Statement of Prof. Michael Wesch
Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography
Kansas State University
November 28, 2008
I am Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology and Digital Ethnography at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas. My research is focused on exploring the impact of new media on society and culture. More information about my publications and research interests can be found at my website, Mediated Cultures (http://mediatedcultures.net/ksudigg/).
As part of my research, I teach a course in digital ethnography and am the project director for the Digital Ethnography of YouTube project. Combining the efforts of both professors and students, the project has since 2007 simultaneously participated in and observed (a technique known as “participant observation”) the YouTube community. On June 23, 2008, I presented a talk entitled “An Anthropological Introduction to YouTube” at the Library of Congress describing some of the early insights gleaned from this research effort.95
During October and November 2008, the Digital Ethnography project examined two separate random samples of YouTube videos in an effort to roughly estimate how many YouTube videos are “remixes” that include clips taken from television or films.
Our October random sample consisted of 240 videos, of which 18 were remixes. Of the 18 remixes, half (9) involved clips that appear to have been taken from DVDs, and thus whose creation may have involved a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act’s prohibition on ripping DVDs. Although this sample suggests that only 7.5% of the videos uploaded to YouTube are remixes, and only 3.75% include clips taken from DVD sources, even these small percentages translate into large numbers of videos, given the enormous number of videos uploaded to YouTube. For example, 7.5% of YouTube videos translates into approximately 15,000 videos uploaded each day.
In November, we repeated our experiment and found 5 remixes that included movie clips in a relatively random sample of 240, suggesting that about 4,000 are uploaded every day. However, given the small number in our sample, the actual daily average is more likely to fall somewhere between 2,000 and 6,000.
Given the small sample sizes involved, these numbers are necessarily only suggestive. We would have to do several more studies before coming to firm conclusions regarding the overall number of movie-related remixes on YouTube. Nevertheless, based on these two samples, as well as my anecdotal experience with the Digital Ethnography project, I believe that there are large communities of YouTube users who regularly, albeit unintentionally, violate the DMCA’s ban on ripping DVDs in the course of creating original remixes.
The following constitute a sampling of established, popular YouTube remix genres and communities that are likely to fall into this category of unintentional DMCA violators:
1. Movie Trailer Remixes.
A search for “remix trailer” on YouTube returns more than 17,000 hits, and, based on analysis of a sample of these results, we estimate that there are probably about 13,000 of these posted on YouTube.
– Brokeback to the Future (viewed more than 5 million times)
– Scary Mary Poppins (viewed more than 7 million times)
2. Film Analysis.
There are probably about 10,000 of these, such as:
– Psychological Aspects of the Matrix
3. Movie Mistakes.
People like to share little inconsistencies, anachronisms, and other mistakes they find in the movies. It is hard to estimate how many of these there are. Here is an example:
– Movie Mistakes 1
– Harry Potter Movie Mistakes
4. Comic Juxtaposition Remixes.
The most popular of late would be the Downfall remixes (Hitler Remixes)
5. Political commentary.
People often borrow clips from movies and television to illustrate political points in various ways. Here is an example:
– Jeremiah Wright Illustrated with Movies
6. Political Criticism of Movies
Here are 2 examples:
– 300 Epithets
– Disney Racism
7. “YouTube Poop”
A small but thriving community making remixes that ape and mock the lowest technical and aesthetic standards of remix culture to comment on remix culture itself. For example:
– Youtube Poop: Arthur’s Massive, Throbbing Hit
95 The presentation can be viewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TPAO-lZ4_hU.