THE CHANGING WORLD AROUND ACADEMIA:

THE YOUTUBE INFLUENCERS GENERATION AND SKILLSHARE AS DIRECT COMPETITION TO TRADITIONAL ACADEMIA

Back in 2018 while investigating mini-course design for several of the majors in the Behavioral Sciences Division, I started to look more closely at YouTube as an educational platform.  Major YouTube presenters are labeled “Influencers” which accurately reflects their ability to motivae and shape their audience, a classic example of the parasocial bond in the digital 21st century.  A fact which appears to be intentionally avoided by traditional academic entities is that these influencers frequently have 1 million subscribers—not just people that watch an occasional YouTube post, but who have voluntarily subscribed to see all of the posts.  The key is that a global voluntary audience is choosing to consume material presented by a single individual, usually on a specific theme or topic.  Given that a significant proportion of YouTube videos have some sort of learning/training component, this shows that millions of viewers see specific YouTube influencers as sources of knowledge and information, in other words educators.  The generation now coming into higher education has been raised on this free-to-choice pool of educators and their view of quality education has been shaped by this experience.  It is worth noting that with the widespread adoption of revenue platforms such as Patreon [https://www.patreon.com/] YouTube influencers can develop significant revenue streams.

To better understand how YouTube Influencers effectively educate I conducted a selective text analysis on 18 in-depth interviews on the YouTube channel “Video Influencers Site” in 2018.  A number of the top influencers have been interviewed by the hosts and provide insight into what makes a successful YouTube channel.  There was a striking pattern of very similar responses from the various influencers even though their channels cover a wide range of topics.  While some of these key points have been used in traditional higher education, others have been lacking as part of institutional strategies.

Key Points repeated throughout the various interviews:

  • Effective Influencers are Experiential—you must base your work on what motivates and drives you.  Artificiality will immediately be picked up by the audience, and they will leave.  Posting your experiences= authenticity.  Vloggers are perfect cases in point [Ben Brown/Casey Neistat vlogs as examples].
  • Success is due to a combination of effort/time put in, being true to your passion [internal honesty] and serendipity/fortuitous (though most downplay the last).  Influencers like the view that if you put the time/effort/authenticity in, then success is given or at least you are self-rewarded.
  • They strongly believe that everyone has something unique worth sharing and of interest to others—validated and defined by deep emotional instincts.  Viewers want conviction and emotional motivation.
  • Emotions rule on YouTube, not training/knowledge/credentials—those only support the opinions/material driven by emotional commitment.
  • Passion Rules.  Viewers respond directly to perceived passion–again experiential, personalized.  For example you’re not an archaeologist, you are Mortimer Wheeler who loves being an archaeologist and doing archaeology and wants to share his/her passion.
  • Training is driven and motivated by Passion, so training is passion-specific.
  • Presenters only need skills linked to passion, not on certification/credentials.
  • Audience “can feel/sense/respond” to Passion.
  • Content is driven/filtered by Passion (emotional not intellectual).
  • Knowledge is background support that adds to the Passion but knowledge has no abstract relevance.  Many of the Influencers noted that terms like “you will eventually need this” or ”Lifelong Learning” is not relevant on YouTube unless it is grounded in your Passion.  Knowledge acquisition is based on unique personalized set of criteria and interests.
  • Influencers have a very Calvinist value set—you must work hard-put your time in, due diligence, pay your dues.  Effort is rewarded and only effort counts.  Note again the dominance of emotion-passion-commitment and the lack of relevance of knowledge, training or certification.
  • In many ways YouTube Influencers are the opposite of Japanese concepts of ikigai and it’s socially driven model.  YouTube Influencers don’t operate within a network of constraints [do you have the training/certification to make these statements].  Emotion-passion justifies the material and is specifically grounded in a me/self-first orientation.  Obligation and responsibility towards others are only filtered within the context of self-defined goals and need satisfaction.  Frequent use of slogans like “follow your dreams”, “discover yourself” and “self gifting” by Influencers is common.  Emotion and passion legitimize content.

Skillshare and related educational-training platforms:

Running parallel to (and often directly linked in comments) to YouTube educational channels are short-term/limited content sites such as Skillshare [https://www.skillshare.com/] which market themselves and an alternative to traditional teaching.  In this model revenue streams are controlled by the platform (Skillshare) which also vets the teacher and acts as a quality-control monitor.  The “Skillshare Teacher Handbook” offers valuable insight both into trends in contemporary education and also clarifies the direction traditional Higher Education has to move towards:

“All classes on Skillshare need to meet the following criteria.  If they don’t, they may be removed by our curation team.

