YouTube: The Wild, Wild West of the Internet

YouTube… a dynamic Internet invention. It is constantly evolving and changing, and yet the basic principles are still the same. YouTube is an open, non-judgemental, creative space. First created in 2005, as a video-sharing website, YouTube became a fast hit starting in 2006 and was averaging over 100 million views per day. Part of what makes YouTube so unique is that everyone on YouTube is both “creator” and audience. There is an inherent standardized style to a YouTube video. For one thing, the creator is solely responsible for what they created, be that a company, an individual, or a group. Next, is the immediate interaction between audience and creator and visa versa. The biggest “standard” for YouTube videos is the relate ability factor. Having said that, YouTube is also a random and unknowable space. While the previous three factors have become a “standard” in the videos, there is also an accidental or absurd quality to what makes a video or creator successful. “[YouTube] will never have a set type of content, there will always be a new form of entertainment popping up.”

One of the most interesting points from “Are YouTubers Revolutionizing Entertainment?” Is how YouTube itself is a community, but within that there are thousands of sub-communities, and even more sub-sub-communities. Like a Russian nesting doll of niches. There is a video or channel even for just about every interest on YouTube. The video “The Worlds of Viral Video” explain how more than what the content of the video, but how it is shared gives value and meaning to it.

For instance, the beauty community is quite large and powerful. Everyday people make tutorials, reviews, or even just chat about beauty products, and these creators can turn that into viable careers outside of YouTube.

During the days of a fading MTV, YouTube became THE place for music videos and even for people who want to share their music in a non-formal fashion. Gone are the days of being “discovered” at the counter of Schwab’s Drugstore, now it is all about being discovered on YouTube and creating a “viral hit.” This also leads to the large community of comedy and parody videos. YouTube offers a place where creators can just have fun and make content for themselves, but also allows others to enjoy as well (in the millions).

The next big community is the political/news/activist community. More and more of the younger generations get their news of world events from social media, YouTube included. Because it is immediate, and user-based, people from around the world can record what is happening right there, right now. For instance, when the Arab spring was happening, news networks were nearly ignoring the protests that were actually happening, people in those volatile areas were trying to show the world what was actually happening. Similarly, this past year with all of the controversy about police brutality within the U.S., people were showing their truth by recording real-time events and broadcasting it on YouTube. However, there are downsides to this this topic as well. The University of Florida taser incident, otherwise known as “Don’t Tase Me Bro!” This was a serious incident in 2007, during a Presidential campaign event, and what has stayed in the social memory is the “funny” yell of “don’t tase me bro!” Not that this young man was wrongfully arrested, treated with excessive force, and humiliated, on a worldwide scale and in front of Presidential hopeful John Kerry. “Viral videos can incite change in the world.”

A style and community to directly result from YouTube is that of video blogs, or “Vlogs.” Simply put, a person sits in front of a camera and talks about whatever they wish, like a personal diary in video form. They can range from being a single personal, and emotional to a series of short “tellings” about a person’s daily life. Vlogs also have their own sub-communities and can range from recording someone’s real life to being entirely fictional. These videos will “live on forever and always be relevant.”

The power of YouTube, and viral videos, has even stretched outside of YouTube and has become an industry of its own. More and more advertising chase that feeling a YouTube video evokes. Making “YouTube-style” videos has become its own type of marketing strategy. Also traditional television try to catch the essence of the YouTube video. For instance, “Lazy Sunday” by the Lonely Island on Saturday Night LIve. Jimmy Fallon is also a big fan of trying (and succeeding) to catch the feeling of YouTube videos. For instance, “Slow-jam the news” and “Brian Williams Raps” take direct reference to the very popular YouTube channel “Auto-Tune the News.”

(this is my personal favorite video, so it’s just an excuse to post it and make everyone watch and enjoy!)

After 10 years, YouTube has become a credible place and valued resource. It has even become a viable career for hundreds of people, “there are more established ways for revenue, by shaking up the system.” These videos have more views, ratings, and dedicated user base than traditional media today. One website has created an entirely new entertainment industry.

Thinking about this topic has really given me a different and deeper perspective about my project with “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.” Many questions come up about how preservation and curation of YouTube should occur, starting now and going on to the future. Do we rely on the creators for preservation for their works? Do we preserve YouTube as a whole (like what the Internet Archive does) and collect everything? And if YouTube is an ever evolving and the “entertainment is infinite,” what does that mean for these videos and the subsequent interactions between creator and audience?
As you all can tell I have many thoughts and opinions on this topic, and could discuss it to no end. In the spirit of being “meta” I have created this video to share more about what I really think on the subject of YouTube. Thank you!

2 Replies to “YouTube: The Wild, Wild West of the Internet”

  1. I very much like your mention of how “YouTube-style” videos have become a big part of marketing. You can also feel the impact of the “YouTube-style” in television programs like the Talking Dead, a show airing directly after Walking Dead that features fans and actors sharing their reactions. You could tie this to the comments functionality of YouTube or perhaps the genre of React videos. This shows off Sterne’s concept of mediality quite well: social factors are causing the TV format to cross-reference ideas from YouTube in order to stay relevant and compete.

    My preservation project also involves YouTube and I have been pondering how much to preserve and whether or not I need to rethink my intent statement. Do I just grab the video and its related videos (as it is a mashup of people’s YouTube contributions)? Do I need to preserve the entire YouTube experience? Is the YouTube experience already being preserved enough by other groups? I was hoping that I could just rely on Archive It, but it doesn’t seem to be so great when it comes to actually preserving the videos.

  2. I’m still wrapping my head around mediality, but am thinking there’s room for the “collectively embodied process of cross-reference” to be as much about exchanging methods of documentation as it is about borrowing content and ideas. Your post makes me think that this might be true for eyewitness video.

    One pretty good example (I think): WITNESS maintains an Activists’ Guide to Archiving Video and a mobile app for capturing and sharing verifiable media, both responding to the proliferation of on-the-ground video and audio and its uptake in mainstream news. Both projects sort of reinvent the infrastructures of archiving and fact-checking to address new configurations of users / creators / audiences. WITNESS’ charge here is: How can we design tools around the immediacy with which user-creators of video already interact?

    It’s also an attempt to embed values like verifiability and trustworthiness into the media themselves. In theory these are already shared values among the many potential users of eyewitness video but in practice (hide your kids, hide your wife) we know that’s not true. As you point out with the tasing video, being able to verify is barely relevant to some audiences.

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