An archive of distraction (hopefully)

I really liked Bea’s point today about (re)learning what objects get to be relevant to academic study — I was thinking about something like that when I was reading In the Shadow of No Towers in the Div School cafe last week. I felt a little self-conscious reading a giant and colorful comic book instead of a more “scholarly” text. One of the morning regulars — a staid-looking older guy — saw me and asked, “are you reading that for a class?” I was immediately defensive (This old guy is so narrow minded! He just doesn’t get it!). I tried to cast my explanation of the book in the most academic light possible, but I didn’t need to — it turned out that he had read Maus when it came out and just thought it was really cool that Spiegelman was assigned reading. We started talking about whether No Towers represents middle America in a way that is problematic or just accurately critical. It ended up being a really great conversation.

This is kind of what I was trying to get at on Tuesday, which I wanted to come back to here in case I was a little too opaque in my presentation. One of the things that I really love about I’m Trying to Reach You (the book I’m writing on) is how it shows the seemingly trivial zone of YouTube procrastination as a place that can be rich with meaning and value. This certainly isn’t to say that whatever you do on YouTube is Art, or that you should put off working on your finals to endlessly click through videos because “that’s what’s really real, bro.” But I think that that it’s important and difficult to remember that, as Patrick pointed out today, ‘ephemera’ can be meaningful, and even if it isn’t, it can still merit consideration and engagement.

Preparing my presentation made me realize just how many YouTube videos I have re-watched, learned from, and been moved by, often while thinking “I shouldn’t be doing this!” I would love to know the videos (or sites, or craigslist poems, or whatever) that you all find yourself returning to and sitting with, so please post them here! Since we’re going into finals week I figured you could all use some distractions that come highly recommended.

I’ll start with the Jeanann Verlee poem that I played during my presentation (I didn’t want to leave “soak up the semen” without context…):

2 thoughts on “An archive of distraction (hopefully)

  1. I feel like this theme of YouTube procrastination actually goes really nicely with your midterm presentation about networks way back when. Part of why it’s so easy to fall down an internet rabbit hole is this business of hyperlinks—one page takes you to another, and so on for all eternity. With sites like YouTube or Wikipedia, the connections you find tend to be between ideas and things (if you’re into this video of corgis playing tetherball, you might also enjoy these foxes jumping on a trampoline), but platforms like Twitter and Tumblr reveal all these connections between people. Following a single person can be an access point into an entire network, just through their reblogs/retweets, likes/favorites, and replies; if you like a certain writer/artist/makeup blogger/whatever, their interactions online point toward more and more people doing similar things. Watching these complex relationships unfold is really compelling, at least for me, whether it’s creative-types responding to one another’s work or like, Rob Lowe bantering with his teenage son on Twitter ( I think that layer of interpersonal connectivity is part of why certain online feels meaningful or resonant.

    Anyway, I don’t know if I have any life-changing YouTube classics for y’all (except for the aforementioned corgis playing tetherball: But on the texty end of things, I am forever rereading everything internet-goddess Mallory Ortberg has ever written, so for what it’s worth:
    —”Male Novelist Jokes”:
    —”So You’ve Decided to Drink More Water”:
    —”Oh, The Places You Went”:

    Alternatively, Cat Bounce:

  2. I love the concept behind your project, but I’m actually a bit afraid to get distracted by my youtube history to contribute to this conversation. I did want to ask, though, if anyone else has had the experience of being distracted by your own research process– particularly through wikipedia sidequests. You start out reading about the Franco-Prussian War, and an hour later, you’ve got 20 pages open that range from famous war dogs to Yeats.

    Okay, so I’m going to go back on what I said before and leave you with this:

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