Monday, 19 November 2012
Historically, networking revolutions have always been accompanied by either the advent of new technology or the widening of participation in a pre-existing form. With over 8 million unique visitors a month, YouTube is at the pinnacle of video distribution on the internet, whether the sites main goal is to educate, entertain or monopolise the market for feline pianists, is a somewhat debatable topic.
To truly understand the phenomenon of Youtube, a company that has been in existence for only 7 years, we should start at the roots - founded by three former PayPal employees in 2005 the creators claim that a failed attempt to share videos at a dinner party inspired the site. A dream vision in which anybody could, with ease, upload, share and view video and sound content with no cost to the end user.
This cyber soap-box, through which film makers can educate or inspire, blog, journalise and showcase all manner of bizarre talents, has taken the recent trend of self promotion, megalomania and the eternal hunt for 15 minutes of fame, to the masses. Whilst it's true that some careers have been launched or augmented by Youtube (Bo Burnham and that Guy who sings chocolate rain), and the site does, on occasion, unite the country in a shared sense of wonder (e.g SuBo, Lucy Spraggan and that finger biting fiend Charlie) and that the site allows expert speakers to appear in classrooms all over the world (I'd have never learnt the mento/diet coke trick without it...), the main uses of Youtube seem to remain mundane; Rikrolling, defending Britney Spears and convincing the world that gingers do indeed have souls.
Until recently Youtube has been found lacking when compared to simpler networking sites, Tumblr, Facebook and most prominently Twitter, have all found themselves in the centre of real, world changing, cultural events. The Arab Spring, the fight against Super Injunctions and the changes in how political campaigns are acted out, and interacted with, have all been catalysed by other such websites. It was not until the video launch of the KONY campaign *insert dramatic chipmunk here*, which has since dissipated behind a miasma of ethical concerns, that Youtube took to the stage: the failings of that film being endemic within the medium - it is very difficult to promote a good cause, political ideology or skill through 1 on 1 video making without appearing self important and undermining your content.
On that note, I'm off to watch a Panda Sneeze. Repeatedly. For Hours.