University Of Stirling
Department Of Film, Media and Journalism
The Implications of YouTube for the Amateur Filmmaker Jude Moir
Honours Degree in Film and Media Words: 10, 954
Abstract In a media environment where user-generated content is ubiquitous, this study explores the relationship between YouTube and the amateur filmmaker. The study focuses on distribution, production and consumption to determine exactly how YouTube affects the non-professional filmmaker. An overwhelming commercial presence clearly affects the possibilities offered by the video sharing website, and this serves to alienate the amateurs in terms of distribution and production. However, with regards to consumption, the amateur filmmaker is permitted an enriched media experience, much different to that provided by the mass communication model of media. The research is an exploratory first step into the constantly changing world of new media. The study recognises this ever-changing environment, and gives an account of the present situation of things, while being open to possible developments.
Acknowledgements and Declaration
I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Graham Meikle, for his invaluable and greatly appreciated advice throughout this project. I would also like to thank Alex Choudhary, for sharing his experiences of YouTube and filmmaking.
I declare that this thesis is my own work and that all critical and other sources (literary and electronic) have been specifically and properly acknowledged, as and when they occur in the body of my text. Signed: Date:
Chapter One: ‘7 views, no comment’
Chapter Two: Copyright
Chapter Three: Consumption
Introduction “Hello, I’m a Mac” “And I’m a P.C.” “What you got there, P.C?” “Oh this? This is my naughty step; to an errant unruly child this is the ultimate deterrent.” “From what?” “Unruly errantness, mucking about with pictures and movies and websites, a spell on the naughty step will help them realize that that’s not how we treat a proper grown up P.C. such as myself.” “But that’s the kind of fun stuff they like, isn’t it?
As well as a wonderful piece of advertising from Apple, with a little imagination the above passage could also be viewed as a reflection of the changing media landscape. The broadcast media, characterised by large-scale productions and one-way communication, separate the producers and distributors of media content (the “proper grown up P.C.”), from the media consumer (the “unruly child”). However, these distinctions are becoming less clear as we consider new media, and their impact on the relationship between the producer and consumer of media content. “But that’s the kind of fun stuff they like, isn’t it?” rings true when considering the new media consumer. Pictures, movies and websites are just a few of the things the new they have a
stake in, and with the arrival of the Internet, they can produce such cultural artefacts and then disseminate them around the world.
A new participatory media in some shape or form is apparent; however, the possibilities and the ramifications of such are still not clear. Optimists herald the new media technologies as eliminating barriers between media producers and consumers in turn creating a new level playing field (Flew 2008:107). A new age is predicted, which will present a diverse range of voices and contributors in the media (Negroponte 1995), as opposed to the few that control the broadcast model of mass communication.
The other side of the argument is that the new media order is merely a development which facilitates greater manipulation and commercial exploitation (Buckingham 2000:92). Such critics believe that with the more interactive user experience afforded through digital media, the easier the audience is to monitor and in turn target. Scepticism seems almost inevitable as Cornford and Robins (1999) point out, such arguments over innovation have accompanied every technological advance in media communications in the twentieth century (cinema, radio, vinyl record, television etc.). Why should the new advances be any different?
This study explores the substance behind both sets of claims, the optimistic and sceptical alike, in an attempt to more fully understand the true nature of the implications of the new technologies on the media order. The theories that are used as a basis of understanding media in the twentieth century are not
sufficient to truly appreciate the changes brought about by new media (Williams 2003:211), therefore it is not enough to simply accept or decline their transformative potential (Everett and Caldwell 2003:xii). It is important to go further than picking a side of an argument. It is necessary to gain a working understanding of the extent of the implications of new media technologies, based on concrete examples.
As discussed above, a new more democratic media is predicted, and the source of such claims is the ability consumers now possess to act not solely as receivers of media content, but also as producers and distributors. Therefore it is extremely relevant to discuss how the amateur or student filmmaker is affected. This study approaches the issue in an attempt to evaluate the implications of the possibilities and restrictions outlined above on the practices of amateur filmmakers. This is of particular interest to me, because I am an amateur filmmaker, and so have a vested interest in the results of the study.
In an effort to refine what is a vast subject matter, the research will focus on one area in particular. YouTube, the most popular online video sharing website, will be the focal point of the study. Studying one website will allow a more concentrated analysis of what the implications are for the amateur filmmaker, and will permit a wider understanding of similar texts and technologies.
Throughout the research, three key areas will be discussed. This list is by no means an exhaustive account of how YouTube affects amateur filmmakers. However, the listed subjects are extremely important and relevant to new media
and its potential transformative possibilities on a wider scale than solely YouTube, explaining their inclusion in this project. The chosen three subjects will be made up of issues relating to distribution, production and consumption, so as to include every element important to a study on amateur filmmakers’ practices. Overlap between these key themes is inevitable; however the study will focus on each aspect separately, so as to enable clarity and in depth analysis. Despite the separation, all three categories are inherently linked, and each will in turn constantly refer back to the central question of how YouTube affects the amateur filmmaker.
One of the primary functions of YouTube is to provide a platform for the dissemination of video content. Anybody with Internet access and a fast enough connection has the ability to use the site to distribute their own content. It is with this possibility, that many see the true revolutionary potential of new media. Inherent in the site’s slogan: “Broadcast Yourself”, is the presumption that individuals can widely distribute their own content. However, despite the dissemination possibilities offered by the site, it is important to understand that the possibility is not always the reality. This chapter discusses how the commercial dominance on YouTube is alienating the amateur content producers.
Production and Copyright Issues
This section of the research determines whether or not the YouTube copyright policy has any effect on the creativity of amateur filmmakers. This chapter draws heavily on the work of Lawrence Lessig, the leading academic on this issue. Using both Lessigâ€™s(2001,2004,2006) arguments and an interview with an amateur filmmaker, the chapter provides an exploratory step into the question of YouTube copyright policy, and amateur filmmakersâ€™ creativity.
Another main function of YouTube is to provide a platform for consumption. A user is afforded, through the vast array of videos, a truly unique and personalised media experience. This section of the study focuses on this media experience in relation to the amateur filmmaker, in the attempt to establish what the implications of such an individualized media experience. The process of consuming media content on YouTube is clearly different to that of traditional commercial media, and so it is with these differences that the study will focus, to determine what new possibilities are afforded to the amateur filmmaker through YouTube. A close analysis of the Videomaker channel on the site provides the framework to interpret these differences.
Literature Review As outlined above, this study will include three main categories. This section serves as a synthesis of the current discourse relating to distribution, copyright and consumption, in relation to new media and the amateur filmmaker.
