Intrigued by the Time Magazine election of 'You!' as the personality of the year, I took a little holidays excursion to YouTube hoping that I would catch a glimpse of this so highly praized personality . On my admittedly rather small explorative journey into YouTube I came across video postings of a fellow country man, who calls himself 'JP'. He had only recently started his vlogs, and I caught his second one. Well, if this young man is only remotely representative of the 2006 personality, this personality had rather be called 'non personality'.
Though visually very present in close up, he remains a completely blank person. The most revealing information he discloses about himself is that he lives in the Netherlands - of which he shows a map - and that he is willing to answer questions about his country. He then plays three fragments of Christmas songs (by Bing Crosby, Wham!, and Elvis respectively) and then confesses that he's not sure whether to decorate his house for Christmas and asks his viewer for suggestions. He ends his video with a little tour through his scarsely furnitured appartment and then says goodbye.
Since JP is representative for what is called blogging, vblogging and socializing on the Internet nowadays, I will not reveal his name or URL (you can probably find his vlogs pretty easily yourself or you will recognize the sort of video I'm talking about). For me JP is the paradigm example of what the so called digital revolution has brought about. The main result of that revolution is a desire to manifest oneself on the Internet, to be seen and heard, and to get in touch with other likeminded 'internauts'. However, equiped with a 'real camera' (JP makes a point of not having recorded his film with a webcam), a YouTube account, a computer and an Internet connection, JP finds out that he really has got nothing to say. The musical instruments he proudly shows - a guitar and an electronic keyboard - are probably just like his computer objects that symbolize his desire as much as his uncapacity of personal expression. The central piece of his room is a couch, in which JP, as he says, usually watches television.
That's the whole point of this story, I'm affraid. In spite of all the promisses that new media would release the hidden or repressed creative potential of ordinary people, this 'democratization' only taught those common people and us, new media gurus, that they really had not that much to say. Many videos on YouTube are either straightforward forms of viral advertising, spoofs or pastiches, emulations of mainstream media, or re-enactments of longstanding quarrels such as the one between the Mac and PC fanbases, or digital editions of long time honored home movies such as the little girl singing Christmas carols. Just as JP tries to move around his couch and tv set, sites as YouTube, MySpace, or Hyves (in the Netherlands) cannot really get around the fact that these sites are alle a big cry for professionally made entertainment to fill the daily empty lives of the common people who are at loss in the vast ocean of high tech interactive communication systems where they really don't know what to say, what to show, and what to communicate. Sites as YouTube do not pose a real threat to the old broadcast media, but are rather a reason for relief because they beg for more tv.