Deliberation: Recycle or Not?

The BP oil spill crisis raises public awareness of environment pollution and protection again. Its continuous expansion is reported as “the greatest environmental disaster in United States history”. I set up “environmental protection” as the key words to search for video clips on YouTube in order to look up how the Internet audience react to environmental-related topics, whether the respondents’ attitudes are supportive or not.

The item “Recycling ROCKS” bases on the campus life in University of Washington. It talks about how the college students, because of carelessness, neglect the appropriate ways to recycle the recycled, but treat paper, cans, and bottles as regular, non-recycle waste. I think the video is designed to call on people to throw the recyclable trash in the right trash bin labeled as recycle.

There are 5 video responses in total and both of them support the idea of recycling by offering the same kind of content, so no parody and no pastiche. With respect to the comments, the voices vary. For example, jeff**** commented as “recycling is a solution to a problem that does not exist”; name**** criticized “Recycling isn’t a free lunch and contribute its own pollution… recycling alone will not solve the problem”. These comments can be explained by Hess’ perspective that “YouTubers may struggle against the dominant logic” (p. 417), but “they have goals that are in a broad sense the same as that of dominant culture”(p. 418). On my understanding, YouTubers are not opposing environment protection, they just blame the industry and desire an effective way to achieve the goal, such as “food manufactures should be forced to got rid of their own rubbish” (wedrink****); “all the while recycling gives us the illusion of doing our part while not putting a hole into their single serve profits” (name****). However, in general the dissenters’ tones are less intense than those in Hess’ study, and there is not obvious political implication in this case.

The second video is a campaign ad for EPA’s (Environmental Protection Agency) video competition. The main idea is “EPA is sponsoring a video competition to highlight the power of your actions on the environment”, and the winners will be rewarded by $2,500. Because of its rival nature, most of the 195 video responses (that’s too many so I didn’t view all of them, among the responses I picked up I didn’t find anything in an opposite or ironic tone) are entries which contents are how people manage their daily stuff to save the environment, save the planet and save us.

Just the same as ONDCP, EPA is an agency of the federal government of US, thus the case is much more similar to the Hess’ results. On the one hand, it’s easy to find a “money trail” in the comments: “EPA is sponsoring a video to highlight [THEIR] actions on our environment… and your wallet” (term****); “What a crock. Now the government is giving away tax payer money to agree with them. This government need to stop spending and recycle itself be its to late for all of us”(cow****). These two responses are in line with Blahinhawaii’s comment in Hess’ case (“Blahinhawaii finds it offensive that the government collects taxes and use money to fund a drug war”, p. 419). On the other, Hess didn’t mention whether the ONDCP officer who uploaded the 8 commercials answered the questions raised by YouTube community or not. But in this EPA one, there is a dialogue between the publisher and the viewers. The video publisher not only solves the problems like “just wondering if my video made it as a response” (rob****), but also promotes the competition by saying “The rule has been updated… anything in between (30-60s) is okay”.

At last I have a question, is it ethical for Hess to use the YouTubers’s usernames directly? Although they are nicknames in cyberspace, there could be some personal identification behind those IDs.


~ by luckymaggie on September 5, 2010.

10 Responses to “Deliberation: Recycle or Not?”

  1. Your citation of Hess’s comment “YouTubers may struggle against the dominant logic,” really resonates with me. Are these people going against the mainstream ideas because they think there is something profoundly wrong with the basis of science or social policy? Are they constantly attacking the norm because YouTube is their only outlet to free and open speech? Or are they just being jerks would like to challenge authority anytime they see it?

    I think we can contribute the tone of YouTube comments to the forum and the anonymity of the whole thing. Even if your handle indicated your identity you still get to hide behind the veil of a computer screen.

    And, in my opinion, it was not wrong for Hess to use the handles of the commenters. When you post something in a public space, you have to expect that anyone can read it. And, if anyone can read the comment and handle on YouTube, why wouldn’t the same rules of protocol apply in a printed publication?

