Web Series As Fans and Critics of Hollywood
This paper aims to examine the relationship between web series distributed on Youtube and Hollywood productions. It develops on the notion that while web series may challenge Hollywood in terms of content and distribution, in most cases they also show an affection towards it. The topic is argued through analysis of 6 web series developed specifically for online distribution: “Whatever, Linda.”, “Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl”, “The Guild”, “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog”, “I Hate Being Single”, “The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else”. Textual analysis has been used to investigate the content, while interviews, blogs, production notes have been used to further support the arguments. It has been seen that web series have a two-dimensional relationship with Hollywood, both criticizing its practices for lacking diversity and originality while also borrowing those practices. Additionally, it is evident that web series have adapted the role of “indie films” in becoming a spring board for aspiring filmmakers with the rise of Youtube and streaming video.
Keywords: web series, Youtube, streaming video, online distribution, indie film
The Role of Multi Channel Network (MCN) on YouTube as An Alternative Media Platform: Indonesia’s Case
Yessi Nurita Labas
YouTube has become an emerging media platform in Indonesia. The Head of Marketing of Google Indonesia, Veronica Utami, said that the access to YouTube Indonesia has increased, both the duration of watching and the numbers of uploaded videos. YouTube became the desirable platform because it enhances the degree of freedom of the creator to make any kind of content, unlike some of the big Indonesia’s television stations which hugely associated with political parties. However, some of the television station starts to upload their contents to
YouTube and monetize them, realizing how YouTube has become a desirable media platform in Indonesia. I argue that YouTube has provide the freedom for the creator to make any kind of content, unlike the television who has to follow/favor some other institutions that related to it (eg. political parties). However, the emerging of creators on YouTube, seemed to be the moment for the multi channel network (MCN) to emerge as well. Following the successor on any other countries (such as America and United Kingdom), MCN plays a huge part on marketing the big channels and maintain the creator’s online persona. Even though YouTube provides some kind of freedom for the creator, it is also limited by the role that MCN plays as well.
Therefore, this research is going to describe the condition of YouTube as an alternative media in Indonesia by examining the relationship of YouTube and MCN through the creator and viewers of YouTube. The data will be hugely rely on observing any opinion on creators through their videos and in-person interviews, also interviews with the viewers as well. I argue that YouTube still gives hope for the media industry in Indonesia by enhancing the degree of freedom for the creators to make any content that they want. This will be a fresh start for Indonesia’s media that already filled by corporate tailored content on Indonesia’s television stations. However, the role of MCN could possibly cut the freedom to some other extent.
BookTube: communication dynamics of communities of book readers on YouTube
Renata Prado Alves Silva
The advent of digital media has enabled the establishment of new spaces of sociability in which readers converge, making reading habits a more socially connected activity. This research assumes that book readers are participating more and more in social spaces on the Internet to exchange information. Through the various social media available, information spread among readers, publishers, bloggers, marketing trading sites and different actors related to the universe of books. The first reference to BookTube on YouTube dates back to 2011, despite the fact that books are a subject covered in YouTube videos long before this date. But in 2012 the characteristics begin to develop and spread more intensely, first among English-language channels, and currently in several languages, with an international community that, despite having differences, share an identity directly related to how to make these videos and how to share information about books. Situating BookTube as a phenomenon on YouTube, this research aims to identify a typology of videos that could be used as a way of understanding the aesthetic and language standards of this reading community. We also seek to analyse what these patterns indicate regarding reading habits and book collection. Content-based analysis was the main method used due to its unobtrusive nature to analyse how readers communicate their reading habits
and preferences through videos. We selected the six main BookTube channels in English language with more than 100 thousand subscribers: Polland Bananas Books, Peruse Project, Little Book Owl, Katytastic, Jesse the Reader and A Book Utopia. Through a WebCrawler we collected links from 2379 videos from these channels and their metadata. In this research we identify types of videos that constitutes the lingo of the BookTube community, such as Book Haul, Bookshelf Tour, Tag, To Be Read, Wrap Up and many others. One of the main findings points out, for example, that the most representative genre among the books reviewed in these channels are Fantasy and Contemporary Young Adult, especially front list titles.
Keywords: YouTube; BookTube; book; reader; social media
Goffman & YouTube: best buddies on social identity? Margriet van Weperen
Margriet van Weperen
In 1959, Erving Goffman wrote his famous book ‘The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life’, in which Goffman describes his dramaturgical analysis of face-to-face interaction. Central themes mentioned in this book are social identity, self presentation and self image. By describing different aspects of a social interaction, Goffman’s analysis shows how people use and manipulate the ‘others’ in the interaction. YouTube is an online contemporary medium, where the interaction is mediated. However, despite the difference in interaction with Goffman’s analysis and the time period, social identity, self presentation and self image remain crucial concepts for this medium; not only for the platform YouTube itself, but also for the YouTubers. YouTubers present themselves in a specific manner to get their desired social identity and in the hope to receive a (big) audience. Therefore, a comparison between Goffman’s dramaturgical analysis and the self presentation of YouTubers in their videos is of contemporary interest.
In the second quarter of this year, I will analyze around 150 videos of three different vloggers on YouTube for the features mentioned by Goffman. Example of these features are gestures, settings and framing. Important to note are the differences and the similarities between the two research settings. How do we explain the differences? Based on literature, explanations for the differences will be sought. Probably time can explain some of these differences, as society and the use of self-image has changed over the decades. One can think of the growing mobility of society and the growing influence of marketing on society. Final conclusions will be given.
During the conference, I would like to illustrate my research by showing the many steps of the research process. After shortly describing the main aspects of Goffman’s analysis, I intent to demonstrate how these can be observed in YouTube videos. One video will be shown and discussed. After the video, I would like to discuss my findings of the research.
“This is NOT rap”. Tastes and reception practices of Italian music listeners on YouTube
Musical taste is a complex thing, being both subjective and collective, intellectual and emotionally-driven, relatively static as well as related to the contexts and activities of the everyday life. This complex picture has become even more fragmented with the diffusion of digital platforms and streaming services, which allow users to browse enormous digital music catalogues at low or no cost, to share their tastes and comment others’, as well as to partly delegate their music choices and discovery to recommender algorithms. YouTube undoubtedly represents one of the main sources for contemporary music lovers. The recent introduction of the “autoplay feature” on the platform, which automatically plays related videos one after the other, makes YouTube users’ experience further algorithmically constructed and it raises new questions about the interplay between music reception and technology. Starting from these premises, this article aims to explore Italian YouTube users’ music taste and reception practices through a mixed methods investigation. More specifically, this study will focus both on the individual use of YouTube as a tool for listening and exploring music and on the social representations of “good” and “bad”, “authentic” and “inauthentic” music emerging from YouTube comments. What is the impact of YouTube, and in particular of its recommendation system, on users’ musical repertoires and reception habits? How does the social construction of musical taste on YouTube comments discursively work? The methods employed for addressing these research questions are, respectively, in-depth qualitative interviews with a theoretical sample of Italian YouTube users and text analysis, conducted on a large corpus of almost 100k comments regarding around 10k Italian popular music videos. The main theoretical goal of this article is not to conceive musical taste simply as an individual feature but as a process, now involving technology as an active and significant component. The main methodological goal relies in the possibility of triangulating the YouTube users’ accounts collected through the interviews with the digital traces of their behaviour on the platform, thus mixing micro and macro, on and offline analyses.
