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Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology

Academic Journal
Vol. 1, No. 1, May 30, 2008

Launch Issue

YouTube and communities


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Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology Year 2007-2008, Course 1E Editors: Janneke Brouwers Lucas Cornips Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner Nicolle Lamerichs Selina Schepers Anna Wolters I315826 I309575 I510122 I297682 I273023 I284211

Course coordinators: Prof. Dr. Sally Wyatt Dr. Karin Wenz Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences Grote Gracht 90-92 6211 SZ Maastricht

About Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology The arts, science, and technology are pervasive constituents of modern Western society, and our culture can only be understood when these key roles are recognised and explicitly studied. The journal Cultures of Arts, Science and Technology aspires to investigate ideas and developments that lie at the foundation of our culture and society. This launch issue studies digital culture, by focussing on the social dynamics of YouTube. The editors are all enrolled in the master programme CAST at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences in Maastricht. As an interdisciplinary research master (MPhil), CAST brings together several disciplines in the humanities and the social sciences, mainly sociology, cultural studies, philosophy, and history.

Table of Contents Introduction 1. The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing Flash mob communities on YouTube and beyond Selina Schepers 2. Barn-raising in Marlboro Country Community empowering through YouTube Anna Wolters 35 removed) (At the request of the author, this contribution has been 17 5

3. Its a small world after all Metafictional fan videos on YouTube Nicolle Lamerichs 4. Connoisseurs and haters Art related communities on YouTube Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner 5. Feeling Lonely Planet The social negotiation of a brand on YouTube Lucas Cornips 6. YouTube vs. O-Tube Negotiating a YouTube identity Janneke Brouwers 107 89 72 52

Introduction
Janneke Brouwers, Lucas Cornips, Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, Nicolle Lamerichs, Selina Schepers & Anna Wolters YouTube In 2006, TIME lauded You for being the driving force behind the world wide web revolution that is called Web 2.0.1 In this annual Person of the Year issue, the magazine headlined: Person of the year: You. Yes, you. You control the information age. Welcome to your world (Grossman, 2006). In the cover story, Lev Grossman addresses the video-sharing platform YouTube as an exemplary component in this digital revolution, stressing the special qualities of the platform: You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos () than you could from 1,000 hours of network television. For Grossman it is clear that the power over the world of Web 2.0 resides within individual internet citizens, and thus he knows whom we have to thank for all those videos on YouTube: For working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIMEs person of the year for 2006 is you (Grossman, 2006).2 This faith in the digital empowerment of the individual is reflected in the much used phrase Do It Yourself (DIY), a principle describing the participatory possibility for anybody to create things alone. The self-produced videos on YouTube are considered exemplary for the DIY principle. In fact, the name YouTube in addition to the platforms slogan broadcast yourself seems to be dedicated to the popular DIY phrase. Being hailed as part of the participatory turn in the new web, we put YouTube under close scrutiny in this special issue. Although TIME Magazine justly calls attention to the wide cultural significance of YouTubes empowerment of the individual, we think this phenomenon can best be understood by investigating the social dynamics that constitute YouTubes content. In relation to this issue, media theorist Henry Jenkins has criticised the DIY phrase for being too focused on the individual. Under the heading From YouTube to WeTube Jenkins has argued that thinking about YouTube often ends up in dealing with videos and their makers in isolation, thereby

According to Jos van Dijck (2007) Web 2.0, or the YouWeb, refers to the second generation of web-based technologies that foregrounds user-controlled platforms () enticing bloggers, music uploaders, () video sharers, and others to interact with and contribute content to the virtual universe (p.2). 2 TIMEs managing editor recalled once more the basic idea behind this laudation: Individuals are changing the nature of the information age (Stengel, 2006).

Introduction

leaving the larger context in a state of uncertainty (Jenkins, 2008).3 This special issue tackles the problem of downplaying the social context of YouTube by paying special attention to the communal aspects of this website. According to YouTube, signing up allows anybody to participate in the YouTube community. But YouTube as a whole consisting of millions of dispersed people with different interests, backgrounds and goals is not what we perceive to be a community. Rather, by focussing on communal aspects, we aim to address in what way collaborations, groups or networks of YouTube users shape and proliferate the content and interactions on YouTube. Like Flickr, FaceBook and Wikipedia, YouTube is a website for user-generated content (UGC). Created in February 2005, YouTube was officially launched in December that same year and was bought by Google in November 2006. The website now attracts far more users than previous or other online video sharing services (e.g., broadcast.com or atomfilms.com). According to the company itself, in 2007 hundreds of millions of videos were viewed and hundreds of thousands of videos were uploaded every day. Each month, worldwide 200 million unique visitors browsed the site, of which about a third originated from the United States (YouTube, 2008). The success of the free service is attributed to its easy upload and

Figure 1: screenshot of YouTubes homepage, www.youtube.com

3 Similarly, Jenkins (2007) called attention to alternatives (brought forward at the video conference at the university of Southern California) for the DIY phrase: DWO; Doing it With Others, and DIT; Doing It Together. These alternatives clearly put the collaborative nature of Web 2.0 up front.

Introduction

download features. YouTubes interface enables users to have quick access to videos and to switch from one clip to a new one. The possibility to embed YouTube videos in other websites, weblogs, or social network pages is a much used facility even quality media (e.g., BBC News and NRC Handelsblad) embed YouTube videos. YouTube exerts control over the websites content, as can be read in the guidelines.4 Pornography, violence and racism are not allowed. A frequent breaking of the rules can result in the user being thrown off the site, losing access to his or her channel and video storage. The millions of uploads do not have to pass a controlling eye before obtaining approval, because the system offers its users the possibility to flag inappropriate images. Within a day, the company claims, it is decided whether the flagged video will be removed. In principle, the same policy applies in the case of breaking copyright, but only after complaints of the original maker.5 Figure 1 shows the video search bar, advertisements (for videos) and links (e.g., to help menus). By clicking on one of the small pictures a video can be watched on a large screen, which occupies about a third of the page. Besides the Home tab, this screen shows three other tabs: Videos, Channels and Community. The videos tab gives access to a page that contains links to fourteen categories (e.g., people & blogs, travel & events, how-to & style) and to various rankings (e.g., most popular, top rated). The channels tab leads to a number of channel categories (e.g., musicians, politicians). A channel in YouTube speech is the user account page. Users who subscribe to YouTube for free6 can create their own channels. They may customize these channels by providing personal information, presenting their own videos, linking to other websites and showing lists of favourites and subscribers. Subscription to YouTube is not obligatory, but it is necessary to be able to leave comments or upload videos. Channels provide one of the spots on YouTube where people can stay in touch and where the community idea is fostered. Other users may subscribe to the channel and will receive a message when a new video is posted. Furthermore, the channel owner may invite
See: http://youtube.com/t/community_guidelines. Cloud (2006) in TIME: "The biggest threat to YouTube remains potential copyright lawsuits from content providers who could claim that the sitelike Napster before itis enabling thieves. In a recent report, Google acknowledged that 'adverse results in these lawsuits may include awards of substantial monetary damages'." YouTube has made agreements and partnerships with broadcasting companies, and claims that "federal law requires only that it remove videos when copyright holders complainnot to pre-emptively monitor the site for infringements, which would destroy its spontaneity." On 26 May 2008, YouTomb, a research project by MIT Free Culture had identified 4515 videos taken down for alleged copyright violation. See also youtomb.mit.edu. 6 In spite of its attributed character of a free service, run by its community, YouTube cares very much for commercial partners, who finance the website. The company proposes a sophisticated advertising package, containing games, contests, privileged presentation in the featured videos and user-specific banners.
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Introduction

friends with whom he or she wants to share videos and communicate, for example through the channel comments, the bulletin board or a video blog. The community tab consists of the companys own blog, besides links to Groups and Contests. The latter is a type of commercial, inviting users to participate in consumer product contests. Groups is a feature in which videos on a particular subject are collected and shared with the group members. To give an example, in the category Science & Technology a group Astronomy is created. As of 20 May 2008, the group serves 671 members, who share 396 videos ideally astronomy related videos. The discussion forum of this group is not much used, with only 30 written contributions, which is typical for the functioning of groups on YouTube. The website tries to encourage its users to actively participate, communicate and start networks. According to the company's data (YouTube 2008) for the United States, 47 % of the users have registered, which gives them the actual opportunity to interact. Patricia Lange, however, researcher of video sharing websites, expresses concerns about the level of participation on YouTube. Referring to Jenkins term participating gap ((2007, p. 32) to describe that access is not open to everyone. Some people are, for instance, less skilled or possess less hardware than others, which limits participation. Furthermore, users must be able to deal with unpredictable interactional effects both on and off the site, all of which influence whether participation will take place, and what the quality of that participation will be. From a more quantitative view, computer scientists Martin Halvey & Mark Keane (2007) have examined the use of the tools that have been designed for interacting and sharing on YouTube. They state that the community building facilities of the website fall short. Only a minority of the registered users employs these tools quite often: There is a widespread failure amongst users to exploit the community facilities available on the website (i.e., most users are not members of groups, do not have any subscriptions, do not list friends or favourite videos, and have not posted any comments on videos) (p. 1273). Numbers, however, do not give an explanation of the social dynamics that are occurring on YouTube. Our research aims to give insight in the mechanisms and meanings of the users' multifaceted interaction. Research questions and concepts The social dynamics of YouTube are at the core of this special issue. The research theme, YouTube and communities, is of such complexity that a collective approach seems most 8

Introduction

suitable to do justice to the many divergent ways in which community building takes place, or is intentionally pursued, on this website. Therefore, we have judiciously chosen six topics, each permitting an in-depth discussion of one or more of the various facets of community life on YouTube. While the topics are as varied as flash mobbing, smoking, fandom, art, traveling, and television, the articles all pay attention to the social dynamics among the users who share a certain interest, as well as to the meanings these users attach to YouTube. The general research question which is addressed in all the contributions is: How are (emerging or preexisting) communities on YouTube sustained and interpreted? Furthermore, most of the articles pay special attention to the following subquestions: What is the relation between a YouTube community and its external (either online or offline) counterpart? How does YouTubes architecture facilitate or obstruct emerging or preexisting communities? By community we understand in our research a loose aggregation of people sharing and expressing a certain interest in a process of communication. This definition refers to several features commonly ascribed to a community: a shared interest and a place or medium to communicate this interest (Smith, 2001; Rheingold, 1993b; Wellman & Gulia, 1997; Wilbur, 2000). Moreover, loose aggregation might be linked to the notion of weak ties as explained by sociologist Mark Granovetter in The Strength of Weak Ties (1973). This renowned article argues that weak ties form the communicative bridges between people. Granovetter explains how these connections bind people to a larger group: Weak ties are more likely to link members of different small groups than are strong ones, which tend to be concentrated within particular groups (p. 1376). Communities used to be seen in a local, pastoral context: a village built on trust, reciprocity, and if you were lucky, even tolerance (Smith, 2001). Proximity formed an important element of these community dynamics, members were by spatially bounded. However, a pastoral perspective does not suffice any longer. Being in the same place is not a conditio sine qua non anymore for being a member of a community. Media technologies have enabled us to bridge large distances, meaning that communities can be formed around shared interests. Information technologies such as the internet allow us to communicate without being proximate. We have the world in the palm of our hands. The web gives way to new forms of communication, out of which new communities arise. Howard Rheingold was the first to use the term virtual community to describe these practices. He 9

Introduction

defines virtual communities as social aggregations that emerge from the Net when enough people interact for long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships in cyberspace (1993b, p. 5). Though sites as WELL and chatrooms as IRC7 have already been characterized as communities, it has been argued that Web 2.0 has increased the social networking of the so-called netizens.8 Jenkins (2007) thinks that YouTube par excellence enables groups to organize and communicate, as a meeting point between a range of different () communities involved in the production and circulation of media content. It seems rather odd to speak of a virtual community as something different from a regular community. Virtual communities can also organise face-to-face, rather than via computer-mediated communication. The internet is not a separate reality, though our contacts may differ in the physical in comparison to the virtual. However, we do not simply leave our identity at the desktop when we visit cyberspace. Sociologists Wellman and Gulia write (1997, p. 3): People bring to their on-line interactions such baggage as their gender, stage in the life-cycle, cultural milieu, socioeconomic status, and off-line connections with each others. Aside from referring to this distinction as one between the virtual and real or physical, we also use the terms online and offline, that have generalized via computer technology and telecommunications. One cannot investigate the interaction of online communities without taking into account the offline aspects of peoples lives. Methodology The choice for our general research questions and our discussion of the community concept obviously has consequences for the methods and data we use. Despite the particularities of each individual contribution9, we generally highlight evidence and patterns of community building. Three analytical components recur in the contributions for this issue. An investigation of YouTube channels fits our primary interest in community building on YouTube very well, since channels may serve as meeting points for users who share a certain taste. Secondly, our research pays attention to YouTube videos, since they provide the material for community formation. Most importantly, we analyze comments by users, both
WELL stands for Whole Earth 'Lectronic Link. This virtual community was created in 1985 and counts about 4000 members today. IRC stands for Internet Relay Chat. It was designed in 1988 for discussions between groups or individuals. 8 The word 'netizen' is coined by Michael Hauben. In Netizens: On the Impact and History of Usenet and the Internet (1997) Michael Hauben and Ronda Hauben argue that a netizen is more than just a person who uses the Net, for whatever purpose. Rather, netizens are people who care about the Net and actively participate in extending social groups. The word netizen reflects non-geographically based social membership. 9 The various methodological approaches will be discussed in greater detail in the individual contributions.
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Introduction

video and text comments, including data posted between the launch of YouTube in December 2005 and the end of May 2008. Importantly, YouTube channels are more than a sum of videos. They allow users to post content on a single site or link it by a shared conceptual frame. For instance, videos on YouTube can direct users to the websites of their hosts, and featured videos often attract video or text responses by other users. Several contributions to this journal discuss the relationship between YouTube communities and external communities, and they pay specific attention to these aspects of the system. Our analysis of videos addresses both content and form insofar as these are relevant for the social dynamics prompted by the videos. Depending on the individual contribution, we analyze dominant themes in a particular video, or question how it relates to other YouTube or external content. The analysis can cover issues such as the function of music and editing in a particular video or whether a video is an animation, liveaction or stock footage. Comments provide highly relevant data for our general purpose. Text comments may reveal patterns of community formation in a particularly clear way, inasmuch as the respective users frequently align with or oppose the video(maker) and comments of other users. Put bluntly, videos may prompt users to post responses, regrouping those users in communities of haters or fans. In most cases, the sum of all comments to a video or channel are going to be considered. As such, they can be treated as discussions which develop over time, and which are, for example, open to analysis of dominant topics and attitudes (e.g., aggressive or supportive tone of the comments). Finally, we should acknowledge that YouTube as an object of empirical study poses three particular problems. Firstly, the platform is in constant change and accumulates enormous amounts of data that are only randomly tagged. As a result, contributors cannot review all of the material pertinent to his or her specific research interests, but have to make a selection among the vast amounts of data.10 Secondly, YouTubes architecture predisposes research results in which numbers prevail. Or to quote Jenkins (2008): The user-moderation system on YouTube, designed to insure [that] the best content rises to the top, follow[s] majoritarian assumptions which can often hide minority works from view. We take this into account by analyzing a large bandwidth of different cases, ranging from very popular to scarcely viewed videos. And thirdly, it is unclear who is who on YouTube: users do not have to reveal their identity and advertisements can take the guise of a private video (Taylor,

10

The criteria for a representative data selection will be specified in the individual contributions.

