Virtual Grandad – thoughts on context

December 13, 2006 § Leave a comment

Recently I read a story in the New Yorker It should happen to you: The anxieties of YouTube fame. The article introduced me to Peter, a widower born in 1927 who has been uploading video snippets telling his life story.

“………He was wearing a beige V-neck sweater and glasses, and sat in front of nineteen-seventies-era wallpaper and a small painting of a motorcycle. “Oh, yes, and, incidentally, I really am as old as I look,” he said. “What I hope I’ll be able to do is just bitch and grumble about life in general from the perspective of an old person who’s been there and done that.”

His video was highlighted by the YouTube team and now has a following of mainly young YouTube watchers. Touchingly he has become, if a little reluctantly, a virtual grandad to some of his fans who actually send him letters telling him so. At the time of writing geriatric1927’s latest video on YouTube is THE ROLE OF “GRANDAD” in which he tells an evocative story about his relationship with his own Victorian era grandparents.

Peter’s video’s would not be watched by the majority of under 20’s who belong to the YouTube community in other contexts, such as television. Programmers would not sell it as content for that age group, but judging from the comments and the amount of subscribers Peter has that demographic are actually pretty interested in knowing what he has to say. Museums as cultural and heritage custodians will no doubt collect these videos as historical documents? How will they display them to museum visitors? Should they be sending out content of their own into contexts such as YouTube, in some cases they already are but it is still at a novelty/experimental level. The possibilities seem huge for cultural institutions to connect in new ways with their public and also collect the knowledge that their public is creating en masse.

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