Michael Wesch and being initiated into the politics of authenticity

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Michael Wesch, Professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University, explains how YouTube culture is moving us toward a politics of authenticity. It’s one of the best talks I’ve heard in ages and rings absolutely true.

Michael Wesch talks about how our conversations are mediated, whether on Twitter or on YouTube. He focusses on context collapse:

“When you are presenting yourself to another person in face to face conversation, you are presenting a certain version of yourself. And we all have many different versions of ourselves that we bring forth in different contexts. But when you’re facing the camera, you’re imagining the possibility of 1.4 billion people on the planet who might see this. You don’t actually know who you are talking to, or when, or in what context. And so it creates this version of context collapse, which forces a certain amount of self-awareness and self-consciousness.”

It’s really quite intimate, which forces you to be or become authentic.

I think you can be 100% professional and yet 100% authentic. At least that is what I’d like to be, and what I really enjoy in my colleagues.

This whole idea of public authenticity reminds me a lot of the Pietist movement of the 18th century, which I wrote my thesis in History on. The Herrenhuter Brüdergemeine, known in the States as the Moravians, invented the personal narrative, which essentially logged a pious person’s “path” from being a “poor sinner” to being “awakened” and becoming and living as a member of this utopian religious community. Every narrative culminated in the description of the final illness and death written by the others who belonged to that community. My focus was on the women’s personal narratives. While the model was standardized, the whole community was infused with a sense of excitement. Over time, the personal narratives developed a style of their own, with clear rules, just as the online community has developed (understood, yet more and more explicit) rules of behavior (blogroll, linking). I see a lot of similarities to today’s movement towards blogging.

The Pietist personal narratives contributed to the rise of the novel… and one can only wonder what blogs and vlogs will one day turn into.

PS: Welche deutschsprachigen Blogs muss ich unbedingt lesen?


4 Responses

  1. After several years online, I’m starting to change my mind: No matter which way you cut it, you do have to curate your face online, and to control what you show whom, and which part of other people’s lives you want to share in. Authenticity is not enough. We don’t live in an age of religious communality. These are highly competitive times, and online communications are always also personal marketing.

  2. I do not know whether it’s just me or if perhaps everyone else experiencing problems with your blog. It appears as if some of the text on your posts are running off the screen. Can somebody else please provide feedback and let me know if this is happening to them as well? This may be a issue with my internet browser because I’ve had this
    happen before. Kudos

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