  • Faster Learning for the Sake of Learning: We support authentic, inspired learning: all classes on Skillshare are, first and foremost, educational.  Classes help students to expand their knowledge, flex their creative muscles, and have genuine interactions in the community…
  • Meet Standards for A/V Quality: The audio in your class must be clear and easy to understand…video must be steady and high resolution…
  • Must Be Project-Based: We believe in learning by doing…all Skillshare classes are project-based…
  • Minimum Standards for Length: Classes must be at least 10 minutes long…
  • Include Introduction Videos…
  • Include Well-Organized Content: Great instruction requires great structure…
  • Vary Visual Presentation: You class should contain varied visuals throughout…
  • Share Value: You should impart expertise through tips, best practices, frameworks, concepts, theory, and/or examples…
  • Teach Clearly: Your teaching should be clear, professional, authentic, and engaging.”

Specifics for Individual Classes:

“Excellent classes are also:

  • Demystifying: The class is insightful and accurate, not superficial.  The teacher has a high subject matter expertise.  A variety of information is presented.  The teacher speaks to audience with warmth and respect…uses references to personal experiences and/or examples.
  • Actionable: The teacher situates insights in a wider context.  Students are empowered with strategies, not a step-by-step. They learn how to do a new kind of thing.  The class emphasizes a technique for framework to empower students.  Lessons include examples… There is a clear and engaging project prompt.
  • Well-Organized: The class contains clear signals and sequences.  The pace matches the level.  The class includes clear lesson titles.  ‘Concept Bookends’ frame sections with intros and recaps.  Lesson sequences demonstrate progress.
  • Clear Value Proposition: The class includes clear titles, takeaways, and target audiences.  A clear class title, description, and intro that identify who the class is for.  The class delivers what it promises…
  • Compelling: The class is visually dynamic and inspiring.  The class includes regular visual changes.  The class has a motivational style.  Lessons are cohesive and inspiring. (From Skillshare [https://www.skillshare.com/] Teacher Handbook 12/3/20).

Skillshare and the related educational platforms postdate YouTube’s growth of popularity and have built on it.  But they also share many key elements for success, as all require voluntary investment from students rather than depending on social-group pressure underlying traditional Higher Education. 

These new educational platforms are part of a new wave of challenges facing the traditional Higher Education system and specific academic programs such as our Behavioral Science Program which we will need to embrace and respond to grow in the near future.  We have to apply much of this pedagogical model to the concepts and topics central to our courses, to act as a lure to draw in potential new students.  The key advantage to the YouTube and Skillshare approaches is that almost the entire cost is upfront, as once the videos are posted they run on various digital platforms, so other than tweaking to improve presentation there are limited additional expenses to reach a potential audience of billions.

Palolo-Pukele Stream Cultural History Project

We have just started a new project (at least as of January 2020) examining the past and present cultural patterns in Palolo Valley, with emphasis on the Pukele Stream area. This is a spin-off of the agricultural planting project started by our colleagues at St. Louis School.

The campuses of Saint Louis School and Chaminade University of Honolulu are located on the slopes of Kalaepōhaku, within the area of Pālolo Valley. While the campus (then of Saint Louis School) moved to Pālolo in 1927-28, there has never been any comprehensive historical, biological or cultural study done of Pālolo Valley. In 1993 a series of papers by graduate students in American Studies at Univ. of Hawai’I Manoa looking at various aspects of Palolo was published, edited by Katherine Tehranian (1993 A Study of Palolo Valley: Ethnicity, Class, and Social Identity).  A historical survey of Kaimukī was published by John Takasaki in 1979 (Hawaii Journal of History) which mentions some sections of Pālolo, but that is the extent of overall survey material to date.

As Saint Louis School and Chaminade University both seek to more closely align their academic goals with engagement with the local (Pālolo) community, the need for a comprehensive study of the past and present cultural landscape of Pālolo has become clear.

From the academic perspective, this allows faculty to engage students in meaningful place-based learning, which is central to the Native Hawaiian educational logic we support and encourage. This also provides a venue for faculty to engage in advanced research, based on their areas of expertise within a common research topic.

From the student’s perspective (at both secondary and university levels), this project is an opportunity to relate academic subjects and concepts to real-world scenarios based in their local community.

For the Pālolo community, this will provide detailed documentation of the past and current conditions in Pālolo Valley. This project will be a valuable resource for contemporary and future discussions about land use and decision making in Pālolo.

Social History:

Palolo was an ili in the ahupua’a of Waititi, moku of Honoruru, island of O’ahu in the pre-Contact period, usually under control of the Ali’I ai Moku (the last independent one being Kalanikupule).  In traditional Hawaiian land use the ili  was a specialized area within the ahupua’a which was the basic bounded land unit, one that provided most sustainable needs for the resident population.  This makes traditional Hawaiian land boundaries somewhat unique from those found in Eurasia or the Americas as it was based on resource and sustainability, a very practical environmentally-driven way to divide up the land.  Palolo was one of the areas contributing the food and resources of the population living in the ahupua’a of Waititi. 

