Youtube the Information Liberator: From Participation to Regulation

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Levinson argues that Youtube is an “information liberator” (p. 63). It is a platform used by people of all status—the Queen of England and a teenage boy trying to learn how to tie a tie. Both producers and consumers use it, and often people can be in both of those roles through different forms of participation. For example, someone can produce a music cover video, but be a consumer when they watch the original video. Kinder argues that there is both erosion between amateur and profession, and an argument of authenticity at play when analyzing creative content on Youtube (p. 55). Can the remix of a song be considered just as creative as the original? The reality is that the most popular content tends to be considered the most creative, however as McIntosh argues, remixes and parodies of someone else’s original content is creative in its reconstruction. Youtube has become a place for the breeding of parodies and satirical criticism. Kinder writes that Youtube recreates users as “performers of history” (p. 63), as we can search through the Youtube database as an archive, and watch fragments of history, or participate in creating and recreating history ourselves. Similar to our discussion of memes last week, produsers are able to include themselves in discussions via online forums in ways that are underestimated by those controlling the top-down media production.

The most hegemonic ideas and opinions become the most popular on this platform, and the videos with the most views are the ones that appear on your Youtube recommended tab, and the main page. While Youtube appears to be a participatory platform in which you can search whatever you would like, the search results are not necessarily objective. For instance, if two people were to type a subject into Google search, their results would be tailored to suit what they most commonly search. While it appears to be an objective resource, Google owns your search history, and all of your future searches are biased because of it. This is relevant because Google owns Youtube, and therefore the search system works the same way. While there is potentially a video that is accurate to what you are looking for, you might not actually find it because Youtube will recommend the videos with the most views that relate to what you searched last week before it will recommend that one ‘amateur’ video that may actually be of the most help to you.

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I am 100% a participant in today’s social media practices. I have accounts on all of the most popular social networking platforms, and although I would like to think I have control over my own content this is not the case. I choose to both I worked hard on a ‘coming out’ video and posted it on Youtube. I’d like to think that since it is original material and it is on my own Youtube account’s channel, that I would have full control. While I have had so many positive responses and feedback from viewers, all it takes is a few people to flag it and it would be taken down without good reason. In this sense, I can participate, but only as long as I act within Youtube/Google’s uploading guidelines and do not upset anyone. I trade my participation for regulation, and creative rights for commercial appeal. If I try and cross the blurry line between amateur and professional—on Youtube—in order to make money off of the success of my original creative content, I must monetize my videos with Google’s advertisements.

In order to participate, we must give away some of our control. To make a Facebook or Twitter account, you must give the site access to your personal information. While you assume your cell phone number and address will not be sold to other companies, you can never really know. If I had the choice between sharing my personal contact information upon creating an account, I would choose not to. However, we technically do have that choice—by not creating an account in the first place—we just do not see it that way. We feel we need to have a Facebook account to participate in social culture, be up-to-date on popular culture, and to be included in our social groups (tagged in pictures), however this comes at the price. The price of our own privacy and control.

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