[iDC] YouTube and the other kinds of value [was MySpace staff cuts]

Andreas Schiffler aschiffler at ferzkopp.net
Sat Jun 27 02:58:19 UTC 2009

Thanks for these comment - resonates with me (even though I can count 
the number of times I've accessed YouTube consciously on one hand).

I wonder how many people face such "archival" problem even at the 
personal or family level as digital artifacts accumulate and need to be 
shifted around from technology to technology and service to service. 
Also, we have yet to witness the implosion of one of these big online 
repositories ... oh sorry, it is already in progress:


Jean Burgess wrote:
> My apologies for dashing off too-hasty and ill-considered comments far late
> at night, and then not returning to the conversation until now - with a long
> and rambling post.
> [ By way of a bit more background, I'm a research fellow at the ARC Centre
> of Excellence for Creative Industries & Innovation, QUT, Australia. My
> background is in music performance, cultural & media studies, and now
> Internet research. My own work on user-created content and the emergence of
> commercial platforms built around it begins from the question of cultural
> participation; especially from the perspective of everyday life and the ways
> in which it is lived in and through media consumption and use. And with
> Joshua Green I have written about these and other matters in a book called
> _YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture_ (Polity, 2009). ]
> In response to posts on MySpace staff cuts, costs and the question of profit
> by Trebor, Michael, Andreas, danah and others -
> I'm grateful to learn so much about the real costs of operating these
> services - a much-needed perspective and an area where I don't have much
> expertise. 
> I have been following the whole conversation where possible and acknowledge
> the wonderful work of so many on this list (Julian Kücklich and others
> especially) to understand how troubled the distinction between the economic
> (the factory) and the cultural (the playground) is in practice. However I do
> think that the framing of so-called social media in terms of political
> economy continually leads to a kind of cold and abstracted economism (e.g.
> "the internet is all about making money" vs. "the internet is all about
> competition for attention"). This is noticeable to me in terms of how
> "value" (and the meaning of work) are being construed; trapping us in purely
> industrial rather than cultural logics most of the time, and frequently
> individualising, even de-humanising participation ("users").
> I think it would be good if we could consider the multiple forms of cultural
> and public value generated as a largely unintended consequence of the
> uncoordinated, collective use of these platforms, without being accused of
> being "celebratory". For me, this focus leads to different kinds of
> critiques of the political issues surrounding commercial platforms for
> cultural participation. For example, what if the very monopolistic
> tendencies of YT/Google are a driver of broader and more diverse cultural
> participation - again, this would be counter-intuitive if it were true (and
> it might be). 
> To save time and because I've put it better elsewhere, I have pasted in
> below a small chunk out of the conclusion to a piece of mine called
> "User-Created Content and Everyday Cultural Practice: Lessons from YouTube"
> , forthcoming in the collection _TV as Digital Media_, eds James Bennett and
> Nikki Strange (Duke, 2009), which covers some of these issues.
> " [...]
> YouTube is generating public and civic value as an unintended and often
> unsupported consequence of the collective practices of its users. But it is
> questionable to what extent the unintentionally produced cultural, civic and
> social value of YouTube is truly being valued or safeguarded, especially by
> the company itself. Of course, even though YouTube is experienced as a
> public space, it isn¹t really public at all, but a private enterprise
> generating public value as a side-effect of the active participation of
> consumer-citizens. YouTube puts into relief the dependency‹unanticipated in
> ³revolutionary² discourse‹on market-led platforms that enable participation
> and engagement to flourish, while at the same time deriving value from them.
> The political questions that arise from this reality can too easily be
> sidelined exclusively into more prevalent debates around ³free labor² (at
> its least sophisticated, going no further than to argue that if value is
> being created, then someone¹s labour must be being exploited).
> There are important political problems with the corporatization of amateur
> and audience media use, but they look different with cultural participation,
> rather than exploitation, in the frame. For example, copyright‹widely
> considered to be a barrier to creativity‹looks different when we think of
> YouTube as a shared cultural resource and a popular archive than it does
> when we think of it as a platform for individual creativity or political
> commentary (although it is that too, of course). The need to answer to
> advertisers and a large number of national governments likewise is beginning
> to influence the extent to which YouTube is available as a truly shared
> resource to citizens of different countries, as localized filtering measures
> are introduced and at least appear to be being used to block content
> according to licensing restrictions.
> Despite these constraints, if YouTube remains in existence for long enough,
> the result will be not only a repository of vintage television content, but
> something even more significant: a record of contemporary global popular
> culture (including vernacular and everyday culture) in video form, produced
> and evaluated according to the logics of cultural value that emerge from the
> collective choices of the distributed YouTube user community. Indeed,
> YouTube is arguably a more effective vehicle for the popular memorialisation
> of television than are either broadcasters or cultural institutions, because
> they tend to memorialize television-as-industry, and not
> television-as-experience.
> Cultural institutions (including public service broadcasters) are actively
> considering how such developments will impact on their own missions and
> practices,  but less consideration is usually given to the implications of
> commercial spaces taking on some of the work of cultural institutions
> without being tied to the same public and state-based responsibilities.
> Archivist Rick Prelinger argues that those who have provided the
> infrastructure which has unexpectedly produced these accidental archives, as
> in the case of YouTube, are mostly ³blithely unconcerned by [the] questions
> of persistence, ownership, standards, sustainability, or accountability²
> that occupy professional archivists and their parent institutions.
> Because YouTube offers its service based on commercial interests, rather
> than public ones, there is no obligation to store this data beyond the
> commercial viability of the company that provides the storage service. Nor
> is there any straightforward way cultural institutions can re-archive
> material that shows up on YouTube, because of legal barriers such as
> copyright law and YouTube¹s Terms of Use.
> These questions of public value and the archive highlight some of the
> cultural implications of YouTube and its difference from broadcast media
> like television. While YouTube is in the Œreach¹ business, with a business
> model fundamentally based on delivering attention to advertisers, unlike
> television networks, YouTube, Inc. does not program, collect or (other than
> minimally) curate content: it provides a flat and accessible platform for an
> extremely wide range of contributors, and YouTube, Inc. interferes with
> their activities only to the extent that intervention is perceived as
> necessary in order to stay on the right side of the law. At the same time,
> this underdetermination can also be understood as under-regulation ­ which
> is what gets the company so regularly into trouble with both Big Media
> competitors and censorious national governments. Because of its openness and
> underdetermination, YouTube is producing significant public value as an
> ³accidental² cultural archive; and yet the questions of how or whether this
> enormous repository of cultural memory should be preserved and shared have
> yet to be properly asked, yet alone answered. "
> Cheers
> Jean
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