Lessig (2004) asserts that new media technologies have offered the possibility for cultural achievements previously only possible for small groups of individuals, in isolated locations (2004:184). The individual now has the ability to upload video footage and share this content with virtually anybody with an Internet connection. This new cultural achievement, in which the individual can publish content to be seen by a potentially limitless audience, has raised a vision of decentralization and democratisation of the media. Optimists believe that large media companies can no longer hold the same power due to a proliferation of grassroots activity (Cornford and Robbins 1999:110). Nicholas Negroponte (1995), famous for sharing this view, asserts that:
â€œWholly new content will emerge from being digital, as will new players, new economic models and a likely cottage industry of information and entertainment providers.â€? (Negroponte 1995 18-19)
Negroponte (1995) likens individual production to a cottage industry. This is to highlight the envisioned break from an environment in which the media industries dominate, to a situation where home produced content from numerous contributors forms a significant part of what we know as the media. This form of contribution from audiences is nothing new as Griffen-Foley (2004) rightly points out. However, new media technologies such as YouTube are seen to â€˜democratiseâ€™ broadcasting, enabling mass participation (Jarrett 2008:133) to a level previously unseen in the media. This is a vision of media as affording everybody an equal opportunity to become involved in the media.
A characteristic of the mass media is the desire to maximise audiences by creating media content that has the broadest appeal, and will in turn generate more revenue (Collins 2008:92). File-sharing websites such as YouTube have substantially undermined this approach (Bruns 2008:85). The new media consumer as producer, in theory is not bound by the will to succeed financially. The low upfront cost of production and distribution means that financial return is not a requirement. This is another way in which a more liberating media experience is envisioned, as many advocates see this absence of economic pressure as a catalyst for experimentation and creativity.
Linked with this line of discourse is the large amount of debate on how existing media will use the new channels for distribution. As Bruns (2008) points out mainstream media producers are, albeit cautiously, exploring file-sharing channels as a means of disseminating content. Optimists believe that this will facilitate and promote a more diverse moving image culture (Knight 2007:20).
This again affirms to the ideal of a more inclusive media environment. However sceptics believe that the open spaces of new media which facilitated diversity and experimentation are now largely institutionalized as a result of commercial dominance (Lievrouw 2004:11). The increased amount of commercial content on YouTube may diminish the community spirit and in turn the goodwill of the YouTube brand (Jarret 2008:138). With increased commercial presence on YouTube, Negroponte’s (1995) prediction of new players emerging is called into question. Amateurs may still be competing against established media empires. This view is in direct contrast with the utopian view of the egalitarian media landscape. It is extremely relevant to research if YouTube has in fact become overly commercial, and to determine if this has an effect on the amateur filmmaker, and the revolutionary potential inherent in a large proportion of the new media discourse.
YouTube trades in the language of television. “Broadcast Yourself” is the company logo, with ‘Broadcast’ reminiscent of mass communication. Also the ‘Tube’ in ‘YouTube’ again links back to television. This way of viewing the website is in line with what McLuhan and Fiore (1967) meant by saying we interpret the present and future, by way of comparing it with the past. By concentrating on the commercial dominance on YouTube, and how amateurs are unable to challenge this, as in the last paragraph, perhaps the tendency is to view the present based on the past (Mcluhan and Fiore 1967). However, as Manovich (2008) observes in many industries low popularity items (en masse) actually exceed the popularity of the more common commercial content, suggesting that the culmination of all user-generated content is more significant
than the single commercial clip that generates a million hits. This will be discussed in more detail in the distribution chapter of the study, to determine if in fact it is important for amateurs to compete with the professionals for audience, or is this thinking about new technologies in the wrong way.
If new media really is ‘communications for all by all’ (Browning and Reiss 1998:105), then the view is that everybody is involved in the media; production and consumption alike. It is necessary to evaluate the extent to which these new technologies are inclusive and equal. It is not enough to merely accept the possibilities without evaluating their substance.
“Governments of the Industrial World, you weary giants of flesh and steel, I come from Cyberspace, the new home of Mind. On behalf of the future, I ask you of the past to leave us alone. You are not welcome among us. You have no sovereignty where we gather.” (Barlow 1996)
The nature of the Internet is that it is not owned by any state or company, and thus found itself free from the commercial and political limitations that were inherent in previous communicative media (McNair 2002 : 188). The Internet in particular has the ability to bypass media gatekeepers to a certain degree (Poor 2006:41), which the above 1996 declaration from the Electronic Frontier Foundation sums up perfectly. This however, has led to many copyright debates
around ‘piracy’ , take for example the infamous case of Napster, and how they were to be closed down in July 2000 for facilitating the sharing of music files between networked computers (Lister et al. 2003:209).
The discussion largely tends towards issues of how consumers are illegally downloading content, or how the intellectual property markets will be destroyed by ‘piracy’ (Scannel 2001:75). The question of most importance for this study however, is: how does the amateur filmmaker use the apparent absence of gatekeepers to enhance creativity? What are the restrictions on this creativity?
Lawrence Lessig (2001) in his book The Future of Ideas discusses this subject. He writes of a potential future in which:
“Technology could enable a whole generation to create – remixed films, new forms of storytelling, writing, a new technology for poetry, criticism, political activism, and then through the infrastructure of the Internet, share that creativity with others. “ (Lessig 2001:9)
Lessig (2004) criticises copyright laws that prohibit the re-imagining of cultural artefacts although he points out that this is an inherent part of human nature (Lessig 2004:184). He uses the example of how Walt Disney borrowed elements of other stories to create some of the most successful Disney films to date. In fact Lessig (2004) asserts that this sort of creativity, which builds on the culture around us to create something new, should be remembered and celebrated
(Lessig 2004:24). This sort of creativity is also legal under ‘fair use’ which states that copyrighted material can be used without rights clearance, if used for educational, or parody purposes (Gallagher 2008). However, as Lessig (2004) points out, fair use is just a defence, and can still result in court cases, because as most people do not know their rights (Gallagher 2008). Copyright law could result in the above-mentioned creativity never being exercised, or never being published for the public eye (Lessig 2004:185).
Lessig (2006) in his updated version of his book on ‘Code’, writes that the idea or the desire that the Internet would remain unregulated, the same idea mentioned in the first paragraph of this section (Barlow 1996), is now gone (Lessig 2006:3). He writes that in our offline lives, laws, the government and other legal codes, govern and control us. However in ‘cyberspace’ we are governed by the software and hardware that create a different sort of code, and hence a different means of control (ibid). This form of control needs to be looked into further to address how the ‘code’ of YouTube affects the use of the site as well as amateur filmmakers’ creativity.
A close observation is required of how amateur filmmakers have been able to distribute copyright infringing material on YouTube, but also how this is changing with the stricter implementation of the afore-mentioned ‘code’ (Lessig 2006). If, as Lessig (2001) foresaw, new creative possibilities are a result, this needs to be discussed in an environment where “user-produced creative work has become a regular component of the standard media diet for many users” (Bruns 2008:82). It is important to determine in what way, if any, the copyright
policy on YouTube, and the linked technology for finding copyright infringing material, affects the creativity of amateur filmmakers.