This system started to change in the early Monarchy by the 1820’s with the depopulation of most areas due to disease and outmigration.  The most dramatic single change occurred with the application of the Mahele (1850s) which shifted control of land from ali’i to individual land owners. 

During the Mahele 32 Land Claim Awards (L.C.A.) were given within the ‘ili of Palolo.  By the late 1800’s the makai part of the valley had become a suburb of Honolulu with low-cost housing for those moving away from the plantation-based workplace into urban living in Honolulu.  The mauka portion of the valley (the Pukele side) was converted into “truck farming” providing produce to the growing Honolulu urban population. 

According to Jarrett Middle School, the first public golf course on Oahu was opened in the 1920s, was converted to War Emergency Housing in WWII as part of an airfield complex and eventually become Palolo Valley Homes.   With introduction of public housing along with new subdivisions such as the Carlos Long subdivision Palolo evolved into a complex multi-ethnic neighborhood with a very different ethos than that found in surrounding sections of Honolulu, with a higher population of lower socio-economic and new immigrant families than in neighboring Kaimuki or Manoa.  In the 1960-70s drug and gang activity centered around public housing gave the valley a stereotype of a “tough” neighborhood, and real estate values are lower in Palolo than Kaimuki or Manoa even in 2020.

CURRENT GOALS:

We are in the initial phase of a comprehensive historical, biological or cultural study done of Palolo Valley.  We have located A Study of Palolo Valley: Ethnicity, class, and spatial identity (Katharine Tehranian ed.) from 1993, published by UH Manoa’s Dept. of American Studies (Center for Arts & Humanities Occas. Paper No. 1), which consists of a series of papers by UHM students as part of 1990 graduate seminar.  This is the only summative work we have been able to locate to date, though the search is on-going As mentioned in the Project description there are a number of interrelated components to be examined.  One of our issues is avoiding repetition in the archival research, so that everyone is working collaboratively vs. at cross purposes.

Here are the Archival Themes we have identified to date:

GEOLOGY-GEOMORPHOLOGY-ENVIRONMENTAL SYSTEMS THEME:

A detailed geological analysis of Palolo, with some emphasis on the very complex geology of the secondary Honolulu Volcanic Sequence, specifically the Kaau volcanics event(s) and Kaimuki-Kaau Rift.  We also need details on all past modifications to Palolo Stream.  Hopefully the USACE (Corps of Engineers) would have this as part of the EIS for the Ala Wai Flood Control project or maybe somewhere else.  The Honolulu Board of Water Supply may also have this and other information, hopefully with maps.  We also need the detailed Soil Conservation Service soil maps for the valley.  Any material on Palolo-Pukele Stream is central to our study.

ORAL TRADITION THEME:

Detailed Hawaiian oral traditions based in Palolo or linked to Palolo.  A Kaau crater hiking web blog mentions “It’s named Ka’au Crater after a supernatural chicken, Ka’auhelemoa, that once lived in the valley. Legend has it that the demigod Maui insisted on joining all the islands of Hawai’i together. From Ka’ena Point he threw his mighty hook toward the island of Kaua’i, ensnaring the island only briefly, after which a mighty tug caused the hook to free itself and sail back over his head, landing in the valley and creating the indentation of Ka’au Crater;” from  https://www.outdoorproject.com/united-states/hawaii/kaau-crater-hike.  We need to locate where this comes from, relate this story to any others and also other noted features such as Mau’umae. 

We also need to comb the newspapers for any more recent oral legends linked to Palolo, such as 19-20c ghost stories.  This will likely come from the various newspaper archives.

SOCIAL HISTORY THEME:

Compile a social history of Palolo-Pukele including any events that have taken place in the valley.  This will largely come from the various newspaper archives mentioned below.  This should include any movers-shakers in the valley, and probably should include the various developers of different areas including the “Kaimukl Land Company” [Wilhelmina Rise]—who were these guys, what was their history, what impact did they have?

LCA-BIOGRAPHICAL-GENEOLOGICAL THEME:

This will likely start with the LCA (Land Court Awards from the Mahele) claims for Palolo-Pukele, but should include their other claims and history outside of just Palolo-Pukele.  There are references to the Cooke family in the back of Palolo and later G. Tongg (a famous architect).  Who else?  What about the families that settled in the makai portion of the valley in the early subdivisions?  The families who settled the Carlos Long subdivision in 1940-50s?  Can we find any info on why they moved to Palolo, and maybe from where?