Title: “I would say YouTube is like TV? I use it a lot, having children and all…”: Television, YouTube and the practices of contemporary parenting
YouTube is often studied in relation to television, with researchers asking questions such as what is YouTube and how does it compare to traditional mediums such as television? (Snickars and Vonderau, 2009); can YouTube be used for the same purposes as traditional television? (Burgess and Green, 2009); and does YouTube mean the end of television? (Bennett and Strange, 2011; Grainge, 2011). These are all important questions and consequently highly valuable pieces of academic work, however, what is often missing is audience’s perspectives and the study of YouTube as a lived experience, with a particular focus on specific audience groups. Moreover, while traditional media, such as television, have a long tradition of being studied in the family context, newer platforms, such as YouTube, are most often studied from the perspective of technically savvy youth, with there being a lack of knowledge on how they are made sense of and used in the domestic setting on a day-to-day basis.
This paper aims to fill in the identified gaps in YouTube scholarship by studying YouTube in the context of family everyday life, with a particular emphasis on the everyday practices of contemporary parenting. The data for this paper will come from a survey, in which 152 participants took part, and 12 in-depth semi-structured interviews with UK families, which have been conducted as part of a PhD research. The paper will investigate what is the place that YouTube occupies in home family entertainment, and how it is understood and experienced by parents and children, with a particular focus on under-represented audience group of parents with children under the age of 5. The paper will also look at how YouTube is used purposefully and functionally by parents to deal with everyday pressures of contemporary parenthood, and examine family audiences’ attitudes towards the platform and its functionality.
The popularity and potential of YouTube in Saudi Arabia
YouTube is currently one of the most popular social networks sites in Saudi Arabia (Jones & Omran. 2014). It is used both for the creation of content and programs as well as for browsing and dissemination. As a result, “Little wonder that so many Saudis turn to YouTube and other online broadcasters for light relief” (The Economist. 2014). The ease with which citizens in Saudi Arabia are able to upload and comment on YouTube has made it one of the most popular social platforms in the country.
In Saudi Arabia “Mass media hasn’t produced enough content suited to the country’s large population of young people” (Jones & Omran. 2014). This generation is thus no longer turning to traditional media for information; instead, social media has become an important source of information, a vector of the event, and a witness to the facts. If traditional media doesn’t provide a voice, then social media and social networks provide opportunities both to participate and to comment.
As a result, the number of Saudi YouTube channels has exploded since 2010. Channels like Sa7i also have their own accounts on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, and Google plus, onto which they post links to their videos, many of which provide an irreverent, satirical take on current events. This has helped them to reach more audiences, as well as making it easier for users to share links with each other and comment on Sa7i’s output.
Whether YouTube has the potential to act as a form of parliament and bring about small but significant change, or simply as an alternative mode of expression, time will tell. Nevertheless, what this paper sets out to do is to identify the reasons for the popularity of YouTube in Saudi Arabia and the possibilities impacts, which could result from this.
Peter Oakley is So Cool Like: British Pioneers of YouTube and Film
Peter Oakley (YouTube user geriatric1927) was born just prior to the Cinematograph Films Act 1927 receiving royal assent, a bill designed to counteract the dominance of the Hollywood film industry in the UK. Charlie McDonnell (YouTube user charlieissocoollike) was born in 1990, around the time that Tim Berners-Lee was completing the tools necessary for the Web, and just a few months before the first Web servers outside CERN itself were being switched on. Despite belonging to very different generations, both Oakley and McDonnell can be regarded as ‘pioneers’ of ‘Web film’ and ‘British YouTube’ (if such a thing can said to exist on such a transnational platform) through their significant achievements as ‘YouTubers’. In 2006, Oakley’s channel took a turn as the most subscribed channel on YouTube. Over the next 8 years, until his death in 2014, he made over 400 YouTube videos through which ‘we can glimpse the contours of an innovation in the relationship with the “classic” documentary’ (Sørenssen 2009) and recognise ground-breaking online ‘social engagement, intergenerational contact and co-creativity’ (Harley and Fitzpatrick 2009). McDonnell began on YouTube in 2007 and in 2011 he became the first YouTuber in the UK to reach 1 million subscribers. He continues his YouTube channel to the present with 2.4 million subscribers and 295 million views.
‘Pioneer’ is the term that is often applied to the first film-makers, and in the British context this would refer to film-makers such as Birt Acres (1854-1918) or Sagar Mitchell (1866-1952) and James Kenyon (1850-1925). We can create a dialogue in which to rethink film pioneers as makers of user-created content in the era of artisanal film-making (prior to development of factory film-making) and ‘early YouTubers’ such as Oakley and McDonnell as DIY film-makers pioneering ‘something’ ahead of similar changes that will happen in the future to the YouTube platform and to the Web more widely as a moving image medium. But, when these major changes do come, what exactly will that ‘something’ be that Oakley and McDonnell will be seen to have pioneered?
Youtube, Twitter and Social Media: New fault lines for postcolonialism?
Ravinder Barn, Utsa Mukherjee, Balbir Barn and Franco Raimondi
The pervasiveness of social media has resulted in increased public involvement in key discussions about social issues as well as creating greater affordances for individual expression and collective mobilization. In December 2012, the rape and murder of a 23-year-old Indian student in New Delhi, India, was followed by widespread condemnation and public action organised and coordinated through social media (Barn 2013). In March 2015, a controversial BBC documentary, “India’s Daughter”, about the incident was broadcast despite restrictions imposed by the Indian Government. While a ban was in place in India, media journalist Kate Bevan uploaded the film on Youtube. Although Google did remove the film, access to the film allowed the debate to rage on social media laying bare the cultural politics of Post-colonialism and its enactment in contemporary times. Using a mixed methods approach including machine-learning analysis of 250,000 tweets collated following the broadcast of the documentary, and textual analysis of tweets and blogs related to the film, this paper frames the debate and discussion from a postcolonial perspective. The paper explores how social media can serve as an important arena for participation and mobilization against existing power structures. Given the increasingly widespread use of social media as a social science laboratory for research and experimentation, this paper also seeks to make a valuable contribution to the theoretical, methodological and empirical literature for this domain. The implications for the role, nature and necessary technologies for multi-disciplinary research are also discussed.