Digital media technologies are different to analogue systems in that they convert the components of cultural expression (words, images, music etc.) into binary code that can be read and stored by computers (Hesmondhalgh 2007:241). This allows for the “broadcast spectrum to carry many more times the volume of information than is possible using analogue techniques” (Cornford and Robins 1999:109). This increased amount of information has led to new possibilities with regards to media consumption. A user can now interact with digital media in order to get the experience they want.
This new realm of interactivity is in direct contrast with what Lanier (1994) terms the “immature, non-interactive broadcast medium”. The consumer selects which paths to follow, which content to view, and in turn the user is heavily involved in the creation of their media experience (Manovich 2008). The socalled ‘web 2.0’ technologies, of which YouTube is an example, allow a mass audience an interactive and self-defined media experience (Jarret 2008:133). A helpful framework often used in new media discussions refers to mass media as a ‘lean back’ medium, whereas new media technologies are referred to as being ‘lean in’ in nature (Book and Barnett 2006:329). The user has the ability to navigate from one piece of media content to the other to suit their individual preferences and needs, creating their own DIY programming schedule (Jarret
2008:133). New media technologies are viewed here as affording the consumer more than simply the ability to receive media content, but instead become active participants in the content itself, as Shirky (1999) points out, media is no longer something which is done to the consumer; the consumer is now an active participant in shaping their individual media consumption. This is an area which will be discussed in greater length in relation to its implications for consumers of the Videomaker channel on YouTube.
This progression in methods of consumption has been articulated by Nicholas Negroponte (1995) as a shift from the ‘Daily Us’ of the old broadcast model of media, to the ‘Daily Me’, in which media audiences can personalize their media consumption to suit their own needs. To individualize media content in fact means that media audiences now have a lot more control over their consumption of media, which in turn could potentially collapse media empires and offer a new level playing field for media audiences (Cornford and Robins 1999:111).
The discussion on consumption and new media has shown that users now have a lot more freedom in what they choose to watch and can personalize their media experience to suit their needs. The need for further research lies in how this affects particular niche audiences on YouTube. What exactly is offered by the personalisation afforded by new media channels such as YouTube, which was not offered by conventional broadcast media? It is also extremely relevant to discuss how YouTube can cater for particular niche audiences, who share common interests, such as amateur filmmakers. This exploration, will compliment the existing research well by providing an in depth example of the
extent to which the personalisation of the media experience can benefit a particular group, amateur filmmakers.
Methods As a result of the above preliminary literature review, certain key areas in need of further research have been identified. The following is an account of how the research will be undertaken in relation to said areas.
Content analysis is “a persuasive method which generates reliable, replicable facts” (Stokes 2003:58). For this reason, it is an obvious method to adopt in order to examine if YouTube has an uneven distribution of content. An analysis of the top 100 most viewed videos on YouTube provides a sound starting point for understanding what type of contributor dominates the website. Each video is examined against the same set of categories. The categories have been chosen by means of the information available on the site. This ensures the results are purely factual, with no opinions of the researcher becoming an obstacle.
Category (Music, comedy, entertainment etc.)
Distributor (Commercial / Amateur)
The top 100 videos is based on the “worldwide” country-content preference so as to keep the results as unbiased as possible. The most viewed section is
categorised into mot viewed of “All time” instead of “this week” or “this month”, again offer the widest understanding possible. This approach is limited in that it only shows the most viewed videos, and does not give an understanding of other films with high viewings. However this permits an understanding of the major players and facilitates an understanding of how decentralized the new medium is, and also if there is any standardisation of content which appears to attract more views.
The main focus of this section of the research will be the ‘recut trailer’, which has become popular on YouTube. The practice of making a ‘re-cut trailer’ is to take an existing film, and remake a trailer for it that alters the original meaning, for example, changing an action film to look as though it were a romantic comedy. The video “You’ve Got Mail Recut Trailer” fits with the central questions of the study, and access to the filmmaker is possible, making it an obvious choice for study. As Stokes (2003) points out, studies may be enhanced with the inclusion of just one interview with an expert in that area (Stokes 2003:114). Alex Choudhary, is a young filmmaker with a lot of experience with YouTube and he is the creator of “You’ve got mail Recut Trailer”. Alex’s experience in dealing with filmmaking that violates YouTube copyright policy, makes him an ideal interviewee. Of course, interviewing one participant is not representative of the whole YouTube community, and the results will be limited. With the scale of this research, the interview is appropriate to provide the foundations for exploring the complex issue of copyright and YouTube. To
add more substance to the research, statistics will be drawn from the Youtomb research project. This project tracks a large body of videos on YouTube to see which are taken down for alleged copyright violations. This will be useful for providing more representative statistics than are capable with a research project of this scale.
From the preliminary literature review it is evident that there is a lack of research on how the personalisation of the media experience can aid the amateur filmmaker. It is important to establish how YouTube, by allowing this personalisation, affects the process of making amateur films. The site offers a list of videos under the title â€œYouTube Handbookâ€?, which go about explaining best practices for making films. Videomaker magazine create the videos, and therefore the Videomaker channel will provide a good focus for a case study. The case study will centre on exactly what the channel offers the amateur filmmaker, and will ground this in the discourse of the personalisation capabilities afforded by new media technologies. The case study approach is evidently very specific, and can at times be too descriptive; however, a constant reference to the wider discourse, will make the method worthwhile, and will provide a sound basis for understanding the consumption capabilities of such new technologies.
Chapter One ‘7 views, no comments’
“Wholly new content will emerge from being digital, as will new players, new economic models and a likely cottage industry of information and entertainment providers”. (Negroponte 1995:18)
This quote is a perfect example of the utopian outlook for new media technologies. A media landscape is predicted, and a sense of limitless possibilities for the media audience is apparent from those who are optimistic about new media capabilities. The excitement derives from, as mentioned before, the democratising of the media as a result of new technologies (Jarrett 2008:133), allowing consumers the chance to actively participate in their media experience. YouTube trades on this notion of participation and inclusion, with the slogan: “Broadcast Yourself”. The possibilities are evident, and well versed; however, this area of the study, focuses on the substance behind these claims. In an effort to explore how amateur filmmakers are affected by the supposed revolutionary potential of YouTube outlined above, a content analysis was carried out of the top 100 most viewed videos of all time. The chapter discusses the results from this content analysis by examining each category separately. By only examining the top 100 videos, the findings are limited; nonetheless, they enable an initial understanding of exactly how democratic and inclusive
YouTube actually is. The findings also allow an insight into possible reasons why certain films are more popular than others, which in turn reveal how standardisation of content is just as common now as with traditional media (Collins 2008).
The categories from the content analysis are Length, Category and Distributor. A presentation of the findings is followed by a discussion of the significance of the results. A more detailed discussion about what the results as a whole mean for the amateur filmmaker concludes the chapter.
