YouTube And Participatory Culture

Some YouTubers have become so popular that they have reached celebrity status with their own fandoms. Most fandoms are made up of young teens who admire the different YouTubers. According to Henry Jenkins, “Fans are often people who are overeducated for their jobs, whose intellectual skills are not challenged by their professional lives” (288). Jenkins is referring to fans as a whole and not specifically YouTube fans. From my personal experience, YouTube fans are too young to have jobs and their intellectual skills are not fully developed. I am considering the fans of Zoe Sugg and other YouTubers similar to her. But there is an older demographic of YouTube users but they watch different genres of videos. Zoe Sugg’s fans are composed of mostly young girls and sometimes boys. Fans can engage with YouTubers, they “operate from a position of cultural marginality and social weakness. Like other popular readers, fans lack direct access to the means of commercial cultural production and have only the most limited resources with which to influence entertainment industry’s decisions” (Jenkins 27). On YouTube, viewers can comment on videos and express their opinions to the creators. Often, YouTube creators will ask fans to comment what content they would like to see. In this way, fans have power to effect the creation of video content.

When considering media texts and YouTube video there are varying levels of quality. Some videos are better than others but “Concepts of ‘good taste,’ appropriate conduct, or aesthetic merit are not natural or universal; rather, they are rooted in social experience and reflect particular class interests” (Jenkins 16). Even if I consider a YouTube video to be lacking in good taste, there is almost definitely another YouTube user who enjoys the video and considers it valuable. Clement Chau said, “new media platforms such as YouTube offer a participatory culture in which to develop, interact, and learn” (65). YouTube fulfills the purpose of participatory culture because of the various ways individuals are able to interact. From a study, it was discovered that “Teenagers visit YouTube to be entertained (79 percent), pass time (71 percent), watch videos (61 percent), see what others are talking about (56 percent), and follow up recommendations from friends (53 percent)” (Chau 66). YouTube provides access to a variety of interactions and users function on the site in whatever capacity suits them. YouTube is the fulfillment of a personalized participatory media, “Personalized media was one of the ideals of the digital revolution in the early 1990s: digital media was going to ‘liberate’ us from the ‘tyranny’ of mass media, allowing us to consume only content we found personally meaningful” (Jenkins 244). YouTube allows users to engage with popular culture in a way that suits them. Fandoms have been formed around mutual interests which allows individuals to connect and have input into the creation of their popular culture.

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