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Introduction

2006). We are thus aware that user identities as they become visible on YouTube have to be treated as artificial, suppressing or highlighting aspects according to the users purposes. Overview In this special issue, each contribution focuses on a particular topic and draws attention to diverse aspects of communities on YouTube. Selina Schepers contribution shows how YouTube is employed in order to support already existing communities, similar to Cornips, Lamerichs and Wolters. Through analyzing YouTube videos, channels and text comments, the author shows that YouTube offers two important ways to support the flash mob communities. Namely, YouTubes architecture serves as a tool to integrate videos into external websites, and generates popularity for the flash mob phenomenon and the flash mob organizations. Furthermore, in order to mobilize a mob, the community cannot solely meet online. Communities such as flash mobbers operate both online and offline, making them an excellent example of fluid communities which easily cross the border between virtual and real life. An interesting point that comes up here, is the complex character of the offline part of the flash mob community. How online and offline meet and diverge is also a theme in the second article. Anna Wolters investigates how YouTube serves a community that has lost its right to partake in society. Smoking is banned by law in places where it used to be omnipresent, like bars and offices. Smokers, still a third of the Western population, disappear from public life with their habit. How does YouTube, as a website in which people make themselves visible, reflect this major cultural change? Inspired by Howard Rheingolds theory on virtual communities, an indepth analysis of texts and images within a selected corpus of videos shows that smokers represent themselves in unexpected ways. Three patterns are discussed: smoking as fetish, rebellious smoking, and smoking education. YouTube proves to be not only a stage and a meeting point for smokers, but also an empowering tool. Less politically, YouTube is open to creative and artistic communities as well, as the next two contributions show. Nicolle Lamerichs deals with fan communities on YouTube. Though fans have made videos since the seventies, platforms on the internet, such as YouTube, have enabled a wider distribution of this content. Some of these fan videos adopt metafictional devices, ergo consciously reveal they are fiction. They even refer explicitly, and sometimes critically, to YouTube in their narratives. The common basis of these videos is therefore not only grounded in a source-text (for instance Star Wars) but also in YouTube itself. How do these fan videos contribute to the building of a YouTube community? 12

Introduction

Lamerichs analyzes three cases and describes their metafictional levels and the reception of the particular videos. She evaluates how these critical and self-conscious videos help establish solidarity and coherence in the YouTube community as a whole, a theme also explored by Brouwers. Artistic communities can criticize one another, as in the contribution of Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner, who investigates the relation between the art establishment and art related communities on YouTube. Inspired by the work of Pierre Bourdieu, this contribution construes the dynamics governing the art establishment as a communal negotiation about symbolic capital. Prestigious museums and art critics for example have the power to confer cultural capital to artists, which in turn attracts the interest of art collectors. Four case studies show that YouTube both reproduces and influences these dynamics. The discursive power of the art establishment for example triggers the formation of communities of self-declared art connoisseurs on YouTube. Other YouTube users in turn regroup in communities that express their shared disrespect of the conventions of the art establishment, much like the subversive smokers Wolters describes. Artists also use YouTube for networking with peers. Finally, YouTube as a digital mass application sometimes attracts the attention of art establishment, elevating YouTube videos from mere entertainment to the status of high art. This mingling of categories is not an exception, although it can take different forms, as in the contributions of Lucas Cornips and Janneke Brouwers. Lucas Cornips addresses the prevalence of a particular kind of commercial interest on YouTube. His article focuses on the activities of the travel guide book corporation Lonely Planet on YouTube. Using literature on marketing strategy, Cornips investigates the appropriation of an emotional branding strategy to associate the brand with a set of positive meanings mediated in Lonely Planets travel videos on YouTube. Subsequently, Cornips discusses marketing literature on brand communities to shed light on the social dynamics that underlie the negotiation of brand meanings. An analysis of the responses on Lonely Planets branding efforts and the allied efforts to establish a brand friendly community, reveals discrepancies between the idealistic literature on brand communities and the sometimes brand unfriendly environment of Lonely Planet on YouTube. This research illustrates how - despite commercial infiltrations of powerful brands in YouTube users can express a set of alternative, critical brand meanings. The brand Oprah is central in the last contribution. Janneke Brouwers investigates how YouTube members express and negotiate a shared identity when confronted with the infiltration of a broadcast company onto their video sharing website. For many users, YouTube is a place where ordinary individuals have a chance to broadcast their own material. 13

Introduction

So what happens when famous talk show host Oprah Winfrey establishes her own brand channel and uploads televised content? Users felt compelled to respond, either through text comments or video. The article analyses this discussion about the principles and tacit rules of YouTube, and their perceived violation since Oprah became a YouTube host. While most contributions focus on YouTube as a platform or meeting point for multiple communities, Brouwers, like Lamerichs, investigates YouTube as the object of community formation itself. She addresses issues as the relation between YouTube and its predecessor television and similar to Cornips, analyses the role commercial interests play in the community-building process. Generally, all contributions demonstrate that YouTube as a video-sharing site does allow for the formation of communities. It is a finding that very much nuances Halvey & Keane's critique (2007) of the 'widespread failure amongst users to exploit the community facilities available on the website'. YouTube's architecture and interface do not obstruct, but facilitate community support and building. The contributions do underline, however, that the dynamics of community formation on YouTube are rather unpredictable and may even run counter to the intentions of the initiator of a specific community, provided a single initiator can be determined in the first place. For instance, YouTube seems to resist intentional efforts to use the platform for commercial purposes (Brouwers and Cornips). This does not mean that commercial popular culture does not proliferate on YouTube. But while commercial mass media like television frequently provide the source material YouTube videos refer to, communities of users elaborate this content in their own creative ways. Its structure also allows for intertextuality (Lamerichs) and YouTube is even at the heart of debates that are specifically related to website and its user practices (Brouwers and Lamerichs). The contributions also suggest that communities on YouTube can only be understood when seen in relation to their external counterparts or, more generally, to external social dynamics. YouTube can be a discursive, communicative tool for communities that are mainly built and supported elsewhere, either online or offline (Schepers). It can also empower those who do not have a voice in the offline world (Wolters). Some online communities can complement their offline counterparts via this site, while other communities are either shaped by or react to discourses originating outside YouTube (Kaltenbrunner, Schepers, Wolters). In brief, communities, either internal or external, either emerging or pre-existing, find on YouTube a flexible and facilitating platform.

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References Cloud, J. (2006, December 16). The Gurus of YouTube. TIME. Retrieved May 19, 2008, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1570721,00.html Dijck, J. van. (2007). Television 2.0: YouTube and the Emergence of Homecasting. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from http://web.mit.edu/comm-forum/mit5/papers/vanDijck_Television2.0. article.MiT5.pdf Granovetter, M. (1973). The Strength of Weak Ties. American Journal for Sociology, 78 (6), pp. 1360-1380. Granovetter, M. (1983). The Strength of Weak Ties: A Network Theory Revisited (Electronic Version). Sociological Theory: Vol.1, pp. 201-233. Granovetter, M. (2004). The Impact of Social Structure on Economic Outcomes (Electronic Version). Journal of Economic Perspectives,19(1), 33-50. Grossman, L. (2006, December 13). Times Person of the Year: You. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1569514,00.html Halvey, M., & Keane, M.T. (2007). Exploring Social Dynamics in Online Media Sharing. Poster Paper (Electronic version). Proceedings of the 16th international conference on World Wide Web, 1273-1274. Harper, E. & Dunham, A. (1959). Community Organization in Action. Basic literature and critical comments. New York: Association Press. Hauben, M., Hauben, R. & Truscott, T. (1997). Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet. (Electronic Version) Los Alamitos: IEEE Computer Society Press. Jenkins, H. (2007, May 28). Nine Propositions Towards a Cultural Theory of YouTube. Confessions of an ACA-Fan. The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved May 20, 2008, from http://henryjenkins.org/2007/05/9_propositions_towards_a_cultu.html Jenkins, H. (2008, February 13). From YouTube to WeTube... Confessions of an ACA-Fan. The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://henryjenkins.org/ 2008/02/from_youtube_to_wetube.html Lange, P. (2007). Searching for the You in YouTube: An Analysis of Online Response Ability (Electronic version). Being Heard. Conference Proceeding of Ethnographic Praxis in Industry Conference, 3-6 October 2007. Arlington: American Anthropological Association. Rheingold, H. (1993a). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. Rheingold, H. (1993b). A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community. In: Harasim, L. (Ed.). (1993). Global Networks: Computers and International Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 57-80.

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Smith, M. (2001). Community. In The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved May 20, 2008, from http://www.infed.org/community/community.htm. Stengel, R. (2006, December 16). Now its Your Turn. Retrieved May 14, 2008, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1570743,00.html Taylor, C.P. (2006, November 27). Viral Theory. Brandweek. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://www.brandweek.com/bw/magazine/current/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=100343 8156 Wellman, B. (1996). Are personal communities local? A Dumptarian reconsideration. Social Networks, 18, pp. 347-354. Wellman, B. & Gulia, M. (1997). Net Surfers Dont Ride Alone: Virtual Communities as Real Communities. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/netsurfers/netsurfers.pdf Wilbur, S.P. (2000). An Archaeology of Cyberspaces: Virtuality, Community, Identity. In: Bell, D. & Kennedy, B.M. (Eds.). The Cybercultures Reader. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 45-55. Wilson, S.M. & Peterson, L.C. (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual Reviews of Anthropology, 31, pp. 449-467. YouTube. (2008). YouTube is... [Audience One-Sheeter]. Retrieved May 26, 2008, from http://www.youtube.com/advertising

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing Flash mob communities on YouTube and beyond
Selina Schepers Introduction Picture this: you are wandering in the supermarket in the early evening. You are browsing the shelves, looking for your favourite breakfast cereal. As soon as you start to move your shopping trolley again, you notice that all the people around you have frozen their pose, just like that. As you look around, you see how two women are at a standstill in the middle of their conversation, how a boy silently stares at a pineapple and you notice a girl standing still on her toes, reaching for a box of cookies. You have no idea what is going on and whether you should start to worry or not. Suddenly, as if nothing had happened, the crowd starts to move again and disperses, leaving behind confused shop-assistants and bystanders alike. As you turn to one of the shop-assistants to ask what happened, you are slowly starting to realise: you have just witnessed your first flash mob! 11 These so-called flash mobs concern a gathering of people, organized via internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless act in a public place and then disperse again. Although the end of the flash mobs was officially announced in 2005, they still occur occasionally. To organize a flash mob, participants exchange information on the upcoming event via e-mail, forums or other forms of digital communication. To communicate with each other online, flash mobbers all over the world have formed flash mob communities. This article takes a closer look at these communities. But in order to do so, it will have to examine the platforms on which the communities meet. After all, communities need a place to communicate their shared interest (Brouwers, Cornips, Kaltenbrunner, Lamerichs, Schepers, Wolters, this issue). That place is YouTube. As claimed in the introduction, YouTube tries to encourage its users to actively participate, communicate and start networks. Building a flash mob community on YouTube would thus seem obvious. However, the participatory structure of the website makes it impossible to predict its social dynamics (id., p. 9) the aim of this article then will be to investigate how YouTubes architecture facilitates or obstructs a pre11

This scenario actually took place in a Manchester supermarket, where on Wednesday 14th March 2007

approximately fifty people simultaneously froze for four minutes. Five cameras captured the event and three months later the video was placed on YouTube (tomcuz84, 2007).

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

existing community such as the flash mobbers. To get an idea of the online behaviour of its members, it will examine the ways in which the flash mob communities are build or supported on the YouTube website. Furthermore, since flash mobs are organized offline and performed online, there is an interplay at work between the virtual and physical part of the community. Therefore, special attention is paid to the relation between the online flash mob community and its offline counterpart. To examine flash mob communities on YouTube, I performed research on the YouTube website by investigating its videos, its channels and posted user comments. Simply using the websites search engine and hitting the term flashmob, resulted in an extensive list of videos. In general the videos have been updated from 2 years ago until today. 12 Since YouTube only exists for two years and the end of the flash mob was declared in 2005, this means that older videos have been posted later on as a documentation of the flash mob history. From the 1st of May to the 22nd of May 2008, a selection of flash mob videos was made. The general criteria that the videos had to meet was that they depicted the flash mob as apolitical acts. Although the phenomenon of flash mobbing intentionally is considered to be an apolitical event, there are (still) related movements which understand flash mobbing as an act of activism. In order to stay as close as possible to the original idea of flash mobbing, i.e. the apolitical way in which the flash mob originally was intended, I therefore focus only on the early flash mobs without political agendas. Here, the tagging of the videos was useful since the apolitical flash mobs generally are categorized under the tags Comedy, Entertainment or People & Blogs. Searching for interaction between flash mobbers on YouTube, I watched the selected videos and read the first 100 posted text comments. Also, as argued in the introduction (Brouwers, et al., this issue), user channels may function as a meeting point for community members so I investigated the four flash mob user channels as well. The flash mob videos on YouTube often directed me towards other, external websites, usually of flash mob organizations (the information in the video info next to the videos usually showed a hyperlink to the flash mob organization which posted the video).

12

YouTube does not provide its users with a detailed date description of its videos. The dates of the videos are

indicated by terms such as: added two months ago or added 1 year ago.

