Blog series: Asian Americans on Youtube (Part 1-Intro)

November 18, 2010 at 6:24 am 3 comments

Left to right: Wesley Chan (WongFu), Ryan Higa (NigaHiga), Kevin Wu (Kevjumba), Phillip Wang (WongFu)

“WongFu, Nigahiga, Kevjumba”

To some, these words may sound like nothing more than some arbitrarily constructed usernames for email/AIM accounts. But to a growing community of tech-savvy APIs (Asian Pacific Islanders), these pseudonyms represent a movement that has been building a strong following within the remarkably short span of the past five years — the YouTube generation.

The usernames mentioned above — and the “virtual celebs”[1] behind them — can credit their popularity to the ever-popular YouTube, a video-sharing site created in 2005.[2] They are only three of the numerous artists, comedians, and actors, who use the Internet to propagate their productions and garner a fan base – all without the aid of traditional mainstream media.

Sound familiar? Earlier this semester (around Week 5), our class was introduced to a similar movement that developed in the absence of mainstream support – the early Asian American documentaries that signaled the nascence of Asian American independent films. Acclaimed Asian American filmmaker Renee Tajima makes this interesting observation about these initial stages: “Asian American filmmaking has evolved parallel to a great cultural transformation.”[3] 1960s and 1970s filmmaking mirrored the urgency and idealistic qualities of the Asian American political movement. The 1980s also reflected the political/cultural atmosphere in the Asian American community. The professionalization of activism of the 80s can also be seen in filmmakers’ focus on quality and skills attainment.[4] This makes me wonder about the cultural transformation that is driving/concurring with this rise in Asian American entertainers’ and artists’ presence (such as WongFu, NigaHiga, and KevJumba) on YouTube.

In a series of several blog posts, I hope to explore the impact that YouTube/Internet has had on Asian American media and how it reflects the cultural pulse of today’s API community.  Having been an early subscriber to these virtual celebrities who seem to be leading a transformation in they ways Asian Americans consume/participate in media, it will be interesting to form my own analysis of the new Asian American YouTube generation.

Reference:

Tajima, Renee. “Moving the image: Asian American independent filmmaking 1970-1990.” Moving the Image: Independent Asian Pacific American Media Arts. Ed. Russell Leong. Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center and Visual Communications, 1991. 10-39.


[1] http://iamkoream.com/cover-story-youtube-stars/

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube

[3] Tajima 1991, p. 10

[4] Tajima 1991, p. 14

Posted by: Jasmine Kim

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Comments on The Film Festival Project A Brief History of Asian American Film Festivals (Film Festival Report Part 1)

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. asianamericansinmedia  |  November 23, 2010 at 6:40 pm

    Hello!

    As discussed via our emails I sent you your comments in Word via Track Changes.

    Thanks for the help,
    Ryan

    Reply
  • 2. asianamericansinmedia  |  November 23, 2010 at 9:48 pm

    Your decision to situate your project on the blog is a strategic one. In exploring the role of Asian Americans in video sharing sites like YouTube, it makes a lot of sense to do your project in a web 2.0 format. I look forward to you utilizing the capabilities of the blog to link, embed, network your future posts in your investigation of Asian Americans’ roles in this new medium.

    In your first post, you wrote: “Asian American filmmaking has evolved parallel to a great cultural transformation.”[3] 1960s and 1970s filmmaking mirrored the urgency and idealistic qualities of the Asian American political movement. The 1980s also reflected the political/cultural atmosphere in the Asian American community. The professionalization of activism can also be seen in filmmakers’ focus on quality and skills attainment. [4] This makes me wonder about the cultural transformation that is driving the rise in Asian American entertainers’ and artists’ presence (such as WongFu, NigaHiga, and KevJumba) on YouTube.” – I think that is a really good question to ask, and the key question you should investigate for your project.

    Below, I have a few questions and comments based on this first blog:

    • Since Newscorp –Rupert Murdoch’s company – owns YouTube it is not exactly outside of mainstream media. Think about how it is similar and different to more familiar media forms such as television (Murdoch also owns Fox) and newspapers (he owns quite a number of those too)

    • Are these Asian American celebrities on YouTube all young men? If so, what is the significance? Why isn’t there young Asian American women, or older Asian Americans, who utilize YouTube in the ways these young men do?

    • How any posts do you plan to make?

    • What is your thesis (the question you asked above?)?

    • How will you structure your posts—by each Asian American YouTube celebrity? By genre? By particular events, trends, reactions to these Asian Americans on YouTube?

    Please come talk to me during my office hours or notify me via email when you have made more posts, I am more than happy to take a look at them and give you more feedback.

    Posted by Ming-Yuen S. Ma

    Reply
  • 3. asianamericansinmedia  |  November 23, 2010 at 10:59 pm

    Hello Jasamine!
    1) Excellent topic.
    2) Too much of the opening rests on the idea that YouTube is somehow not part of mainstream media. This is fundamentally incorrect.
    3)Perhaps you could make a better point by arguing that although YouTube is popular and part of common media consumption, its content is userbased and by extension free off mainstream media promises/ideas. Then again, are the users themselves anymore free then those who produce under the Studio system. Aren’t they all eventually accountable not only to themselves but to the public? Is failure on youtube public or private?
    4) How do you plan to measure YouTube’s impact on mainstream media/Asian Americans?
    5) I have a lot of books on YouTube I am going to bring into Class Tuesday. If you would like to see them earlier call me at 323-901-8426.
    6) The tone of your blog is refreshing; this is something I would actually read, outside of class.
    7) Be brave but reserved, don’t say anything without evidence.
    8) Youtube means increased exposure but not necessarily increased freedoms.

    Reply

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