YouTube only permits the upload of videos up to ten minutes in length. In March 2006, the site enforced the ten-minute maximum length to tackle the issue of people uploading full episodes of television programmes or films etc. (YouTube 2009). After conducting the content analysis on the top 100 most viewed videos, a certain trend is obvious. The mean average length of clip is 5:09, with 73% of the clips between 3 and 5 minutes long. This is an overwhelming majority of clips that are much shorter than the 10-minute allowance. It is important to understand the significance of this for the amateur filmmaker.
It has been recognised that the scale of the study will not produce conclusive results; however, these figures do illuminate a certain trend that has developed for the most viewed videos. These statistics show that nearly two thirds of the videos are 3-5 minutes long. As much as these figures are only representative of the top 100 most viewed videos, other recent research has the average clip
length for â€œRecently addedâ€? films at 2:46 (Digital Ethnography 2008). This research serves to support the findings that videos clips of a shorter length are more likely to receive more views. Further research has been carried out by Tubemogul (2008) to examine the attention span of people watching online videos. The research monitored viewed seconds of video on several top video sharing sites and found that while after 10 seconds, 89.61% of people are still watching a clip, after 5 minutes only 9.42% of people will keep watching (Tubemogul 2008).
These findings coupled with the average length of clips discussed above serve to highlight that the shorter the clip is the better, in terms of acquiring and maintaining an audience. The effect of this for the amateur is that if a large audience is the target, then the statistics show that they will be more successful if the video is shorter.
Having discussed the results of the content analysis in relation to length of the clips, a discussion of the content of the clips will now follow. As has been made obvious by the research, certain categories are more popular than others on YouTube. This result will now be analysed to determine possible implications for the amateur filmmaker.
Each video on YouTube has to be categorised by the user before it can be published on the site. There are fifteen categories altogether, including music, Film & Animation, People & Blogs etc. The content analysis of the top 100 most viewed videos on YouTube revealed that the most popular category by far
was Music. 71% of the videos analysed were labelled under this category. This is a huge majority, and fits with the findings related to length, as music videos are normally short. The same research mentioned above, carried out by Digital Ethnography (2008) had Music as the most popular category of “Recently Added” videos.
As discussed in the distribution section of the literature review, a more diverse moving image culture was predicted with new media technologies convergence with traditional media formats (Knight 2007:20). However, with these findings highlighting the overwhelming majority and popularity of Music videos on YouTube, the reality is less positive. With the most popular films being made up by 71% music related videos, diversity is not abundant. This fact serves to alienate the amateur filmmaker who does not create music related videos. As was discussed in the preliminary literature review, standardisation of content was an identifiable trait of traditional mass media, as maximising audiences was a key goal (Flew 2008:107). With Music videos and shorter clips being as popular as they are, if any amateur filmmaker wants to secure a large audience, then it is reasonable to assume from these findings that music videos and short clips are the most successful formats. Standardisation of content to gain a wide audience, it could be argued, is just as apparent in with new media platforms as it was with traditional media.
Having covered content and length, the final category for discussion is ‘Distributor’. This category was split into three categories: unambiguously amateur,
commercial. These findings help form an understanding of who the key players are on YouTube.
Of the top 100 most viewed videos, established commercial media players distributed 58%. A further 22% of the video clips were amateur users distributing commercial content. It is interesting that a massive 14% of the top 100 videos are distributed by ‘universalmusicgroup’ alone. This percentage shows that a huge majority of the most viewed videos are of a commercial nature. This presents an uneven balance in favour of the commercial distributor, which needs to be discussed in the reference to the claims of new media technologies having revolutionary potential for the amateur.
These figures are not in support of the claims that new media technologies such as YouTube are democratising and decentralizing, creating new players in the media landscape (Negroponte 1995:18-19). With 80% of the most viewed content on YouTube falling into the ‘commercial’ category, it does not seem as if we really are experiencing ‘communications for all, by all’ (Browning and Reiss 1998:105). This majority of commercial content does not illustrate an inclusive, equal media, in-fact it demonstrates the opposite, and shows that the key players of YouTube, in terms of audience share, are the same people who were already established. Cornford and Robbins (1999) predicted that large media companies would not be able to hold the same amount of control due to a proliferation of grassroots activity; however these results do a lot in the way of disproving this prediction.
Jenkins and Hartley (2008) point out, in order to see a truly democratic culture, we need anti-corporate outlets. With YouTube being recently acquired for a massive $1.65 billion in shares, the site is now far from being ‘anti-corporate’. Large media companies have control, and as much as YouTube has allowed for the distribution of a lot of amateur, user-generated content, it is obvious that this is not sweeping the established players away.
At the time of writing, a recent development has enhanced the commercial presence on YouTube. The site has unveiled plans to create a new navigational system which clearly separates user-generated content from the commercial videos (Rodgers 2009). This separation coupled with the popularity of commercial videos, raised by this research, will undoubtedly make YouTube a hotbed for commercial activity, and could turn it into another commercial run media platform. It would be appropriate to say that new media technologies can allow for amateurs to get a share of the audience, yet they still remain alienated and in the shadow of large, commercial media companies.
While conducting the research an interesting development in relation to music videos occurred in the United Kingdom. The content analysis was carried out on the 8th March 2009, but late on the 9th of March all ‘premium’ music videos (those legally uploaded by the copyright holder) were made unavailable to UK users of the site due to a deal between YouTube and the copyright holders not being met (Waters 2009). This clearly will have an effect on the dynamics of videos being watched, and will create a huge vacuum which will need to be filled by another sort of content. It is, as of yet, too soon to tell what will replace
the legitimate music videos. Perhaps the future is bright for amateur filmmakers and user-generated content. Of course, illegally uploaded music videos will be available elsewhere, therefore it may come to pass that the vacuum created by the absence of music videos will not be filled by anything, and will only decrease the amount of people using YouTube. This removal of commercial content could be seen to give more power to the amateur filmmaker; however as will be discussed in the production chapter of this research, large media companies can exercise a lot of control over amateur work by way of copyright regulation, and so still the amateur filmmaker is alienated.
This chapter has been based on the presumption that gaining a large audience is important. There are those who do not agree with this line of thought, and believe that new media technologies are about more than audiences. Audiences are an essential part of mass media economics, by way of commercial broadcasters selling audiences to advertisers (Bignell 2004:255). By assessing new media technologies according to audience figures we essentially, as McLuhan and Fiore (1967) put it, “Look at the present through a rear-view mirror” (1967:43). To concentrate on audience figures is an attempt to frame something new in relation to something we already have an understanding of. As Manovich (2008) observes the web is increasingly becoming a communication rather than a publishing medium. YouTube is in itself a social networking website as it allows people to ‘connect’ and ‘communicate’ with each other, with videos acting as the primary means of social connection (Burgess 2008:102). It is important to view YouTube videos as carriers for ideas that are taken up in a social networking framework, not as discrete texts to be
consumed by “isolated individuals or unwitting masses” (Burgess 2008:108). The argument here is that while traditional media players can be assessed in terms of audience figures, user-generated content by ‘amateurs’ should not be viewed in the same way. The consumption chapter of this study shows that YouTube can cater for niche audiences, and thus audience figure are not as relevant. As was discussed in the initial literature review, the culmination of all amateur content does outweigh the commercial videos (Manovich 2008), which confirms the argument that the success of user-generated content should not be viewed in the same way as traditional broadcast media content, i.e. audience figures.
