I initially saw this video in anthropology class in my first year of university. In the video below, Dr. Michael Wesch (associate professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University) looks at YouTube as a vehicle of globalization, by enabling a form of visual pan-national and international interaction on an unprecedented level. Video trends like the Numa Numa dance ( >50 million Youtube hits) are one of the most dramatic examples of the potential of sharing platforms such as YouTube.
Honestly, Wesch has made me into somewhat of an idealist. What struck me about the perspective on the Numa Numa dance offered in this video, is the feeling of community it offered. The same applies to such social media trends as Gangnam style (the most viewed YouTube video of all time) or the Harlem Shake meme – the 30 second videoed raves that students and companies all over the world enjoyed over “Harlem Shake” by American electronic musician Baauer.
From an anthropological perspective, the trend was downright astounding; thousands of people, many from incredibly different cultural backgrounds, are not only mimicking a dance performed by someone likely millions of miles away, they were broadcasting their performances to international audiences. By Feb 15th over 40,000 Harlem Shake videos had been uploaded, totalling 175 million views! It was like an international cyber festival celebrating quirky dancing.
The positivity of the phenomenon feeds into the idealists’ conception of a global community where people from many cultures come together with common goals and the patience to mediate their differences. However, the possibility for a global community is highly contested; one only needs to look at the comment section on YouTube videos to know not all the interaction is positive. Some of the exchanges are so slanderous and hateful that they can test one’s faith in humanity.
I’ve read many articles that are both critical and supportive of the perspective that globalization is affecting national borders and the patriotic identities tied to them. With increased international product circulation, migration, and economic power given to transnational companies, cultural exchange has become entrenched in capitalist countries. Yet what is truly exciting from an idealist’s standpoint, is the veil of normalcy under which this cultural exchange now occurs. Not only is it expected that in Canada one can have food from a plethora of cultures, it’s considered “fun” to try all these foods.
While globalization is inspiring, its benefits and limits produce heated debates. To what extent can cultures integrate and when is such integration advisable? Is a global community where most cultures have equal opportunity for influence possible, or is being subjected to the values of one or two super powers inevitable?
These questions may go unanswered but the positive message brought to us by YouTube and our rising messiah, The Numa Numa Guy remains; there is a possibility for peaceful, international agreement — or at least to dance together in front of cell phones, video recorders, and webcams to be part of a global movement celebrating fun.