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

Amongst others, this led me to the website of Improv Everywhere, a global flash mobbing community.
13

Being responsible for over 70 flash mobs until February 2008, I.E.

has gained great popularity and is renowned worldwide for its missions. However, Improv Everywhere explicitly distinguishes itself from flash mob organizations. On its website, I.E. states that while some of our missions may have certain similarities to a flash mob (large numbers of people appearing in a public place and then disappearing suddenly), we really dont have anything to do with flash mobbing (Improv Everywhere, n.d., FAQ). However, the missions of the organization resemble the original flash mobs to such a great extent that Improv Everywhere in this article is considered to be illustrative for a (global) flash mob organization. Being directed towards external websites made it possible to compare the interaction between flash mobbers on YouTube to similar interaction on other websites. Since these external websites often allow community members to communicate more extensively via forums or weblogs (instead of text comments on YouTube), I could investigate the relationship between the offline part of the community and the online part. On such websites the community provides its members witch documentation of the flash mobs in form of text, pictures and videos and allows them to arrange future flash mobs via text messages on, for instance, forums. So, by comparing external flash mob websites to YouTube, I could not only analyse the relationship between communication on YouTube and on flash mob websites but also the connection between the virtual and the physical part of the community. Disperse now! A flash mob is a gathering of anonymous individuals who meet in particular public places, do something silly and then scatter within a short amount of time. The Oxford English Dictionary defines the phenomenon as a public gathering of complete strangers, organized via internet or mobile phone, who perform a pointless act and then disperse again (Nicholson, 2005). Examples include major pillow fights, freezing in place, subway partys and so-called zombie walks. Sean Savage, creator of the weblog cheesebikini? is credited with coining the term (Nicholson, 2005). Following Savage, he was inspired to define the phenomenon using the term flash mob by the already-existing term smart mob: a concept

13

Improv Everywhere is a comedy group based in New York City. Created in 2001 by Charlie Todd, I.E. has

executed over 70 non-demeaning pranks (or missions) in public places, living up to its slogan We Cause Scenes. See: http://improveverywhere.com/.

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

forwarded by author Howard Rheingold in his book Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution (2002). The flash mob is considered to be a specific form of these smart mobs. In the introduction of his book Rheingold defines the concept of smart mobs as: people who are able to act in concert even if they dont know each other. The people who make up smart mobs cooperate in ways never before possible because they carry devices that possess both communication and computing capabilities (p. xii). Smart mobs emerge when communication and computing technologies amplify human talents for cooperation. Smart mob technology appears to be both beneficial and destructive, used by some to support democracy and by others to coordinate terrorist attacks. As an example Rheingold cites the People Power II uprising in the Philippines in 2001. More than a million Manila residents were mobilized and coordinated through salvos of text messages: Go 2EDSA, Wear blck. Over four days, more than a million citizens showed up, mostly dressed in black. On 20th January 2001 President Estrada became the first head of state in history to lose his power to a smart mob (pp. 157-158). The flash mobs were organized by so-called moberators, the assigned leaders of the mobs. Via e-mail or mobile communication devices the time, place and actions to be taken were revealed: Announcements for the flash mobbings were circulated like chain letters via e-mail and text messages over the span of several days and even weeks to desktop computers, laptops, pagers and mobile phones (Nicolson, 2005). Since the specifications and instructions were given out beforehand, the mobs could form, act dynamically and seemingly spontaneous without directions from the moberator. The actions were documented by mainstream media and popular weblogs, such as cheesebikini? and satanslaundromat (Nicolson, 2005). Then, whats the point of the flash mobs? None, apparently. In contrast to Rheingolds smart mobs, flash mobbing is about staging a public event for the fun of it. Smart mobs usually are an act of activism. The smart mobsters have an agenda, they gather for social or political purposes. Although there were (and still are) movements which understand flash mobbing as an act of political activism, participants in the flash mobs emphasized frequently that it was an apolitical event. A repeated flash mobbing credo was: the power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Tom, 2003). Improv Everywhere states how flash mobbing is all about having fun: were big believers in organized fun. Our missions are a fun source of entertainment for the participants () We get satisfaction from coming up with an awesome idea and making it come to life (Improv Everywhere, n.d., FAQ). Andries Tunru, organizer

20

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

of the Dutch flash mobbing community Shoqs, also declares that the mobbing is for fun. Besides, he claims in an article in the newspaper Dag, we want to give the dull commuters something to talk about at the diner table (Van Dijk, 2008).
14

The flash mobs were

considered to be self-organized entertainment. The focus is clearly on fun and the excitement of the moment. The mobsters partake in a silly and harmless activity and it is the spontaneous, just for fun, character that appeals to the participants: The () lack of apparent agenda seems to widen the appeal of flash mobs, a CNN reporter tries to explain (Shmueli, 2003). The first successful flash mob was organized in June 2003 by Bill Wasik, senior editor of Harpers Magazine (Wasik, 2006). Over a hundred people got together at a New York Macys department store, gathered around an expensive rug at the carpet department and collectively demanded that they were looking for a love rug for their commune in Long City Island. The salesmen on duty were flabbergasted and before they could speak a word the mobsters had disappeared already (Taghizadeh, 2003). Wasik decided to set up a small social-scientific inquiry and wrote an email to sixty of his friends: You are invited to take part in MOB, () the project that creates an inexplicable mob of people in New York City for ten minutes or less. Please forward this to other people you know who might like to join (Wasik, 2006, p. 2). Wasiks first mob in New York was soon to be followed by seven more through his initiative and hundreds more organized by copycats around the world. The concept has spread quickly across the United States and to Europe, Australia and further. In the Netherlands the first flash mob failed dramatically: on the 1st of August 2003 only three persons were imitating the hopping of a frog, after exactly one minute the threesome dispersed (Staps, 2003). Nevertheless, the flash mob craze quickly conquered the world. Though flash mobs still occur occasionally, the trend was officially declared pass following the eighth Manhattan flash mob on the 10th of September 2003, organized by Wasik himself (Delio, 2003). Some flash mobbers claimed the trend was destroyed by people hijacking it for their own political or commercial purposes. The flash mob mania lasted for four whole months. But in the Fall of 2003 the antimob website Flashhack officially

14

Tunru reported on the flash mob which took place at Utrecht Centraal Station, the 27th February of 2008.

Being part of Improv Everywhere Global, Tunrus Dutch mobbing community Shoqs, imitated the renowned freeze on Grand Central Station performed by the former on 24th February 2007. See: http://improveverywhere.com/2008/01/31/frozen-grand-central/. Tunru placed an extensive description of the Dutch flash mob on his website www.shoqs.nl.

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

announced that the Flash is gone. () The Mob trails off in different directions, leaving nothing of substance or significance in the street (Tom, 2003). Broadcasting the mob Although the flash mob phenomenon is proclaimed to have faded away, a search on YouTube leads to an impressive result of 2,770 flash mob videos. 15 The most popular video shows the frozen grand central flash mob performed by Improv Everywhere on Grand Central Station, New York, in 2007. The video is only added three months ago and already has 11,353,840 views, four video responses and 10,147 text comments. existing online flash mob community? As stated in the introduction, a community can be defined as a loose aggregation of people sharing and expressing a certain interest in a process of communication (Brouwers, et al., this issue). Social interaction and communication between members is an essential aspect of a community. This communicative feature is of great importance regarding the flash mob community. Without mobile communication such as the Internet and mobile phones as well, there would be no chance for the flash mobbers to unite and gather in real life. As Rheingold states: Were seeing the PC, the Internet and the telephone emerging, and were beginning to see people using mobile communications and the Internet to mobilize and coordinate their collective actions in the real world (Greenlee, n.d., What is your definition of a smart mob?). It becomes clear that without the use of Internet, the phenomenon of flash mobbing simply would not be possible. In order to organize a flash mob, the moberators send information on the upcoming event to members, via e-mail, forums or other forms of digital communication. To make this exchange of information as easy as possible, flash mobbers indeed have formed certain communities. As shown above, flash mobbing takes place in countries all over the world and thus communities are formed in order to unite mobbers located within the same physical space. It is of course unlikely that a flash mobber in Germany will participate in the New York flash mobs performed by organizations such as Improv Everywhere. So, in order to make the exchange of information possible between flash mobbers located within a certain
15

16

Based on the videos available on

YouTube, the phenomenon still appears to be popular, but to what extent can we speak of an

Retrieved May 3, 2008, from www.youtube.com. Result acquired by performing a video search hitting the Retrieved May 4, 2008, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo&feature=user.

word flashmob.
16

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

physical space, there have originated flash mob communities. Another aspect here, is that by building and maintaining an online flash mob community it makes it easier to communicate with other flash mob communities. Improv Everywhere, for example, has contact with many other flash mob communities all over the globe. Forming a solid online community enhances interaction between several communities as well. This way, communities can communicate on their performed or upcoming flash mobs and exchange experiences. Communication within these communities usually goes via weblogs or purposefully designed flash mob websites. When investigating the flash mob community of Improv Everywhere, one immediately comes across the flashy website of the organization. Through this website the community members stay in touch with each other. By signing up to the Improv Everywhere mailing list, for example, the members get emails when the site has been updated, or new flash mob missions have been uploaded to the site. Another form of building flash mob communities is the use of Web 2.0 technologies, such as Facebook, a global social networking website (Facebook, n.d.). These online networks are specifically built in order to maintain an online community and also allow other members to subscribe to the community, which makes them part of the exchange process. The comment function allows the members to communicate and keep each other posted on upcoming flash mobs. In their research on YouTube, Halvey and Kean show how a large number of users do not use the facilities for social interaction available to them in media sharing services (2007, p. 1274). The authors claim that there is a widespread failure amongst users to exploit the community facilities available on YouTube. Most of the users do not have any subscriptions, are not members of communities or do not list friends or favourite videos: results show that many users do not form social networks in the online community (p. 1273). Does this apply to the flash mob community on YouTube as well? Searching for flash mob communities on the YouTube channels results in only four hits, of which one of them has nothing to do with flash mobbing at all. The second hit in the list, the FlashmobUF channel, shows videos of flash mobs organized by the Man in the Orange Hat at the University of Florida (FlashmobUF, 2006). Using this particular channel as an example, it becomes clear that comments here are scarce and only refer to the design of the web page (Veritas1000, 2006): Dude, you have to change the colors on this page. It is painful.) or compliment the maker with his uploaded videos (Romperjet, 2007): Nice vids. Too bad I missed these :/ They look like they were fun.). Of the three flash mob channels, this particular channel has the most subscribers (22) and has added the most amount of friends to its list (8). This shows that users do not experience an actual feeling of flash mob community 23

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

within the YouTube user channels. There is barely any interaction between the members of the channel and the subscriptions to the channel are minimal. When reading the channel profiles, the user is immediately directed to external sites: Join the fun by e-mailing flashmobuf-subscribe@yahoogroups.com or hopping on Facebook and adding TheMan InTheOrangeHat as a friend (FlashmobUF, 2006). This is also the case for one of the other two flash mob channels, FLASHMOBChile, which refers to the external website www.flashmob.cl even in its channel title. When visiting both the external sites it becomes clear that this is the place where the flash mob communities meet. Contrasting sharply with its YouTube component, the Facebook account of the FlashmobUF channel shows a network of 228 friends. And also the Chile flash mob community has as much as 363 community members on its own website, contrasting with the low amount of two YouTube channel subscribers. The display of directing the YouTube user to an own, external website is not uncommon. When searching outside the YouTube channel section one can not miss the Improv Everywhere user channel, which invites the viewers to visit their site to see more than 70 missions with videos and photos (ImprovEverywhere, 2006). For more information, such as frequently asked questions, the YouTube user can immediately access the Improv Everywhere website by clicking the hyperlink. Not infrequently the YouTube channel users refer to an external website in the video info as well, as is the case with the German flash mobber Flashmob263 referring to the users weblog in the video info box next to the actual video display.
17

Directing the user to another web page and away from the YouTube

website, indicates that YouTube is not the forum through which flash mob communities interact. Although many of the user channels update videos frequently and add subscribers and friends to their lists, the actual communities meet elsewhere. In this case, the YouTube channels are used as a helpful leg up to the actual online places where the communities do meet. Then, how does YouTube matter for the flash mob online communities? First of all, although YouTube does not appear to be the forum where the flash mob communities meet, it does serve as an important tool for its presentation. YouTube offers its viewers the possibility to transfer videos to other, external websites. This allows the YouTube users to add some of the millions of videos available on personal websites or weblogs. A personal website becomes
17

In the video info of the YouTube video Flashmob in Wilhelmshaven Kissenschlacht WHV (2007) the user

refers to his weblog: http://flashmob-whv.blogspot.com/

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

even more personal when adding videos as desired. Furthermore, it keeps your visitors interested and allows self-expression and interaction with one of their favorite services, YouTube claims (YouTube, n.d., YouTube on Your Site). YouTube also emphasizes the easiness of integrating their videos in external websites: whatever presence you have on the Internet a large website, a blog, a social network page, or pretty much anything else there are many ways to integrate YouTube into it. From simple video embeds to our fullpowered APIs, you can integrate video at all levels of technical expertise (YouTube, n.d., YouTube on Your Site). YouTube allows the communities to integrate its videos in two ways. On the one hand, the flash mob communities refer to YouTube videos by linking to them. Hyperlinks immediately direct the viewer from their own website to the specific video on YouTube. For example, on the Photo & Video Gallery of their online forum, the Dutch flash mob community DutchmobbingCommunity refers to YouTube videos by using links (Tomo, 2005, Welk land?). Cha, Kwak, Rodriguez, Ahn & Moon (2007, p. 3) investigated the Web pages that link to YouTube videos. Their figures show that 47% of all videos have incoming links from external sites. Of the top five web sites linking to videos in YouTube, four of them are social networking sites such as myspace.com and blogspot.com (p. 3). On the other hand, YouTube offers the possibility of integrating videos in external websites by using the embedded video player. By copying the html-code
18

displayed at the

video info on YouTube, the viewer can transfer the video to his or her own personal website or weblog which then can be viewed on an embedded YouTube video player. Thus, besides looking better from an aesthetic point of view, integrating videos by using the YouTube video player also encourages the viewer to stay on the website instead of being directed to YouTube. Several flash mob communities use this way of integrating videos: Joel Brcher, host of the Blogger
19

weblog dedicated entirely to the first freeze event in Luxembourg, has

integrated videos in his website not only from the event itself but also of similar freezes previously performed in other countries, such as the United States and Great Britain (Brcher, n.d., Freeze Luxembourg). The second way in which YouTube matters for flash mob online communities, is that its users place their videos on YouTube in order to gain popularity for the flash mob
18

HyperText Markup Language, abbreviated HTML, is a computer language for the specification of documents Blogger, a worldwide blog publishing system now hosted by Google, was initially created by Pyra Labs in

on the World Wide Web (see: http://www.handleidinghtml.nl/).


19

1999 (See: http://www.blogger.com/about).