LAND USE AND BUILT ENVIRONMENT IN PALOLO VALLEY THEME:

Past and contemporary land use in Palolo-Pukele, with emphasis on past and contemporary agricultural use along Palolo-Pukele Stream.  This would include all available text and any photos.  We should consider including material related to production systems such as traditional dryland/wetfield systems and 19-20c truck farming in kona areas even if not Palolo-specific [though probably O’ahu only?] as I don’t remember seeing any major work discussing historic-period agricultural practices in stream-based kona areas.  Is there some for Manoa or Nuuanu?  This should include past-present economically successful species and why.  For this we need input from contemporary farmers in Pukele and maybe neighboring valleys.  This ties specifically back into the SLS/CUH planting project on our campus.

NEIGHBORHOODS IN PALOLO THEME:

Tehranian’s 1993 book has several chapters on differing aspects of vernacular architecture in Palolo.  Given the availability of the Google Earth and Zillow we want to expand this study and look at the relationship (if any) between built environment and perceived value of property.  The real estate website Zillow [https://www.zillow.com/homes/Palolo,-Honolulu,-HI/] includes the estimated values of all properties (I assume based on assessed property tax data), along with basic data such as lot size and number of bedrooms.  I still have to work out a analysis data form for this theme, but we want to compare the structure and visible area to assessed value, and then compare different sections of Palolo to see what patterns emerge in Palolo’s built environment.  We will add the Palolo side of Maunalani Heights-Wilhelmina Rise to get a comparison to see what impact elevation and viewplane have on value.  This will also include background research in just how assessed value is arrived at—how does the C&C of Honolulu assess values.  There should be standardized templates that assessors use to standardize the process and minimize bias.

RELIGION AND BELIEF IN PALOLO THEME:

Past and contemporary religious use in Palolo-Pukele.  Tehranian’s 1993 work has a chapter on the then-controversial Korean Buddhist temple that was built in Waiomao as an example.  We want to ask what belief systems to we see in Palolo and how do the religious institutions reflect perceptions of Palolo.  What changes have there been in religious practices in Palolo and how do these reflect changing ethnic residential patterns?  Some of the less mainstream may require additional research to elicit the beliefs and world view of the members.

TRADITIONAL AND CONTEMPORARY MEDICAL-HEALING PRACTICES IN PALOLO THEME:

Past and contemporary healing and medical practices in Palolo.  This will include formal and informal medical-healing practices with emphasis on their place in the Palolo community, especially as they relate to the various ethnic groups in Palolo (past and present).  This will include some analysis into patterns of changes in practices and how these reflect changing values and attitudes in Palolo and surrounding communities. Some of the less mainstream will require additional research to clarify the beliefs and world view of the practitioners and their clients.

Field Notes from Top Influencers on YouTube Success

While investigating the power of YouTube as an educational-learning platform, I decided to conduct some content analysis on interviews from the “Video Influencers” YouTube site in 2018. I thought you might find the results interesting and possibly useful. The most striking aspect was the consistency of responses on what are the key points to success on YouTube. This is striking given the diversity of Influencers interviewed.

All the Influencers agreed on the following points:

  • There is a very Calvinist-Puritan work ethic=rewards model here.  You must work hard, put your time in, do your due diligence and pay your dues.  Effort is rewarded and only effort counts.
  • Being successful on YouTube is deeply experiential and personal.  You must base your work on what motivates and drives you.  This is what keeps you working while learning, but also comes across with your followers.  Posting your experiences only works with authenticity.
  • Success is due to a combination of effort and time put in along with being true to your passion.  Internal honesty is required for success because this comes across in your videos.  Serendipity and luck are also critical, though most of the Influencers downplay this aspect, as it contradicts part of the work=success mantra.  Top Influencers like the premise that putting the time, effort and authenticity in will result in success or at least self-satisfaction, going back to the theme of working on your passions [which of course means satisfaction without viewer recognition].
  • All these very successful Influencers strongly believe that everyone has something unique that is worth sharing and of interest to others.  The reality that YouTube is basically limitless in scope and anyone can post is the basis of this belief.  Passion and effort is validated and reflected in deep emotional content.
  • Despite the need to learn and train, the key to success is emotional and not training, knowledge or learning.  Those only enhance the emotional energy behind the drive to generate content.
  • Passion Rules.  Success is based on experiential and personalized content.  Theoretically there should be room for “anyone” who has the passion and drive.
  • Passion drives and motivates skills, so training and learning are passion-specific rather than form of content or topic.  So you only need to learn the skills that are linked to your passion.
  • The Audience/Viewers “can feel/sense” Passion and this is what they respond to.
  • Content must be driven and filtered by the creators passion, so content is based on emotional assessment not intellectual analysis.
  • With this logic knowledge is in the background and has no abstract relevance, it only acts as a complement to Passion.  This is why themes like “you will eventually need this” or ”Lifelong Learning” are not relevant to this audience unless its linked to your Passion.  Knowledge acquisition is based on unique personalized set of criteria, rather than norms such as courses, certification or degrees.
  • This is a direct reinforcement for the American value of a self-oriented world view.  This justifies the presentation of self-centered presentation as success is a reflection of self-defined goals [passions] and self-satisfaction.  Frequent quotes included how YouTube allows you to “follow your dreams” and “discover yourself”.  And of course all of this then becomes validated by viewers and monetized through YouTube, Patreon and others. 

