by James Dykstra
Alberta and Saskatchewan wildlife officials have been looking for poachers seen to shoot ducklings out of season and from inside their car. Quebec police accepted the surrender of a man who allowed his seven-year-old son, barely able to reach the pedals, to drive the family car. What do both of these tales have in common? Law enforcement officials became aware of the offence because video of the activities was posted on YouTube.
What’s it for?
What is YouTube? It is a free Internet site where people post videos for others to see. Predictably most of the videos are nothing terribly exciting. People make films of their lives in order to share them with friends and family. Some, like the videos by Common Craft, can help you learn about everything from Twitter to the American Electoral College. Other videos portray more vulgar parts of life, like the views of American radio shock jock Howard Stern. Still other videos are made by important people so they can share their views. Those people include President Barack Obama, the British Royal Family, and even the Pope.YouTube is a site where you can see videos portraying the most banal, the most vulgar and the most influential content that humanity can create.
YouTube's popularity has led to imitators. Some, like Vimeo or Yahoo Video, want a piece of the video pie and will allow you to post almost anything on their site much like YouTube does. Others, including sites like TeacherTube set up for the education community, and GodTube (now called Tangle) which was established as a place for Christians to post videos, want to cut through the video clutter and vulgarity of YouTube and accept only videos on educational or religious themes respectively. Still other sites like TED.com, inspired by the power of YouTube video, have posted video on their own sites and bring you some of the world's most important thinkers in short talks as much as twenty minutes long.
Time to put up
Video is everywhere on the Internet, but why should it matter to you? Almost everyone has been told by their parents, or told their own kids, that we shouldn't go to movies, or watch TV because most of the content is suspect or even blasphemous. When my parents would tell me that, I always asked why Christians didn't set up their own TV station or make their own movies. My parents told me it was too expensive and Christians couldn't possibly manage to do that. But now they can do something very similar.
To make a video is a fairly simple process:
1) Film it – First you need a video camera and, depending on what you're doing, it doesn't have to be expensive. It could be a cheap webcam for a stop-motion video, a video shot with your digital camera, or something a little more polished with a high definition video camera worth a few hundred dollars.
2) Edit it – If you have a computer, you already have simple video editing software. If you've got a PC you have Movie Maker, and if your computer is a Mac you likely own iMovie.
So for hundreds of dollars, or even for tens if you're frugal, you could make a simple video and post it on YouTube. It may not be the quality of a television show or a movie you'd see at the theatre, but it is something that hundreds and even thousands of others can now see.
You have this ability, so what do you do with it? Christians often cry that the media will not accurately portray what they think about homosexuality, seven-day creation, independent schools, or abortion. They complain that the media has an anti-Christian bias and it's impossible to get the Christian message out to the masses without it being distorted.
The media may have an anti-Christian bias, but we can get the message out there. We have the tools to make simple videos, and, with practice, we can make them quite appealing and very sophisticated. And YouTube offers us a way to put the video on the Internet.
If we are creative, we can draw people's attention to the video we made. We could take out an ad in the paper, paste posters up in our neighborhood, write an article about it on our blog, or call our local community paper and offer to write a story about it. The great
part is that as your video becomes popular, YouTube itself may feature the video on its front page listing of popular videos. This, of course, draws more attention to your video and makes it even more popular.
YouTube is not just about vulgar, silly, or unimportant videos. It's about a fundamental shift in power. Previously the mainstream media could choose to publish our views or not, accurately or inaccurately. Now the excuse that the media hates us is gone. We, as Christians, have the power to make our views on important issue available on sites like YouTube. The opportunity to get our message to the ends of the earth is right there waiting for us. Are we up to the challenge?
James Dykstra is a history and computer teacher.
Reformed Perspective - September 2009