However, as Orwell (1949) wrote in his book ‘1984’, “He who controls the past, controls the future”, and it would seem as though this is the case with YouTube. In 2006 Google bought the site for $1.65 billion and due to this commercialisation, YouTube have been increasingly pressured into making profit. One way in which this has come to fruition is the monetisation of video clips through advertising. Adverts are placed on pages to the right of the video, and in some cases on top of the video clip. YouTube offers a ‘Partner Program’ in which users of the site, amateur and commercial alike, can apply to get adverts on their videos and in turn receive a share of the revenue. This is appropriate for this discussion because this then justifies assessing the implications of YouTube in terms of audience figures. In order to qualify for this program you have to ‘regularly upload videos that are viewed by thousands of YouTube users’ (YouTube Partnerships 2009). This creates an uneven hierarchy that benefits those contributors who can attract a large audience,
which as the findings of the content analysis have shown, are largely commercial media companies. The key players from the past are controlling the future, and in turn are not allowing the potential of a tool such as YouTube, to be fully realised.
The reason this chapter is entitled ‘7 views no comments’ was to establish what is often the reality for many amateur filmmakers. YouTube in theory allows users to ‘Broadcast’ themselves, as the company slogan would have us believe. Yet broadcasting implies large audiences, and for a lot of amateur filmmakers large audiences are not the reality. This is largely, as discovered, due to the popularity of commercial music videos making up the most viewed videos. However, thinking in terms of needing to secure large audience is an attempt to frame new progressions in relation to old technologies, viewing the future in a rear view mirror as it were (McLuhan and Fiore 1967:43). As has been made obvious YouTube is more than a publishing tool allowing wide distribution, it is a communication tool, allowing people to connect via the medium of video. Therefore in relation to ‘7 views no comments’, perhaps by stressing the negative side of only having 7 views, we omit the significance the fact that 7 people have seen the video that would not have done without YouTube. This is surely a cause for celebration in that somebody on the other side of the planet could be watching your film. On the other hand the past does try to control the future, and with the new ‘Partnership Program’, YouTube has created an unfair, uneven scheme where those who have the largest audiences are deemed the most successful, and in turn reap the financial benefits. It seems as if this scenario is not creating “new players” (Negroponte 1995:18-19), it is simply
further benefiting the â€˜old playersâ€™ and allowing the select few newcomers to join in the same game. This chapter has shown that established media companies have too strong a position to be replaced by grassroots, amateur producers. The next chapter will explore how large existing media companies exert further control on those amateur filmmakers by implementing copyright law.
Chapter Two Copyright
“If I have seen further it is only by standing on the shoulders of giants”. (Isaac Newton)
This famous quote from Isaac Newton is extremely relevant in a discussion over remixed films and copyright issues. A new trend has arisen to re-mix surrounding culture to create something new, but this trend has been met with hostility from copyright holders. This chapter discusses how this “standing on the shoulders of giants” is restricted in our culture, and in turn analyses the effect of such a restriction on amateur filmmakers.
The Internet has the ability to bypass certain media gatekeepers, to a degree previously unseen in the media (Polat 2005:438). This evasion of central control has meant that certain practices have become commonplace, a lot of which are illegal by copyright law. These practices often include the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted content (music, films etc.), which has come to be referred to under the general rubric of ‘piracy’. However, this chapter will focus on a different kind of ‘pirate’. The main focus of interest here is the people who can, through the power of new media technologies, reproduce digital content for a creative purpose. Instead of just distributing it, they alter it and put their own creative spin on it to create something new. This process is often termed ‘re-
mixing’ or creating a ‘mash-up’, but the terms all mean the same; drawing on the culture around you to create something new. The difficulty which has arisen however, as Lessig (2004) points out, is that this creativity could potentially never be seen, due to copyright law (Lessig 2004:185). The previous chapter on distribution has shown that YouTube and other media technologies have been heralded as creating a more participatory media environment; however the chapter also discussed how established media companies have such a strong hold on our media experience, so much so that this potential is not fully realised. This chapter will discuss a similar theme, exploring how the large established media companies exert control over amateur producers on YouTube and further afield via copyright laws. The central focus is to determine what the implications of the copyright policy on YouTube are for the amateur filmmaker, to determine if creativity is being endangered.
The chapter will focus on an interview conducted with an amateur filmmaker who has experience in dealing with copyright infringing creativity on YouTube. This interview serves to offer a more textured analysis of YouTube copyright policy, from the point of view of somebody on the front line, as it were, of the ‘war of ideas’ (Gaylor 2009). From the literature review, certain key areas for discussion became obvious which helped in the formation of questions for the interview. This chapter will use the interview with Alex Choudhary as a case in point, building on the existing literature around copyright and framing it within the context of YouTube.
Alex Chouhdry has made a video for YouTube entitled “You’ve Got Mail Recut Trailer”. This video is a re-imagining of a trailer for the romantic comedy “You’ve Got Mail” (Ephron 1998), which sees it turned into a thriller. This video has had 13,655 views as of April 5th 2009, and is Alex’s most popular video. The trailer clearly infringes on the copyright of the original film and if found, the video would need to be taken down as a result of YouTube’s copyright policy. This chapter addresses this reality and discusses the implications of such a copyright policy, to determine if it can go as far as to deter people like Alex from being creative.
When asking what the implications of YouTube copyright policy are for the amateur filmmaker, and exploring whether it hinders creativity, the assumption is that this ‘re-mixing’, is valid creativity. It would be relevant to discuss this creativity to determine if in fact it is genuine, or is it simply breaking the law. Lessig (2004) refers to this very sort of creativity, the kind that builds upon the culture around us, as “Walt Disney creativity” (Lessig 2004: 24). He explains that in the early 20th century copyright law was designed so that any copyright term only lasted thirty years. After those thirty years, the work entered into the public domain, and anybody, rich or poor, was able to draw upon or use that work (ibid). The point being made here is that Walt Disney, one of the worlds most well known filmmakers reached this level of fame by doing largely the same thing that Alex has done with his re-cut trailer. He has built on the culture around him to create something new. Retelling a story to bring it into a new age is exactly what Walt Disney did, and this creativity should be remembered and celebrated (Lessig 2004:23). Gallagher (2008) points out that this form of
creativity is apparent in all art forms such as the collage and folk music. The modern day Walt Disneys, those who are re-mixing films and music to create something new, are not recognized in the same way, instead they are branded ‘Pirates’. Note the irony of Disney’s most successful recent film being ‘Pirates of the carribean’ (Verbinski 2003). The creative practice of re-mixing and retelling stories is not anything new, “culture always builds on the past” (Gaylor 2009). Yet with the copyright policy on YouTube and copyright law in general, this form of creativity, inherent in human nature, is illegal and forbidden (Lessig 2004:184).