Here are some specific insights pulled from these following interviews. It’s always worth noting the size of their subscription base following when listening to their comments, as it has much to say about how we consume the internet and the digital in the 2020s:

[From “How to Build Your YouTube Subscribers from Scratch” 6/23/15, Video Influencers channel; 450k views]

Key Point: great content and great videos must be HD [High Def] as a minimum.  Your content must be entertaining, informative, educational or give value—it must be something that people want to watch and benefit from.  Usually good content will pick up momentum and catch speed because it’s good.  You have to get used to being in front of the camera—practice makes perfect.

Second Point: Getting noticed, becoming visible.  You do this by ranking other peoples videos.  This defines your niche and gets you noticed.  You have to find and define a very specific search-engine niche.  For example “funny cat video” won’t work; “funny Siamese cat videos” may work.  This allows you to get “found” by viewers and subscribers via the specifics of their search criteria.  The goal is to get your videos “ranked”—that they show up in top X when searched.

Third Point: If you want to have fans, you have to be a fan.  You have to watch other people’s videos that have similar content and engage with them.  You have to make genuine comments.  Do this persistently, so that the YTube content creators notice you, and so do their viewers.  The more you comment, the higher you will rank on the YTuber’s comment list and gain visibility.  This has to be genuine and you can’t link to your own channel.  You have to prove genuine interest first rather than just self-promotion.  You have to connect with their audience to build up interest which may morph into following your content.

Fourth Point: Use other social media platforms to pull interest into your YTube videos.  But again this requires authenticity rather than obvious self-promotion.

Fifth Point: You always have to add value, not annoy people.  Being a YouTube success is a massive hustle and you must consistently add value.  You must give advice, react and respond to suggestions and offer to help your viewers and fellow content creators—you must hustle.

[From “Its Judys Life Interview on Daily Vlogging, Teamwork and Authenticity” 2/16/16 Video Influencers channel; 101k views; combined Facebook/YouTube following of over 1 billion views; 3.8m subscribers.]

You have to start on something that you are passionate about.  Focus on that one thing so you’re kind of known as that person.  If there’s a group of people that are interested in another thing, then create another channel. Stick with one first, especially if you’re starting off.

Be true to yourself, because once you get established, that’s when sponsorship, money become available—and that’s when you can lose yourself.  And I believe that your audience will see it, and having that trust and loyalty from your audience is real important, so say no to the deal.

You need to believe in the product 100%… don’t be pressured, just do you, and that will lead you to success in your heart.

You have to think first about your audience.  Knowing what your audience wants, just putting yourself in the viewer’s eyes, what they want to see, what is it that I’m passionate about… It’s like my own thing, my own daily diary-I love doing it, and I guess it’s great other people love watching it.

Start simple.  The trick is that you constantly have to be working, you must do it on a consistent basis.

Just be the creator, think of your own ideals and stay in tune with your audience.

[“Casey Neistat on Creating Good Content, Integrity, and the Beme App” in Video Influencers channel, 8/4/15, 98k views; 12m subscribers]

Key to YouTube is that there is nothing between me and the audience.  No matter how big the audience, what you want to communicate is true to you.

The key to vlogging well is that it’s not how you tell it, its what you tell.  It’s what your saying, that is the only thing that anyone will ever respond to.

Shift all your focus to what is it that you want to communicate, what drives you, and that is what your focus is…

If you try to consider or cater to your audience too much you’ll invariably end up making something that’s mush…I try to make something I think is really cool, and if people like it, great, if they don’t, I don’t care as long as I like it.

[“How To Grow Your YouTube Channel-Desi Perkins Interview” in Video Influencers 8/3/15; 84k views; 3.3m subscribers]

I used Instagram to drive the YouTube channel, kept promoting the YouTube channel on Instagram, and that’s how it picked up quickly at first.  And then consistency, I consistently uploaded videos, make sure you upload videos all the time, and people know there will be a new one this week.

It’s a lot of hard work, lots of editing and work.

