Post in our forum for parents, teens - You! - at

Friday, August 01, 2008

Watch this video, parents

If you want to understand...

  • who digital natives are and what they're doing online
  • how community is experiencing a rebirth online
  • how identity-exploration can be a collective experience and how that can be therapeutic
  • and maybe even why YouTube is the No. 1 site among 2-to-11-year-olds for video viewing (see this)

    ...pour yourself a tall glass of iced tea or something and watch "An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube," presented by Kansas State University anthropology Prof. Michael Wesch's last month at the US Library of Congress. Just click on the title, then hit the little "Play" button in the middle of the picture of the two tiny brothers, and I suspect you'll find - as I did - that you'll actually enjoy becoming more digitally enlightened in this way. I guarantee that, if you have kids and they're online, they'll appreciate your taking the time.

    If you want to know a little more before you invest the 55.5 minutes, here are some highlights:

  • Why YouTube? It's a force and a fixture in many people's lives worldwide. If the 3 major TV networks broadcasted 24 hours a day, every day for the 60 years they've been broadcasting, they would've produced 1.5 million hours of programming. YouTube has published more than that in the last six months, Dr. Wesch said. People post 9,000 hours of video a day (another way to say it: 200,000 three-minute videos a day) - most of them meant for fewer than 100 viewers.

  • Linking what? The Web is increasingly about "linking people, not information."

  • Not trivial. The experimentation with video, identity, and collaboration going on in YouTube is courageous ("your bedroom as the most public place on the planet") - with many unknowns, including audience and what happens to one's very personal work and exploration. It's also global. Note the hero of "Free Hugs" worldwide at 35:35 minutes into Wesch's talk.

  • Not isolating. "New forms of community" have developed in this global video-sharing, and with them "new forms of self-understanding," Wesch said.

  • Ok to stare. Yes, viewing some of self-exploration videos seems a little voyeuristic, and there are some cruel comments and reactions, but this also happens: people experiencing "a profound, deep connection" free of social anxiety and other constraints of "connecting" in "real life" - because they can stare at the person in the video, study his face while he's talking on camera, while he's taking that leap of faith in humanity by putting himself out there.

  • Sexy images. Very often the sexy titles and screen shots (called "flash frames") that present videos are not what parents and other newcomers think (they're not presenting x-rated videos). They're about serious or funny completely innocuous videos. Representing them in a "sexy" way is a way of gaming the system. Their creators are just trying to get their videos noticed and watched so they'll rise to the top of the list (YouTube's home page) and so get noticed even more so they'll become famous or they'll raise awareness for their cause.

  • "Era of prohibitions." Don't miss Stanford Prof. Laurence Lessig's message (at about 46:15 min. in) about the impact on youth of knowing that remixing media, a way of life for them, is technically illegal in this "era of prohibitions": "That realization is extraordinarily corrosive, extraordinarily corrupting," Lessig said. We can't stop our kids from playing with digital media, he said, we can only send them underground, where we can't learn about what they're doing. Parent and Prof. Liz Lawley at the Rochester Institute of Technology echoes this below (in "Social networkers want more privacy options").

    This is the kind of presentation that recharges, nourishes, keeps you going and going and going as you try - in the area of youth online safety - to maintain a balance of three needs: to alert parents to the risks that do exist, to mitigate fears and encourage (when "be very afraid" is so often the message to parents), and to communicate all the good, important growth and learning that's going on as young people use media that so many adults don't really understand.

