The PBS Idea Channel is a YouTube webseries that explores the philosophical repercussions of the Internet, and the evolving relationship between art and technology. Hosted by Mike Rugnetta (@mikerugnetta), the Idea Channel is doing for Internet culture and technology what numerous cultural theorists have done in the past for burgeoning art movements or world-changing events. It is revealing the complex meaning behind the apps and games and memes and music many of us participate in everyday. The moral repercussions of certain video games; how Internet culture in the form of gifs affected our most recent election; authenticity in technologically enhanced pop music; and even questions about reality are all up for discussion on the Idea Channel.
Started in March of 2012, Idea Channel's weekly videos are steadily gaining momentum, now rocking over 200k subscribers. The fast-paced editing, packed with gifs and memes, and snappy well-written dialogue reinforce its Internet-centric themes while maintaining that oh-so-YouTube intimate, personal feel.
Many of these topics are things that get under the skin of traditional considerations on art. For Example, PBS Idea Channel recently pondered whether Instagram's impact on photography? The app delivers not only a stream of beautiful and well-constructed images, but also hashtags that change our experience in arguably significant ways. Idea Channel drills down to examine how the phenomenon of hashtagged metadata changes the experience of photos for the viewers. For example, what if your only experience of the photograph Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima had been with #taketwo labeled along the bottom, or the first image of Earth from the moon labeled with #hometown or #nofilter?
Or take Internet memes -- the LOLcats and Rage comics of the world. Should these images be considered part of the long-standing and equally long-fought-over canon of capital-A art? Idea channel seems to think so. "People are creating images and sharing them with strangers, for the purpose of communicating their personal experiences? That my friends, is art." What about nail art, the practice of making paintings or even tiny sculptures on fingernails. Is it just another canvas for the ideas and problems tackled in contemporary art?
This video, Is the Web Browser Replacing the Art Gallery?, exemplifies the PBS Idea Channel's fascinating programming.
The Idea Channel challenges the borders of our artistic and cultural categories with videos on Super Mario Brothers as a great work of surrealist art, or Hello Kitty as a pinnacle of Modernism, but they also bring to mind moral questions as well. Did you know that the makers of Call of Duty, the massively popular first-person military shooter, are required to license the guns in the game from actual real world gun manufacturers? The result being when you buy a copy of the game you are contributing -- even if just a little bit -- to the creation and perpetuation of arms. Idea Channel doesn't say you shouldn't buy the game exactly, just that you should understand the moral complexity hidden within the decision. For anyone interested in the present and future of art, culture and technology, PBS Idea Channel is a must see.