#NetNarr Astronaut: Roaming the Underside of YouTube

from Wired Magazine


When you go to YouTube, you are often pulled into the homepage of videos that others have watched. You’re drawn by the activity of others, because the underlying algorithm suggests that the more eyeballs, the more interesting. Maybe. But what about on the other end of the spectrum? What about the videos that people post which gain no views or only a scattered few? The site Astronaut takes that idea and provides a way in, by showing you the videos with almost no views and with obscure video titles.

This is what it says on the homepage of Astronaut:

Today, you are an Astronaut. You are floating in inner space 100 miles above the surface of Earth. You peer through your window and this is what you see. You are people watching. These are fleeting moments.

I was drawn to that idea, of being the sole viewer of scattered videos, and such an interesting collection they were, too. Yes, there were puppy videos.

Always puppy videos:

But was also this tender video of a grandmother reading Knuffle Bunny to some faraway grandchild, using video to shorten the distance between family.

There this short shot of a machine, likely in some museum somewhere. The marble is up to something there.

And there was this beautiful musical performance to what seems to be a small audience, but whose audience now includes us:

What you quickly understand is the way that people all over the world, in all sorts of languages and visuals, are documenting their world, even when there is no real audience there for them to see. This is a view into the global humanity that you don’t see anywhere else, and it harkens back to the very first YouTube video of an elephant in a zoo (if I remember correctly).

In fact, this use of video for every documentary is the argument for YouTube as a human experience — it’s not that we expect polished productions or expertly edited videos. We still understand that the raw parts of life might be visible, and connect my life to yours, and our life to ours.

Using Astronaut is like flipping YouTube upside down, and seeing how average people are viewing the world through their lens, often through their mobile phones. Put on your helmet and float in.

Peace (upside down and inside out),


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