    Related links

  • "An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube," the talk he gave at the Library of Congress, June 2008
  •, Professor Wesch's site (blog, bio, video portfolio, and intro to his students) - "Reasons Why We Tube" may answer more questions you have, as it explores and summarizes the 370 video responses Wesch's class got to "Why do you tube?"
  • The Wired Campus column about Wesch in the Chronicle of Higher Education
  • Author, tech-publishing entrepreneur, and pundit John Battelle's interview with Michael Wesch
  • Two resources Dr. Wesch recommended at the end of his Library of Congress talk: 1) AnthroVlog, the digital video research blog of Dr. Patricia Lange at the University of Southern California, and her paper, "Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on YouTube" and 2) the work of MIT graduate student Kevin Driscoll, particularly "Thanx 4 Da Add: How Soulja Boy Hacked Mainstream Music" and got a major-label contract from a base in
  • Two stories show YouTubers' rants can go only so far. 1) Trying to be funny, maybe, a frequent YouTube ranter known as "Trashman" was arrested by federal agents this week for claiming to have told "Gerber employees to lace baby food with cyanide," CNET reports. 2) In "Wife's rant on YouTube falls foul of judge," The Guardian reports that "a British actor who took her battle against her millionaire husband to the internet, posting videos that lambasted him on YouTube and gained an audience of millions," was ordered to leave her New York home by a judge who ruled her behaviour was 'spousal abuse'."

    Labels: , , , ,

  • Heads up: New worms in MySpace, Facebook

    Any social networkers at your house should be aware of the "Koobface" worms, which can turn household computers into remotely controlled "zombies." Computer security firm Kaspersky Lab reports that the worms work this way: A MySpace or Facebook user gets a message or comment from a friend whose computer has already been infected. The messages contain text such as "Paris Hilton Tosses Dwarf On The Street"; "Examiners Caught Downloading Grades From The Internet"; "Hello"; "You must see it!!! LOL. My friend catched you on hidden cam"; and "Is it really celebrity? Funny Moments and many others." Inside the messages or comments is a link YouTube (with a ".pl" extension), supposedly to a video clip. "If the user tries to watch it, a message appears saying the user needs the latest version of Flash Player in order to watch the clip. However, instead of the latest version of Flash Player, a file called codesetup.exe is downloaded to the victim’s machine; this file is also a network worm" that probably not only sends the same message to everyone on your child's friends list but is capable of turning that computer into a "bot" that becomes part of a "botnet" that malicious hackers use to commit crimes such as denial-of-service attacks.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Thursday, July 31, 2008

    Jailtime because of Facebook photos?

    It's an eye-opening story teen social networkers should know about. "Two weeks after Joshua Lipton was charged in a drunken driving crash that seriously injured a woman, the 20-year-old [Rhode Island] college junior attended a Halloween party dressed ... in an orange jumpsuit labeled 'Jail Bird'," according to a report in Another victim of the crash gave copies of the photos to the prosecutor in Lipton's case. The prosecutor presented the photos of the "unrepentant partier" in a PowerPoint presentation at Lipton's sentencing, and the judge - who later acknowledged he was influenced by the photos - gave Lipton two years, calling him "depraved."

    Labels: , , ,

    Time for social networking in school?

    TechNewsWorld suggests it's time to end the stark dichotomy of second-nature social networking at home vs. a complete ban on social networking at school - even in an academic context. Though not so much in the classroom, "some school districts are going beyond e-mail technology and using collaboration software and online services to share information, host Web conferences and assign tasks and projects," and teachers are social networking with each other for professional purposes. Certainly we don't have to be all literalist about social networking and allow the negative, narrowly defined presentation of it in the news media to be what we picture of social networking at school. There are all kinds of forms social networking can take, from wikis to collaborative video producing to podcasting to class blogging to transworld collaboration in a global classroom! The TechNewsWorld article includes an annotated list of social-networking tools for the education market that might interest parents as well as teachers - for example, Blackboard's Sync, for the college market, ePals for K-12, Jooners, and Wimba Pronto.

    Labels: , ,

    Wednesday, July 30, 2008

    Teen Second Life too safe?

    I had to add this little addendum to that last item about social-networking options because you don't see comments like this in the news too often. Liz Lawley, mother of a 14-year-old and director of the social-computing lab at the Rochester Institute of Technology, told PC World she's "strongly against some of the restrictive methods used online to segregate adults from children in an attempt to protect kids from predators. On Second Life, for example, she can't interact with her son because he has to be in the teen grid and she has to be in the adult grid," which means she can't learn about how he uses technology and he can't learn from her in real time how to function in "a social context" (I heard this frustration from educators at the NECC conference in San Antonio earlier this month - see "2 virtual worlds" - that keeping teen and adult "worlds" was educationally constrictive). Lawley said she feels "shutting down sites or trying to shut out people won't solve the problem of sexual predators." Education will, she said. Sexual predation is not unique to the online world, she added, where we don't shut down churches or bar kids from them because child abuse has occurred in some of them.