As discussed in the copyright section of the above literature review, Lessig (2001) rightly points out that new technologies allow for new forms of storytelling to arise, e.g. remixed films, allowing a potentially extraordinary amount of people to become part of the creative process (Lessig 2001:9). When asked about how Alex managed to make the “You’ve got mail recut trailer” his answer supported Lessig’s (2001) assertions. Alex edited the film on the free Mac application “iMovie” and ripped the content from the original “You’ve Got Mail” DVD by way of a freeware application he downloaded from the Internet. Technology is much more readily available now, and as discussed throughout this whole study, clearly offers new possibilities for creative people. However, as Lessig (2004) goes on to point out, this new ability is not allowed to reach its full potential due to copyright law, resulting in large amounts of creative content never being seen (Lessig 2004:185).
However, there is the possibility that this argument is overly pessimistic. For example, Alex has enjoyed a large audience for his copyright infringing material, and has still not received a copyright infringement notification. This is due to the fact that until recently, YouTube monitoring and operational activities were carried out by the users themselves, with the copyright holder often informing YouTube of copyright violations (Van Dijck 2009: 51). With the sheer amount of content on the site it was inevitable for content to slip through the proverbial net. ‘YouTomb’, a project by MIT Free Culture monitors the most popular videos on YouTube for copyright related takedowns. Out of 322,431 videos, only approximately 6% of the videos have been taken down. This percentage is relatively small and serves to counter Lessig’s (2004) negative outlook. Dean (2007) also points out that the first port of call from YouTube is to try to negotiate licensing agreements with the copyright holders, rather than take the clips down. This Dean (2007) believes is due to YouTube being aware that the copyright infringing clips are of value to visitors of the site. In August 2008, on the official Google blog, it was revealed by David King, YouTube Product Manager, that 90% of partners using a new ‘Content Identification tool’ are choosing to monetise their content instead of take it down when they are notified of copyright infringing clips (King 2008). This is a contrast to Lessig’s (2004) pessimistic view that copyright law would result in large amounts of content never being seen (2004:185).
It is also extremely relevant to discuss how YouTube has inadvertently enhanced the remix culture. When asked where Alex got the idea for the re-cut trailer he created, he replied:
“I watch a lot of videos on YouTube so I knew the re-cut trailer was a big thing. I watched one re-cut of Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan in ‘Sleepless in Seattle’ made to look like a thriller. This gave me the idea.”
YouTube in this instance is providing the creative catalyst for an amateur filmmaker to create similar copyright infringing work. Again this does not sit well with Lessig’s (2004) that creative content will go unwatched, as in this case, copyright infringing content is left on the site long enough to inspire more creativity. Another way in which YouTube indirectly allows for copyright infringing practices can be found in the next answer. Alex was asked where he learned the skills to rip content from a copyright protected DVD.
“I just looked about on YouTube; I typed in ‘how to rip DVD’ and watched a video posted by another user. Then I searched for the free DVD cracking software on Google.”
This is a perfect example of how difficult it is to monitor and regulate the Internet. The community environment, encouraged quite deliberately by YouTube, has been exploited here in a way that does not benefit the established commercial media companies. Alex has learned the skills necessary to break YouTube copyright policy, by using YouTube itself. In this instance, the copyright restrictions on the website have been unable to stop creativity. In fact creativity has thrived with YouTube, by way of its design, allowing for users to
inspire and educate each other without any regard for copyright laws that don’t benefit them.
However, YouTube ownership changes have resulted in Lessig’s (2004) pessimism potentially being justified. Since YouTube has been taken over by Google, the site has come under increased control, with staff employed to monitor uploaded content, especially for copyright violations (Van Dijck 2009: 52). As mentioned before, a new ‘Content identification tool’ has been developed by YouTube, which reads “fingerprints” of digital content, allowing copyright holders to better identify and manage their content on the site (www.YouTube.com). This content ID tool cannot distinguish between outright ‘piracy’ and fair-use, which means that legitimate fair-use videos are being taken down from YouTube every day (Gallagher 2008). This does not fit well with YouTube Product Manger David King’s (2008) assertion that “we are committed to supporting new forms of original creativity and protecting fair use”. This is a perfect example of what Lessig (2006) is referring to when he writes of cyberspace being controlled by ‘code’ as discussed in the initial literature review. The software of YouTube (the content ID tool) is regulating the site, making it difficult for amateur filmmakers like Alex to continue with their creative endeavours, despite their apparent legitimacy with copyright law. “Code is law” is Lessig’s (2006) assertion, and in the case of YouTube, this is entirely accurate, and shows that the technology of YouTube is acting as a means of control.
However, as discussed above, 90% of copyright holders using the ‘content identification tool’ are not taking clips down, but are in fact monetising them to receive a share of the advertising revenue. Despite the fact that the ‘code’ of the site in the form of the Content ID tool is controlling the use of the site, it is not resulting in the removal of the content, as Lessig (2004) predicted. Their work is still being seen publicly however it is more in line with the quote “You make all the content. They keep all the revenue” (bash.org cited in Jenkins 2008).
Copyright law does not benefit the amateur filmmaker in this case. Negroponte predicted that wholly new players would emerge in the new media environment (1995:18). To a certain degree, this has come to fruition, and as explored in this chapter and the last, it is clear that new players have in fact ‘emerged’. However a constant control from the ‘old players’ as it were, has resulted in these new technological innovations not being fully realised, or not being regarded in the way they should. As much as users of YouTube can defy the copyright policy, new software has been developed in order to tackle a much wider scope of copyright infringement. Time will tell if YouTube will be able to completely rid the site of copyright infringing clips, or will the Content ID tool serve to provide more money for the already established copyright holders. As Van Dijck (2009) points out, increasing concerns over lawsuits will drive Google and YouTube to try their hardest to stamp it out. Unfortunately this leaves the amateur filmmaker in a position where on the one hand they are empowered by new technologies, given the opportunity to create new ways of telling stories. Yet on the other hand they are told these activities are illegal and face their account being deleted by the very source of inspiration and education for copyright infringing
practices. The implication of YouTube for the amateur filmmaker in this case, is quite a negative one, potentially prohibiting them from becoming the next Walt Disney, and simply allowing the commercial media giants, to reap more benefits.
