Once more, an individual has utilised youtube effectively to convey a political story in a personalised way. This emotional video puts the case for equal marriage, using real life tragedy to motivate people to act.
Despite being a simple, almost humble, video it does throw up many questions.
– Like the Kony 2012 video, this video is around 10 minutes long. It has had over 1 million views in two days, but how many of those people have watched from beginning to end?
– The video doesn’t employ speech until three minutes in. Does this run the risk of views skipping past important information?
– The video uses stills, footage (including point of view and webcam), text, happiness, sadness, cute animals and children. Are all of these appropriate? Does it get the balance right?
Personally, I think it is simple but very effective. In fact its simple nature makes it more real. The combination of up close web cam footage of a mourning Shane, and silent video camera footage of Shane and Tom as a laughing couple, works well. It highlights the dissonance between being together, and being alone. Between having someone to hold a camera for you, and having to do it yourself. Between the vocalisation of sadness, and the silence of a laughter that no longer has a voice.
This video not only points to society having responsibility. It directly exposes Tom’s family as homophobes who are ready to employ intimidation and threats of violence. Given the nature of the debate, I don’t doubt this account for a minute.
However if you abstract the principle of exposing people using social media and youtube from this particular case, therein lie ethical uncertainties.
-Could innocent people become victimised?
-Could people become the targets of hate campaigns, and possibly even violence?
– Is the degree of anonymity provided by social media a barrier to accountability?
I suppose with these questions we come back to one of the oldest debates surrounding the internet. It’s huge potential for good, and it’s huge potential for bad. The internet can drive accountability, and it can facilitate exploitation. Just as social media can mobilise for social change, and can facilitate bullying.
Clearly this video is an example of the former. What is also clear, is that the questions the video has generated, methodologically, and ethically don’t have definitive right or wrong answers, and aren’t going away any time soon.