    Labels: , , ,

    Social networkers want more options

    The PC World headline calls it "next-generation social networking." Researchers at the Rochester Institute of Technology are saying exactly what UK teens told Prof. Sonia Livingstone in her study (see "Fictionalizing their profiles"): that social sites need more ways to characterize friends and more options for what anybody can see in a profile. They need to reflect socializing in the "real world" more. "Many social-networking sites essentially force users to become part of a huge community, or they force users to choose whether someone else is a friend or not, with no other subtleties defining that relationship," Liz Lawley, director of RIT's social-computing lab, told a Microsoft-sponsored conference of researchers, PC World reports. Thinking and operating in binaries - friend or non-friend, private or public - instead of in the more subtle gradations of human relationships and intimacy just doesn't work, avid online socializers find. It'll be interesting to see how soon social-networking sites do something about this.

    Labels: , , , ,

    Another kind of filtering needed too

    Apple retail stores aren't the only places employing tech "geniuses." Libraries are too. The Internet has turned out to be a "major tool" not only for patrons but librarians as well, saving space, making library resources accessible at home, and bringing more patrons to the library, Michigan's Saginaw News reports. Research that the Saginaw News cites indicates patrons are figuring out that librarians are better than anyone at information filtering. "With their training, librarians are more adept than the average citizen at using search engines to locate and decipher reliable data. [Librarian Gail] Parsons notes her experience helps her discern valid sources and recognize biases." The need for those filtering skills has never been greater - not only for being good scholars and media consumers but also for safe, productive use of technology (phones, the Web, virtual worlds, videogames, media players, etc.). Parents and educators, too, play vital roles in this filtering education. Media-literacy teaching at home and school can be aimed at critical thinking not only about 1) incoming information but also about 2) incoming communication - from everybody, friends or not. It also needs to move beyond what's coming in to include 3) outgoing behavior and communication from a child, via text, images, voice, and video (see "Good citizens in virtual worlds, too"). About Nos. 2 and 3, children can be taught to ask themselves questions like: What's this person really saying to me - is this a form of manipulation? Am I being fair to this person if I IM this about him - would I want him to say this about me? Should I send a photo around with this person in it if I don't have her permission? Will posting this video of me possibly embarrass me in the future if I can't take it down and someone could copy and repost it anytime?

    Labels: , , , , , , ,

    Tuesday, July 29, 2008

    Videogame program for libraries

    You just may be seeing more videogame play at a public library near you. "The American Library Association has announced a new project funded with a $1 million grant from the Verizon Foundation" to study how videogame play improves literacy skills and create a "tool kit that libraries across the country can use to develop gaming programs," the Arizona Daily Star reports. One of the librarians charged with developing the program told the Star that she's seeing "growing evidence that games in general, from the traditional board versions to electronic and online ones, support literacy and 21st-century learning skills." Meanwhile, the Charlotte, N.C., public library is offering free workshops in videogame design, the Charlotte Observer reports, the Chicago Tribune asks, "Should libraries stock videogames?" and the Columbus Dispatch reports that "Libraries' videogames are teen magnet."

    Labels: ,

    Monday, July 28, 2008

    Polish police ordered off social site

    At work, that is. "This little item in Reuters Africa is interesting partly because it's about Polish police being ordered not to use a social networking site at work, partly because it was picked up in Africa, and partly because of this sign of the Poland-born site's popularity. Reuters Africa reports that Poland's national police headquarters has banned the social site (which means "Our Class" in Polish) from police offices except "for officers trying to track down offenders over the Internet." Reuters picked this news up from the Polish daily paper Dziennik. The report said "an internal investigation had shown police officers were often using Nasza Klasa ... for idle chit-chat instead of working." YouTube reportedly has been blocked by "other Polish state agencies" to keep workers focused on work.