Digital Dreaming: Reading YouTube

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Northeast Modern Language Association
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Panel for the 2012 NeMLA Conference in Rochester, NY (March 15-18, 2012):

Celebrity game-designer Will Wright has described the video-sharing website YouTube as a window into "the collective dreams of the world." As grandiose as this description may be for a site that consists mostly of videos of cute kittens and skateboarding accidents, the experience of surfing YouTube does indeed recall the surreal juxtapositions, narcissistic pathos, conflations of public and private iconography, and sheer creative jouissance that characterize dreams. Like all dreams and other dream-like phenomena, YouTube presents provocative opportunities for examining the insight which the dream reveals about the dreamer and about the nature of dreaming itself. The objective of this panel is to explore critical approaches to YouTube. Although, in the wake of Egypt and Tunisia's Jasmine Revolutions, there has been much talk about the political effects of YouTube and similar sites, we are particularly interested in examining the videos themselves. What themes or tropes seem to predominate in these short videos? How does the YouTube subject re-territorialize private and public space? How is cultural material adapted and reappropriated in YouTube videos? What pedagogical advantages can be achieved by bringing YouTube into the humanities classroom? What are the possibilities and limitations of reading YouTube as a cultural text or as a collective dream? Please send abstracts of 250-300 words to Randy Laist ( by September 30, 2011.