Chapter Three Consumption
“No longer a couch potato, he determines what, when, and how he watches media” (Jenkins 2002)
In discussions around new media, the possibilities afforded for consumption are often overshadowed by the ability consumers now possess to produce. As consumption still plays a central part in any media experience, it is important to include it in a discussion of the implications of YouTube. A close analysis will be carried out of the Videomaker channel on the website to illustrate exactly what YouTube offers that broadcast media could not. This new method of consumption afforded by new media technologies has been articulated by Negroponte (1995) as a shift from the ‘Daily us’ of traditional broadcast media to the ‘Daily Me’, meaning that now audiences can personalize their media consumption to suit their own needs. The YouTube consumer can navigate from one piece of content to another, creating their own unique and personal media experience (Jarrett 2008:133). It is therefore worthwhile to assess this development towards personalised media, to evaluate the implications for the amateur filmmaker. The two previous chapters have resulted in negative conclusions for the non-professional; however, this chapter is of a more positive
nature. Focus is primarily on how new media technologies have enriched the consumption experience creating several new and significant possibilities.
A short description of the Videomaker channel will be beneficial in order to give an idea of exactly what it offers and why it is relevant to the research. This will also highlight certain key areas, which will form the backbone of the case study.
The channel describes itself as helping “aspiring independent media makers learn basic video editing, lighting and camera techniques”(Videomaker 2009). The videos on the channel reflect this by offering advice on the abovementioned principles of filmmaking. As the channel operates on YouTube, these videos share the same possibilities as the rest of the website. People watching the videos can comment and ask questions to which the makers of the video can respond. As well as this form of feedback, the user can immediately rate the video out of 5 stars. Videomaker also suggest several of their own favourite videos, allowing a user to watch videos personally recommended by the creator of the channel. All videos from the channel controller can be accessed via the ‘videos’ tab on the channel, these can be searched via the search box, and can be organised into the ‘most viewed’ or ‘most discussed’.
This outline has made clear the key areas for a discussion over what the channel offers that broadcast media could not. The main elements from this brief introduction to the channel are as follows:
The channel caters for a niche market as not everybody on YouTube is an ‘aspiring media maker’.
Navigation and architecture. The user is relatively free to watch what they want via the search function. However, the framework of rated videos and most viewed/most discussed videos also needs to be discussed.
Comments and feedback. How a user is afforded the chance to write a comment on each video, adding a new layer to the consumption experience.
Having identified the key areas for discussion, an examination of each will be carried out to assess their particular implications.
As mentioned in the distribution section of the literature review, standardisation of content is a key characteristic of traditional mass media (Flew 2008:107). This standardisation is created in order to maximise audiences and profit by reducing the risks associated with uniqueness (Collins 2008:92), However, with the low distribution costs of the Internet, this standardisation is less necessary, allowing niche audiences to be catered for (Hesmondhalgh 2007:248). Therefore in the case of the Videomaker channel on YouTube, amateur filmmakers are afforded a whole channel dedicated to helping them with filmmaking techniques. On YouTube it is free to upload videos, and so the creators have no requirement to earn money in order to regain the cost of
distribution. This is illustrated well by the fact that the channel has 147 videos. This proliferation shows that despite no immediate economic return, the creators are still able to upload the educational videos.
A whole channel dedicated to a minority audience would not have been possible for a broadcast model television channel for example. A large enough audience would not have been capable due to the uniqueness of the product, and therefore it would not be economically desirable to broadcasters. By providing a ‘free’ platform for distribution YouTube has allowed for the creation of channels that cater for minority audiences. Amateur filmmakers are able to watch several professionally made videos that will help in their creative projects, which would have been unlikely if they were dependant upon traditional broadcast media. This fact is comforting, and in contrast with the negative outcome of the Distribution chapter of this study. While in said chapter it was found that due to the ‘partnership programme’ audience figures are becoming more important on YouTube, here we have situation where audience figures are not as important.
It is worth noting at this point that whilst the Videomaker channel is free for users to consume on YouTube, the creators also have a website from which they sell their magazine and DVDs. At the end of each of their videos on YouTube is an advertisement for their website, where there are several adverts for products specific to amateur filmmakers. This echoes many of the criticisms of new media technologies outlined in the preliminary literature review, in that by creating niche audiences it makes it easier for advertisers to target groups with tailor made adverts (Ernst, Szeto and Pang 2002). The argument here is that
with the creation of a niche audience, it is easier for advertisers to reach their intended market, making the consumers more vulnerable to commercial control.
Despite the fact that consumers of this channel are being targeted for commercial exploitation, the benefit of a media experience that is made specifically for their needs outweighs this drawback. It is also important to remember that traditional media channels also contain advertising, and so too present the capacity for commercial control. This, despite being more efficient with new media technologies, is not unique.
Lovink (2008) raises a key issue that concerns the vast amount of choice a user is afforded through new media technologies. He observes that:
“What we run up against is the limitations of our own mental capacity. Which search terms will yield the best fragments? What was that title again? Does anyone know that director’s name?” (Lovink 2008:9) Lovink (2008) is suggesting here that the choice is vast, and our own ‘mental capacity’ cannot cope with the huge amounts of content.
Videomaker channel does serve as a framework for people using the site. For example amateur filmmakers can navigate to this channel because they know it will have information relevant to them, just as fans of experimental jazz can navigate to relevant music channels, suiting their needs and preferences. They do not have to search through the entirety of the content, just a single channel,
or the list of videos returned by a search. This framework and guidance is enhanced by some key functions of the Videomaker channel.
The creator of the channel offers a selection of ‘Favourite’ videos. Videomaker is guiding the choice of the consumer by informing them which of their own videos they prefer. This of course suggests a large level of control for the channel host, which does not fit with the democratised and decentralized vision of new media as outlined in the literature review (Negroponte (1995), Jarret (2008), Lessig (2004), Jenkins (2002)). However, as mentioned above this is only a guide, the user has ultimate control and does not need to watch the ‘favourite’ videos.
Individuals who come to view videos on YouTube can also rate a video out of five stars, with one star meaning ‘Poor’ and five being ‘Excellent!’. This function is important in guiding users of the channel. Before watching a video a user can see how many stars a video has. If the video is rated ‘Poor’ then the individual can then make a more informed choice about watching the clip. This system relies on what Jenkins (2006) terms a ‘moral economy’, ‘a sense of mutual obligations and shared expectations…within a knowledge community’ (2006: 255). Each participant on YouTube has a sense of obligation to enhance the user experience for other members of the community. The community guidelines on the website read: “Remember that this is your community! Each and every user of YouTube makes the site what it is”. Rating videos appropriately and posting valuable comments are what makes the site better for the wider community. As Jarrett (2008) puts it; “Doing it yourself, for
YouTube’s benefit as well as your own”. The amateur filmmaker therefore is guided to what films to watch by like-minded people, all of whom are trading in the same ‘moral economy’ (Jenkins 2006). As Burgess (2008) writes, consumption has become a collective process. The Videomaker channel allows for an amateur filmmaker to get more from the experience because they can disregard films that have been rated ‘Poor’ by other users; users who are watching the videos for the same purpose, to learn filmmaking. Likewise, if one video is particularly helpful to the community, the high rating will undoubtedly attract more views.