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

phenomenon and their own communities. Research conducted by comScore, a leader in measuring in the digital world, reported that in December 2007 approximately 77.6 million viewers watched 3.2 billion videos on YouTube in the United States only (comScore, n.d). Although the organizers of the flash mob, should not reveal their exact plans beforehand until the crowd is gathered at a specific place, YouTube is used in order to make flash mob organizations or the phenomenon as such more public. This helps to get viewers exited for the phenomenon and stimulates YouTube users all over the world to join a flash mob community and take part in one of the local performances. This point is clearly illustrated by YouTube comments on the video The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze (nathankw, 2008). YouTube user sd9988d for example asks: how do you get into these?? id love to do one!!! and user MrDobilina makes clear that: i want another one of these!!!!!!. YouTube user JoshEdwards10 shows how posting videos can serve as a promotion of the flash mob community: Looks brilliant! Check out this group on Facebook. I would really like to see more of these in different parts of the country. Join the group if you want to join it if it is nearer than London. I really wanted to go to the one in London, but I live to far away! Cheers!. So, besides putting the phenomenon of flash mobbing in the spotlights, posting videos on YouTube also puts all eyes on the communities, which leads to an increase of their members. After all, as user Devino states on the Dutch flash mob forum DutchMobbingCommunity: doing something on your own, isnt really enervating (Devino, 2005). From online to offline in a flash Doing something on your own is not the first thing that comes to mind when one takes a closer look at the online flash mob community. But in order to mobilize a mob the community cannot solely meet online. Therefore, an interesting aspect of the online flash mob community is how it smoothly seems to cross the borders between the real and the virtual. So, how exactly do the offline and online part of the flash mob communities relate? The Net is not a separate reality, Wellman and Gulia argue and neither are communities (1997, p. 3). The Internet is not an isolated social phenomenon: one cannot treat interaction on the Net without taking into account other aspects of peoples live. People bring to their on-line interactions such baggage as their gender, stage in the life-cycle, cultural milieu, socioeconomic status, and off-line connections with each others (p. 3). The Internet blends into peoples life: their offline hobbies and political interests continue online. Communities such as the flash mob communities are fluid, therefore they connect offline as 26

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

well as online (Wellman, 2004). Flash mobs anchor the online world into the real world, Adam, one of the organizers of a flash mob in London, argues. They are a manifestation of your cc list a reference to the electronic carbon copies used to distribute e-mails widely (Shmueli, 2003). Online interaction even encourages frequent in-person meetings, the authors claim. The Net transcends spatial limits even more than the telephone or the postal service which permits people to communicate over different time zones. This allows them to stay in more active contact until the participants have an opportunity to meet in-person (Wellman & Gulia, 1997, p. 16). By creating so-called global groups members all over the world stay connected to the Improv Everywhere website. Logging in to these communities, informs the users anyplace, anytime, anywhere about future flash mob events. This enables users to plan, discuss and prepare the next flash mob-to-come until they have the chance to actually perform the act and meet their fellow community members in real life. By supporting such online contact, the Internet allows more offline face-to-face interaction between persons (p. 16). Furthermore, the Nets architecture supports interaction that cuts across social milieus, interest groups, localities, organizations or nations. As a result, cyberlinks between people become social links between groups that otherwise would be socially and physically dispersed (p. 18). This explains why the flash mobs usually are such diverse crowds: ranging in the age from 21 40 (Taghizadeh, 2003) the mobs consist of college kids, Goths and punks and their reasons for attending were equally varied (Walker, 2003). Flash mob communities connect different people from everywhere. Rather than isolating users in a virtual world, the Internet extends community in the real world, and connects people, Wellman claims (2004, p. 1) Earlier research into virtual communities has expressed fears that involvement in virtual communities will restrain people from involvement in offline communities (Wellman & Gulia, 1997). In time, interaction within the online communities would replace interaction within the offline community, sustained by face-to-face communication, telephone and postal contact. Rheingold (1993) even suggested that online communities were replacing public spaces such as pubs and cafs as places of public social interaction. But these fears are groundless, Wellman and Gulia (1997) claim. Many community members interact offline as well as online. It is not a case of either/or, Barlow, Birkerts, Kelly and Slouka argue (1995, p. 42). One supplements the other. Communities such as the flash mobbers operate both online and offline, with the Net being just one of several ways of communicating. It is the

27

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

relationship that is the important thing, and not the communication medium, Wellman and Gulia claim (1997, p. 12). But can we call this relationship a community? Although there appear to be numerous online networks of flash mob members, the offline character of the community appears to be complicated. With real life contact lasting no longer than half an hour, it seems problematic to describe the face-to-face communication of a gathering of people as a community. Then, can we define the offline flash mob community as a community at all? According to theories of Sense of Community we can. Sense of Community is a concept in social psychology which focuses on the experience of community rather than its structure, formation or other characteristics. Authors McMillan and Chavis, the most influential among theories of Sense of Community, define the term as a feeling that members have of belonging, a feeling that members matter to one another and to the group, and a shared faith that members needs will be met through their commitment to be together (1986, p. 4). So, community here is defined by the individuals perception, understanding and feelings towards the community or, to put it short, the complete, multifaceted community experience. A community is a community when its members experience it as a community. McMillan and Chaviss definition has four elements. The first is membership, the feeling of belonging or of sharing a sense of personal relatedness (p. 4). The second element is influence which the authors define as a sense of mattering, of making a difference to the community. This also includes the sense of the community mattering to its members. The third element is reinforcement or the integration and fulfilment of needs. This is the feeling that members feel rewarded for their participation in the community. Members needs will be met by the resources received through their membership in the community. The last and definitive element for true community is shared emotional connection, the commitment and belief that members have shared and will share history, common places, time together, and similar experiences. This is the feeling one sees in farmers' faces as they talk about their home place, their land, and their families (p. 4). Reports from flash mobbers indeed testify for a certain experience of community. London mobsters reasons to participate in the flash mob indicated the pursuit of something grand: Its about creating a community, but because it is in London it only lasts [finger snap] that long (Goldstein, 2003). Illustrating its quick but united character, Eric Kluitenberg refers to the phenomenon as a kind of mobile just-in-time-community (2006, p. 9). Flash mobbing is a group event; many come and leave with friends. Here, the first element of the theory of Sense of Community is at play. The flash mobbers get the feeling that they belong 28

The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

to a community: those moments of unity are important, say flash mob enthusiasts (Walker, 2003). Frequent comparisons of flash mobbing to flocking and swarming, the cooperative grouping of certain fish, birds and insects, were used not only to mark the trend as apolitical, but perhaps even more important to describe a feeling of solidarity as well (Nicholson, 2005). A post on the website of Improv Everywhere shows how the organization thanks its members for participating in a flash mob on May 16: A huge thanks to the hundreds of agents who came out tonight to participate in our latest mission. The weather could not have been worse, and we cant thank you guys enough for sticking with it in the rain and the cold (Todd, 2008a).
20

It becomes clear that the participants have been through a shared emotion: they

stood in the gushing rain together but still managed to complete the flash mob. They all shared a similar experience which gives them a feeling of belonging to a community. Somewhere further in the post, commenting to other users, the author makes the following remark: we went for it, and Im proud of all of you guys for making it happen despite the elements (Todd, 2008b). This comment can be considered as an excellent example of the second element of McMillan and Chavis definition: a sense of mattering, of making a difference to the community. The author expresses a sense of mattering: he gives the participants the idea that they matter for the community. By saying that he is proud of the mob and, in a way, that he could not have done it without them the members get the feeling that they are important to the community. Furthermore, the author of the post declares to post video footage of the event to the website: Agent Shafer will be working on the video footage very soon, so stay tuned (Todd, 2008a). By explicitly thanking its members and by posting reports of the event, the Improv Everywhere organization reinforces the flash mob community by giving the flash mobbers a feeling of rewardedness. The organizers thank the members for their participation, which makes them feel appreciated. This way the feeling of community strengthened. Theres a certain weird camaraderie, Suzie Sims-Fletcher, a Bostonian who also participated in the New York mobs, argues (Walker, 2003). Conclusion So, according to its popularity on YouTube, the flash mob has not faded away completely.

20

The post Thank You reports on a flash mob taking place on May 16, 2008. A crowd gathered on the

Brooklyn bridge and flashed with photo camera creating bright bolls of light into the night. See: http://improveverywhere.com/2008/05/17/thank-you/#comments.

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

Similar to Cornips contribution on the activities of the travel guide book corporation Lonely Planet on YouTube (Cornips, this issue), YouTube is employed in order to support the already existing flash mob communities. YouTubes architecture allows its users to integrate videos into external websites and just like the fan communities described by Lamerichs (Lamerichs, this issue) YouTube has enabled a wider distribution of the flash mob phenomenon and thus drew attention to it and more specific to the flash mob organizations. This way, YouTube can be considered as a discursive communicative tool for communities and so stimulates the formation of communities. However, the online flash mob communities are mainly shaped by discourse originating outside YouTube. An interesting point that has been touched upon is the complex relationship between the offline and online components of the flash mob communities. In contrast to Wolters contribution on smoking communities, where members only meet online and do not seem to share communication or activities offline (Wolters, this issue), the flash mob communities appear to be fluid, smoothly crossing the borders between the real and the virtual. Unlike classical notions on the virtual/physical dichotomy, where the online part of the community is often considered unstable and fleeting, here it is the offline character of the community that appears to be complicated. Much has been written on the unsteadiness of online communities (Wilson & Peterson, 2002), but not much literature exists on the weakness of the offline part of fluid communities. The flash mob community seems perfect for a closer examination into this issue. With its offline character of a just-in-timecommunity (Kluitenberg, 2006, p. 9), real life contact lasting no longer than half an hour, one can barely call the physical part a community. However, its virtual counterpart appears to be solid, allowing frequent and thorough interaction between its members. So, in the pursuit of nothing, the mob has left nothing of substance or significance in the street (Tom, 2003). But the power of many is still going strong online, and the crowd is not ready to disperse yet.

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The power of many, in the pursuit of nothing (Selina Schepers)

References Barlow, J.P., Birkerts, S., Kelly, K. & Slouka, M. (1995, August). What are we doing online? Harpers Magazine. Retrieved May 3, 2008, from http://www.kk.org/writings/online_ harpers.pdf Brcher, J. (n.d.). Freeze Luxembourg. The first FREEZE Event in Luxembourg. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://freezeluxembourg.blogspot.com/ Castells, M. (2000). The Rise of Network Society. Blackwell. Oxford. Cha, M., Kwak, H., Rodriguez, P., Ahn, Y. & Moon, S. (2007). I Tube, You Tube, Everybody Tubes: Analyzing the Worlds Largest User Generated Content Video System. Proc. ACM Internet Measurement Conference (IMC). Retrieved May 3, 2008, from http://an.kaist.ac.kr/traces/IMC2007.html comScore (n.d.). U.S. Internet Users Viewed 10 Billion Videos Online in Record-Breaking Month of December, According to comScore Video Metrix. Press Release. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://www.comscore.com/press/release.asp?press=2051 Delio, M. (2003, September 12). Manhattan Mob Meets its Maker. Wired News. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,1284,60399,00.html Devino. (2005). Flashmob FAQ. DutchMobbingCommunity. Retrieved May 3, 2008, from http://flashmob.forumup.com/viewtopic.php?t=26&mforum=flashmob Dijk, O. van, (2008, February 27). Massaal Bevriezen op Utrecht Centraal. Dag. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.shoqs.nl/ DutchMobbingCommunity (n.d.) Photo & Video Gallery. DutchMobbingCommunity. Retrieved May 3, 2008, from http://flashmob.forumup.com/viewforum.php?f=38&mforum =flashmob E-Blogger. (n.d.). Het verhaal achter Blogger. E-Blogger Homepage. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://www.blogger.com/ Facebook. (n.d.). Facebook. Retrieved May 12, 2008, from http://www.facebook.com/home. php Flashmob.co.uk (n.d.). Flashmob.co.uk.. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.flashmob. co.uk/mt/2003/10/faqs.php Goldstein, L. (2003, August 10). The Mob Rules. Time Magazine. Retrieved May 4, 2008, from http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,901030818-474547,00.html Greenlee, D. (n.d.). The Emergence of the Mobile Tech Mob. Posting to WebTalk Radio Show. Listen To the Internet's Future. Retrieved May 20, 2008 from http://www.webtalkguys.com/article-smartmobs.shtml

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Halvey, M., & Keane, M.T. (2007). Exploring Social Dynamics in Online Media Sharing. Poster Paper (Electronic version). Proceedings of the 16th international conference on World Wide Web, 1273-1274. Hewitt, G. (2003, July 30). Flash mobs: a new social phenomenon? News in Science. Retrieved May 2, 2008, from http://www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s913314.htm Improv Everywhere. (n.d.). Improv Everywhere. We cause Scenes. Improv Everywhere Homepage. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://improveverywhere.com/ Kluitenberg, E. (2006). The Networks of Waves. Living and Acting in a Hybrid Space. (Electronic Version). Open (11), Hybrid Space. McMillan, D.W. & Chavis, D.M. (1986). Sense of community: A definition and theory. Journal of Community Psychology, 14(1), 6-23. Nicholson, A. (2005). Flash! Mobs in the Age of Mobile Connectivity. Fibreculture Journal (6). Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://journal.fibreculture.org/issue6/issue6_nicholson.html Rheingold, H. (1993). The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley. Rheingold, H. (2002). Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge: Basic Books. Satanslaundromat (n.d.). MOB #8. Satanslaundromat Homepage. Retrieved May 9, 2008, from http://www.satanslaundromat.com/sl/archives/000137.html Savage, S. (n.d.). Posting to cheesebikini? Cheesebikini? Homepage. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.cheesebikini.com Shmueli, S. (2003, August 8). Flash mob craze spreads. CNN.com/Technology. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/internet/08/04/flash.mob/ Staps, F. (2003, August 6). Geplande Kolder. NRC Handelsblad, p. AP1. Taghizadeh, T. (2003, October 9). Warning: You've Been Flash Mobbed. AlterNet.org. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.alternet.org/story/16926. Todd, C. (2008a, May 17). Thank You. Posting to Improv Everywhere Homepage. Retrieved May 21, 2008, from http://improveverywhere.com Todd, C. (2008b, May 19). Charlie Todd. Posting to Improv Everywhere Homepage. Retrieved May 21, 2008, from http://improveverywhere.com/2008/05/17/thankyou/#comments Tom. (2003, August 9). Disperse now. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://flashhack. blogspot.com Tunru, A. (n.d.). Shoqs. Shoqs your socks off. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://shoqs.nl/