“The numbering life of platforms. Organising value and relations in social media”
Carolin Gerlitz and Natalia Sanchez-Querubin
The paper explores the numbering practices of social media platforms and introduces a platform political perspective on doing and undoing numbers. Numbers have been key elements of the web and platforms from their beginning in the form of pageview, pagerank or Like counters, as well as other visible attention and engagement metrics. However, their capacities to organize relations and operate as calculative device (Callon and Muniesa 2005) have not been addressed extensively. The paper adds to ongoing debates on numbering by offering a platform political perspective, considering numbers as means to organize stakeholder relations and valuation processes in digital media (Gillespie 2010). Drawing on the case of YouTube, it provides a historical account on the enumerated entities (Verran 2010) on the platform frontpage and videopage. It shows how in the early years YouTube was characterized by an abundance of numbers, whilst the rise of personalized recommendation has increasingly moved it “after numbers”. The visibility and presentation of metrics, we argue, is entangled in the valuation practices of both content and user activity and a key means to organise the multivalence of platforms. The paper shows how numbers invite for specific valuation of content, relations between users and cater to a multiplicity of value regimes, functioning at the same as calculative, affective and thus platform political devices. Numbers in digital media, we conclude, cannot be accounted for as discrete entities, but take on their capacities and values when being assembled into specific rhetorics, interface designs and use contexts.
WANNA BE A …VLOGGER!?!
What kind of worker is a youtube’s vlogger? According to the literature of the sociology of the professions a “vlogger” is not a professional, even if the main income derives from this activity. In fact, there is no academic training to prepare this work and not recognition by State as providers for the entry into the labor market. There isn’t also a professionals association setting out rights and obligations of those workers or, above all, there isn’t a specific body of knowledge. While working in the communication sector, a “vlogger” is not even a knowledge worker because own capital – cultural, social, economic – is created by the publishing of own experience and not posted on Youtube because experienced and subsequently communicated.
This work presents first evidence of a study on the professional careers of international youtuber who posted regularly and exclusively vlog of own everyday life. In particular, from the first analysis three relevant data seem to emerge: while the channel is often created by a single, to “vlog and post” becomes an activity of family; the channel is opened to publicize own activities – related to the entertainment world or the makeup – in recent years the vlogs become regular; consequently, there is a tendency to transform own business on youtube as a primary activity, gradually abandoning own job in the real world.
Post-Viral Yellow Fever: Wong Fu Productions and Postracial Transmissions on YouTube
In January 2006, three Asian American film students who called themselves Wong Fu Productions posted their breakthrough short film “Yellow Fever” on YouTube. The sketch, in which the narrator uses self-deprecating humour to address the “injustice” of white men dating Asian/American women, was widely circulated and re-uploaded by YouTube users around the world. Ten years and more than two million subscribers later, Wong Fu Productions posted the sequel “Yellow Fever 2” on their official channel as a larger-budget addendum to the original film. In the sequel, white people admonish the returning narrator for simultaneously wanting to be fetishized and being “racist” toward white people. It concludes with a South Asian man’s advice: “The history of mainstream media’s representation of us sucks, but don’t let that make you jaded. Ultimately, it’s up to you to be confident, open-minded, and not so angry.”
This call for Asian Americans to pacify their anger a decade after the birth of a generation of Asian American “YouTube stars” (Christina Bacareza Balance) articulates how the institutionalization and monetization of social media circulation render YouTube “post-viral”—what Robert Payne describes as the cultural shift away from seeing virality as “risky” online behaviour and toward the systemic functionality of “sharing” as a form of successful capitalist transmission. I argue that post-virality abets the postracial erasure of historical and ongoing imperial projects that associate racialized, gendered, and queer bodies with disease (Alison Bashford; Nguyen Tan Hoang), and the potential for these bodies to enact futures through the viral circulation of racial memory. Drawing together Asian American studies, new media theory, and medical narratives, I examine the manner of distribution and content of the two “Yellow Fever” videos to contend that these performances mark a move from figuring interracial encounter as infective intimacy to presenting this contact as a form of racial vaccination that keeps the white subject safely intact within the liberal logic of postraciality. I query how the technologies of authentication and convergence on YouTube provide Wong Fu Productions with a platform for transnational viewership, yet facilitate their consumption as postracial figures—a recasting of the model minority.
The Creativity Challenge: Creator Networks and Innovation among YouTube Collaborators
Though “creativity” is often ascribed to the individual artist or auteur, sociologists have long acknowledged the role of social interaction and networked relations in fueling innovation (Granovetter, 1973; Roger, 1962; Allen, 1977; Obstfeld, 2005). Social network theorists have found that while weak social ties heighten innovation, this trend is likely to reverse once an optimum, tipping point is reached (Zhou, Shin, Brass, Choi, & Zhang, 2009; Baer, 2010). YouTube, as a platform for both content distribution and social networking, presents an ideal site for exploring the interaction between social networks and creativity. However, studies on the diffusion of YouTube videos and viral content have focused on the features of this content (Shifman, 2012) or how viewers share and engage with content (Xu, Park, Kim, & Park, 2016; Van Zoonen, Vis, & Mihelj, 2011), disregarding the role of social networks of content creators within YouTube itself. To address this gap, this paper examines the diffusion of creative innovation among networks of popular, well-connected YouTube content creators and their collaborative efforts. The role of these “elite” networks in the diffusion of YouTube “challenge” and other collaboration videos will be explored, with a focus on how YouTube itself has facilitated these networks. In order to find out how networks, industry, and content interrelate, I will analyze the social ties between YouTube’s popular creators and their creative output, as well the ways YouTube as a company and a platform facilitates these ties. This analysis focusses on English-speaking content creators featured in YouTube’s annual “YouTube Rewind” videos, employing a combination of social network analysis, content analysis of collaboration videos, and analysis of YouTube’s strategies for supporting creators. The formation of elite groups of YouTube content creators has the potential to create an echo chamber for creativity. Ultimately the promotion of a small number of popular creators by both their own creative networks and YouTube’s promotional campaigns create an environment in which new creators and diverse content will have increased difficulty in finding an audience, leading to cultural stagnation as online video increasingly sets the tone for mainstream creative content.
Understanding YouTube Using the DANSTAC model
It is difficult for media studies to find the right words to describe YouTube. It is described as a ‘medium’ (Hess 2009), a ‘platform’ (Burgess & Green 2009), a ‘social network’ (Cheng, Dale & Liu 2008), an ‘archive’ (Prelinger, 2009; Snickars, 2009), and even an ‘information management system” (Kessler & Schäfer, 2009). All of these comparisons are useful, but it is like a group of observers of a complex building describing one wall each: We never get a full picture. It is further not likely that those describing YouTube as an archive will ever agree with those who think it is a network.
This paper will attempt to describe YouTube by giving an overview of YouTube as an Actor Network. Basic as it is to anyone familiar with the service, few writers have in fact discussed the whole network. I will attempt to do so, using a model complex enough to show the many uses of the service, and simple enough to provide overview. The model is thought as an actor network ((Latour, 2005), built from (1) an analysis of YouTube’s many documents explaining the service and how it may be used, and (2) and analysis of the affordances of YouTube as a platform for creators and users through several small design projects.
