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09/05/2010 / Francesca Lyn

Deliberation: The Internet is a Bathroom Wall

Hess, Aaron (2009) ‘Resistance Up in Smoke: Analyzing the Limitations of Deliberation on Youtube’ Critical Studies in Media Communication

Basically, the ONDCP posted their videos and did not like the comments and rebuttals that youtube users had to say so they disabled comments. Hess examines this incident in a  study and states that “digital activism” should find another venue because of youtube’s tendency to invite ridicule. I hope you all will join me as I say “no duh”. I remember seeing most of these videos on television and finding most of them incredibly ridiculous. Interestingly, the one that Hess singles out as “Pete’s Couch” is also one that I found to be a more realistic anti-drug piece.  Anyway, aren’t a lot of people who idly watch youtube videos marijuana users?  I digress.

Recently, I have been following the case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani could be executed in Iran at any moment. One of my personal role models, Kelly Cutrone, happened to tweet about it yesterday. The story sounded vaguely familiar and I realized this is a woman who had ALREADY been lashed 99 times in 2006. A lot of international attention has been given to this case. Both videos are news clips on the case. The comments run the full gamut of people wishing support to people wanting to bomb Iran to people that feel she should be executed.

This case is similar to Hess’s in that it is a sticky, tar baby of an issue. It’s not something like a simple PSA to buckle your seatbelt – something that has a clear demonstration of how it will benefit the individual with little investment of the viewer and no perceived harm. The difference with this case is that the youtube community’s “out-law discourse” can only bring more attention to this issue. Stonings  in Iran have been halted because of public outcry. Youtube could very well play a part in saving this woman’s life.

I strongly disagree with Hess’s statement that “if citizens believe that YouTube is an ideal place for political deliberation, then they may not engage in other offline forms of democratic expression”. A tool can be useless in some hands while being powerful in others. Youtube is still a powerful tool for disseminating ideas and this will only help others get more motivated, online or offline. Right now, people are sending links to clips of the Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani case from twitter accompanied by pleas to sign petitions. Other clips I have found show activists protesting in other cities. These actions have the ability to bring about real social change.



Leave a Comment
  1. aflaten / Sep 8 2010 1:13 PM

    I think your point about Youtube being a useful tool in combination with other efforts is a valid one. It can’t just be an all or nothing utilization. Your example with Twitter fits perfectly. Twitter alone can be great as a sort of RSS feed of people you find interesting and influential, but it has its limits. Using Twitter as a method for sharing links to articles or Youtube videos allows the user to expand the limitations of both mediums and can lead to authentic deliberation, or at the very least awareness, of important issues.

  2. Mindy McAdams / Sep 8 2010 2:45 PM

    Both of these links go to the SAME video. (That’s not very good research, is it?)

    Also, you did not analyze the comments, which was the main point of this week’s bog post.

    Please note, “tar baby” can be offensive (although I don’t consider your use of it here to be offensive):,8599,1221764,00.html

  3. francescalyn / Sep 8 2010 7:00 PM

    A lot of words can be offensive when used to offend. I doubt very much that I would be pegged as a racist to African-Americans.

    “The comments run the full gamut of people wishing support to people wanting to bomb Iran to people that feel she should be executed.” Was I supposed to analyze individual comments? I thought a general overview of the issue and how the comments differ was what you were looking for.

  4. Mindy McAdams / Sep 8 2010 8:53 PM

    Well, about the analysis … the assignment says: “Following the example set by Hess (particularly on pages 422-429 of his article), discuss the responses both to the video and to the comments. Is your case similar to Hess’s or different, and how?”

    • francescalyn / Sep 9 2010 9:07 AM

      I think I did discuss how the case was different or similar to Hess’s but I guess I could have expounded further.

  5. Carol / Sep 9 2010 1:20 AM

    I totally agree with you about” A tool can be useless in some hands while being powerful in others.” I think that there are more and more cases about how online discussion influences activities in the real world. I just read an article about how immigrants in United States form group identity through online narratives and discourses; by sharing the same feelings and thoughts online, immigrants could even form a rally in the real world. It seems that people that have the same objectives and thoughts can easily form communities in real life through internet. It is surprising that the execution has been halted because of public’s opinion. I think the online discussion is one of the factors in contributing to this decision.

  6. clocke22 / Sep 9 2010 9:22 PM

    I agree, Hess was quick to dismiss the power of Youtube. I think the word “tool” is key because Youtube as tool or technology used to disseminate information is in fact very powerful and can help us reach democratic ideals. Hess focuses on deliberation only within Youtube, which while still worthwhile might only be the tip of iceberg because, as we touched on in class, many people use Youtube but never leave comments. I’d venture to guess that more people view videos than upload or comment, so that audience might be more valuable to study.

  7. morganyang / Sep 10 2010 12:41 PM

    Everything has two sides. I don’t quite agree with that YouTube can bea place for the deliberation of democracy. In the other hand, neithor do I agree that YouTube can’t be an Internet space that could have democratic discourses for people around the world. After seeing the video and the comments. One of my belief has been enhanced. The Internet and it’s access are controled by western world, or we can say by United State. This excution may be considered inappropriate. But just look at the comments, they didn’t hold a related fair perspective toward Islam world. I have worked as a volunteer for Amnesty International in Taiwan and have heard abobut this case. In my perspective, the excution is too barbaric; but let’s trying to think another way. The laws of Iran has been legistate for at least a period of time. Wouldn’t the people in Iran feel heart-wrenching when seeing this excution? The human right organization should not interfere the sovereignty of a country although their behaviors are considered outdate. The better way for them is to use opinion of that country to make the authority to face the problem.

  8. makeyourself270 / Sep 10 2010 1:21 PM

    I think you touch upon the problem in trying to pinpoint the usefulness of not only YouTube, but all of web 2.0. You mention twitter. If you ask several people who use the microblogging service what it is, you will get a variety of answers ranging from a place to post your feelings to the world to a conveniently mobile RSS feed. Web 2.0 technology is sometimes mistakenly analyzed as having a purpose, the fact is a veritable cornucopia of “purposes” exists for these technologies due to the different ways people use them by themselves and in combination. Do I think YouTube has the capacity to save this woman’s life? No. But does the combination of twitter’s instantaneous, viral, and mobile dissemination system in combination with YouTube’s capacity as a directly linkable amateur film archive have the potential to stir activism in massive groups of people online? Absolutely! And I believe it is that phenomenon that can in turn save her life.


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