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Walker, L. (2003, August 4) Synchronized, collective and so far pointless. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0804/ p01s02-ussc.htm Wasik, B. (2006, March). My Crowd, or, Phase 5: A report from the inventor of the flash mob. HARPERS Magazine, pp. 56-66. Retrieved May 1, 2008, from http://www.harpers.org/ archive/2006/03/page/0001 Wellman, B. (1996). Are personal communities local? A Dumptarian reconsideration. Social Networks 18, 347-354. Wellman, B. (2004). Connecting Community: On- and Offline. Retrieved May 4, 2008, from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/contexts/contexts-3a.htm Wellman, B. & Gulia, M. (1997) Net Surfers dont ride alone: virtual communities as communities. Retrieved May 6, 2008, from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/publications/netsurfers/netsurfers.pdf Wilson, S.M. & Peterson, L.C. (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual Reviews of Anthropology 31, 449-467. YouTube sources Flashmob263. (2007). Flashmob in Wilhelmshaven Kissenschlacht WHV. [posted June 7, 2007, accessed May 2, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NhI7sfjQhA FLASHMOBChile. (2008). FLASHMOBChiles Channel. [joined January 24, 2008, accessed May 3, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/FLASHMOBChile FlashmobUF. (2006). FlashmobUFs Channel. [joined July 28, 2006, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/FlashmobUF ImprovEverywhere. (2008). Frozen Grand Central. [posted January 31, 2008, accessed May 2, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo&feature=user. ImprovEverywhere. (2006). ImprovEverywheres Channel. [joined April 14, 2006, accessed May 2, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jwMj3PJDxuo &feature=user. JoshEdwards10. (2008). The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze. [posted February 16, 2008, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PupR5V9aE2s MrDobilina (2008). The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze. [posted February 16, 2008, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PupR5V9aE2s nathankw (2008). The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze. [posted February 16, 2008, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PupR5V9aE2s

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Romperjet. (2007). FlashmobUFs Channel. [joined July 28, 2006, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/FlashmobUF sd9988d (2008). The Great Trafalgar Square Freeze. [posted February 16, 2008, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PupR5V9aE2s Tomcuz84. (2007). Supermarket Flashmob. [posted June 13, 2007, accessed May 17, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X4GMXavfKPY Veritas1000. (2006). FlashmobUFs Channel. [joined July 28, 2006, accessed May 1, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/FlashmobUF YouTube. (n.d.). YouTube. Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved May 3, 2008, from http://www.you tube.com YouTube. (n.d.) YouTube on Your Site. Retrieved May 4, 2008, from http://www.youtube. com/youtubeonyoursite

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Its a small world after all Metafictional fan videos on YouTube


Nicolle Lamerichs Introduction Several years ago a mass audience was still viewed as existing out of passive viewers. Nowadays, mainly thanks to the internet, it has been proven that viewers can be participants, active and engaged. The internet runs on this interactivity between users who contribute to sites massively and voluntarily. User-generated content (UGC) is increasing online and assures the success of many platforms, among which home casting sites such as GoogleVideo, DailyMotion and Youtube. These video sites are enabled by Web 2.0 technology, which provides users with features that include profiles, feedback functions and options to add someone to ones friend list. Auchard (2007) refers to these sites as: the current generation of Web sites that seek to turn viewers into contributors. In his cult essay We are the web (2005) Kevin Kelly addresses the recent participatory culture online: One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion. This article deals with a specific type of participants on the internet, namely fans. It focuses specifically on fan videos at YouTube, and how fans form communities on this site. Unlike other viewers fans have quite early participated in new media. They adopted pop culture - from books to television shows - to express themselves, formed clubs and made creative products (e.g., Jenkins, 2006, p. 12; Coppa, 2006). Fan videos form no exception. This term refers to video content that is based on an existing fictional product, but is not officially related to it, ergo, is made by fans instead of the official owners. Though these videos are commonly made by amateurs, the quality of this content varies, since some fans can also be, for instance, professional animators. The length of these videos differs, as well as the size of the team working on them. The earliest fan video was made in the seventies by Kandy Fong, who had by then already presented several Star Trek slideshows accompanied by songs (Coppa, 2007; Jenkins, 2008a). These music videos nowadays form a common category of fan videos: one edits existing footage (e.g., a Star Trek episode) to fit a chosen song. Other subgenres of fan videos are machinima (videos rendered via the 3-D engine of games, usually first person shooters); fan dubs (videos that leave the original footage intact, but provide it with different voices); flash movies (original animations made in Adobe Flash)

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and fan films (original live action videos). This article discusses three cases, best described as two fan films and one edited fan dub. Fan videos have been an important part of fan conventions for many years now, but the internet has increased their distribution and creation immensely. Since the nineties fans have displayed their movies on various sites ranging from their personal homepage, to fan pages and larger databases. TheForce.net is for instance a site dating from 1996, now hosting many science fiction fan films. Likewise animators upload on NewGrounds, which since 1995 broadcasts flash movies with original or fan narratives as a script. Since 2005 fans use YouTube as well, a well-known platform for amateur videos which conveniently enables one to link content to external sites as well. Presently YouTube is considered to be the worlds largest online video host, estimated to broadcast about 60% of all videos online (Cha, 2007). This research aims to better understand the community aspects of YouTube by focusing on fan videos hosted on this site. To deal with this subject I limited myself not to footage of a certain fandom, but a broad scope of material addressing YouTube. This means videos that imitate another YouTube video or reflect in some way on its user practices or architecture by including it in their narratives, which I describe as a metafictional device. My main question is: How do these fan videos contribute to the building of a YouTube community?24 After describing the videos and their metafictional elements, I shall nuance in what ways these examples fit the concept of community. Thus this article aims to explore both the concepts of community and metafiction. Moreover, it aims to describe fan practices as such, which in fan studies are frequently researched offline, by means of auto-ethnography or ethnography in small groups (Sandvoss, 2006, pp. 2-6). Other studies tend to focus on online communities, but do so with a different focus than video content, for instance fan fiction or digital games (e.g., Busse & Hellekson, 2006). The sources used come from a wide area of media studies that deal with digital culture. My theoretical background is based on studies regarding virtual communities to explain the wider context of these videos. Furthermore, I focus on studies regarding fan practices. Celebrity studies, audience studies and fan studies describe a wide range of fan behaviour and topics, yet not much scholarly research has focused on fan videos. When this subject is addressed, the focus is still mostly on music videos (e.g., Jenkins, 2006b). Furthermore, I clarify the concept of metafiction with texts from literary studies as well as media studies.
24

YouTube community here means a group of users expressing their attachment to YouTube through videos, by ironically referring to this site.

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My method involves the description and analysis of several case studies on fan videos to find out how fan communities manifest themselves on YouTube. I analyzed their content, comments and took into account their popularity based on views and favourites. For my sampling, I browsed through extensive lists of videos that could provide this research with adequate material. From 17 April to 24 April 2008 I selected and watched roughly 50 videos based on their description and content by searching on tags of various series with a notable fan base (e.g., Star Trek, Batman) combined with fan in the tag. I also browsed with the keyword fan film to find more original content. I narrowed fan videos down to those videos that integrate an original aspect in at some level. A typical music video, using existing footage and an existing song, was thereby excluded. I watched the selected videos and read the first 100 comments of all. Finally, at 25 April, I selected three case studies that managed to address not only a fandom, but also YouTube itself. These videos, that display different degrees of metafictionality, form the starting point of this analysis. Theoretical and conceptual framework First of all, a research on the community aspects of YouTube might not seem that self evident. This Video on Demand site (VoD) is a database, more than a typical social networking site (SNS site) like FaceBook or Hyves. The search features of this platform should guide a user to appropriate videos easily, however, it has been argued the participation of these kind of sites remains weak (Auchard, 2007). Furthermore, YouTube has the downside that hitting the search button often gives messy results. Alex Juhasz (Jenkins, 2008b) argues that exactly due to this chaotic architecture a community can grow, since users are forced to link each other to interesting videos within or outside of this platform. Moreover, YouTube itself provides a central focal point for users by exhibiting featured videos on its homepage. It also tries to keep score of popularity with its views counter and favourites. Via these SNS features YouTube itself encourages community behaviour and bounding, yet one may wonder if there is actually one YouTube community as such. YouTube establishes a platform for many groups, among which certain fan communities. A fan community is commonly referred to as a fandom, which describes the supporters of for instance a certain series, celebrity or game (Busse & Hellekson, 2006, p. 6). However, a fandom is not a homogenous community, since each fandom forms a fragmentary webs of communities (Driscoll, 2006, p. 93). Fans may either promote a certain pairing or a favourite character and rivalry between these subgroups is quite common. The concept of a fan can be debated as well, but within fan studies the consensus is usually the following: a 54

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fan differs from a regular viewer by being more emotionally and attentively engaged with the source text. A fan uses the text for self-expression, for example by attributing creative works to it or by citing it. Furthermore, his reception shows high interpretative qualities regarding the source text, more than an ordinary consumer (Meers, 2006; Jenkins, 2006a, p. 204; Kaplan, 2006, p. 150-151). Lastly, fan communities are frequently viewed as subcultures, groups sharing a specific lifestyle, that flourish within the dominant culture of a society (e.g., Sandvoss, 2005, pp. 39-43). The same commitment and playfulness of fans become apparent when we look at metafictional videos on YouTube. The term finds its origins in the seventies. Robert Scholes was one of the first to describe it, as fiction that incorporates criticism (1995, p. 29). The most workable definition comes from Patricia Waughs book Metafiction (1984), namely, fictional writing which self-consciously and systemically draws attention to its status as an artefact (p. 2). In other words, metafiction explicitly and purposely points out it is fiction. The term stems from a tradition of (post)structuralism, Russian formalism and New Historicism, that critically undermine the dichotomy between reality and language (Currie, 1995, pp. 6-15). Literary handbooks frequently refer to metafictional elements as a feature of postmodern fiction, that started with a stream of post-war American novels (Waugh, 1984, p. 291; Dautzenberg, 1998, pp. 342-343; Bertens, DHaen, 1988). However, it is well accepted that metafiction already existed and is thus not postmodern per se, like novels as Don Quichotte (1705), Gullivers Travels (1726) or Tristram Shandy (1759) show. Though metafiction carries an experimental connotation, it has to incorporate familiar examples or even has to be redundant, so the reader can immerge in the fictional world. When the narrative breaks this immergence by showing its artificiality, the reader is surprised. This plot device can result in dissatisfaction of the recipient, whose illusion is shattered by the sound of this wake-up call. However, metafiction can also pleasantly surprise the reader with its irony or comical effects. The term metafiction raises several questions. Firstly, even though critics agree these plot devices are old, some argue they have become more dominant the last decades and thus should be linked to postmodernism again (Hutcheon, 1984, p. 13; Nemec, 1991). Secondly, some scholars place the concept in a longer narrative tradition to explain the early manifestations of metafiction. Linda Hutcheon thinks these devices can be retraced to the founding of the bourgeoisie and that a similar social criticism is portrayed in their novels (1984, p. 9). Patricia Waugh claims that metafiction is even more general, and to some degree part of all narratives, since each text consciously builds on earlier conventions and genres (Waugh, 1984, pp. 63-68). Similarly, Gerald Prince (1982) defines metanarrative signs that 55

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are inherent of all texts as sentences that guide the reader, for instance by incorporating a translation or a narrators remark. In this research the term will not be used that broadly, since it is mainly occupied with the devices as such and not the reflexivity inherent of fiction per se. However, literary studies use other terms as well to describe these devices in fiction. What has now been dubbed metafiction, has already been described in the fifties as selfconscious. Other terms used for a more or less similar process include autoreferentiality, self-referentiality, self-reflexivity (Mulder, 1992, pp. 1-17; Engler, 2004) or even terms coined by individual scholars like narrative criticism (Hutcheon, 1984). From most descriptions it follows that self-referentiality, a more general term, lacks the same awareness and intentionality as metafiction. In other words, metafiction is always self-referential, but self-referentiality is not always metafiction (Mulder, 2002, p. 11). The conscious and critical dimension that the term suggests, make it a workable concept for this research. It can be argued that metafiction seems outdated and overly literary. However, attempts are currently made to transfer this term and its history in a more narrow sense, as metareference, to other forms of fiction such as video art (Werner, 2008). I prefer not using this term, since metareference is not well-established in literary or media studies yet, and can also refer to a form of metafiction in which characters address the audience, which may lead to confusion. Thus I apply the term metafiction to indicate the devices in a narrative that selfconsciously reveal its fictional character. The chosen case-studies deploy different metafictional devices and are selected on that basis as well. Blissfully aware of YouTube The first case study is a rather peculiar video: Chocolate Rain by Chad Vader (Blamesocietyfilms, 2007a). Let me first describe it, before I explain its degree of metafictionality. Viewers that are not up to date with two YouTube phenomena will most likely see Darth Vader, complaining in a monotone song about his job in the supermarket. This Star Wars fan video is a part of a YouTube series portraying Darth Vaders little brother, Chad, who has the same costume and voice as the renowned cult villain. However, Chad turns out to be an underdog with a lousy job as day shift manager in a local grocery store. Although the video refers to Star Wars by making a caricature of Darth Vader, a viewer also needs knowledge about the series itself to understand this video. Moreover, the song parodies Chocolate Rain, a YouTube hit by Tay Zonday (2007) who received a YouTube award for best music video for this work. In a distinctive and deep voice the 25-year-old Zonday, accompanied by a catchy and almost hypnotic keyboard tune, 56

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sings about racism. Renowned are the strange subtitles he uses to describe his actions, like I move away from the mic to breath in. Tay Zonday ascribes his popularity to the internet board 4chan, visited largely by a younger generation of users interested in popular culture. (HHNlive, 2007) 4chan indeed started many recurring, widely spread internet jokes, such as lolcatz (inventive cat photos with one-liners) and Rickrolling (diverting people with a fake URL to Rick Astleys Never gonna give you up). Chocolate Rain was such an inside joke which spread rapidly, not only online, but also on television. Zonday became a phenomenon. He appeared in commercials, TV shows and in the cartoon series South Park that frequently mocks pop culture and fan subjects. The video of Blame Society Productions became the most watched and commented upon Chocolate Rain parody on YouTube. With 8,749 comments at 8 May 2008, and 2,268,773 views it outranks all others, despite another parody that is frequently watched and arguably more accessible, called Vanilla Snow (Peppergod, 2007). Chad Vaders series has been around for some time, but with the Chocolate Rain hit, the videos increased in popularity. The success of this particular video certainly has to do with Chads Darth Vader voice, which is as low and recognizable as Tays. The funny Star Wars allusions make it an enjoyable watch for fans and a more mainstream audience. Furthermore, the video also ironically addresses the YouTube hit of Zonday because it is uploaded the same platform, YouTube. The metafictional element can be found exactly on these two levels. The first level is the parody, a genre in which metafiction often reveals itself. As Hutcheon (1984, p. 52) writes: For the reader/critic of metafiction, overt diegetic narcissim seems to involve the thematizing within the story of its storytelling, which concerns parody, narrative conventions, creative process - with an eye to teaching him his new, more active role. Hutcheon describes parody in another book as repetition with critical distance (1985, p. 8). Unlike pastiche, which imitates by similarity, parody bases itself on difference and self-reflexivity. It can and has been argued that to some degree all parodies are metafiction (Waugh, 1984, pp. 68-79). Now Chads Chocolate Rain is a parody of two source-texts, namely Star Wars and Zondays song. However, a third element is incorporated, the series of Chad Vader, on which the lyrics are based. The parody takes place at three levels, thus displaying a high degree of referentiality. Moreover, the most obvious metafictional moment in the movie is the opening title of Blamesocietys video, based on the title of Zonday. Where the source text states in the beginning, Download the free mp3! (Some rights reserved under creative commons), this 57