The model is called DANSTAC, which is short for Devices for viewing video, Apps running on the devices, Networks such as internet and mobile networks, Servers where the videos reside, Transcoding into different formats, Associated metadata, and Content. All parts are essential for YouTube’s success, and the resulting network is so flexible that YouTube has been able to grow into the thousands of distinct uses that exist today. It is also flexible enough for Google to generate many different kinds of revenue.
The DANSTAC model is not unique to YouTube, it characterises a growing number of internet services, where Amazon, Facebook, Spotify, and MixCloud are among the most well known. While resembling very different earlier media, they are remarkably similar in how they operate, as shown in this analysis.
A digital sociology of YouTube
YouTube is the most important video sharing platform of the Internet, with millions of users and a huge amount of user-generated content in the forms of videos and textual contributions (comments) by a plurality of users all over the world, for a myriad of scopes that include production, consumption. distribution, learning and innovation. These purposes and scopes, however, have been mostly analysed by current research somewhat as separate domains, across media studies, computer science and the sociology of culture and consumption, in the absence so far of a comprehensive interpretation of YouTube as a social environment, other than a (new) media, with its logics, cultures and practices.
This paper discusses the role of YouTube across its 10 years existence in light of the emergence of digital sociology as a discipline that studies the broader implications of the encounter between the digital and the social. The contribution will focus on how big data, algorithms and user-generated content come together on YouTube to make it the textbook example of an online social environment that offers methodological as well as theoretical elements of attention, that include significant potential for research but also controversies and constraints that need disentanglingfrom a social science and digital humanities perspective that needs to comply a media-based with an actor-based framework.
Assessing the Sense of Virtual Community in the so‐called YouTube Community
Luis Manuel Gil
After its 10th anniversary YouTube has become the leader platform in the modality of video sharing and subject of study for academics around the globe, interested in characterizing the interaction taking place in the site. In YouTube, vlogs are the outstanding type of content because of their unique means of production and the way audiences engage with them. In fact, the large amount of views and comments that popular vlogs receive in YouTube are indicators that some sort of fascinating interaction: the formation of the so-called “YouTube community” made of viewers and YouTubers (uploaders of content). While Griffith & Papacharissi (2010) report
that vlogs have been studied as political journalistic‐related mediums, there is still few interest in addressing their ability to attract larger groups of viewers forming communities (Ridings, Gefen & Arinze, 2002), committed to interact by experiencing a strong Sense of Virtual Community –SOVC (e.g: Blanchard, 2004, 2007; Blanchard and Markus, 2004; Tonteri et al., 2011). The few studies on the matter have employed methods where participants self-referenced their SOVC or the analysis of texts that made explicit reference to community belonging. Since virtual communities take communication as their essential feature of belonging and vlogs privilege the use of comments as mean of communication between viewers and producers, there is potential on both practices to foster such sense of belonging in virtual settings. However, to what extent are there visible indicators of SOVC in the YouTube community? Through a qualitative content analysis on YouTube comments, taking as
case the channel of prominent Internet celebrity Tyler Oakley, this study applied the traditional categories used to measure SOVC to the texts in order to find out how the commentary feature of the site promotes community building among viewers of personal vlogs. The findings point to the presence of collective emotions, and emotion homophily, connected to the dominance of emotional attachment; and fandom, due to the prominent figure of Oakley. This situates the case into the discussion of how online communities such as the formed in YouTube conform social clusters that have a saying in the perpetuation of popular culture in media.
Making YouTube Great Again: The aesthetics of pro-Trump video memes
The political exuberance of social media and internet video sites on the left is relatively well documented, from the campaign for Obama in 2008 and Occupy Wall Street in the US, to the Yes movement for Scottish independence and the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour party leader in the UK. But political movements that inhabit a space that arguably disrupts the traditional establishment on the right, like the Tea Party movement in the US, or the Brexit movement in the UK, are often portrayed as largely offline movements inhabiting broadcasts from Fox News or the pages of the Daily Express. But with the campaign for Donald Trump in the 2016 US primaries there is a “yuge” amount of digital activity, particularly through user generated viral videos on YouTube. This talk will discuss the emerging genre of pro-Trump YouTube videos, and examine how the formal characteristics of viral Trump videos reflect and can explain the apparent popularity of the candidate. Through use of popular examples of pro-Trump video memes this paper argues that Trump can be seen as a politician that tightly fits the aesthetics and the language of memes, with videos articulating a focus on tightly edited movement, emotion, and manipulation of news footage to enhance the brevity of soundbites, saturation of colour, and juxtaposition of Trump and his opponents. These videos are also highly intertextual, referencing the digital mediascape of Trump’s young supporters through intercut elements from video games, anime, and discussion forum tropes. Through the use of a shared aesthetic language of memes, material from pro-Trump videos spills into the YouTube comment sections like a Greek chorus, further feeding back into repeated catchphrases that mirror and mimic the populist discourses of the candidate himself. Viral pro-Trump videos behave as memes first – user generated and spreadable with appeals to digital authenticity – and as political advocacy second. Just as with Trump’s original unedited appearances, the text of the policy is less important than the form of the medium. With Donald Trump, the meme is the message.
Visibility matters: YouTube algorithmic logic and the spread of Islamophobia
Ariadna Matamoros Fernández and Òscar Coromina
Today YouTube is part of the mainstream media and a platform where a wide variety of users –from ordinary citizens to big companies– search, share and consume information (Burgess & Green, 2009). YouTube is a site of participatory culture where non-professional content creation intertwines with official discourse, which makes the platform an interesting locus of research to understand the changing relationships between new technologies, business and popular culture (Burgess & Green, 2009). In a moment where social media sites sustain the majority of online sociability and creativity (van Dijck, 2013), the study of platforms and their role as content curators is crucial to understand the techno-cultural constructions of public debates (Gillespie, 2010, 2013). In 2012, YouTube changed its video discovery features –how its viewers find videos to watch via search and suggested algorithms– to surface videos that drive watch time over clicking (YouTube creator Blog, 2012). With this move, the platform sought to increase user engagement, which increases revenue opportunities for its business partners (YouTube creator Blog, 2012). This economic driven algorithmic change is part of YouTube rationale for content curation, which influences the way we consume information and get to know about things. However, algorithms are constantly changing due to machine learning components and the process to understand the decisions mechanisms involved in the ranking of videos in YouTube search is complex (Rieder, 2015). Building on Rieder’s (2015) approach to describe the structure and dynamics of outputs of YouTube ranking mechanism, this paper seeks to interrogate YouTube’s role in the curation of content with regards to Islam and the extent to which the platform contributes to the spread of Islamophobia. By examining the ordered videos returned by YouTube when querying “Islam” next to different western countries names over time (e.g. “Islam UK” or “Islam France”) and the network connections among the videos based on related content, we seek to theorise how the platform contributes to coordinate knowledge around the issue. First, we will describe and compare the outcomes of the algorithmic work, and second we will qualitatively analyse the content of the top results over time and for each country. The qualitative approach seeks to describe whether the videos that the platform surfaces represent multiple viewpoints about the issue or, on the contrary, they mainly show agonistic views towards Islam and Muslims.
