David Hoffman: A Running Tour of YouTube Nation

David Hoffman produced 88 PBS documentary features and five feature-length films over a forty-year career. But that was then. And this is a guy whose life keeps starting over. Always interestingly. We’ve shared before our adventures with the great sound-man Tony Schwartz

We’re in James Der Derian’s class on global media at Brown again, and David Hoffman is pushing through the cliche that we live in a screen culture and a YouTube world. We didn’t know the half of it. Today we’re taking his tour of YouTube nation, peopled by more 1 billion searches every day. Hoffman, who thought he’d been around the whole block, has stumbled on a sort of “Louisiana Purchase” of the media landscape. It’s homey, it’s cheap, it’s much much bigger than network television already, and it’s barely begun to chew up what we used to call media and spit it all out.

Documentary film-making was, and is, a rich person’s pursuit, as he tells us. But anyone can talk to a camera and post the result. He loves YouTube’s celebration of a messy, cheap aesthetic, helping viewers learn to love jump cuts and engage raw content. No one could be happier about this victory of moving image and spoken word: “It’s terrible to sit at your computer screen and read words,” he says, “It’s painful.”

For David Hoffman, this is just the beginning of a long-needed move away from censorship and big media control over information. But it’s a shift, he cautions, that demands a comprehensive new standard of media literacy.

Our conversation begins with this month’s release – by Wikileaks – and its viral penetration – through YouTube – of a classified US government video documenting the alleged “indiscriminate slaying of more than a dozen people” outside of Baghdad:

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