I feel as though YouTube has always been a part of my life growing up. I can’t remember a time when I couldn’t just go online to find the music video of a song that my friends had told me was great, or look up a funny video that had become viral. I have always thought of YouTube in a very positive light because it helped me to access a wide range of videos at the click of a mouse. However, after reading this week’s articles, I have begun to see both sides of the coin. Even with the cons that have been shown in the readings, I believe that the pros outweigh them in the end.
A major negative discussed in the Jenkins article is that a video posted on YouTube can be taken out of context and viewed in a way that the creator did not intend. An example Jenkin’s refers to is a Kirk/Spock vid, set to Nine Inch Nails’s ‘Closer,’ that was viewed as disturbing to slash fans (due to its “vivid depiction of sexual violence” ) , but funny and comedic to others. The creator did not give permission for his/her video to be posted on YouTube, but it leaked on to the website anyway (117). All it takes is for one video to leak out and for someone outside of the specific community it targets to view it before it can be construed in a way that goes against its main purpose. This is one reason that some “vidders” post their work on IMeem, which is often friend-locked, so only people who are ok’d by the creator can view it (117-118). However, once it is on the internet, all it takes is for someone to record the movie and post it on another website before it finds its way on YouTube. This is important because it shows that any video posted on YouTube (or online that finds its way onto YouTube) is not only visible by a certain community, but public to anyone. These people will form their own opinion based on what they see, not necessarily what the creator wants them take from the video.
Another negative aspect of YouTube discussed in the readings relates back to the “digital divide,” and the fact that there is uneven access to the technology and therefore, uneven participation (124). According to John McMurria, “A glance at the top 100 rated, viewed and disused videos, and most subscribed channels reveals far less racial diversity than broadcast network television” (124). This is a very important observation because it helps to prove that a participatory culture is not necessarily a diverse one (124). So, while we may think that everything we could think of is on YouTube, that is not the case. Only the people who can afford to go onto the internet on a computer that can handle video is capable of posting on YouTube. This means that there is a sort of monopoly on videos on YouTube by the wealthier, more educated, and the poor do not get their voice heard as much was people think.
While cons do exist regarding YouTube, I think the pros clearly outweigh them. One pro that I find very important is that YouTube can be a means to improve activism. With the expansion of YouTube, Witness activist Sam Gregory says that it is easier for his organization to respond to human right’s abuses (121). This is important because it shows that YouTube can be a place where people join together to fight for or support a cause. YouTube is free, easy to access and allows for millions of people to see a video very quickly. Messages can be shared extremely quick. YouTube is essential to groups expanding by find interested people who just happen to see a video and become Interested. YouTube also helps activism groups from around the world to find each other and join together for a cause.
Another pro is that YouTube can be very helpful for education. I know many of my friends don’t have cable TV, but many news stations and citizens post news stories on the YouTube. This allows for these people to see the news without actually have a television. Also, many times people post videos on YouTube that are first hand accounts of certain events. These are both exciting and give people around the globe a first hand glance into an event without hearing the commentators or analysts. While Keen claims that YouTube is a bunch of monkeys able to do whatever they want, I find it very informational and helpful. You get to see many peoples points of view at the click of a mouse.
Lastly, YouTube also provides us with some entertainment. Many of the funny movies that become viral videos on YouTube do not seem to have many serious consequences. They just making many people laugh. They allow people to bond over something.
Overall, while YouTube does have some negatives, its positive benefits are greater. There is no other site where videos can help lead important activism efforts, give many visual perspectives on events, and make millions of people laugh all within minutes. As the “digital divide” continues to decrease as well, the benefits of YouTube will grow and everyone will actually be able to post on the site and that negative will no longer be an issue. YouTube is an important part of our culture and will continue to benefit the world for the foreseeable future.