Individual Cultural Entrepreneurship: YouTube Beauty Vloggers
This study investigates the cultural and economic practices of YouTube beauty video bloggers (vloggers). Against the background of neoliberal economic practices, commodities are increasingly associated with signs and information, and business messages target customers’ lived experiences. Beauty and fashion vloggers become perfect public personalities as they produce lifestyle-oriented contents in their videos. Their self-branding practices, entrepreneurial drive and working patterns are also in accordance with the neoliberal labour conditions of cultural workers, where passions and creativity are attached to the work, and the boundary between work and play blurs. Taking these previously amateur, now professional YouTube personalities as an example, I argue that grassroots content creation on YouTube is undergoing a process of institutionalization. Beauty vloggers’ self-made micro-celebrity status and their career paths are supported by YouTube’s business model, social media marketing needs and individual entrepreneurship. On the other side of the coin, user-created contents need to react to the limitations and constraints brought about by YouTube’s monetization models, which challenge the conception of participatory culture as anti-commercial and subversive in nature. The study identifies three major monetization means by beauty vloggers, including the YouTube Partner Programme, third-party sponsorship and joining Multi-channel Networks. Vloggers on the one hand navigate through the online community culture by producing contents favoured by subscribers and by managing their fan base, and on the other hand optimize their contents and channel formats to maximize the economic gains from their videos. By way of conclusion, I try to reflect on the role of social media in creating fame and public figures. YouTube grants potential media visibility to ordinary people, as it bypasses the gate-keeping role of traditional media industry. However, in the case of beauty vloggers, we still witness them producing mainstream subjectivities by displaying middle-class femininity and lifestyle. This phenomenon may urge us to abandon both digital optimism and technological determinism and consider online cultural phenomena in conjunction with local and global economic, cultural and historical factors.
The Use of Online Video in the 2015 General Election: The implications of the victory of the Conservative’s narrowcasting strategy for the future of political campaigning in the United Kingdom
Since the late 1990s, when domestic internet access began to become widespread, approaching General Elections have been accompanied by predictions that digital technologies would transform the conduct, nature and outcome of British politics. Successive campaigns have seen speculation over “a straw man question of whether this would be an Internet or social media election even though there was little sense of what a social media election might mean” (Wring & Ward, 2015: 232). In the run-up to the 2015 UK General Election, YouTube and digital video bore much of the hype around technology’s potential to “disrupt” the political system (Wright 2013; Holehouse 2015; Krasodomski & Smith 2015). High expectations often referenced the success of Barack Obama’s two presidential campaign and the hopeful narrative of level playing fields and broader citizen engagement that has emerged from studies of his success (Ricke 2014; Gibson 2015; Harfoush 2009). This paper looks at the use of digital video in the 2015 British General election – focusing particularly on the Labour and Conservative strategies. Driven partly by necessity, due differences in levels of available funding, and partly by ideology, the two parties pursued quite distinct approaches (Byrne 2015). They also targeted different audiences with the Conservatives narrowly focused on key voters in key constituencies (Ross 2015), whereas Labour spread itself more widely, seeking to engage a younger audience and its “core” vote (Benady 2015). The outcome of the campaign suggests that the Conservative Party’s “narrowcasting” approach was more successful and this, it is argued, may have significant implications for future political campaigning in the United Kingdom. The combination of Britain’s first past the post electoral system (which can place the election outcome in the hands of small numbers of geographically concentrated swing voters), and an Internet environment where access is largely controlled by a few large, profit-driven organisations (Facebook and Google) may drive successful campaigns to focus even more narrowly on a relative handful of voters and require deeper pockets to fund more expensive advertising. It is possible, therefore, that, despite egalitarian hopes, the use of digital video in political campaigning could contribute to entrenching the advantages of vested interests.
Breaking Down Global Internet Stereotypes: YouTube as a Cultural Analysis Tool
Social media and mobile technology give self-imagination a new urgency. Not merely a social practice, it is a form of negotiation between individuals and “globally defned felds of possibility” [Appadurai, 2000]. Viral information channels such as YouTube promote fgures like the Jihadist, the Hipster, the Nerd and the Gangster – creative yet controversial stereotypes spread through viral “imaginary tags” (e.g. hipster brand names, gangster tattoos, jihadi slogans and tech buzzwords). Are those fgures ft to be global identity models?Stereotype is known to maintain the status quo [Lippman, 1922], but also as an efcient form of self-categorization [Turner, 1986]. Understanding the cultural importance of Internet-mediated stereotypes and counter-stereotypes could help reveal their potential for tactical emancipation. Such an investigation requires a multi-disciplinary approach, comprising qualitative, digital and visual methods.
YouTube is particularly ft to conduct research on the aforementioned Internet stereotypes. The platform has many structural advantages: content variety, viral potential, tagging system, developer API, tracking of user behaviour. Youtube-specifc tools like those available at https://tools.digitalmethods.net/netvizz/youtube/ allow the scraping of key data like channel and video info, related channels and videos for each item (ranked by relevance, view count, date or other parameters), video comments. Possible approaches are:
-Qualitative analysis of videos and comments (with comparison of common sub-narratives and analysis of sentiment variation);
-Quantitative analysis of tags and view count (with scraping of keywords and visualisation of tag-clouds);
-Tracking and documenting the story of a certain fgure over time (chronological playlists, etc).
How can YouTube help tell the story of stereotypes and also illustrate how they can be tweaked into more complex identity models?
Going beyond the study of digital networks, I intend to investigate tagging as a cultural form, analysing the creative dynamics of stereotypical self-imagination. My focus will be on the injection of alternative fgures in the social imaginary as “tactical media” [De Certeau, 1984] or “image dispositifs” [Berardi, 2004] to produce social change. By analysing the YouTube presence of counter-stereotypes – e.g. the Black Nerd as an alternative to the Gangster – I will also highlight YouTube’s unique afordances in stereotype study.
Artists rethinking YouTube: from YouTube Play to NoTube Contest
In June 2010 Guggenheim Foundation announced a new collaboration with Google. The art institution advertised a biennial of the best videos uploaded on YouTube, Google’s online video sharing service. The first edition of 2010 offered a selection of the best 25 videos uploaded since October 2010, selected by a jury of artists. The playlist was exhibited at Guggenheim as part of YouTube Play, a celebration of creativity and art from the archives of YouTube.
