Please note! This essay has been submitted by a student.
YouTube has been around since 2005 and has provided a new platform of media in which people can freely express themselves through their thoughts, abilities, and creativity. People can create their own content and post it online for people to watch for free. No one is required to have advanced knowledge of the technicalities of filmmaking or a Bachelor’s degree in creative writing; there are no prerequisites for making a Youtube video. One is free to make whatever they please, as long it is not offensive. People can make videos of themselves singing, about their views on illegal immigration, how to make one’s own pencil holder, etc. Viewers can decide who and what they want to watch on Youtube based on their personal interests. It is the viewers who decide whether they want to subscribe to their channel to watch their other videos or find other videos that interest them. People who create videos can generate income based on how many subscribers they have. These content creators are in control of their own creativity. It is a democratic platform in which viewers can choose to “like” the video or “dislike” it. This gives credibility to the content creators which allow them to have their videos monetized and gain a source of income. Youtube is revolutionary because ordinary people can create their own videos for people to watch and have the opportunity to place it on a platform in which anyone can access to. The audience may comment below videos which they can “like” or “dislike” and even comment on them. This allows YouTube to be an ongoing conversation instead of a one-sided viewpoint by the content creators. Viewers can critique and give their input on these videos so that they, too, have an opinion of the portrayal of YouTube videos. This democratization of media output is significant because it is changing several aspects of our modern world including entertainment, politics, and education.
YouTube is different from other democratizing platforms we’ve seen in the past because it is more accessible. People can access these videos from a laptop or a smartphone, which the majority of people own in our society. In YouTube: Digital Media and Society, Jean Burgess states in the opening paragraph, “YouTube clearly represents a disruption to existing media business models and is emerging as a new site of media power” (15). Burgess explicates that YouTube is starting to create its own empire in the entertainment industry by becoming a mainstream medium and is contributing towards the decline in televised advertisements. In addition, Burgess states an argument about YouTube saying “It is possible to promote increased public discourse about formerly uncomfortable, distasteful, or difficult topics in ways that other media and other methods have not…” (80). He states that it is now possible to talk about topics that other mediums are unable to cover. Furthermore, people are able to watch their favorite YouTubers during their free time or their commute to work at no extra cost other than their cellular data plan charges. YouTube video makers reduce content, news, and media into tokens that allow viewers, as well as the creator, to later use to further communication.
One of the most groundbreaking aspects of YouTube is that viewers decide the success of a content creator. Anyone can directly make comments and suggestions on these YouTube videos instead of writing reviews for television shows or news articles that will never be seen directly by the audience. This allows YouTube to be a participatory platform which anyone can contribute to an inclusive community. They have the power to like and subscribe to videos which allow a YouTube channel to receive sponsorships; the more subscribers the more money a content creator can potentially receive. People who post YouTube videos, or content creators, rely on viewers to make their channel successful. The more people “like” and subscribe to one’s channel, the more they gain popularity. Furthermore, viewers have the ultimate power to make a YouTuber successful. Without viewers or subscribers, they cannot have advertisers to sponsor their videos and gain money. In Watching Youtube: Extraordinary videos by Ordinary People, Michael Strangelove states “perhaps not surprisingly, participation in online groups leads to a psychological sense of community. People can be deeply engaged in online communities” (103). YouTubers who create a personal connection and a fanbase with their viewers are likely to gain more subscribers and more notoriety, similar to high achieving actors.
Content creators are their own bosses and work with no one other than themselves. They are given complete artistic freedom to influence and entertain their viewers. Unlike other forms of media including television or magazines, the content that is produced aren’t reviewed professionally and do not require a team of esteemed individuals who are distinguished in their field, whether they are writers or directors. Content creators are generally average people who seek to have freedom of their own creativity and share it with the world. A great majority of the people who are successful YouTubers have not gained formal training for filmography at all.
An example of a successful YouTuber without any formal training is Casey Neistat, who has expanded his filmmaking career by exposing his content on YouTube. He has gained over 5 million subscribers in the past few years with 1.2 billion views on over 700 videos he has created thus far. He posts unique content along with daily video blogs, or vlogs, that capture his life. He makes these everyday vlogs entertaining to viewers with the use of scenic views taken from his drone and a unique way of editing that is idiosyncratic in style. He also takes the time to respond to questions from his viewers. Through this, he creates a personal connection to his viewers ultimately creating a fan base through his YouTube channel. Neistat’s career has skyrocketed in the popularity he has received for his viral videos and daily vlogs. He owned a social media company called Beme, which he sold recently for 25 million dollars. He wouldn’t have gained the success that he has today if he hadn’t been given the platform to display his work. Before his success came about, he was a high school dropout and a dishwasher trying to provide for his family and his moviemaking pursuits. Casey asserts that with hard work and being brave, anyone can achieve success.