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version advices, in a similar font: Watch the series Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager (on YouTube). The platform is made very explicit here, not only by hinting at Chads series, but also by stating the obvious fact to the YouTube participants that the series can be watched on YouTube. This form of self-referentiality also directs our attention towards the site and the practices there, similar to metafictional levels that point out the books materiality or fictional status of the text (Arts and Popular Culture, 2008; Mulder, 2002, pp. 23-24). These kind of allusions form an important feature of metafiction since they expose the material dimension of a fictional work (Waugh, 1984, pp. 112-113; Mulder, 2002, p. 33). However, it might be that the effect of this metafictional device is not that strong, since it serves as the opening title. Therefore few expectations have been set that an author may break. Nonetheless, it is clear Blamesociety consciously refers to YouTube in their content to reveal the practices there. For instance, in another video internet celebrity Obama Girl (famous from BarelyPolitical, 2007) interviews Chad Vader (2008). In this crossover the YouTube stars have a discussion at YouTube about politics, which not only makes the site explicit, but also breaks the worlds of these characters by putting them in one video. The comments on Blamesocietys Chocolate Rain version turn out to be quite positive. I browsed the first 200 and some users even salute it as being more funny, creative or better than the original. Other users quote parts of the lyrics in approval, like chocolate rain is raining in my brain. Though YouTube provokes strong reactions by haters or spammers, the climate here seems positive. Nonetheless, YouTube in general is a limited system with a feedback function subjected to one-liners and unconstructive comments. This specific item process is mocked in a series of videos belonging to Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series (or YuGi-Oh Abridged in short) by LittleKuriboh (2007). An abridged series, a term he did not coin himself, usually means a cut version of a certain series, that you can watch faster than the original to save some time or recapture what happened. In this case LittleKuriboh cut the Japanese cartoon (anime) Yu-Gi-Oh, which was also broadcasted in America and Europe. Since the last two years his videos redefined what abridged means, namely creating a new, humorous narrative out of existing cartoon footage. By dubbing (voice acting) it yourself and editing the episodes, you can create a perfect parody. LittleKuriboh still uses the characters and setting of the anime, though greatly exaggerated, but modelled them into something fresh. Although the content of LittleKuriboh falls under the rights of parody and non-profit content, he was suspended from YouTube twice. The first time was presumably since users flagged him, which was discovered afterwards, since the Western owner of Yu-Gi-Oh, 4kids, had never charged him. His second suspension we can only guess about, but it might be due 58

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to his YouTube wedding proposal to his girlfriend, which violated the YouTube guide lines25 (2008) by including a fake thumbnail so it would come as a surprise for her. After his first suspension, LittleKuriboh made a video of himself dressed up as a character from Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged to ironically address the issue (greed3025, 2007f). He even uploaded a live performance of the first, deleted episode to avoid and mock copyright infringement (greed3025, 2007e). Similarly other internet celebrities have been suspended from YouTube for reasons unknown, like Perez Hilton. The reactions of their fans, responding with many videos to discourage the YouTube policy, form an example of how tight these communities within YouTube can be. Nonetheless, Perez has said his goodbye to YouTube (2007) that treated him like an inconsiderate boyfriend. LittleKuriboh, meanwhile, has started his own site, though many rippers upload his footage on YouTube still. His legacy on YouTube continues, where fans started their own Abridged series of Naruto, Teen Titans and more. Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged has quite some episodes containing metafictional elements, such as characters discussing other Abridged Series or the author (e.g., LittleKuriboh, 2008, episode 18). I decided to focus on four videos that mention YouTube specifically. These fan dubs have been banned from YouTube in their original versions with the suspension of LittleKuribohs account, and are unfortunately not available on the series official site. Nonetheless, I retraced some ripped versions on YouTube that also contain interesting comments (Greed3025, 2007). In each video one or two characters visit Youtube.com and reply to several comments in their own fashion. Thus LittleKuriboh deploys one common metafictional element, namely the characters directly addressing the reader/viewer (Orlowski, 2008). The videos appeal to YouTube participants in two ways: the characters talk to the users watching the footage and they also respond to earlier textual comments. Moreover, the content contains allusions at several levels, which is also highly metafictional. The videos make references to the original anime, popular culture (e.g., Beavis and Butt-head), Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged itself, comments on YouTube or previous videos of this miniseries. These levels often intersect. For instance, a user called Breakchain replied one of the comment videos: Can you make one in which Seto Kaiba says the comments? This comment is read out loud in the video Seto Kaiba addresses Youtube.com and mocked (Greed3025, 2007a). As icing on the cake the YouTube logo is shamelessly displayed at the

25

The community guide line views fake thumbnails as spam and is allowed to ban users for this kind of violation. Everyone hates spam. Do not create misleading descriptions, tags, titles or thumbnails in order to increase views.

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end of the movies, while the characters are still talking. This forms an appropriate and ironic exit of the characters visit to YouTube. This very direct appeal to the audience and YouTube is an element I did not find in any other fan videos. The fan base is explored in the content as much as YouTube itself, the website that made LittleKuriboh a small celebrity in the anime community. This user has set the tone for an innovative fan video and still surprises his audience. For example, recently he uploaded movies in which a plushy poses as an official voice actor from Yu-Gi-Oh, namely Dan Green. In the videos, hosted on his website and a special YouTube account (CardgamesFTW, 2008), Dan Green explains how to make a hit abridged series. However, what he explains is exactly what you should not do. LittleKuriboh thus manages to forge a parody of a genre that he actually invented himself. This high awareness of conventions and their blatant exposure, is another metafictional device he adopts. Dan Green boldly expresses in his video that if you follow his advice, you will become an instant YouTube star: I can already taste the subscribers! YouTube is often criticized for being to depended on views and popularity, an element which is assessed in the second example: Lisa Nova does YouTube (2007). This movie has 2,413,886 views on 10 May 2008, with 14,829 comments, in other words, it is very popular. In the video YouTube comedian Lisa Nova kidnaps other YouTube stars, who play themselves, in order to spread the gospel of Lisa Nova. She eliminates the competition on YouTube, not only by abducting them, but also by forcing them to spam YouTube to promote her channel. My dream is, she maniacally states, to some day have my face and a comment from me on every single persons profile on the entire YouTube. In the end Lisa sadly gets arrested by the FBI for spamming too much. One could argue that this is not really a fan video. The fandom it belongs to is, in the whole, nothing more than YouTube itself: a video made by famous users, engaged members, and each of these appeals to his own fans by his appearance. Nonetheless it contains many pop cultural references, meant for a select audience. Though it is not a fan video in the fullest sense, I shall explain that it is a parody that provides us with new metafictional levels. The first metafictional level of this video is found in the crossover element. Lisa Nova does Youtube stars several renowned YouTube users, from Thewinekone to Perez Hilton. The cast is seen as a positive aspect by many of the users commenting. Holmes245 states: What? Lisa Nova got Smosh, Perez, DaxFlame and others together? That's like the Justice League of....YouTube right there! Lol Negative comments frequently object that its not funny or sucks which could be due to its sense of humor. This is heavily related to the second 60

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metafictional element displayed: The video appears to be a parody on real life MTV shows, recognizable by a shaky camera and emotional conversations in small rooms. This implicit mocking of conventions, to suggest this video truly takes place in real life, might be something not all viewers recognize. Furthermore the content, like in the other two case studies, exposes the host it is available on. The strength of the video for this analysis lies mainly its criticism on YouTubes SNS features. Comments on other channels lead to comments on your own, subscriptions lead to counter-subscriptions. Lisa Nova mocks this networking principle: a simple quid pro quo rather then quality paves the way to many views. Thus becoming popular has nothing to do with content, but with being an active user. Those excluded are often the ones who do not participate quite as much. This also seems the catch of SNS sites in general, the more active a user you are, the more friends or subscribers you make (Di Genarro & Duton, 2008). Lisa thus provides a cynical account of the website she uses. The footage as such can be seen as fan service for the ones who actively watch these channels. The positive fan comments seem to indicate this too, since the users for example appreciate the cameo of Smosh. This crossover principle on YouTube is not something new, I already mentioned Obama Girl interviewing Chad Vader. Similarly Liam Kyle Sullivan introduced several internet celebrities in his video clip Let me borrow that top (2007). Lisa however goes a step further by ironically using these allusions to mock what YouTube stands for, thereby exposing the rules of this site and showing that not all users are included to the same degree. However, Lisa Nova is not the only user who critically deploys these kind of selfreferences. The video Dreaming of YouTube by Thewinekone (2007) takes a stand against the haters and spammers on YouTube that abuse the comment function. By spoofing various popular songs by Justin Timberlake and others, the author sings his way through YouTube. His original lyrics reflect on all the users that ruin the YouTube climate. In an earlier video blog (vlog) Thewinekone (2006) also discusses LonelyGirl15, who even made the newspapers with her story (Heffernan & Zeller, 2006). In her vlogs she explained she was a child of conservative, religious parents, leading a sheltered life, but in the end it turned out she was just an actor. Thewinekone explains that he does some acting too, and proposes that they could have a fake marriage with imaginary babies, even. Another small example of metafictional devices used to criticize YouTube would be Neil Cicierega, renowned for his videos of Potter Puppet Pals (2007a). Neil also uploads video blogs once in a while, and one of them deals (2007b) with the success of his puppets, which is only outmatched by a dancing Perez Hilton. Offended by the video, Neil burns his 61

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Ron puppet in this semi-autobiographical video, and then kills himself. By mocking the popularity of certain videos that appear to have mediocre content, Neil like Lisa shows the downsides of YouTube, while at the same time promoting the site and himself. Amateur comedians and vloggers appear to be all over YouTube, not only as a platform, but also as an item of criticism. Strikingly, the most famous of them do not seem to use the comment or subscribe option that often. However, by not using these SNS features these prominent members create a certain distance between them and the audience. Lange (2007) discusses a similar example, namely MadV, a video artist who encourages YouTube users to attribute videos in response to his. He watches all of them, but never comments. Nonetheless, his actions create a social network in which he takes the centre role (p. 375). No average audience YouTube enables many users to participate via comments, subscriptions or video responses. However, we have seen that users also address other videos in less formal forms by making references to them. In a similar fashion, they also criticize YouTube in their parodies. How tight are these YouTube communities, that are criticized by their own members? Since quite some years virtual communities evoked debate. While some authors suggest they are similar to groups in real life, or tighter (Barlow, 1995; Rheingold, 1997), others claim they lack features societal communities do have. They are suspected of being pseudo-communities (Rheingold, 1997, p. 62) or simulacra of a community (Wilbur, 2000, p. 53). In what way do these case-studies reveal or build communities on YouTube? I shall go into aspects of a community that these case studies highlight to show how they support this concept. First of all, these fan videos fit the concept of community, because they meet one of its requirements, namely commonalities or a set of shared attributes. In references - not only to the source-text, but also to other videos - these shared interests are explicitly pointed out. These commonalities are at the heart of a community, some scholars argue (e.g., Wilbur, 2000, p. 47). Fan communities are all about these shared texts that constitute a feeling of coherence. However, the fan videos I chose reach a broader audience and will not draw such a specific audience as some insiders material. It can be argued that all communities on YouTube are arranged on the basis of these shared attributes. Building on Jenkins, Jos van Dijck emphasizes that YouTube members organize within taste communities, specific audience groups arranged by shared interests (2007, p. 11). In fact, media consumption as such is a social process which viewers, not only fans per se, relate to in conversations to find a common ground. Media scholar John Gray (2006) describes that texts and the media as such 62

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are crucial for communities. Media talk today plays a huge role in social situations, strengthening links and bonds between people who already know each other, and providing common ground for strangers to share (p. 125). He clearly reveals these audiences, or interpretative communities as he calls them, when describing The Simpsons. For some of his interviewees watching The Simpsons was an equivalent for good taste (pp. 123-129). These viewers, furthermore, did not describe themselves as fans but rather as regular viewers. Nonetheless they judged people based on their opinion of the cartoon. Likewise, Janneke Brouwers (this issue) describes a community bounded by a dislike of Oprah. Secondly, this common basis results in a specific norm often mentioned when dealing with communities, namely reciprocity: altruistic behaviour for which you might expect something in return in due time (Smith, 2001; Wellman & Gulia, 1997, pp. 8-10). When describing YouTube fan videos we see a basis formed by a specific interest, which stimulates making voluntary contributions. It could be that you comment with the idea that others might subscribe to your videos (as Lisa Nova mocks) or maybe because you appreciate the upload and want to give feedback in return. This kind of altruism is exactly what keeps most online boards and communities up and running (e.g., Barlow, 1995). My case studies largely received positive responses to their contributions and notably Yu-Gi-Oh-Abridged, a pure fan parody, gained wide attention. Sites hosting fan fiction or fan art are in general subjected to a positive, over-positive or even erotic reception (Busse, 2006; Lackner, Lucas & Reid, 2006, pp. 195-201). In similar fashion, fan videos receive positive and short responses, rather than constructive or negative feedback. This gratitude can even be considered as a form of etiquette, a norm, since you make things specifically for your fellow-fans to enjoy. However, not only positive aspects are related to these interests. As already mentioned briefly, taste can also work the other way around: who does not share the same taste, becomes an excluded child at the playground. The three videos I chose can be described as fan videos as well as parodies. Interestingly, the parody is a form of text frequently criticized for its elitist approach. Not only does it take some rhetorical skills to get the irony in the text, one also needs a generic understanding of the source-text it refers to. The parody not only presupposes a lot, but also excludes the ones who do not get these in-jokes (Hutcheon, 1985, pp. 94-95). If a viewer or reader does get the parody, it results in a kind of satisfaction and even creates a favourable audience that appreciates it exactly for its acquired taste (pp. 93-94). Similarly, Gray explains that the viewers of The Simpsons praised the cleverness of the series (2006, pp. 132-133). We can presume this cleverness refers to themselves to a certain extent, because they can decode the text and respond amicably. Gray also suspects that these kind of 63

