Monday, June 15, 2009

oh dear

This is entirely terrible, I know I know I know. Written for some English class a long time ago.

Two Brothers, One Video Blog: A Whole New Kind of Society

Everyone knows what YouTube is; mention it to any teenager, and they’ll most likely give you a long list of videos you’ve gotta see. The popular video site is host to millions of videos, with tens of thousands more being uploaded every day. Though at first glance, the site may seem a repository of TV show clips and videos of drunk guys lighting firecrackers, YouTube fosters a sense of interaction and of community, giving anyone with internet access the ability not only to view the lives of others, but also to influence and participate in them. There is no better example of the utilization of YouTube to the ends of building a community than that of Nerdfighters, the group of people inspired, organized, and founded by brothers John and Hank Green.

In December of 2006, John proposed the idea of starting a video blog, or vlog, on YouTube as an alternate means of communicating. Because the two lived far from each other (at the time, John was living in New York and Hank in Montana), they relied mostly on textual forms of communication, and “because it was always done while they were doing other things,” their relationship was not strong, and they “never really connected.” They decided to stop all textual communication and to instead confer through daily video blogs for the whole of 2007, Hank uploading a video one day and John the next, Monday through Friday. They titled the project “Brotherhood 2.0”.

At first they talked back and forth mostly to themselves, but, as their viewership grew, the project evolved into an interactive society of John and Hank responding to their viewers’ comments and video responses. In mid-February, John named Brotherhood 2.0 followers Nerdfighters, a name he mistakenly took a video game’s title to be (it was actually called Aero Fighters).

Throughout the project, John and Hank initiated ideas or challenges that the whole community latched onto and fully participated in. This is one of the interesting, innovative sides of virtual communities. The instant adoration of and dedication to any suggestion put forth by the brothers reveal an interesting aspect of community: that people are much more apt to participate and fully engage in something when someone else takes initiative first. People like to be led and are happy to go along with someone they admire or respect. It has been frequently brought up in discussions that the Nerdfighter community is strikingly similar to a cult in many ways. Many Nerdfighters pledge their undying allegiance to the brothers and community and adopt a whole way of life according to what Hank and John deem important.

John and Hank have definitely realized and harnessed the power that they have acquired through their fans. They have set up a PayPal account to accept donations for charities; they have organized a “secret project for awesome” in which hundreds of viewers created videos promoting their favorite charities. When one viewer decided to quit college and fly to Bangladesh to use his saved up money to buy food and supplies for the people there, John and Hank spotlighted his efforts and donated money themselves, spurring the Nerdfighters to do the same. When the brothers see another Nerdfighter doing something awesome, they mention and support their efforts on their vlog, thus spurring other Nerdfighters to get involved in their projects. Hank and John have inspired dozens of similar channels which have also gained large viewerships, creating communities within communities.

It is wonderful that the brothers have used the opportunities they’ve acquired for good; they could have just as easily made the project all about themselves, for their own gain. Instead, they have created a community in which other people have been inspired to do something to make the world a better place. They’ve inspired to be more accepting of others, to be more generous, and to have pride in who they are.

The community the Green brothers have created has continued to grow. Nerdfighters are sincere, inspiring, dedicated, and driven viewers. Yet they are not merely viewers, but participants, members of an online family who support and help those in need, who band together to do awesome things, who share a common ideology that the world has the potential to be a great place and that it is up to them to make it that way.

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