Alex Juhasz taught a course about YouTube last term at Pizer College, a small liberal arts school in California. As she explains below, Juhasz and her students adopted novel strategies for not simply engaging with YouTube content but also for using the YouTube platform to communicate their findings to a world beyond the classroom.
What YouTube is not:
What limitations did you discover about Youtube as a vehicle for critique and analysis?
My hope that the students would be able to see and name the limits of this site as a place for higher education were quickly met. By the mid-term, we could effectively articulate what the site was not doing for us. Our main criticisms came around these four structural limitations: communication, community, research, and idea-building. We found the site to inexcusably poor at:-allowing for lengthy, linked, synchronous conversation using the written word outside the degenerated standards of many on-line exchanges where slurs, phrases, and inanities stand-in for dialogue.
-creating possibilities for communal exchange and interaction (note the extremely limited functionality of YouTube's group pages, where we tried our best to organize our class work and lines of conversation), including the ability to maintain and experience communally permanent maps of viewing experiences.
-finding pertinent materials: the paucity of its search function, currently managed by users who create the tags for searching, means it is difficult to thoroughly search the massive holdings of the site. For YouTube to work for academic learning, it needs some highly trained archivists and librarians to systematically sort, name, and index its materials.
-linking video, and ideas, so that concepts, communities and conversation can grow. It is a hallmark of the academic experience to carefully study, cite, and incrementally build an argument. This is impossible on YouTube.