The focus of the chapter will now shift to explore the implications of the capability to post comments on Videomaker videos.
In the case of the Videomaker channel, people watching the educational videos have used the comments for asking further questions. For example:
“What program do they use at 1:22?” (RapterX) “Looks like Adobe Audition” (AddieStarr) “Adobe Audition” (Videomaker)
The above question and answer was taken from a video selected at random from the channel. However, this dialogue is common not only throughout the Videomaker channel, but throughout YouTube as a whole. On closer inspection of this exchange, it is clear that an individual user is unsure about a particular software package being used, and so posts the question. The creator of the video
(Videomaker) answers the question, but after another individual user gives their answer first. This is an example, which supports the optimistic assertions of a new democratized media environment. The producer enters into dialogue with the consumer, but the consumers also converse with each other to exchange knowledge. This echoes Negroponte’s (1995) predictions of a cottage industry of information providers. Through analyzing the comments, it is clear that the flow of information is no longer as one way as it was in broadcast media.
The above interaction is a perfect example of what Pierre Levy (1997) terms the ‘cosmopedia’:
“Not only does the cosmopedia make available to the collective intellect all of the pertinent knowledge available to it at a given moment, but it also serves as a site of collective discussion, negotiation and development” (Levy 1997:217)
The individual amateur filmmaker as consumer in this instance, by way of participating in the sharing of knowledge, is part of this ‘cosmopedia’ as Levy (1997) defines it. The Videomaker channel has allowed for the enhancement of the social pool of knowledge, in as much as it provides a platform for further discussion. One person knows something, therefore everybody in that consumption orientated community can. This community is held together through the reciprocal exchange of knowledge (Jenkins 2002:158). More than simply consuming videos, amateur filmmakers can share relevant knowledge with a like-minded community, and in turn learn from that community. This
formation of community is encouraged by the inherent philosophy of the site: â€œYouTube is for the communityâ€? (YouTube Community Guidelines 2009). Therefore it would be accurate to speak of YouTube as providing the amateur filmmaker, and other niche groups, the chance to become part of a network of like-minded people. The site also offers the opportunity to consume content produced specifically for them, rated and recommended by the same network of peers, again illustrating social, rather than individual, knowledge. Of course this is not to say that every user capitalizes upon this possibility, but the significance of this new ability still remains.
This brief case study of the Videomaker channel on YouTube has outlined three key areas in which amateur filmmakers have been afforded new possibilities in terms of consumption. Firstly a whole media channel dedicated to amateur filmmakers would not have been economically viable in the profit-seeking model of broadcast media. In turn amateur filmmakers are afforded a much more personal media experience, which they can tailor to suit their own needs. The amount of content on the site becomes less daunting with the several guiding features of the channel. A community is also facilitated in which users can learn from each other via comments on each video. This case study has helped gain an understanding of exactly how much a new media channel, such as Videomaker, differs from traditional media channels. This strengthens the assertions made of new media technologies, and justifies the optimism generated as a result. In terms of consumption, YouTube truly does offer a unique and personalized media experience. This has been exemplified through the amateur filmmaker in this instance, yet this applies to a vast array of groups
that use the site. However it is possible to conclude from this exploratory case study that amateur filmmakers are afforded several significant consumption possibilities thorough YouTube, which it has been shown can transcend into implications on production and distribution also.
Conclusion On embarking on this research, I was eager to confirm that YouTube was a revolutionary technology that would bear several positive implications for the amateur filmmaker. As mentioned in the introduction to this research, I myself am an amateur filmmaker, and was therefore eager to explore how I could harness the potential of the site to enhance my own creativity and dissemination of my work. Many believe that new media technologies have hugely democratizing, inclusive possibilities that are previously unseen in any other media technology (Negroponte 1995, Lessig 2001, Jenkins 2006). However, analyses of distribution, production and consumption suggest that the sense of groundbreaking progress for the non-professional has not entirely been confirmed.
In Chapter One, I suggested it was obvious that domination from the existing media professionals is too strong for amateurs to challenge. The unfair partnership scheme rewards those users of YouTube who secure consistently high audience figures, turning what should have been a democratic media platform, into another commercially dominated environment. As Jenkins and Hartley (2008) point out for a truly democratic platform, we need anti-corporate outlets, of which YouTube does not qualify. This pressure to deliver audiences is taking away from the revolutionary potential YouTube possesses for the dissemination of video content, and is creating an atmosphere where if you only
have â€˜7 views and no commentsâ€™ then you are not successful. I would argue that this serves to alienate the amateur filmmaker, negating the possibilities it allows for distribution, which is an unfortunate reality.
Chapter two resulted in a similar conclusion. Amateur filmmakers on YouTube are participating in highly creative practices. Copyright law and YouTube copyright policy, however, curtail this creativity. Ultimately, I would argue that said copyright policy is damaging amateur filmmakersâ€™ creativity, and in turn the true potential of the site. Amateur filmmakers are engaging with new technologies and developing new ways of telling stories and producing cultural artefacts, yet this is forbidden by commercial copyright holders. This again shows just how much control professional, commercial media players have over new technologies. Amateur filmmakers are forbidden from expressing themselves freely due to copyright holders, and again find themselves alienated from the possibilities of a potentially groundbreaking technology.
It would be unfair to profess that YouTube is nothing but detrimental to the amateur filmmaker. By analysing the possibilities for consumption afforded through the website, it has become clear that amateur filmmakers, along with other niche groups, are permitted a high level of personalisation, which would not have been possible with the broadcasting model of communication. The Videomaker channel offers amateur filmmakers the chance to watch educational films that help them with their creative practices. Also, through the functionalities of YouTube, the amateur filmmaker is afforded the opportunity to interact with a like-minded community. Through the unique consumption
possibilities offered by certain YouTube channels, the amateur filmmaker is empowered and included. This would not have been possible in previous media, and so in this instance, YouTube has allowed for a positive effect on the amateur filmmaker.
Nonetheless, it is important to realise that to a large extent, YouTube is dominated and controlled by existing media professionals. This domination is resulting in the potentially revolutionising ability of the site not being fully realised. This is an unfortunate conclusion to have to draw; however, I do feel it is accurate. As YouTube is the most popular video sharing website, I believe It would be relevant to research further into a less popular video sharing website, to determine if in fact the democratising potential of new media technologies can be fully realised for amateur filmmakers, or is the pressure from professionals inescapable?
This appendix contains the content analysis referenced in Chapter One of the study.
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