Good News in Digital Age

Putting the new wine into new wineskins: facts and trends in hi-tech & communications, publishing & mass media which help to fulfill the Great Commission

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

GodTube - interesting facts and observations

By Allison Perlman, Penn State University:

Founded by Dallas Theological Seminary student and former CBS television producer Chris Wyatt, Christian website Godtube combines user-generated video, live webcasts (many of church services and ministries), and social networking opportunities. Godtube is a for-profit enterprise, earning revenue by accepting secular and religious advertising spots, charging subscription fees to ministries, and selling demographic data to marketers and media producers. The hundreds of videos that are uploaded each day first are approved by site administrators, mostly other seminary students, to ensure that all the content on the site is family-friendly. In these ways, Godtube falls outside of what we often think about when we think of alternative media: it embraces the commercial logics of mainstream media distribution and polices what constitutes acceptable content for its users to see. Godtube—in line with Christian cable networks, genre fiction, music—could be seen as an extension of the Christian media marketplace, one that sees Christians a vibrant consumer demographic.

Significantly, this video clip–which has been one of the most viewed and discussed on Godtube, as well as one of the most criticized—is one of four Mac-PC/Christ Follower-Christian parody ads on Godtube, each of which ridicules the notion that to be a follower of Christ is to participate in the ever-expanding Christian marketplace. Ironically, sites like Godtube could fall directly into the very type of media consumption eschewed in this video. Yet many of the comments following this clip reject its message and reinforce the dangers to the Christian community posed by the mainstream media. Importantly, many of the comments responding to the Christ Follower-Christian clip focus much more on the hostility of the mainstream to Christian values than to the virtues of Christian music itself; the outcome of this talk is not really the promotion of Christian music, but the presentation of Christians as the marginalized Other. Indeed, many of the more popular videos and comments on the site reinforce the idea that Christians currently are victims within a secular American culture who are in need of a forum like Godtube and of alternative forms of cultural expression.

It is in how users position Godtube—as a site that gives voice to a community that defines itself as often silenced, encourages social change, provides a forum for expression and participation to individuals who see themselves left out of mainstream discourses, and offers a critique of the limitations of the mainstream media—that tempts me to think of Godtube as a form of alternative media. It is the ubiquitous presence of advertising, the narrowness through which community is articulated and defined, and (to my mind) illegitimate expression of victimization that tempts me to reconsider.