Monday, 24 November 2014

YouTube Celebrity Culture

YouTube Celebrity Culture- Community and Mainstream Media

This paper was originally written for the Fan Studies Network 2014 conference, for a panel on Producer/Audience relationships, which took place at Regent's University 27-28th September. I have since expanded the paper for a lecture at The Glasgow School of Art. 

The world of YouTube has caught the eye of mainstream media recently as its stars have become harder and harder to ignore. The videobloggers or vloggers who create content on the site have become not just YouTube Celebrities, but celebrities outright. Some begun vlogging in their bedrooms as teenagers and have built up a loyal following over time, others have started out in the last couple of years jumping on the bandwagon of promised YouTube fame and YouTube money. The vlogs themselves contain makeup tutorials, direct to camera diary style entries, advice on how to get a boy or girlfriend, hand held travel diaries, funny challenges, collaborations with other vloggers; all mostly aimed at teenagers. These vloggers have millions of subscribers, and through the YouTube partnership program, they are earning money from advertisements and views, enough money to quit their jobs or drop out of uni. These celebrities are adored by their teenage fans, but the divide between the two parties is comparatively small compared to the celebrity crushes of the past, with the possibility of contact through social media. Participation with the medium is easy. If you’re a fan of Alfie Deyes, and his channel PointlessBlog, you can comment on his videos, post a video response, tweet him, message him on Facebook, and he can do the same back. However, there is now a very visible hierarchy between creators and viewers in the YouTube community. In the oft talked about “good old days” YouTube fitted into Jenkins’ framework of participatory culture perfectly. In a post on “How YouTube Became OurTube” on his blog, Henry Jenkins discusses this:

“All of this is a vivid illustration of what I’ve described elsewhere as “participatory culture.” In a participatory culture, there are relatively low barriers for engagement and participation, there is strong support for sharing your creations with others, there is a system of informal mentorship where experienced participants help train newbies, and there is a sense that others care about what you say and create.”

(Continue reading after the jump:)