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Week 3: Appearances Matter

Posted on: April 23, 2011

This post will draw upon lecture content as well as readings from Week 3. The question to be discussed is as follows:

While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact the formation of online ‘communities’?

Firstly, a very brief description of Youtube. Founded in 2005, the video sharing and streaming website has an average of 24 videos uploaded per minute and exceeded two billion views as of May 2010 (Youtube, 2011). Visitors to Youtube only have to search or watch videos of a certain genre before automatically being offered or suggested videos that Youtube’s programming thinks they might like by their second visit. For instance, on my first time surfing Youtube, I searched for and watched videos of Radiohead’s live performance of Creep.



On my subsequent visits, I found under the Recommended For You tab, there was a list of videos relating to Radiohead because Youtube deemed me to be interested in the band along with this message.



As this Recommended For You tab was placed prominently at the top half the Youtube’s homepage, my eyes were drawn to it immediately and this resulted in the higher chance of me clicking on it. Thus, this shows that José van Dijck’s theory that site interface does affect the popularity of videos is proven. Via methods Youtube has utilised like a front and centre Recommended For You tab, promotion of Most Popular videos, suggestions for other videos while watching a particular video, as well as featured videos, site interface is very important.

Communities in this case refer to online communities which exist on Youtube. These groups are set up by netizens who may or may not be produsers in order to devote full attention to a certain interest. Youtube itself is a giant community which serves the needs and pursuits of produsers and passive users who are interested in watching videos, streaming them, commenting on them, contributing them, and disseminating them.

Online communities on Youtube generally are hobby or interest groups. More often than not, these groups are ranked according to popularity, the number of comments they garner, the number of subscribers, or even the amount of advertising fees paid to Youtube in exchange for greater prominence/exposure (Dijck, 2009). With the factoring of money in, online communities now might be formed not purely out of interest, but of financial reasons.

Hence, it also means that the popularity of certain online communities might be boosted by cash injections and not a real indication of its widespread appeal amongst netizens. While this allows a new form of advertising to emerge, it is a blow to amateur netizens and produsers. With eyes and potential votes of ‘confidence’ being steered away from them to the big guns in the industry, exposure will be extremely hard to get.

Should capital continue to be a big, or even deciding factor in the formation of online communities, home users and produsers will be subject to a stifling of creativity and opportunities to present their own material which might be vastly different from mainstream media. As in the case of the remix culture which I highlighted here, amateur producers who are also users and netizens in the World Wide Web (WWW) are important when alternative views are needed to balance out the avalanche of media mainstream media production companies are heaping on consumers.

References

Dijck, JV. 2009, ‘Users like you? Thoerizing agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society, Vol. 31, No. 1, Sage Publications, Los Angeles, London, Singapore, New Delhi, pp. 41 – 58.

touchmyeggs. 2010, ‘Radiohead – Creep (Live @ Reading Festival 2009)’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘About Youtube’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘Most Popular’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

Youtube. 2011, ‘ Recommended For You’, Youtube.com, viewed 23 April 2011.

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