As noted by Domenico Quaranta (2011: 34) YouTube Play could be more appropriately rethought as part of the branding of YouTube as a hub of creativity and experimentation. However, it was a specific kind of creativity that was being promoted, one that is achieved through the free, unpaid work of its users. The selected videos all had impressive numbers of viewers, but many other videos, possibly less self-congratulatory artistic experiments, were not mentioned in YouTube Play. YouTube presented itself, in the promotional video of the exhibition, as an open and empty canvas, ready to be modelled by the creativity of its users. YouTube’s promotional collaboration with Guggenheim is part of the ‘social turn in art’, as put by Claire Bishop (2012), one where engagement with spectators and collective collaboration become the dominant criteria for the evaluation of art.
In this paper I will discuss and critically analyse alternative artistic work that took place within and around YouTube. In particular, I will focus on the work by art collective IOCOSE. The NoTube Contest by IOCOSE (2009-ongoing) is a yearly performance, similar in its style and structure to YouTube Play, but reversed in its meaning. NoTube Contest is a competition for the most ‘valueless’ video on YouTube. Participants are asked to find videos on YouTube that show no clear reason to be made, published or watched. The proposals are then shortlisted and a final winner is decided by a special jury. The winner of the NoTube Contest should be able to find a video that is not exactly expected to be found according to the rationale of YouTube, which favours instead popular videos, with clear narratives and/or uploaded by already known artists, directors or companies. IOCOSE’s First-Viewer Television (2012) is an online television channel which streams an automatically updated playlist of videos from YouTube each having zero views. The First-Viewer Television re-contextualises videos that would otherwise be lost or forgotten, thus re-thinking, as much as the NoTube Contest, our criteria for evaluating user-generated content. IOCOSE’s work questions what comes after the failure of the promise of participation that shaped the ideology of Web 2.0 and social media (Lovink 2011).
YouTube and Ageing: The Same Old Story?
YouTube hosts the music video for PJ Harvey’s most recent single release ‘The Community of Hope’ (2016). Shot by Seamus Murphy, the video shares screen space with official music videos from Harvey’s 23 year career. This paper asks what is at stake in that relationship between her past and present, examining the link between YouTube and ageing within popular music performance and fleshing that out by through two concepts; repetitive circularity and the flat archive. YouTube’s flat internal chronological architecture complicates the linearity of the ageing process within popular music. Focusing on PJ Harvey’s music videos, it traces out the collisions between early and recent music video performances to argue that the ‘nowness’ of Harvey’s (middle)ageing body is haunted (Fisher, 2014) by her earlier performances. This juxtaposition of the past and present affords a degree of circularity in terms of how to place a performance in linear time and is a process that aligns to pop’s cyclical character (Reynolds, 2011). This has implications for how performers such as Harvey remain mediated by their youthful past as they mature where they are never free from their former selves/versions. Writing on pop music and feminism within neoliberalism, Robin James (2015) considers the role of repetition within current popular music forms claiming that it is now a key structural component of popular music; I take her argument and trace it across to the terrain of YouTube and ageing to consider the impact of repetitive circularity on Harvey’s ageing body. To locate this process within a specific space, I draw on Robert Gehl’s (2009) work to trace out YouTube’s role as a repository and archive and suggest that there could be something important in the positioning of Harvey’s younger self alongside her present in YouTube’s ‘flat’ archive. For Gehl, YouTube is ‘Wunderkammer’ a decontextualized, chaotic and flattened cabinet of wonders that is not an archive in and of itself. Archival status is afforded internally within YouTube by bloggers who taxonomise the videos and create meaningful narratives. Exactly what types of narratives of ageing in particular are afforded by this flatness and circularity is what constitutes the core of this paper’s inquiry.
Youtube travel vlogging as a popular trend of travel journalism and Travel 2.0.
The life of a modern man occurs in two dimensions – in the real one and the virtual one. The virtual life a person takes place in his/her social media accounts – Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, etc. The reality refracted through the many filters, transforms, or rather reduces, into virtual reality. This new reality introduces the ‘better-self’ of a presenter to the world. Travel channels on Youtube are becoming the prominent part of the existing travel media. Travel vlogging has became so popular that almost everyone with a proper equipment and a little bit of a talent can possibly turn into a Youtube celebrity. Some YouTubers would record the happy moments of their travels just for themselves and family, others are counting on the mass audience. For the latter, travel vlogging is a passion and a mean of earning money. Many of Youtubers dream about making vlogging their primary mean for a living, but only a few can make it – turn a hobby into a profession.
Amateur vlogging became a trend: even professionally produced travel programs use small portable and mobile cameras as a way to get the attention of the new niche audiences. Some Russian Youtube travel channels have became even more popular than TV travel programs. Currently, there are many real and online travel schools in Russia that teach the basics of storytelling, photo, and video shooting and editing. The number of such schools is growing up each year, but travel journalism theory, especially in Russia, is in its infancy, so these teachers neglect many important aspects of representation and western supremacy.
Terminology in the field of travel journalism is not formed academically yet, therefore there are differences in spelling and understanding of the concepts. That big confusion in the terminology of travel journalism led to a lot of misunderstandings. Who is a travel journalist? Who is travel blogger? Who is Youtube travel blogger? How his/her role differs from a professional journalist? Does travel blogger engages into journalism? Can professional journalist engage in travel blogging and vlogging? The purpose of this article will deal with all those concepts regarding travel journalism, Travel 2.0 and Youtubing in Russian and international medias.
Caribbean Diaspora and YouTube: Race, Gender, Nation, and Platform
Tzarina T. Prater
Whether it is the five-minute mini music documentary video, “Hakka Chinese Jamaican,” ripped from Canadian Broadcasting Television and uploaded to YouTube by Max William on May 7, 2011 or what Patricia Lange refers to as deeply personal “videos of affinity,” vlogs uploaded from the intimate space of “home” by The PhotoBlogger and Natzimas, the uploaders of these videos to YouTube, these Caribbean diasporic subjects use the platform to negotiate their relationships to constructions of racial, gendered, and national identity. This paper explores the negotiations of identity by Caribbean Chinese on digital platforms, specifically their use of YouTube to create an archive, to write themselves into historical and national memory. In doing so, I am trying to answer Timothy Chin’s call to question how cultural texts created by these subjects, in this case videos uploaded by digital Caribbean diasporic subjects, explore and challenge “discourses of national, cultural, and racial identity” (107). This paper seeks to parse out these challenges articulated on YouTube where technology, history, cultural production, and the concepts of “platform” converge and I am asking what kind of languages of resistance, if any, are being produced in these spaces.
From the Bedroom to LA: Revisiting the Settings of Early Video Blogs on YouTube
The home is only one of many settings in contemporary YouTube videos. However, as crucial works of YouTube research point out, the home and the bedroom in particular were common settings of early YouTube videos (Burgess 106, Peters and Seier 193, Strangelove 204). My paper revisits the settings of early video blogs on YouTube and the arguments made about these settings and their cultural meanings thus far. It presents some of the results of my PhD project about video blogging on YouTube during the first two years of the platform’s operation (2005 and 2006). Video bloggers’ use of domestic and other settings is a far more complex issue than it may appear on a first encounter with their videos. Convenience, creative ambitions, viewers’ expectations (both of continuity and variety), and emerging conventions intersected in this dimension of the audiovisual practice video blogging.