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parodies are likely to draw a more intellectual audience that can place the references in a context (pp. 137-141). Though a parody requires a competent recipient, thereby excluding certain viewers, it can have a didactic effect as well. A parody can encourage the audience to get acquainted with the source-text. Even if the viewer would not go directly to the source, he at least becomes familiar with it to some degree. The parody thus creates a certain awareness of a cultural repertoire by imitating it. By referring to specific texts the parody warrants cultural continuity, as Hutcheon describes it, and adopts a didactic function (1985, 96-99). A parody does not rule out individuals per se, but also enables them to climb up again by learning about certain texts. Like other metafictional devices, it allows the reader to actively engage with the content to the degree he wishes. The parody carries another characteristic of the community, namely authority. By mentioning certain conventions norms of commenting on YouTube, the YouTube policy or guide lines, sets of rules to assure popularity - the parody also confirms them. The direct addressing of YouTube within these imitations carries not only self-reflexivity, but implicitly affirms the platform. It suggests that there is YouTube community, formed by all users and shared content. As we have mentioned in the introduction of this issue, being part of one community (e.g., Yu-Gi-Oh fans) does not exclude being part of the other (e.g., YouTube users). By mocking the culture within YouTube, the videos make it explicit. Linda Hutcheon has argued in The Politics of Postmodernism that parodies dedoxify: though they legitimize dominant ideological values, they try to unsettle them at the same time (Felluga, 2003). In her earlier book she described the parody as double-voiced, by confirming authorities as well as criticizing them (Hutcheon, 1985, p. 73). Strikingly, the imitating text is thus allowed by the same authority it tries to reject, and as a result, it might give renewed vigour to a dominant discourse. This can be applied to YouTube quite easily, where these kind of critical, metafictional videos might raise an awareness of the downsides of this large community and what it should aspire to be. Moreover, it makes the user aware that there is such a thing as YouTube that can be put to a test. Though the site seems a straightforward database, it is a community as well with its own etiquette and a set of renowned videos and users. Conclusion The metafictional devices these fan videos deploy clearly show that users have shared knowledge and interests, a feature of communities that is also addressed in the introduction of this journal (Brouwers, et al.). These shared attributes do not consist merely out of a source64

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text outside of YouTube, but include elements that refer to the site as such. The fan videos mentioned show that YouTube itself is an important topic that connects users. They consciously mind this host, its policies and the user practices that are dominant there. Furthermore the references within these videos exclude certain users or viewers, thus creating an in-crowd of fans that understand them and viewers that do not, but could learn them. Within the journal this article hopes to show that YouTube is not just a host of many communities, but can also be described as one community (see also Brouwers, this issue). Shared topics on the site then support this group and by references make it even more explicit. Though YouTube gives range to a diversity of pre-existing communities (e.g., Wolters; Schepers; Cornips, this issue), it is also a community by itself. Moreover, metafiction is explored as a concept, a literary term which enabled me to describe the self-awareness these users display. The term can be transmitted to new media, where due to the interaction YouTube promotes, it can arguably contain different devices than written texts can. For instance, LittleKuriboh makes the characters of his fan dub repeat comments users made, while a text cannot incorporate a readers response in that manner. Metafiction has proven to be a workable concept to describe these devices, but a downside would be that it is an umbrella term that constantly needs to be nuanced. Furthermore, these self-conscious devices are slightly different when related to media content like YouTube, and therefore do not always benefit from categorizations of metafiction in texts. For future research on the concept, more theoretical insights and divisions are needed to depict its manifestations in video content. As Web 2.0 proceeds, it will undoubtedly inspire new ways to interact that researchers may want to look into. However, we must not forget this participatory culture also enables new ideas to create or respond to fiction.

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References Art and Popular Culture. (2008). Metafiction. Retrieved 18 May, 2008, from http://www.artandpopularculture.com/Metafiction Barlow, J.P. (1995). Is There a There in Cyberspace? Retrieved April, 2008, from http://w2.eff.org/Misc/Publications/John_Perry_Barlow/HTML/utne_community.html Bertens, H. & DHaen, T. (1988). Het Postmodernisme in de Literatuur. Amsterdam: De Arbeiderspers. Busse, K. & Hellekson, K. (2006). Introduction: Work in Progress. Busse, K. & Hellekson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina, London: McFarland, pp. 5-33. Cha, Kwak, Rodriguez, et al. (2007). I Tube, You Tube, Everybody Tubes: Analyzing the Worlds Largest User Generated Content Video System. IMC (2007, October). Retrieved April, 2008, from http://www.imconf.net/imc-2007/papers/imc131.pdf Currie, M. (1995). Introduction In: Currie, M. (1995). Metafiction. New York: Longman Publishing, pp. 1-20. Coppa, F. (2006). A Brief History of Media Fandom. Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina, London: McFarland, pp. 41-60. Coppa, F. (2007). Celebrating Kandy Fong : Founder of Fannish Music Video. In Media Res. Retrieved April, 2008, from http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/ Di Genarro, C. & Duton, W. H. (2007). Reconfiguring Friendships: Social Relationships and The Internet. Information, Communication & Society, 10 (5), pp. 591618 Driscoll, C. (2006). One True Pairing: The Romance of Pornography and the Pornography of Romance. Busse, K. & Hellekson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina, London: McFarland, pp. 79-97. Engler, B. (2004). Metafiction. The Literary Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 May, 2008, from http://www.litencyc.com/php/stopics.php?rec=true&UID=715 Felluga, D. (2003). Modules on Hutcheon: On Parody. Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. http://www.cla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/postmodernism/modules/hutcheonparody.ht ml Gray, J. (2006) Watching With The Simpsons: Television, Parody and Intertextuality. New York: Routledge. Heffernan, V. & Zeller, T. (2006). The Lonely Girl That Wasnt. The New York Times, September 13, 2006. Retrieved 20 April, 2008, from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/ 09/13/technology/13lonely.html

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HHnlive. (2007, July 30). Make it Rain: Tay Zonday. Retrieved 4 May, 2008, from http://www.hhnlive.com/features/more/322 Hutcheon, L. (1984). The Narcissistic Narrative: The Metafictional Paradox. (2nd. ed.) London, New York: Routledge. Hutcheon, L. (1985). A Theory of Parody. The Teachings of Twentieth-Century Art Forms. London, New York: Routledge. Jenkins, H. (2006a). Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide. New York & London: New York University Press. Jenkins, H. (2006b). How to watch a fan vid. Confessions of an Aca/fan. The official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved 15 April, 2008, from http://www.henryjenkins.org/2006/09/ how_to_watch_a_fanvid.html Jenkins, H. (2008a, February 13). From Youtube to Wetube. Confessions of an Aca/fan. The official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved April, 2008, from http://henryjenkins.org/2008/ 02/from_youtube_to_wetube.html Jenkins, H. (2008b, February 20). Learning from Youtube. An Interview with Alex Juhasz. Confessions of an Aca/fan. The official Weblog of Henry Jenkins. Retrieved April, 2008, from http://henryjenkins.org/2008/02/from_youtube_to_wetube.html Kaplan, D. (2006). Construction of Fan Fiction Character through Narrative. Busse, K. & Hellekson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina, London: McFarland, pp. 134-153. Kelly, K. (2005). We Are The Web. Wired 13 (8). Retrieved 10 April, 2008, from http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.08/tech.html Lackner, E, Lucas, B.L. & Reid, R.A. (2006). Cunning Linguists: The Bisexual Erotics of Words/Silence/Flesh. Busse, K. & Hellekson, K. (Eds.). (2006). Fan Fiction and Fan Communities in the Age of the Internet. Jefferson, North Carolina London: McFarland. Lange, P.G. (2008). Publicly Private and Privately Public: Social Networking on Youtube. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13, pp. 361380. Meers, P. (2006). Fandom en Blockbusters: Aanzet tot een Typologie van Lord of the Ringsfans. Tijdschrift voor Communicatiewetenschap, 34, 1, pp. 69-87. Mulder, H. (1992). Literatuur & reflexiviteit: een realistisch perspectief. Leuven/Apeldoorn: Garant, pp. 1-43. Nemec, K. (1991). Autoreferentiality and Novelistic Self-consciousness. Neohelicon, 20, pp. 79-86. Orlowski, V. (1996). Metafiction. Retrieved 10 May, 2008, from http://www.english.emory. edu/Bahri/Metafiction.html

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Prince, G. (1995). Metanarrative Signs. In: Currie, M. (1995). Metafiction. New York: Longman Publishing, pp. 55-68. Reprinted from Prince, G. (1980). Narratology. Berlin, New York, Amsterdam: Monton, pp. 115-128. Rheingold, H. (1993). A Slice of Life in My Virtual Community. In: Harasim, L. (ed.). (1993). Global Networks: Computers and International Communication. Cambridge: MIT Press, pp. 57-80. Sandvoss, C. (2005). Fans: The Mirror of Consumption. Cambridge: Polity Press. Scholes, R. (1995). Metafiction. In: Currie, M. (1995). Metafiction. New York: Longman Publishing, pp. 21-38. Reprinted from Scholes, R. (1970). Metafiction, The Iowa Review, 1, pp. 100-115. Smith, M. K. (2001). Community. The encyclopedia of informal education. Retrieved 10 May, 2008, http://www.infed.org/community/community.htm. Van Dijck, J. (2007) Television 2.0: YouTube and the Emergence of Homecasting. Retrieved April, 2008, from http://web.mit.edu/commforum/mit5/papers/vanDijck_Television2.0.article. MiT5.pdf. Waugh, P. (2001). Postmodernism. In: Knellwolf, C. & Norris, C. (ed.), (2001). The Cambridge History of Literary Criticism, Vol. IX. Cambridge: Cambridge UP. Waugh, P. (1984). Metafiction. The Theory and Practice of Self-Conscious Fiction. London, New York: Routledge. Wellman, B. & Gulia, M. (1997). Net Surfers Dont Ride Alone: Virtual Communities as Real Communities. Retrieved April, 2008, from http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~wellman/ public-ations/netsurfers/netsurfers.pdf Wilbur, S.P. (2000). An Archaeology of Cyberspaces: Virtuality, Community, Identity. In: Bell, D. & Kennedy, B.M. (Eds.). (2000). The Cybercultures Reader. London, New York: Routledge, pp. 45-55. Werner, W. (2008). Metareference in the Arts and New Media. Retrieved May, 2008, from http://www.uni-graz.at/angwww_cfp_-_metareference_in_the_arts_and_media.pdf YouTube sources BarelyPolitical. (2007).I Got A CrushOn Obama by Obama Girl. [posted 14 June, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wKsoXHYICqU Blamesocietyfilms. (2007a). Chocolate Rain By Chad Vader. [posted 14 August, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P6dUCOS1bM0 Blamsocietyfilms. (2007b). Obama Girl Meets Chad Vader. [posted 28 November, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9cK8vThRDo

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CardgamesFTW. (2008). Dan Green Presents Abridging 101. [posted 28 April, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVsz9KBSQ8Q Greed3025. (2007a). Seto Kaiba Addresses Youtube.com. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qeD-emZKPs0 Greed3025. (2007b). Rex and Weevil Visit YouTube.com. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mo2lViQ2j8k Greed3025. (2007c). Serenity Struggles With Youtube.com. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IHYTSSM5C_g Greed3025. (2007d). Bakura Gets a Job at Youtube.com. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=771Ua-bz5Ag Greed3025. (2007d). Bakura Gets a Job at Youtube.com. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=771Ua-bz5Ag Greed3025. (2007e). Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series Episode 1 Live Performance. [posted 11 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vw 5FXSZ61SU Greed3025. (2007f). Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series has been removed. [posted 11 July 2007, accessed 10 May 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yqSml-k1PM LittleKuriboh. (2008). Yu-Gi-Oh The Abridged Series. (The Episodes). Retrieved May, 2008, from http://www.yugiohtheabridgedseries.com/ Liamkylesullivian. (2007). Let Me Borrow That Top. [posted 16 September, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fPDl2g8Upvk LisaNova. (2007). Lisa Nova does YOUTUBE!!! [posted 10 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W13Wj34Lpto NeilCicierega. (2007a). Potter Puppet Pals in: The Mysterious Ticking Noise. [posted 23 March, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v =Tx1XIm6q4r4 NeilCicierega. (2007b). YouTube Heaven. [posted 2 December, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7opfTHDWuVI NeilCicierega. (2008). Me and My YouTube Award. [posted 29 March, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008] Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7opfTHDWuVI Peppergod. (2007). Vanilla Snow (Chocolate Rain Parody). [posted 12 July, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nTQOpibv_OA PerezHilton. (2007). YouTube doesnt care about you! [posted 20 December, 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oSEgiAsZKeA

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TayZonday. (2007). Chocolate Rain. [posted 22 April 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EwTZ2xpQwpA Thewinekone. (2007). Dreaming of YouTube. [posted 14 May 2007, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVyGMQhvwiA Thewinekone. (2006). About Her/Their Videos. [posted 14 September 2006, accessed 10 May, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnwqhnjrnp8

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Connoisseurs and haters Art related communities on YouTube


Wolfgang Kaltenbrunner Art related communities on YouTube YouTube is an archive of highly heterogeneous video material. Apart from accumulating such typical content as pet videos or parodies of TV shows and celebrities, YouTube also serves as a platform where potentially artistic content is made accessible to a large international audience. The question as to how YouTube facilitates or obstructs community building is further complicated when posed with regard to its artistic content. Committed to the DIY principle, YouTube's creators do not exert any kind of curatorial function to administer the wealth of videos posted. Works of widely acknowledged classics of video art exist next to the work of emerging artists. YouTube architecture provides only a very rough categorization that distinguishes between broad areas like Education, Entertainment, Sports, etc. ((Brouwers, Cornips, Kaltenbrunner, Lamerichs, Schepers, Wolters, this issue). There is no such category for art, which could provide an official meeting place for artists and/or consumers of art. Pierre Bourdieu's writings on the sociology of art provide a theoretical backdrop to my investigation. Bourdieu (1993) argues that the art scene itself can be understood as a community, whose various agents (artists, art critics, museums, spectators, etc.) negotiate about cultural capital. There are three different forms of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986). First, embodied cultural capital. This notion refers to the sum of a person's cultural learning, understood as aspects like manners, accent, as well as knowledge and preferences in art, literature, and music. Embodied cultural capital is normally transmitted through upbringing within a particular social class and cannot easily be acquired otherwise. Through works that presuppose little knowledge of art history, artists may for example address an audience of relatively low embodied cultural capital. As a general rule, the less amount of embodied cultural capital a work of art presupposes, and thus the more accessible it is, the larger its potential audience. Second, institutionalized cultural capital, which is transmitted through institutions such as museums, universities, or art critics. An artist's cultural capital can for example be increased through favorable reviews by art critics, or by being featured in prestigious exhibitions. Museums and art critics thus enjoy a privileged position in art establishment in that they are free to exhibit and recommend particular artists. Museums and critics furthermore have the power to confer cultural capital to particular objects. A work of