Now Snapchat allows her to let people know who I really am.  With Snapchat, it’s so personal, raw, it’s real, it’s 100% me—it doesn’t always have to do with beauty but I’m using Snapchat as to really help grow my YouTube  channel.  Because YouTube is all about relating to people, friendships, and that’s why it’s so amazing.  You don’t relate to an add on TV, you don’t even care what they’re doing, but when you feel a friendship with somebody you want to support them, you want to follow what they do.  So with Snapchat it’s like I’m building a stronger friendship with people, and it’s just blown up.

You have to have the drive and the passion to learn and want to research.  My advice would just be first of all, don’t worry about numbers.  Don’t worry about the numbers, you should be doing it because that’s your passion.  You want to be asking ‘how do I make my videos better, you want to be asking like what can I do to improve my last video

Being yourself can change everything.  The realness of you just shines through and people love that.  It’s easier said than done, but be yourself and just worry about doing what you love, not about numbers, and it will happen for you.

[“How to Start a Travel YouTube Channel and Make Money While Traveling-Erik Conover Interview” in Video Influencers 10/11/16; 121k views; has 200m views, 1.4m subscribers]

It has to be something that you love.  You’re going to put in a lot of work.  Whatever you’re doing, there’s going to be work involved.  But I think what really distinguishes the type of content that influencers put out that is travel based, is that it’s so personal.  Find that specific topic, one that you love and that you know people will search for.

Work social media links when you post the video and also titling is a very big thing—you have to tick the YTube search engine.  Start the research with Google search and YTube search and see what shows up, figure our key title terms. 

I think honestly that the content is always what matters, but you have to package it so people can find it.  Using YTube as your friend for helping you out in titling and use that to make the optimization for the titling.

[“Pursuing Your Passion With YouTube-Laura Vitale and Joe Vitale Interview”, Video Influencers 4/28/15; 41k views; has 480m views, 3.5m subscribers]

What sets YouTube or digital apart from the traditional media is the ability to have a closed-loop with the response.  On a traditional TV show you never hear about content, but on YouTube we learned audience comments are key.  My audience on YTube does influence a lot of the changes, in growth, in terms—it’s important to me for them to know that I listen, that I read their comments, read their tweets—things that I’ve improved upon have been because of my audience… Now they know that I take their suggestions to heart and that creates that real bonding between myself and them—it’s part of that feeling of community, they feel like we’re in this together. 

My YouTube audience is more than OK with letting me know if I’m doing something wrong, and I’m OK with that… That to me is my most valuable asset, is being able to be authentic and having the audience see that.

The most important ingredient in this whole situation is authenticity, but also you have to be dedicated to it, you have to be consistent.  You have to be consistent, you have to be authentic in what you do

Pick a topic you’re really interested in.  Everybody’s an expert at something—that should be your passion, that’s what you should be using and making videos for. 

[“How to Become a Travel Vlogger and Make Money Traveling on YouTube-Nadine Sykora Interview”, Video Influencers 5/5/16; 90k views; has 40m views, 380k subscribers]

In the beginning it was just pure creative videos.  Now it’s far more brand oriented, more marketing oriented, it’s a business.  You have to think of it more as a business, along with the creative.  The creative is really important, but the biggest thing is business.

Find a passion.  Find something you are going to love. 

You have to keep up with frequency.  At a minimum you have to post a video once a week, or you’re irrelevant, instantly.

Don’t worry about the views, don’t worry about the subscribers at first, just focus on the content, focus on finding something you’re excited about creating.  Once you have that then you can bring in all the business aspects of it.

Full Set of Murphy’s Laws

Just found a set of Murphy’s Laws in Colvin’s (1972) Coastwise and Offshore Cruising Wrinkles, a very entertaining book on cruising design. There are six in total:

MURPHY’S LAWS RELATING TO THE BEHAVIOR OF INANIMATE OBJECTS

  • If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.
  • When left to themselves, things always go from bad to worse.
  • If there is a possibility of several things going wrong, the one that will go wrong is the one that will do the most damage.
  • Nature always sides with the Hidden Flaw.
  • Mother Nature is a Bitch.
  • If everything seems to be going well, you have obviously overlooked something.

From Thomas Colvin 1972. Coastwise and Offshore Cruising Wrinkles. 

Impacts of Augmented and Virtual Realities

We now start to move from specifics to more general discussion about how all these new digital paths are impacting our sense of self, our view of others and of the world around us. 

First I want to look at the ‘hot’ new technologies of 2015-2022–the immersive, but isolating virtual reality of Oculus Rift (including the Samsung system in my office you can check out) or the augmented reality seen in the Microsoft Hololens 2 vid from weeks ago.

In both cases the goal is to replace the screen-keyboard experience of the phone-tablet-PC with something more portable and more attuned to normal movements such as hand gestures.  Virtual reality systems by definition must be immersive since their goal is to replace visual-audial reality with a digital one.  This has been the dream since Star Trek’s holodeck (see nice Wikipedia entry [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodeck]. 

