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YouTube: It is neither You nor a Tube. Discuss.

October 17, 2011

To begin with, this curation project focuses on Chapter 4 in Burgess & Green’s book, “YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture”, which deals with YouTube as a social network; the group was comprised of myself (Steve), Margaret and Tony P.

When we think social networking, YouTube isn’t the first medium we think of.  YouTube is just a site where people can share videos, right?  Well, not exactly.  There is, to an extent, a form of social networking going on where “the video content itself is the main vehicle for communication and the main indicator of social clustering” (Burgess & Green 58).  In essence, the video itself serves as the forum where “through their many activities – uploading, viewing, discussing, and collaborating – the YouTube community forms a network of creative practice” (Burgess & Green 61).  However, to be a member of this community, one must first be digitally literate (i.e. have knowledge as to how to record the video, edit it, etc.) to post their videos and participate in the community.  Though, there are varying degrees of digital literacy: one user could simply upload a video from their phone while another can use complex editing techniques.   To be effective/popular, though, the user must be not only proficient in these skills, but must be able to handle them very well.

This video is one from a YouTube & internet celebrity, the Angry Video Game Nerd.  Using vlogging, he appeals to a certain audience and mocks failed traditional media.

The above video is an example of a user who uses many complex techniques in creating his videos with a lot of effort going into them (see Additional Links for more).  Collaborative videos can be just as invested with creative capital, drawing on the creative/artistic talents of the contributors, and can be just as successful.  Even though the structure of YouTube’s network doesn’t necessarily promote collaboration, users can find ways to work together with their fellow YouTube users.

The above video is not only an example of a video invested with creative capital (musical talent), but is a prime example of a collaboration of users who worked around the difficulties of collaborative work inherent in YouTube’s structure.  Not only is the user (docjazz4) responsible for bridging the gap between other users, he also has instructional videos (teaching other users how to play the ocarina) and also performs in concerts, giving him a stake in gaining YouTube recognition.

YouTube is not only just a medium of social networking, but can also be a medium for social change.  Activists can use YouTube (without need digital literacy) to promote a cause.  The more a video gets replayed and travels around the community, the more people can get involved, motivated and passionate about something.

This video is an example of something that can be used for social change; this is taken from the Iranian election protest in 2009.  The victim was shot and died on film, becoming a symbol for the opposition to President Ahmadinejad’s election.  Many major news networks, such as CBS and CNN, have used YouTube to help publicize certain issues; this one is a prime example.  YouTube is not just part of the internet, but also has become a major part of mainstream media.  How better to publicize something and garner attention to it than make it publicly available where it can be spread easily?

Similar to the previous video, this is also an example of a video being used for social change.  This speech has been used by the protestors of Occupy Wall Street (and related groups) as a message that best idealizes the goals of the protestors.

In an attempt to summarize this chapter, the social networking aspect of YouTube isn’t limited strictly to posting & sharing videos (and collaborating with others) between users; YouTube can be seen as a medium for social change where the network allows for easy transmission of ideas.  By circulating through the network repeatedly, not only will more people be informed, but also become more motivated and passionate about a cause, particularly if a celebrity is the voice.  An example of this is Zachary Quinto and “It Gets Better”: Quinto came out in honor of a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide after being harassed over his sexuality.  Also in the case of the Occupy Wall Street movement, as was previously written, Charlie Chaplin’s speech has become a powerful message of social change.  By circulating through not just the internet but the mainstream media, this video has become an icon for the Occupy Wall Street movement.  While YouTube is still a video-sharing website where people post videos (courtesy of their varying degrees of digital literacy), YouTube isn’t strictly limited to this; people can use YouTube for just about any purpose…providing, of course, they have the digital literacy to do so.

And one last video to really emphasize that people can use YouTube for anything:

Additional links:


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  1. And because videos are shared and shared again, they become easily recognizable and iconic.

  2. Also, I can’t believe we forgot about Liam Kyle Sullivan entirely. “Shoes,” “Muffins,” “Lemme Borrow that Top,” “No Booty Calls”– pretty much all of his Kelly videos. Hilarious. Part music video, part story, all comedy– and original content. The “Shoes” video ALONE has more than 44 million views.

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