In contrast with the notion of “private spaces” that were “simply” shown “as they are” (Peters and Seier 192), it can be demonstrated that teenage bedrooms were willingly, consciously, and performatively put into the scene on video blogs. These locations offered their own materiality and meanings for adoption or manipulation. A few vloggers even neutralized bedroom settings through selective framing or lighting, or constructed virtual settings through compositing. Typically, videos were produced to be publicly shown on YouTube. Accordingly, they should be seen as public artefacts in the first place – and not as private artefacts or as private-artefacts-gone-public (cf. Burgess 106).
In order to create variety or because specific video projects required different settings, vloggers began using settings beyond the bedroom. Over the course of time, settings appear to follow an expansive outward movement from bedrooms to other settings in the home, to local and regional settings. From mid-2006 on several vloggers got involved with the established media industries and shot videos with Los Angeles as a setting (e.g. smosh). At the same time, people at the margins of the industries who were already living in LA started YouTube projects (e.g. LisaNova). Accordingly, the expansive movement appears to culminate in LA, the centre of the American entertainment industries, signalling the fast integration of YouTube culture into popular culture at large.
YouTube as Multimodal Assemblage: A Methodological and Conceptual Frame.
If ‘culture’ is a system of ideas, codes, symbols, and narratives that inform the lived experience and interpretation of social life, then we can uncontroversially state that social media represent new cultural forms, complete with their own sets of meaning-making systems. It becomes imperative therefore to question what place a platform such as YouTube occupies in contemporary life, and to do so we must move beyond reductive notions of media objects or comment-communities. This paper presents a methodological and conceptual frame that takes account of YouTube as a cultural space of the performance, representation and communication of meaning. As such, I present a developing framework for approaching YouTube as a multimodal assemblage: a collection of performative, communicative and representational modes of communication that interact, interplay and co-constitute the YouTube Graphic User Interface. YouTube has been studied in many different ways, but the tendency to remove, ignore or trivialise elements of the platform for analytic or conceptual ease tends to undermine all but the most targeted of studies. I have developed this approach from aspects of anthropology, micro-sociology, and computational social science. In doing so, it hopes to take account of YouTube fundamentally as a site of social action and interaction. The work has grown from developing a means to study ritualised online responses to disruptive Media Events. It asks questions of the material and ideational functioning structures that define interactions and their success (or otherwise). Most importantly it asks ‘what is being done here? How does it function, and how does it relate to the larger structure of which it is part?’. The modes of video , naming and commenting have differing temporal groundings, syntax, author-audience relations, and performative orientations. They are distinct yet mutually implicating, each mode is a socially shaped and culturally given semiotic resource for meaning-making, each with it’s own potentialities and limitations. Multimodality allows for analysis to function on two levels: the first within the semiotic , exploring the structural, functional and cultural accomplishment of meaning-making at the human level; the second resides outside the semiotic, asking how this socio-technical assemblage serves to classify the world into categories and orientations on a wider cultural scale.
Youtubers and social media affordances: the “Desce a Letra” intermedia network
Increasingly, YouTube invests in its Partnership Program, encouraging ordinary people to create their own channels on this website. The audiovisual contents created by users and allocated on YouTube are about different themes, as games, music, religion, politics and personal topics. People who produce and publish their own videos have been called “youtubers”, name that also started to characterize a profession whose income is derived from the YouTube Partnership Program, given that YouTube channel owners receive money for the advertising content available on their channel. This market logic is seen by some authors as a sponsor of hierarchical relationships established externally, favoring professional content. This logic, linked to media logic of convergence, participation, engagement and connection integrates the fabric of a socio-technical network composed by YouTube but not only by this website. Other media also participate on the intermedia dynamic of the audiovisual content on YouTube. These productions spread on social networks connections, such as Facebook and Twitter, which also have publications concerning the video and lead to comments and multiple communication actions: like, dislike, visualize, share and mark as favorite. These communication actions, expressed through the buttons and affordances of social networks are the subject of this proposal investigation. We are interested in thinking what are the media affordances that make up YouTube and other social networks (Facebook and Twitter) and allow content to spread in intermedia connections so that we can grasp an intermedia network in which one media complements the other in mutual association, often contradicting the hierarchical characteristics. For this purpose, we chose the Brazilian network “DESCE A LETRA”, created by the Brazilian Youtuber Cauê Moura and composed by the same channel name on Brazilian YouTube, one of the most viewed and with more subscribers, and official profiles on Twitter (@cauemoura) and Facebook (Desce a Letra). This intermedia network is the subject of our recent doctoral research and has been monitored during the first half of 2015 and the first half of 2016.
Hollywood.comm: The new screen ecology of social media entertainment
This paper is based on Stuart Cunningham and David Craig’s current book-length research. The title captures the fundamental dynamics at play in the challenges to, and changes in, screen entertainment (‘hollywood’) occasioned by a proto-industry (‘social media entertainment’) facilitated by communications technologies (the new digital platforms), primary strategies of communication as much as content (intense interactivity), and driven by an ethos of community (an ecology where fans, subscribers and supporters directly constitute the communities which trigger the sustainability of content creator careers).
It argues that the emerging shape of screen industries in the 21st century shows established players, norms, principles and practices ceding significant power and influence to the new digital streaming platforms. Just as notably, digital platforms, preeminently YouTube, have started to represent a greater value proposition to the advertising industry that has served as the bulwark for legacy media since the middle of the last century. Meanwhile, social media content production entrepreneurs have harnessed these platforms to generate significantly different content, separate from the century-long model of intellectual property control in the entertainment content industries. This new screen ecology is driven by intrinsically interactive, viewer- and audience-centricity. Combined, these factors inform a qualitatively different globalisation dynamic that has scaled with great velocity, posing new challenges for screen regulatory regimes, not to mention media scholars.
The paper anatomizes this emerging proto-industry based on the YouTube platform, taking an ‘ecological’ approach by investigating the interdependencies amongst its elements: mapping the platforms and affordances, content innovation and creative labor, monetization and management, new forms of media globalization, and critical cultural concerns raised by this nascent media industry. The paper contributes a well-evidenced revisionist account in the political economy of new media (the clash of cultures of globally dominant media and IT corporations); constructs an defence of short form commercializing online video culture as a highly normative space driven by appeals to authenticity and community; extends the debate on creative labour to include the precariousness of certain forms of media management; and assesses claims for a new wave of media globalization achieved without IP control.
“Hello, YouTubers” – Geriatric1927 and the deployment of self-created content and online sharing in retirement.
Popular stories in the media speak enthusiastically of the rise of teenage vloggers, who use the medium of YouTube to express themselves. However, in the United Kingdom, the retired population is rising and statistics show that growing numbers are using digital technology and the internet for more than search functions and buying goods online. Indeed, a small number are creating and sharing self-created content on platforms such as YouTube. This is a section of society often ignored in qualitative internet research. This paper case studies the retired vblogger, Peter Oakley, who was interviewed as part of a wider examination into how retirees create and share content on the internet.
