If anyone has over told you that you are not the center of the universe, they have not experienced the user-centric social media craze. Although there are dozens of ways to share details of your life to the public, one that fascinated me during my last year of college was YouTube. The immediacy at which users could share, not only text, but moving images of an occurrence with the world was astounding. But there was something I couldn’t grasp that linked all social sites together…
What is it that makes people want to share their lives publicly?
And so my madness and research began. First, with looking into the switch from celluloid film to digital, and eventually leading to a rather lengthy research paper on YouTube, which you will find snippets of below.
Escaping the rigid format of scheduled network television, YouTube made the audience an integral part of the video distribution process. With millions of videos uploaded, viewed, and shared every day, YouTube is one of the most popular user-centric websites to date. Aided by scopophiliac tendencies, YouTube allows its users to display their lives in a public forum, merging what is private and public. <– I believe this is what ALL social media does, and why it is so appealing.
YouTube’s History: Beginning with an idea composed by three friends who worked at PayPal, YouTube was constructed and programmed in a garage in January 2005. The friends, Steve Chen, Chad Hurley, and Jawed Karim, enjoyed digitally recording their weekend antics, but realized there was no way to easily put videos onto a computer. Working diligently to find a solution, the trio created YouTube and added their first video, one of Jawed at the zoo with elephants, in April 2005. After tweaking and adding more social networking features, the site quickly became popular to the public domain, and medium all its own, in December.
How It’s Different: Though similar to television in the viewing aspect, YouTube was (and is) audience-centered, giving users factors that were once unattainable: control, inclusion in a community, and self-value. Residing on the internet, viewers can instantly comment on videos, share videos via a hyperlinked button, or even embed the content itself onto a blog or other website. By uploading personal home videos, users can join the virtual community, as well. With the upload feature, “everyone has the potential to be both a consumer and purveyor of content” making it one of the most interactive media platforms in existence (Haridakis 317). After watching, a viewer can quickly become the viewed by distributing their own video, or even a response to a previous video watched. Moving seamlessly between the two, “the boundaries between audiences and creators become blurred and often invisible” (Trier409). This proliferation of digital media makes interpersonal communication and the social experience directly linked to the videos themselves.
Why It’s Popular: Simplistic and user-friendly, YouTube is a primary example of Web 2.0 because it is user generated. Known as the second-generation of websites, Web 2.0 allows for a reciprocal relationship with technology and “moves well beyond the model of Web as users retrieving information from sites” (Cartwright, Sturken 246). Allowing people to search through mediated content, viewers can pick and choose what interests them and archive videos to save and view later, demonstrating typical web use: consuming available content. However, YouTube’s media environment allows users not only to retrieve, but publish, comment, and modify content as well. This conjunct framework creates functional alternatives other than viewing; audiences apply meanings to videos, gain self-value, and define who they are through the technological medium of digital recording.
My further research delves into the new clip culture, changing technology, and exhibitionism, but I’m not sure everyone would understand (or want to read so much of ) my quirky drive to find answers. I will simply leave it at this – A person’s innate curiosity to view and to be viewed has made YouTube successful beyond belief. YouTube makes its users feel in control by allowing them the ability to display their lives in a public forum, blending the public and private sectors of life, which is something all social media does.
So go ahead. Put the You in Youtube and….