YouTube has become a pervasive and vital political communication tool. Its structure, including ease of use, person-to-person connectivity, and asynchronous interactivity, have ushered in a wave of political communication, campaigning, and engagement that connects people to politics, and politically to one another, in ways that far outreach previous communication technologies. It is arguable that perhaps no other communication medium in the history of politics has expanded so substantially and had such an impact on the political communication spectrum in such a short period of time (1).
Politics have changed as the popularity of YouTube has arisen. Communication is now more accessible than ever thanks to YouTube. Ricke also claims that “The fast-paced nature of the Internet means that audience members are no longer reliant on the media’s interpretation of debates. The audience can easily gather reactions and commentary from pundits, independent journalists, bloggers, citizens, and other politicians that unfold in real-time before, during, and after debates” (62). This information suggests that instead of directly watching a political debate between candidates on news channels, people can now take a few minutes to watch a short video on the highlights of the debate or an opinionated and informative video by an average American citizen. Barack Obama’s campaign team has used YouTube to distribute his first address to the American public following his election in 2008 (Ricke 32). If people missed watching an important live event on television, they can tune into YouTube and it will show up within seconds to watch. People can have their opinions swayed through watching ordinary people discuss their political views, which other platforms of media cannot.
YouTube shows great advancement in the realm of education. In The YouTube Effect: How YouTube Has Provided New Ways to Consume, Create, and Share Music, Christopher Cayari states “In the classroom, [YouTube] allows educators to incorporate innovative ideas into their curriculum. It is fitting for educators to find technologies that make their jobs more efficient and making their student’s learning more engaging” (Cayari 6). There are several educators who produce videos and post them on YouTube that make sense of a difficult topic. These range from people lecturing about a particular topic, such as chemistry or astronomy, or using visuals to make a particular topic more understandable. These channels include Crashcourse, National Geographic, and TED-Ed. Students can use these videos to enhance their learning from what they learn in school and even adults who are out of school and want to refresh their memories from what they learned in school instead of purchasing a heavy book about it. Ordinary people can utilize these YouTube videos to hone their professions as well as expose their crafts to a greater audience.
Entertainment is also changing due to YouTube because musicians, actors, etc. can post their crafts online and gain recognition. There are several people who started posting videos of them singing and are now highly successful musicians along with several actors. Justin Bieber started his singing career on YouTube by recording himself singing and playing the guitar and he is now one of the biggest popstars in the world (Hampp 1). This proves that average people can start posting videos on YouTube and have great potential to become successful by being consistent in their postings and working hard at what they do.
Although there are several ways Youtube is an innovative medium that exists in our society, there are pitfalls of it. In Authenticity and How We Fake It, Duplantier argues that people create an online persona on Youtube that is fake and claims that “the crux of the issue resides in the postmodern cultural dynamics that play out through the Youtube platform. Supposedly, especially among its mainstream critics, the core problematic of YouTube is its duality: the YouTube occurring inside conventional media practice and the one occurring exterior to it” (115). In this quote, Duplantier is arguing that Youtube has media practices that are conventional and unconventional. Although these statements are true, there are downfalls for all forms of mass media outlets, such as fake news in journalism. There are ways to work around this issue by having viewers comment on how they feel about what is being portrayed on the YouTube videos. Casey Neistat, who was previously mentioned, posted a video titled “Who I’m Voting for President” which generated a large-scale conversation amongst viewers. There was a stark dichotomy of opinions that were portrayed throughout the comments and it allowed people to talk about how they felt about his video; there were even people who posted videos in response to Neistat’s political stance. People are able to talk about how they felt, which most platforms do not allow. In this way, if artificiality exists in videos, they will be less popular due to the fact that viewers would notice this ahead of time and proceed watching content creators who are true to their own crafts.
Average people in our society have the ability to influence people’s opinions and choices through the power of YouTube. YouTube matters in our society today because as stated by Burgess and Green, it is the first genuinely mass-popular platform for user-created video. The only requirement of creating a YouTube video is a device that can record footage. YouTube has the potential to influence others and change the lives of people in so many ways. It redefines a participatory culture by allowing access to anyone in the world through technology. People can listen or watch other people explaining topics that they are unfamiliar with, explore other genres of music, or understand another person’s political views by watching someone talk about how they feel about the upcoming election. This platform doesn’t exclude anyone of any race, culture, etc. and it is accessible to You-tube.