In August 2006, Peter started uploading self-created videos diaries of personal monologues to YouTube with an account named Geriatric1927, named after his date of birth. He adopted the self-appointed title of ‘Internet Grandad’ (sic) and became something of a celebrity on the platform with over 40,000 subscribers to his channel and over 9 million views. His YouTube channel is a record of his life through historical personal vernacular narratives. The videos predominantly comprise of him speaking directly to camera, either telling a story about his life or talking about a topical subject. Peter considers the internet to have afforded him with the ability to recount and leave a record of his life online.
Peter’s use of YouTube is an example of a wider study that addresses how retired web users deploy self-created content sharing practices to communicate online and their motivations for engaging in these practices. Participants expressed that engaging with digital technologies helped to alleviate feelings of loneliness and further encouraged activities of vernacular creativity and participation in online networks.
YouTube-Celebrities and Fandom. Parasocial-Relationships in a new phenomenon.
Claudia Wegener and Alexander Rihl
The idea of parasocial interaction, based on the concept by Horton and Wohl (1956), is based on reality-TV hosts and casting-show moderators, but has changed through multiple alterations. Especially on YouTube we find new means of distribution and an extraordinary closeness to the audience through new ways of staging and interaction. Through this the YouTube-Celebrity emphasizes an authentic self, that is clearly connecting with the audience and creating an exceeding fandom.
To analyse this fandom, a quantitative online survey is looking into the parasocial relationships between user and YouTube-Celebrities and the intensity of their parasocial interaction. The online questionnaire raised (after data-cleansing) a database with 1174 cases.
As the results show, the intensity of parasocial interaction is increasing within relation of a growing level of activity of the communication and is connected to the success (follower-wise) of the celebrity. The fandom itself seems to be related to this connection: at a certain number of followers and a supposed development of fandom, the intensity of parasocial interaction is dropping, as is the level of parasocial relationships. It seems as if an increasing fandom is lowering the parasocial relationship. The results also proof, that the idea of parasocial relationships is convertible for new media and it’s celebrities. It can also be seen as a tentative explanation for new kinds of fandom, and shows that it is necessary to take a deeper look into this topic.
“Maybe they are like the freaks of twenty-first century”: Constructing the spectacle of deviance on YouTube
The following paper examines the relationship between stigmatization and spectacularization on YouTube. More specifically, it addresses the way in which certain YouTubers are represented as “human oddities”, examining the role of networked publics in such practices of exotisation.
Social network sites has allowed a large number of previously marginalized subjects to find opportunities for media participation. This increase in the visibility of diversity, however, is caught between emancipatory impulses and forms of spectacularization of difference, often driven by emotions close to ridicule and contempt. Many of the most successful viral phenomena on YouTube stem in fact from the ridiculing of individuals who are considered eccentrics, exhibitionists or outsiders.
In the Italian social media landscape, for instance, dozens of individuals have acquired a peculiar kind of micro-celebrity, guided by the interest of digital audiences in their bizarre personalities and their awkward performances; these people are labelled as “YouTube Freaks”, and they attract a great amount views, remix and ironic praises, as well as criticism and denigration.
The purpose of this paper is therefore to examine the Italian YouTube Freaks’ phenomenon, in order to observe 1) how networked publics construct “deviant YouTubers”, 2) what pleasures users derive from following them, and 3) what differences exist between such manifestations on YouTube and earlier forms of exposure of the human anomaly – such as the Victorian freak shows or daytime talk shows.
In order to attempt to answer these questions, the research employed a mixed method ethnography that incorporated: 1) participant observation over one year and half period, 2) YouTube comments’ content analysis and 3) 40 semi-structured interviews.
Drawing on the concept of enfreakment (Garland-Thomson 1996) derived from disability studies, we will see how users’ practices of remixing, commenting and sharing participate in transforming certain YouTubers into “YouTube Freaks”. In conclusion, it will be argued that the same affordances and practices of the platform that support the self-expression of subjectivities excluded from public visibility can also produce new forms of stigmatization; these concern the ways in which the person’s diversity becomes an exotic object of amusement, suitable to reinforce the norms of online self-presentation.
‘PewDiePie doesn’t sing or dance’: Mainstream media representations of YouTube celebrities.
Ruth Deller and Kathryn Murphy
In this paper, we explore the representation of YouTube celebrities in mainstream media – analysing a range of portrayals of these stars across news, print, television and radio. Although youth-oriented media such as Radio 1’s ‘Internet takeover’ and magazine Oh My Vlog! seek to capitalise on these celebrities and their audiences, such representations are in the minority. Many traditional media present YouTubers as lacking credibility and talent. Even when vlog stars have ventured into other modes of fame, their vlogging is repeatedly presented as a monetised ‘hobby’, delegitimising the idea that their celebrity can transcend the platform or has ‘merit’ compared to ‘real’ celebrity (echoing Rojek’s 2001 discussion of hierarchies of fame). For example, Louise Pentland (Sprinkle of Glitter)’s appearance on Celebrity Mastermind prompted repeated antagonistic questioning about her income and claims to fame from host John Humphrys – which no other (‘old media’) celebrity guests were subjected to. Coverage of Zoe Sugg (Zoella)’s ghostwritten novel Girl Online, presented her as immature, fraudulent, opportunist and lacking in talent; whilst the biggest YouTube star was dismissed as talentless in The Atlantic: ‘PewDiePie doesn’t sing or dance, no. PewDiePie has made his name—and a fortune—posting videos of himself playing video games’ (Zoia 2014). Existing research into camera and vlogging communities (e.g. Senft 2008; Burgess and Green 2009; Marwick 2013; Smith 2014) notes how YouTubers alter notions of ‘celebrity’ through performances of ‘authenticity’ and through exemplifying ‘participatory culture’ (Jenkins 2009). We argue these values that drive audiences to vlogs are also used as ways of criticising their stars as inauthentic, talentless and fraudulent, such as Wyatt’s summary of the criticisms of Sugg: ‘called a hypocrite for making a career out of teaching young girls to be themselves, only then to put her name to a ghostwritten book’ (2014).
We argue that such representations signify an apprehension and fear from the older formats towards the online mediums that threaten both the existence of traditional media forms, and the influence of traditional media professionals – as well as demonstrating contempt and ‘concern’ for the (presumed) younger audiences vloggers attract, who may well be bypassing older media in favour of YouTube.
 During the interview process Peter indicated that he would like his real name, nickname and YouTube channel link used in this research.
 Peter uploaded his final video on 12th February 2014 before passing away on 23rd March 2014. The video has been viewed over 100,000 times. As of April 4th 2016 his 434 videos are still available to view on his YouTube channel, which has amassed 48,170 subscribers and 9,812,499 video views.