In previous posts, I have discussed how Remix Culture and sites such as YouTube, together with today’s easy access to technology (such as video on phones) have allowed us to become a culture of creators, rather than consumers. Instead just being fed music, film etc. by larger companies, we are able to create and share our own, whatever our talents. While people may have always exercised those talents, there wasn’t to way to easily share them with the world. Nabeel Malik sums it up well in his blog.
“…in public you only come across an extremely small audience and we don’t exactly want to go over and start to tell them about your mood or even the video you have created or recorded”
Many people have used YouTube as a springboard to international success – perhaps the most well-known example would be pop star Justin Beiber, who’s videos of various cover tunes were popular enough to secure him a record contract and an international music career. Although with celebrities there usually conflicting accounts of their beginnings, this article suggests that he did not intend or expect those videos to reach a larger audience. This is an insteresting point, given that some articles I have recently read, such as ‘The Thin Line Between Beauty and Sadness’, have suggested that YouTube for many is a glorified popularity contest, a sort of online cult of celebrity chasing.
The first ever Justin Beiber video – not high quality, ‘professional standard’ content, currently stands at over 5.7 million views.
An article on the Electronic Frontier Foundation website contains testimonials from several successful creators who have remained on YouTube, rather than move onto more conventional media as Beiber did. People from Barnett Zitron, the creator of the political commentary channel Why Tuesdayto Dane Boedigheimer, who makes the short comedy series The Annoying Orange were featured as video makers who have found their niche online. To quote the article.
These creators praise YouTube for removing the gatekeeper between them and their audiences. “We can now be our own television and cable stations and our own record labels and record stores.”*
Clearly, this shows the vast potential of YouTube, but these are a tiny percentage of the people who use YouTube. And while their content may have worth, there is a lot more video content on YouTube alone which will never be successful. Should this ‘everyone can create’ trend be encouraged or not?
However, some do believe that there is a downside to this. Writers Andrew Keen comments in his work ‘The Cult of the Amateur‘ that this tidal wave of videos is like Aldous Huxley’s metaphor about infinite monkeys, except:
“These millions and millions of exuberant monkeys, many with no more talent in the creative arts than our primate cousins, are creating an online forest of digital mediocrity”**
So what is the worth of all the video content online? Is it a great melting pot of ideas, in which the best float to the top and become part of popular culture? Or is it a swamp in which true creativity and professionalism are stifled by those who ‘think’ they have talent?
Personally, I lean towards the former. Creative people will always go on to success, but through platforms such as YouTube they can do it on their own terms rather than those of corporate interests.
*McSherry, C., ” “YouTube Is UsTube”: Creators Step in to Defend YouTube” on Electronic Frontier Foundation (Accessed 15th November 2012)
**Keen, A., The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing our Culture (Doubleday Books, New York, 2007)