In VR the user is immersed in the digital reality, theoretically with most senses being equally functional as in the real world.  With current technology this consists of a headset/screen and some sort of hand controllers.

As we’ve seen from earlier in the semester many researchers have noted that the brain quickly assumes what it senses is real.  It is quite common for people to get motion sickness or vertigo while in VR headsets.  Despite the attraction of such tech, it remains on the fringe outside of specialty uses.  But a number of companies, most famously Facebook, have sunk huge sums (as in hundreds of millions) into VR in ‘Spaces’ https://youtu.be/PVf3m7e7OKU?t=2 .  Yet each year it never quite shows up or gets traction.  As Yee notes in that vid I just sent out earlier, VR is still very limited even in the gamer world to a very selective audience, and to date there has been no move into social media. 

A good example of VR can be seen in the Steam vid (from 2016) at https://youtu.be/qYfNzhLXYGc?t=4.  Note the isolation from reality.  But as graphics engines become more sophisticated the level of detail has become quite impressive, as seen in this Unreal Engine 4 demo https://youtu.be/KZ9mb3Jylb0?t=3 .  Of course given the fact that the brain will take the relatively poor visuals of Second Life and interpret them as ‘real’, the need for this hyper-realism can be questioned.

In contrast to VR, augmented reality (AR) uses projections to superimpose digital overlays into physical reality.  The Hololens 2 vid from earlier is a good example with a good summary of this technology in the ColdFusion vid https://youtu.be/NwY-6sQDYnk?t=9.  As ColdFusion notes, it is intentionally designed with reality integration as a goal. 

As with VR huge $$$ are being poured into this area and (relatively) robust functional versions have started to show up in 2019 (for a 2018 spin on AR, look at https://www.tomsguide.com/us/best-ar-glasses,review-2804.html . A really chilling view of where this might all go can be seen in Matsuda’s clever short vid “Hyper-Reality” at https://youtu.be/YJg02ivYzSs .  As these AR systems become more functional we end up back at the Microsoft ‘future’ vid we saw before https://youtu.be/w-tFdreZB94?t=6 .  As a thinking exercise, contrast Matsuda’s view of AR with that of Microsoft.

Missing from this drive for new more immersive tech are the potential social-behavioral ramifications.  Try watching the first couple of minutes of Matsuda’s Hyper Reality vid again and this time try to actually place yourself in that world 24/7–note how there’s no ‘opt out’ mode. 

Regardless of which technology becomes popular, the issues we’ve seen all semester of digital dependency will undoubtedly be amplified.  How much of a leap is it from Hololens 2 to some Black Mirror episodes or the Surrogate movie of exactly a decade ago https://youtu.be/UGwQ74cH5O0?t=7 ? See you on the other side?

Project SHINE

Project SHINE and Student Learning at CUH

One project that Dr. Bryan Man has been involved with since it’s inception has been Project SHINE. Run by our Service Learning Office (Candice Sakuda) this project has been a fantastic opportunity for our Behavioral Science students to experience what we present in courses–cultural variation and assimilation.

Project SHINE started in response to federal policy changes that increased strain on immigrant communities, a citizenship tutorial program was born in Honolulu in 1996. A grassroots community organization, the Chinese Community Action Coalition, was at the helm, engaging faculty and students from Chaminade, the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, and Kapi‘olani Community College. Today, the program thrives as part of a national service-learning initiative called Project SHINE, “Students Helping in the Naturalization of Elders.” This program involves students assisting elderly and resource-limited permanent residents through the United States citizenship process. Chaminade trains students from all three campuses to assume the role of tutors, providing civics and English-language acquisition assistance to learners, no matter what their level of English proficiency may be. Our students find the program very meaningful, not only for those whom they help and build relationships with through the tutorial, but also for themselves. Giving back to the community and making an impact on other people’s lives give students a sense of fulfillment that often brings them back to service in future semesters. Students also develop leadership skills. SHINE’s built-in leadership opportunities enable our best tutors to return to the program as experienced mentors for new volunteers and managers of the program. For example, one of our coordinators mentioned that SHINE “facilitates a safe and beneficial relationship between learners and tutors as they share cross-cultural experiences and learn about each other.” When asked how the program influenced her life, the student said that the program improved her Cantonese-speaking skills and, more importantly, transformed her from a shy person to someone who is willing to reach out and engage with others. She feels accomplishment and joy every time she sees the people she tutors finally understand and be able to utilize the new skills learned in their everyday lives. Project SHINE has received the prestigious E Pluribus Unum Prize for its work in promoting immigrant integration and building stronger communities that define the future of our country.

