaller is better when it comes to smart phones. Now bigger is better. Notice how megapixels in camera gets larger with each new release. Any yet we’re told that after a certain number the human eye cannot tell the difference and we’ve already surpassed that number years ago. If the predictions associated with Moore’s Law happens, we’ll see technology slow down a bit until something new comes along.
I guess ethnographers in the near future will get busy studying the new emerging group: late adopters, of which I’m fast becoming one.
Love your response, Harry! And I am encouraged by the idea that technology could slow down. I read a couple of articles over the weekend about Silicon Valley execs not letting their own children use the technology they’ve had a hand in creating. One of the execs said, ‘I’m convinced the devil is in our phones’. It makes me wonder where all of this innovation and constant ‘outdoing’ will head in the future. Is there some limit?
I am a super late adopter of technology (but then I am from a different place and time.) I continue to contend that I am not anti or phobic about technology. However, I always want to do the value analysis first to see how the new way will help or improve my old way. I love your stated challenge, “I am challenged to watch…listen…ask questions…collect whatever data is available…over time…in order to give insight on the issues.” This sounds like good coaching questions that lead to good conversations to help the other find their best path toward their objectives. Ultimately, I am not always sure that the propensity to sculpt images is helpful today. Thanks again for your wise insights, H
We talked about this a little during the advance but I too consider myself an early adopter as well, so I am one with your husband :).
Funny thing, I first heard of this song from my kids but it was the Justin Bieber remix version. The version that has over 5 billion views is the all Spanish version. If you look in the comments a lot of people just come back to see the new “view count” and a view count for youtube is at least 30 seconds (via google). You raise a lot of good question and I just want to add to them. 1) The English video has around 14 million views while the Spanish one has 5 billion – what does this tell us? 2) The phenomenon of just checking the view count… what does this tell us about the culture? I mean people are literally coming back not to watch the video but to “see it’s success”.
Thanks again for a great and stirring post A!
Thanks Mario – I do remember that you have this in common with Justin. 🙂
You reminded me of something we recently discussed in an Exec meeting as we were trying to measure our online campus/service engagement. We were originally reporting the number of views which was exciting – but then we asked the team to go a level deeper and report on the bounce rate and length of view. That was much more sobering. And I’m reminded that we must dig deeper and do due diligence on these large numbers in order to understand what is really going on.
Great post, Andrea. Now I know why Justin and I connected, I too am an early adopter. 🙂 I find that my purpose is not relevance, but understanding. How can we engage a culture we are disconnected from and have no knowledge of? I believe the quote you gave of Pink was one of the most important in the book for our purpose. I think of the children of Issachar that were recorded as people who understood the times and knew what Israel must do. That’s the purpose of ethnography for me.
Tammy – thank you for your response and your example of staying connected to those coming after us. I want to be like that as I age. Several of my friends have decided to hold each other accountable to staying open and growing. We want desperately to be able to speak into their lives and also benefit from ‘reverse mentoring’. I think examples like yours are more powerful than I can articulate. Perhaps I will add this to my list of ‘whys’ for doing this program – I hadn’t considered this training for better engagement with culture for the rest of my life as much as I should have.
I love your questions about YouTube! While song videos may sometimes be perplexing, check out the whole chunk of videos dedicated to children opening toys. My kids get sucked into them so quickly if I turn away too long! And they get an insane number of views! I think some of the draw is that anyone who could watch a video also has the capacity to make a video. I continue to toy with whether our church should get a YouTube channel and just tell bible stories using toys (another entertaining YouTube genre you might explore…just about any bible story in LEGO version). I think there is something empowering for ordinary people to be able to share ideas and stories, but they don’t ever have to leave home. It is an interesting virtual engagement space. There is a lot about YouTube that I wonder about, but if nothing else it is much easier to know what catches the attention of my children than it would have been for my parents. What filters do you think we might invite our congregations to apply as we engage YouTube?
I agree Jenn and can appreciate the struggle to discern how to use YouTube for your church context. Is it the black hole, over-consumption without much awareness that we should warn against and suggest as a filter? I’ve heard families put limits on their children that they can only watch videos if it’s together. One I have implemented for my kids with any screen time is that their doors need to be open and headphones very rare. There really is much to consider but I agree with you that there can be healthy ways to leverage it.