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.


  1. With every social networking site, there are downfalls and a whole world of negativity. Sadly, I'm now going to comment on this.

    With every comedic slip, and every overly-impressive-verging-on-the-ridiculous animal that gets uploaded to YouTube, there's always the odd few that ruin the site's purpose. Said purpose being to entertain, amuse, inform (as Danny pointed out). I'm talking about those commenters that pick fights in the comment sections and generally cause internet havoc. Those who provide devastating examples of cyber bullying.

    I feel that this is where YouTube as a social media site fails. Of course, anybody being able to comment on any video out there (with exception to the uploaders who disable comments - boring or sensible, take your pick) causes issues. The site's safety measures fail as commenters target one another, pinpoint people and pretty much ruin everyone's fun.

    To conclude: sort it out YouTube.

    1. While it is certainly the case that there are those who would use the anonymity made possible by the internet for malicious means, I do not feel that this is something that should be blamed on YouTube or indeed that it creates a need for 'Safety Measures' to protect the masses from their own free speech.

      People hurling abuse at one another is by no means limited to the online sphere. Road rage is a clear example of how even the smallest amount of protection from rebuke or recognition is enough to drastically change their behaviour towards others. Providing a freedom to comment anything one desires has become a cornerstone of the online world, and the usual democratic method of moderating comments is employed by YouTube to good effect.

      Each comment may be voted 'up' or 'down' by any other user, giving it an overall score and creating something resembling an objective measure of quality in the eyes of the community. Comments which are rated too 'poor' are not displayed unless the user requests them, and there is also a means of instantly reporting a comment to appointed moderators if a user deems it too offensive or in breach of the site's rules on conduct.

      It is worth considering the other effects of anonymity: as well as a much less polite vocalisation of reactions from the audience, people are prompted to step outside of what may be considered the social norm or perform to an anonymous audience as they expect to be free from the kind of rebuke that they might expect if they were to perform in a public sphere which gave instant response. As a result, they leave themselves more vulnerable to criticism which they might not expect, and indeed may not know how to react to. Of course, there are still those who will simply go out of their way to abuse another person, but this is not limited to YouTube or any other public forum. 'Cyber Bullying' is, in my opinion, a redundant term, as it implies a level of blame on the part of the media through which the abuse is taking place. All bullying is bullying, regardless of whether it is done through the computer or in person, and is not reliant upon the media through which it takes place.

      Recent attempts by various governments to regulate and control the free space of the internet have been met with outcry across the world, and have not been successful. Preserving the sanctity of the truly open forum is a very high priority to many people (myself included) in the same way that the preservation of free speech or the freedom of the media is. Most of all, it is certainly not the responsibility of YouTube to start telling people what they can or cannot say.

  2. I agree with Isabel's belief that YouTube's safety measures fall somewhat short of acceptable standards, and cyber bullying is rife, especially at the extent of those who have posted the videos- often showcasing their "talents" in the hope of achieving their fame a la Bieber.

    However, having said this, the milder cases of cyber bullying would only set the individual up for what they would experience en masse if they did by some small chance of fate, make it to superstardom. Having said this, it is obviously not an acceptable excuse for YouTube's apparent lack of awareness and seemingly vapid relationship with the interests of it's users.

    Personally, I have never commented on a YouTube video, and I could be awfully wrong and it may transpire that I am some sort of social recluse but I'm guessing the same could probably be said for a vast majority of you or people you know. My main use of YouTube is, of course for the music videos, not to mention sharing the cat flipping over a gate with anyone in my vicinity who happens to be on YouTube at the time.

    On that note: I will leave you with a fantastically amusing link. Enjoy. And press replay as many times as you see fit.


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