THE SHIFT TO AUGMENTED REALITY IN 2020

It’s always important to remember that technical and social change are always intertwined.  The automobile at the start of the 20th century and television in the 1950s are just a few of the technological changes that dramatically changed societies and social life.  But while the changes were global, the social changes varied dramatically both in form and time from one society to the next. For example there was a tremendous range between the acceptance of the automobile for personal transportation and it’s social impacts. How technology is embraced and incorporated into social systems is complex and in many cases unpredictable.  Scholarly analysis and media discussion almost invariably has seen these changes from the standpoint of a few ‘central’ societies, usually western Europe and the United States, and then generalized the impacts into global universals.

The growth of the Internet and digital reality could be said to come of age just over a decade ago, when the virtual worlds of Sims Online, World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life came to the public notice.  Media warned of the fears of gaming addiction. Fears were raised that huge numbers of people were losing their grip on physical reality as they became immersed in virtual reality and gaming worlds.

Psychologists studied the issue and gaming addiction eventually became a listed behavioral condition.  Almost all of the current discussions and issues raised about Web 2.0, smartphones and social media were commonly discussed in 2007.  No consensus was reached on events back then and no firm conclusions were constructed that might predict the social and behavioral impacts that might result from the universal availability of virtual worlds and their attractions.

Looking back, a key point that was missed was the fact that this phenomena was physically fixed–it was not mobile.  You needed a relatively high-end PC and the place to put it. In some areas this resulted in the growth of PCs and home online networks and gaming sessions, while in other areas it resulted in the growth of Internet Cafes and a new social dynamic of meeting in the real world to engage in the virtual world.  Gaming became a new competitive sport, mimicking traditional sports such as pool, ping-pong and poker tournaments.

This changed in radical ways with three simultaneous technical innovations: smartphones with cameras that allowed mobile 24/7 connectivity; Web 2.0, that allowed this to exist in real time; and social media apps, which allowed people the painless ability to connect to everyone in asynchronous time simultaneously.  Unlike 2007 little money was required nor was there a need to be at a particular place at a particular time.

The 2020 version removed these constraints, and allows people to live in a digital reality 24/7 that overlays their physical reality.  We all live in augmented reality now, and the social impacts are just beginning to be debated and defined. Portable graphic communication devices have become commonplace for the majority of the world’s population.  This new mode of asynchronous audio-visual interaction has led to major social and personal disruption.  Even more so than with prior technological changes, social changes are nearly universal but vary greatly in form and content from one society to the other.  The constant is this is coming more comprehensively and at a tremendously accelerated rate compared to technological change in the past.

Social Media and Social Change

Technical and social change are always intertwined.  The automobile at the start of the 20th century and television in the 1950s are just two examples of technology changes that dramatically changed societies and social life.  It’s important to remember that while the changes were global, the social changes varied dramatically from one society to the next. How the technology was embraced and incorporated into the dynamic changes were complex and in many cases unpredictable.  Scholarly analysis and media discussion almost invariably saw the changes from the standpoint of a few ‘central’ societies, usually in western Europe and the United States, and then generalized the impacts as global universals.

The growth of the Internet and digital reality could be said to come of age just over a decade ago, when the virtual worlds of Sims Online, World of Warcraft, Everquest and Second Life came to the public notice.  Media warned of the fears of gaming addiction. Fears were raised that huge numbers of people were losing their grip on physical reality as they became immersed in virtual reality and virtual worlds.

Scholars studied the issue, and gaming addiction eventually became a listed psychological condition.  Almost all of the current discussions and issues raised about Web 2.0, smartphones and social media were commonly discussed in 2007.  No consensus was reached, and no conclusions generated about the social issues and social changes that might result from the availability of virtual worlds and their attractions.

Looking back, a key point that was not given enough attention was paid to the fact that this phenomena was physically fixed–it was not mobile.  You needed a relatively high-end PC and the place to put it. In some societies this resulted in the growth of PCs and home online networks, while in other areas it resulted in the growth of Internet Cafes and a new social dynamic in meeting in the real world to engage in the virtual world.  Gaming became a new competitive sport, mimicking traditional sports such as pool, ping-pong and poker tournaments.

This changed in radical ways with three simultaneous technical innovations: smartphones with cameras that allowed mobile 24/7 connectivity; Web 2.0, that allowed this to exist in real time; and social media apps, which allowed people the painless ability to connect to everyone in asynchronous time simultaneously.  This was radically different from 2007 in that the older version required money and the ability to be at a particular place at a particular time.

The 2020 version removed these constraints, and allows people to live in a digital reality 24/7 that overlays their physical reality.  We all live in augmented reality now, and the social impacts are just beginning to be debated and defined. As Miller and others have noted global generalizations about the social impacts of digital reality are both naive and ethnocentric.  As as with prior technological changes, the social changes are not universal, but already vary tremendously from society to society. The constant is that major social changes are happening.