  2. Like you, I found little parody or pastiche regarding my topic of texting while driving. I’m not sure if this had anything to do with the violent/depressing nature of my topic or if, at the time of my search, there were no videos posted parodying my topic. I liked the juxtaposition of your first and second videos. I found your second video about the EPA to be interesting, especially your question regarding whether or not the posters of the ONDCP videos ever responded to the questions posed to them before that feature was disabled. The back-and-forth dialogue between posters of the subject and commenters may complicate Hess’ belief that YouTube cannot be used as a democratic forum for discussion.

    Also, I don’t think it’s wrong of Hess to use the web IDs of the commenters. I agree with Megan that once you post on a public forum, you should be aware that your expectation of privacy is limited.

    • Not a problem =) Yes I think you’re right that using online IDs is not the same ethical issue as other qualitative field studies. We should expect that we would loss privacy to certain extent. I guess parody or pastiche might be a little difficult and time-consuming for the majority of viewers to create thus most of us choose to respond by just leaving a comment, but not modifying the original video with “crude humor” or something in a similar way.

  3. Sorry I posted so many times…not sure what happened! The first comment is the final one I meant to post. Thank you!

  4. Why did you write their YouTube names with **** ? That seems strange, and it is not necessary to “protect” them, if that was your intention! 🙂

    Your first video is a good example of an “issue video,” but your second video is not. Because it is advertising a contest, it is not presenting an issue about which the commenters might then debate or deliberate. It’s very cool that so many video responses were posted! (I do not blame you for not watching every one!)

    HOWEVER … of course these videos were NOT adversarial or oppositional!! It was a contest for positive videos, so OF COURSE they were all positive!

    • In the beginning I thought use the IDs directly was involved in kind of ethical issue so I tried to hide their information… but the comments by classmates remind me that online privacy is different from what we have learned in the fields of traditional media.
      I realize the second video is not a good example of illustrating an issue… after all it’s about a contest. When I decided to pick it up I just found the comments were similar to those in Hess’ study because it mentioned taxes, and it revealed the anger of some viewers. Next time I’ll pay more attention to the requirements and try my best to meet them all!

  5. Comments for blog2

  6. I like that you chose an issue to compare to Hess’s study that also had videos created because of governmental funding. Also, recycling campaigns seems to be the sort of broad issue that is more like the drug prevention issue than a localized problem. However, I wonder if their are any anti-recycling or parody videos? It would have been interesting if your second video was something anti-recycling or maybe you found evidence of some sort of recycling satire.

    I also wondered about the ethics of using someone’s username. The concept of anonymity is a very interesting one but someone with a username is not exactly anonymous. I hope we can discuss this more in class.

  7. I think you did a really good job comparing responses of your choosing videos with that of Hess’s, especially the part describing the “struggle against dominant logic”. Although it’s not obvious in my case study, there is definitely a tendency of doing so. In the cyber space, people are disguised under various usernames, which made some of them feel less responsible for what they are saying. We discussed anonymity in class, maybe there is another way to look at this. I rarely make comments in the cyber space, for I think people become less objective, more radical online. How can you discuss a serious problem with someone who couldn’t think objectively? For instance, if someone say something good about the Japanese in a Chinese forum, he or she is definitely gonna get lots of negative comments. Hess made his point, but i do not agree with his conclusion that YouTube is too entertaining for serious topics. There are obviously tons of great responses out there despite the less objective ones.

    For your question, I think the comments above have already solved it. Honestly, it’s hard for me to tell what’s ethical and what’s not, either, since we don’t teach these in China.

    • I totally agree with you that people become less objective online and this could be a reasonable explanation for why Internet surfers do not discuss in a serious way. I think there is a spiral of silence: when the vast majority holds the same opinion, or at least similar opinions, a few people who have different voice choose to be silent or cater to the others’ appetites.
      I think Mindy mentioned the anonymity in China during the class. In several college-based BBSs, students are required to fill their profiles with REAL personal information. That means, although students can leave any post or comment in a nickname, but the administrators still have access to their real IDs.

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