Who Needs a Convention When You’ve Got YouTube?

NPR has a story from today’s Morning Edition chronicling the rise of Liberty Belle, a blogger otherwise known as Keli Carender.

A member of the Tea Party movement, this story serves as a very interesting exploration of the new media in our national dialogue.  According to the story, Keli became so popular from her blogging and viral videos, that she has been invited to become a spokesperson for this new movement:

Republican party leaders would very much like to harness the Tea Party energy. Just last week, former Congressman Dick Armey’s organization “Freedom Works” invited Carender and dozens of other Tea Party organizers to Washington for training and networking sessions.

Keli is also scheduled to speak at the National Tea Party Convention on Thursday – but hasn’t decided if she’s going to go.  She would share speaking duties with Sarah Palin, amongst others.

What makes Keli’s situation so interesting is the fact that her largest claim to fame is her ability to share her ideas through new media outlets, particularly blogs and YouTube.  According to the NPR article, Keli’s most popular video features her speaking to Rep. Norm Dicks, culminating in her offering Rep. Dicks a $20 bill as “down payment for the health care plan”:

While new media is an incredibly powerful tool, and I am clearly in favor of exercising its potential, the thing that makes it so unique is the ability for it to cut both ways.  From the traditional perspective, individuals aren’t able to “talk back” to traditional media outlets.  Now, however, one YouTube video can beget another, and another, and another.

To juxtapose Ms. Carender’s video, take a look at two filmmakers who made the trip to the 9/12 “DC Tea Party” and spoke with attendees about their feelings on the various issues:

This video provides some insight into why the organizers of the National Tea Party Convention are facing considerable difficulty.

Tea Partiers don’t want to be harnessed. They’ve shown a willingness to reject Republican candidates they don’t like. On the other hand, they’re not about to start their own national political party, as evidenced by the backlash within the Tea Party against the Nashville convention. It’s a movement without a central organization.

Like new media, this lack of central organization also cuts both ways.  While Ms. Carender may have a clear grasp of those issues on which she feels strongly, other YouTube videos would suggest that many people who call themselves Tea Partiers do not share Ms. Carender’s mastery.

And that’s okay – because in the world of new media, you don’t have to know what you’re talking about, you just have to be able to talk.

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Fair Use and Abuse

Law.com has an article up about a Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) takedown notice that has some very serious implications for those of us who enjoy the new frontier of social technologies.

Here’s what happened: someone posted a 29 second clip of their toddler dancing to a Prince song on YouTube.  Universal, who owns the rights to Prince’s “Let’s Get Crazy,” filed a takedown notice with YouTube – who proceeded to take the video down (as a side note, this seems to be the standard procedure: act first and ask questions later).  The poster then filed a counter notice and six weeks later YouTube reposted the video.

The article is getting press mainly for one reason: the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) is suing Universal for $400,000 “a remedy for false take-down notices.”

Is this an exorbitant amount?  Yes.  Is it based on reality, or billed hours, or amount of work required?  Probably not.  Is it any more ridiculous than RIAA damage claims for downloaded songs?  No.  The going rate is $80,000 per song, by the way.  But that’s not what’s important here.

What is important is how egregious the claims are in this case by Universal.  I mean – really.  Please take 29 seconds to see what we’re talking about here:

There are a two major things that make Universal’s takedown notice so asinine:

  1. The length of the clip is only 29 seconds, something that clearly could fall under Fair Use.  Hell, I can get a 30 second, hi-res sample of the song from Amazon- click here to get yours.
  2. Between the Mom, the toddler, and a young Mario Andretti doing laps, you can barely hear the music, much less make out the song.

Why on Earth would Universal decide to go after this video?  Clearly this woman is working hard to raise another generation of Prince fans who will continue to buy albums, attend concerts, and generally make money for Universal Music.

What really scares me about this takedown notice is that in addition to the shaky ground Universal originally filed on is YouTube’s blind acquiescence to corporate direction.  Don’t people review these notices for validity?  If we enter a phase where any hint of impropriety (or DMCA violations) result in the automatic removal, then we face a very grave danger. Good-bye mashups!

I can understand the enforcement arm of the DMCA, and even the motivations behind it, but I would urge that these things be used with great restraint and care, not abandon.  For everyone’s sake, we must adopt an attitude of verification and validation in this arena.  If we cannot, we will stifle not only many great creative works, but likely some very needed voices along the way.

More on Being Awesome

Saw this on the BBC’s website today:

YouTube video leads to $30 million movie contract.

This film cost $300 to make, and when posted, took less than three days to generate a multi-million dollar movie contract.  Why?  Because it’s awesome.

I think this illustrates exactly what I was talking about in my last post: Be Awesome.

Want to find out what is awesome?  Spend 5 minutes watching this video, 1.5 million people already have.

Mental Clutter

When I clicked on this link, I thought that it would be some interesting discussion on the idea of clutter in one’s life.  I was right — it was interesting — but not in the way I thought it would be.  Watch the 2 minute clip from Minnesota Public Radio below:

Not familiar with James Ellory?  Check him out on Wikipedia (wearing, interestingly enough, one of the three suits he describes in his talk).

Now – I talk a lot about minimalism, about reduction of needs and wants, and especially reduction of stuff.  Does this mean that I’m seeking to attain minimalism levels like Mr. Ellory?  Absolutely not.

If you can’t tell from the short clip above, Mr. Ellory is a strange man.  This is proabably due in large part to the murder of his mother at a young age (from Wikipedia):

After his parents’ divorce, Ellroy and his mother relocated to El Monte, California.[7] In 1958, Ellroy’s mother was murdered. The police never arrested the perpetrator, and the case remains unsolved.

Ellory is one far end of the scale on which I am seeking balance.  As near I can tell, Ellroy has no family, and has only loose ties to the physical world that we share.  Perhaps this is why he is such a powerful author.  It certainly can’t be because he’s a voracious reader – he doesn’t read other author’s books for fear they will influence his work.

While Ellory may have successfully attained a minimalist lifestyle, he has foregone a family, and the (messy) trappings that necessarily come with it.

No, I do not aspire to be like Ellory in my minimalism, though I do aspire to be better.  I am working on a set of revised goals for the continued minimization of my life, but it is proving to be an uphill battle.  I am hopeful that on the upcoming school break, I’ll be able to make some serious progress on this project.  In the meantime, I will continue to seek a balance, and learn the lessons afforded to me by men like Ellory.