Wednesday, 6 March 2013

A note about this blog

This blog gives a record of my micro-ethnographic research project on the documentary by Simon Shama - Mark Rothko.

The posts offer a time line of the activity. The tabs above, entitled 'Rizome' and 'Alloy' are my observations from a digital cultures perspective.

I also created a digital artifact in Thinglink

This task is not complete but in view of the time schedule it offers a first glimpse of what I felt was an exciting activity.

Monday, 4 March 2013


Some online communities may be too task-orientated (and therefore not 'social' enough) or might not stimulate sufficient interaction to develop 'group-specific'meanings, or they might be too divided and divisive to coalesce' (Baym 1998)

The question remains though if YouTube technology is promoting a disjunctive, disparate trend or if it reflects  our 21st century world, rooted in a contemporary zeitgeist of integration vs dis-integration, a constant dialectic that is driving us along towards 'progress'.

How does YouTube make money?

The online platform is driven by a business model.

Why can many individuals upload the same documentary and thus support a rhizomatic structure which is nurturing various 'gesellschaften' (Bell): In Schama's case there are many opinions, represented by the postings of many. The heterogeneity of the group promotes the underlying product-driven consumption. Here we have a documentary, produced by the BBC, enjoyed by a male audience in the US, Canada, and UK, aged between 34-64.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

YouTube community

'Thanks for being part of the YouTube community and for shaping what the site is today. We're looking forward to celebrating our fifth anniversary throughout the year and hope you'll keep watching, keep uploading, keep sharing, keep informing, keep entertaining, and keep discovering the world through video.'

Chad Hurley, Co-Founder & CEO, YouTube

If we take the YouTube vision, we are considering the platform that of an imagined community, a community characterised by detraditionalization, driven by innovation, disembedding time and place, surging towards a globalisation of experiences. (Bell)

Final part 7

This final part seems to receive a final push in comments, 188 in total, recent comments a month ago, with a number of interactions and the size of the comments larger than a few off the cuff remarks.

The increased volume of postings has an effect on the search-ability of the comments that were made 4 years ago, making them less visible, accessible. This results in a skewed view: old comments lost, no longer influencing opinion.

3 commentators in particular are engaging is a conversation, both under what I am assuming are real names. The discussion is not a pleasant one, has aggressive undertones, to some extent relating to the appreciating of Rothko. There is a frankness about it, no hiding behind fake names. Commentators now have an extended profile, Google/YouTube integrating online behaviour into directions that previously were far more private.


I started to look at the idea of creating an digital artifact. As posted in 'my other blog' I feel this is very rhizomatic. All the Schama documentary uploads (3 in total, an Italian version, and a number of edited versions) seem to literally sprout over time within the YouTube fertile environment, creating offshoots.

I thought it was apt to choose this image a background, bamboo being a rhizome too.

lack of community? part 6

At long last, one  commentator gives feedback on the disparate feel of these comments, over time, in place and on the subject.

The challenge of finding a common thread is obvious.

more discussions

part 5 continues along the same style as part 4, with the bulk of comments focusing on the implications of Rothko's work, reflecting on Schama's voice-over comments (the Seagram commission)

Most of the postings date back to between 1 and 2 years ago, although the most recent one was 4 months ago. Only 25 comments are noted. Top comments here were made 3 and 2 years ago.

Following all the comments from part 1 onward, direct exchange (i.e. in reply) is between 2 commentators, never in group. Posts may be the result though of reflective readings in general, but due to the time separation, it is not always clear how communication is affected. The nature of YouTube would make it difficult to have group discussion, unless viewers would actively engage at the same time.

Interestingly in this part, 2 commentators do not use pseudonyms.

Google/Youtube offers a personal profile on individuals, with a viewing profile of other YouTube uploads.


part 4 is offering some discussions and exchange on art history and even the weather. In this section of the programme, there seems a real exchange on views and opinions on Rothko.
Commentators seems to connect and offer opinion, mainly on the paintings. Discussions can be grouped over a period of time: some a year ago, another set 2 years ago.
Introductions between commentators include comments about the weather and location, informal chat, usually displayed when people meet in a more personal or synchronous setting.

Saturday, 2 March 2013


The asynchronous nature of the YouTube platform promotes some of the discontinuity: it is unlikely that comments made over a period of several years still resonate with the originator. What YouTube activates is the aggregation of these comments at anyone time, archiving as a historic artifact.

Opinion is not measured today but as a timeline.


As my investigation deepens and I research the next part of Schama's documentary, a feeling of dis-connecting, dis-engaging, dis-locating comes to my mind.

Increasingly, the YouTube community for this sample, impresses me as an incidental group of individuals.

Comments are a random mix of expressing political views, views about the actors used in the documentary, comments made by Schama, and on occasion Rothko, the artist, and Rothko, the Russian immigrant.

risky discussion

Part 2 of the Simon Schama documentary has, in my opinion a racist undertone. A few commentators highlight the Jewishness of both Rothko and Schama. Some of posts have been removed.

The tone of the post conversations matches in part Schama's reflection on the socioeconomic, political and racist conditions in Russia - Rothko emigrated when he was a boy.

In total 59 comments were made for this post, however some of the posts are repeated several times in the listings (technical error?)  and it is not always clear who is commenting on what.

Here how the community guidelines are applied is a fine balance between offensive remarks and the freedom of expression.

Many posts are characterised by heightened reflexivity, self-scrutiny and self-consciousness

person not found

person not found

Looking at the building of a community, YouTube cannot avoid people choosing an exit route.

I came across a conversation which I decided to further investigate. Clicking on the individual link, got me the page not found message, clicking back got me at the top of the conversation queue. Another example of fine disorientation

Friday, 1 March 2013


An alloy is a mixture of chemical elements, which forms an impure substance that has the characteristics of a metal. Alloys are made by mixing two or more elements; at least one of which being a metal. This is usually called the primary metal or the base metal, and the name of this metal may also be the name of the alloy. The other constituents may or may not be metals but, when mixed with the molten base, they will be soluble, dissolving into the mixture.

I was playing with the idea of using the idea of alloy as a metaphor for describing YouTube activity.