YouTube's Dissemination of Amateur Video

The huge increase of video content on the web in recent years has created a new framework for analysis of amateur media production. This sudden growth was in part catalyzed by the lowered cost of professional-quality media capture devices such as HD video cameras and the addition of video capture to mobile phones, and in part by the development of new web platforms and software for hosting and processing video and images. All of these advancements enabled people to more easily share their own media and access media produced by others. However, this evolution in the circulation and production of video did not result in every user becoming a producer of content: according to statistics from 2007, only between 0.5 - 1.5 percent of the users of most popular media sites like Flickr, YouTube, and Wikipedia contributed their own content (Manovich, 2009).

Engagement with content produced by other users typifies current use of the internet, and represents a distinct shift in the way that media is produced and consumed. Instead of being simply a larger and more densely populated version of the 20th century media culture, online media has emerged as a forum for communication. Though not all users produce content, other statistics from 2007 found that, among U.S. teens posting photos online, 89 percent reported that people comment on these photos at least some of the time (Manovich, 2009). Social media,often used in conjunction with the term Web 2.0, is the term Manovich uses to describe this change.

The inception and proliferation of YouTube Inc. was key in the shift toward social media. YouTube's current and somewhat notorious slogan-'Broadcast Yourself', typifies the sentiment of social media that is present in both the producers of content, and the consumers whose duty it is to comment and then distribute the content to others. The current slogan, however, departs markedly from the original tagline 'Your Digital Video Repository', and embodies the transformation of the site-- and the bulk of internet use prior to Web 2.0, from one with purely technological and private functions to one viewed as a platform for public self-expression (Grossman, 2006b in Burgess et al., 2009).

The more mundane and formerly private forms of digital vernacular creativity, ranging from scrapbooking to joket-telling, has flourished within the social network functions of YouTube; the user-generated content breeds social interaction through things like comments and response videos, while the social networking functions instigate further user-generated content via response video solicitations and the promise of recognition (Burgess et al., 2009). The result is a network in which informal domestic production that characterizes everyday life is broadcast to the general public. The vernacular creativity on the internet, and the social networking component that either accompanies it or propels it, is evident throughout blogs, photo and video sharing accounts, Twitter updates, Tumblr pages, and Facebook/Myspace profiles.

It is important that the everyday creativity evinced in all of these forums not be considered trivial, but instead understood as a central piece of contemporary existence. My goal in this project is not to provide a detailed analysis of the social and cultural effects of social media, or the dynamics of "Web 2.0" in general. Instead, I would like to closely examine the YouTube video-blog or vlog, one aspect of the user-generated content existing on one forum. Though it may seem trivial, YouTube is identified by many to be pivotal in the new social media culture, and the video blog is not only a fairly new development in creative production, but also great example of the performance genre paradigmatic of user-created video content.

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