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art's value may for example be increased by being exhibited in a renowned museum. Cultural capital thus becomes objectified, potentially attracting the attention of art collectors. As becomes apparent from this last example, cultural capital can frequently be translated into economic capital. The more rare and exquisite a piece of art is, the higher its price on the art market. In turn, the more reputation an artist enjoys, the higher his salary for an exhibition. Bourdieu's theoretical framework is useful to this investigation, since it implies questions about the relation between art related communities on YouTube and their external counterpart, i.e. art establishment. YouTube as a platform potentially complements all the functions fulfilled by the various agents of art establishment. First, YouTube provides free space to exhibit content, and to present it in a certain way. Second, it attracts large numbers of viewers. Third, it gives voice to those viewers, potentially contesting or affirming the judgements of art criticism. In the remainder of this paper, I will investigate how YouTube users and the art establishment interact in the creation of art related communities on YouTube. By art related communities on YouTube I understand groups of users who share a certain taste, or networks of artists, created for the purpose of professional collaboration. The above formulated research question can be divided into a range of more specific sub-questions. How do privileged agents of art establishment, such as art critics and museums, influence the formation of art related communities on YouTube through their power to confer institutionalized cultural capital? How do the artists themselves influence the formation of art related communities? Finally, how do art related communities on YouTube feed back on art establishment? Given the wealth of video material posted to YouTube, it is impossible to achieve a systematic review of its artistic content. I will therefore present four individual case studies. They are representative inasmuch as they deal with artists of very different discursive status. The first case study is concerned with Bill Viola, a widely acknowledged classic of video art. While the artist himself does not use YouTube as a medium for his work, many of his videos have been uploaded by users. Case study two deals with the artists Megan and Murray McMillan. Collaborating mainly in video art and installation, the McMillans are well rooted in art establishment and furthermore host their own channel on YouTube. In case study three, I investigate the example of emerging performance and video artist Brian Presnell. Presnell equally hosts a channel on YouTube, though he uses it in ways slightly different from the McMillans. Case study four finally is concerned with photographer Noah Kalina, who became a YouTube celebrity with his video Everyday. Kalina is an interesting counter-example to the

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other case studies insofar as he got access to art establishment only after his success on YouTube. The method by which I approach each of those case studies consists of three analytical steps. First, I will determine the amount of institutionalized capital the artist(s) dispose of. Are they widely acknowledged as serious artists, or are do they still have to struggle to have their work exhibited in museums and the like? I will use two indicators to answer this question. On the one hand, I will review how art criticism (art journals and scholarly publications) has received the work of those artist so far. On the other hand, I will assess in which museums or galleries their work has already been shown. Second, I will investigate how YouTube is used as a platform where those artists' work is made accessible. Is their work identified as artistic content? Do the artists use YouTube to network with other artists and/or viewers? Third, I will investigate how YouTube users have received those artists' work, with special regard to patterns of community formation. The empirical basis for this step is provided by user comments to video material of the artists posted to YouTube. My analysis will take into account comments posted in the period between the launch of YouTube on February 15, 2005 to May 20, 2008. Case study A) The first case study is concerned with the work of well-established american video artist Bill Viola. Viola's work has predominantly been centered around broad general issues such as birth/death, spirituality, and the depiction of human emotions. As a classic specimen of his work can for example be named The Passions, consisting of a slow-motion, close-up recording of two actors who express an emotional state of intense anguish. Apart from the choice of the motif, The Passions is a representative specimen of Viola's work for two reasons. First, the use of slow-motion depiction. Viola has been using slow-motion since his earliest work in the 1970s (Parfait, 2001, pp. 108 et seqq.). His viewers and art critics have thus had plenty of time to get used to this technique, which inevitably resulted in a general association of Viola with artistic conventionalism. Second, The Passions does not require the viewer to look for a larger context to make sense of the images. The viewer can on the contrary immerse him/herself into the contemplation of human passion, a motif accessible to any layman. Criticism has typically pointed out the great accessibility of Viola's art (McKenzie, 2004). Viola's discursive status as a major contemporary artist is grounded on an impressive range of international honors. In 1995, Viola was chosen to represent the USA at the Venice 73

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Biennale, a prestigious international art event. Two years later, the Whitney Museum of American Art organized a retrospective of 25 years of Viola's work, indicating that the artist had become a classic by that time. In 2000, Viola became a member of the elite American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Viola is furthermore known to an international audience by exhibitions in all major European cities. Bill Viola hosts no official channel on YouTube. Still, entering his full name as a search term yielded no less than 192 entries on May 20, 2008. About 20 of those feature either original video clips or amateur recordings of Viola's installations posted by museum visitors, including some of Viola's most notable works like Sweet Light, The Reflecting Pool, and Anthem. In an interview, the artist explains his attitude towards his works being posted on YouTube. In the beginning certainly, I was not happy about getting my works out online, and that had to do primarily with quality. I mean, not to say that my works all have to be pristine and so called high quality; as you know Ive worked with old cameras from 30 years ago, and Ive got grainy images you can hardly decipher. But I wanted people to see the work as I kind of inten-ded it to be. And there were certain aspects of particularly the internet, eight years ago or so, hat really were kind of missing, the point of the work in terms of the visual quality. But today, its changing a lot. (...) The advantage of YouTube is low resolution. That is its strength, and that means everybody can do it (...) Whats happened now through the internet, is that the dream of all of us, going back to the late 60s early 70s where you can have a truly democratic open art practice that wasnt about these expensive rarefied kind of galleries and things, is actually being realised, and its actually become more than merely making art (Cooke, 2008). I suggest that Viola's somewhat ambiguous comment is revealing of his increasing penetration into art establishment. While somewhat nostalgically remembering his youthful ambition to circumvent this establishment, he cannot deny his mature appreciation for well-established galleries and museums, in which the artists enjoys supreme control of how his/her work is presented to the audience. Interestingly, two of Viola's classic videos, Anthem and Reflecting Pool, were removed from YouTube in late March 2008 due to terms of use violation (Raskado, 2007a; Raskado, 2007b). It was not possible to determine who instigated these removals, but I suggest that they are the result of Viola's (and potential other stakeholders') interest in restricting and controlling the access to his art.

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Most YouTube users commenting on Viola's videos are obviously at least in part familiar with his work. Some even indicate to be professionally concerned with Viola at institutions like university or school. See a comment posted in May 2007: Razu: Could you please keep this and Part 2 hosted until the end of the month? I want to use them in my art class! Thank you so much (Svsugvcarter, 2007). In commenting on Viola as a classic of video art, many users demonstrate their learning by using the jargon of art criticism. Some of those users reproduce art criticisms typical judgment on Viola almost literally. See the following comment from August 2007, which debunks the all too great accessibility of his work. underli1nked: structure. construction. life. anyway, energy of life is everywhere, even in dead things, in memory. mechanism of life is still working. great narration and a great storyteller, but in some moments is too obvious, but anyway: tnx bill (Raskado, 2007a) Some comments demonstrate how strongly Viola's work is associated with high art by comparing the context of YouTube with the museum context. In December 2007, one users argues that Viola's videos have to be viewed in the proper image quality to be fully appreciated. demonjiman: Seeing this video on youtube is a bit like seeing a thumbnail of a Rubens painting in a book; it shouldn't be mistaken for the real thing. I've see it full size & full quality in a couple of museums, & it is haunting & brilliant. Here, it's a muddle, but thanks for posting & jogging my memory.... (Raskado, 2007b) YouTube also hosts various parodies of Viola's best known works. The PASSIONS A Bill Viola Parody for example shows a man pulling faces, as opposed to the gravely dramatic quality of the original. On the one hand, these parodies caused a considerable number of critical comments defending Viola's work. Most of these critical comments insinuate that the creators of the parodies do not dispose of the cultural knowledge necessary to appreciate true art. See the following comment posted in November 2007: Wacek4444: Actually, I found THIS very dull, on the contrary to Viola's vids. It's not insightful, rather pathetic than funny. After 1 min of watching you get the 75

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whole idea. Well - a filmmaker makes a film, an idiot makes a parody. I guess in case of this guy, Viola's videos worked pretty much like showing a book to an illiterate. One's too ignorant/stupid to understand, so he's laughing his ass off, because the characters look like little maggots to him. Why not, have a good laugh, kiddo (SKB123, 2006). This in turn prompts an equally considerable number of users to charge those self-declared connoisseurs with being arrogant windbags. Apart from formulating personal attacks, these users criticize the elitism of art establishment, of which Viola is taken as a representative. See a comment from April 2008: MisinterpretedMonkey: That pisses me off! Why is some stuff only good cos an art critic says it is. I bet Bill Viola was just pissing about cos he was bored when some ponce in a beret came along and offered him 200,000. He thought "awesome! Now I just need to keep knocking off the same old boring shit and some art gimp will come up with a deep metaphorical reason behind it" (Daverowland45, 2006). On the one hand, this case study shows the importance of art establishment in shaping YouTube users' knowledge and opinion about Viola. The admirers of Viola form a loose community by sharing the jargon and dominant judgements of art criticism. They obviously agree that one needs to dispose of this cultural background to fully appreciate Viola's art. On the other hand, YouTube also makes Viola's art accessible to viewers who would not normally visit exhibitions or read art journals, or who simply are not interested in his work. These users also form a loose community by sharing their explicit disrespect for either Viola in particular, or the intellectual and linguistic conventions of art establishment in general. YouTube thus becomes a locus where otherwise separated audiences meet. Case study B) Megan and Murray McMillan are Rhode Island artists collaborating in video, photography and installation. Their discursive status cannot be compared to Viola's fame as a classic, though they are firmly rooted in art establishment. Another potentially insightful difference to case study a) is that the McMillans intentionally use YouTube as a platform to mediate their art. The McMillans' work is usually concerned with contemporary political issues. Their recent project The Listening Array for example critically relates Cold War espionage paranoia and Reagan-era social politics to the current state of American domestic and exterior politics. This project consists of an installation and a scenic video performance which uses the

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installation as a setting. The installation consists of a posh dinner table which is surrounded by a semicircular wall of sound-amplifying tubes. In the scenic video performance, the dinner table is the site of an upper-class evening party, while actors on the other side of the wall carefully eavesdrop on what the participants of the soiree are saying. The artists' website indicates that the installation was specifically inspired by Reagan and Gorbechev's dinner parties in Reykjavik, Iceland (McMillan & McMillan, 2008a). In the last couple of years, the McMillans have participated in a considerable range of international projects. Their work was for example featured in group exhibitions at Can Serrat International Center, Barcelona, at the National Museum of Art in La Paz, Bolivia, and at the Istanbul Biennial 2007. The McMillan also received grants from the Dallas Museum of Art and Purdue University (McMillan & McMillan, 2008a). The McMillans host a channel on YouTube, containing 30 different videos by May 20, 2008 (Meganandmurray, 2008). These videos can be subdivided into three categories. First, actual video art. This kind of material is accessible via YouTube in the same form as it would be shown in a museum. It is usually tagged as video, art, plus some descriptive search terms referring to the content, e.g. Cold, War, Listening, Array. The viewer is normally also provided with a short explanation of what the artists had in mind when creating that particular work. Second, there are recordings of installations at museums. This kind of video give the viewer an impression of what it would be like to be physically present at the exhibition/gallery. The material is throughout described as Performance art documentation in the info section. Third, some videos that show the artists in the process of testing tools and assembling raw materials for the creation of future installations. These videos are identified as test footage with equal accuracy. The channel furthermore provides a link to the McMillan's website, where extensive information about their work is provided, including a weblog about current projects (McMillan & McMillan, 2008c). The website features little video material. The YouTube channel is thus used as an important complementary platform. Still, it has overall attracted little attention. By May 15, 2008, the channel was visited 2165 times since its launch in January 2007. Individual videos were watched between 1253 and 65 times in the same period. Clearly, the McMillans use their YouTube channel to support networking with other artists. This becomes apparent when browsing through the list of friends and subscribers to the channels. Most of these are artists themselves and host a channel of their own. It seems to be a common practice for the McMillans to answer subscriptions by artistic peers with subscribing to their channels in turn. See the following channel comments exchanged between artist abeferraro and the McMillans in February 2007: 77

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abeferraro: Interesting looking installation / performance work...looks pretty involved to puty on one of your shows. meganandmurray: Thanks, yeah, the process is fairly involved. We're making more video art than live performance these days, but it's essentially the same process, built for a camera instead of an audience. abeferraro: Thanks for subscribing...keep up the good work!!! (Meganandmurray, 2008) These networks usually transcend the regional scale. None of the subscribing artists indicates to be located in Rhode Island. Users generally commented very little on the videos themselves. Comments on video art and recordings of installations are generally positive and monosyllabic. See an entry posted in September 2007: XcubanFilipinaX: cool (Meganandmurray, 2007b) Comments on test footage on the other hand prompted more verbose feedback. See for example the video Underwater Testing: Tzia, Greece, which is the result of the McMillans testing an underwater camera for a future video artwork. The short clip consists only of a recording of sea weed, shot in a shallow bay. In August 2007, one user commented in a slightly more extensive way than XcubanFilipinaX. Subject of the comment were objective technical aspects: cestrius: Pretty nifty except please hold the camera still for a second or two so we can get a clear picture of what we are looking at. :) By the way, what brand and model of camera were you testing? (Meganandmurray, 2007a) There is clearly a difference in style and content of comments. While comments on artistic content is extremely short and subjective, comments on test footage is a little more extensive and aimed at more objective issues such as recording technique. Although this is admittedly a thin empirical basis, I suggest that the difference in style and content of comments is partly a result of the clear categorization by which the McMillans administer their channel. Declared test footage addresses a potentially a very large number of users who post videos themselves, and who consequently feel entitled to comment on technical aspects. Declared artistic content on the contrary implicitly addresses an audience that dispose of more cultural knowledge, i.e.

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art connoisseurs or other artists. Fewer users can be assumed to fulfill these requirements, comments on artistic content are thus rare and more restrained. This is also mirrored in the user ratings of the material. While test footage received a vote of two stars out of five on average, artistic content and recordings of installations were throughout rated five out of five. This case study proves that YouTube can serve as a platform for networking among artists. The networking activity is not restricted to a regional scale. This is probably due to the McMillan's firm rootedness in art establishment, which permits them to exhibit their work on a large international scale. The McMillans furthermore exert a strict curatorial effort in presenting their material. Videos created with an artistic intention are clearly separated from making-of footage. Both kinds of material implicitly address different kinds of viewers. Making-of footage attracted the attention of a larger DIY community, while artistic videos on the other hand address a community of a small connoisseur audience. Case study C) Brian Presnell is an emerging Indianapolis based artist who produces paintings, sculptures, video art and installations. Like the McMillans, he uses YouTube actively to proliferate his works. Still, as this case study will reveal, there are significant differences in how he presents his art on YouTube. Before going into this in detail, some general words on Presnell's art. His creations are conceptually unified in that they all introduce a range of recurring characters, some of them fictional, others local or national celebrities. There is for example Bobby Knight, an American basketball coach who is known for his sometimes violent outburst on the field, or the fictional southerner William Robert, a self-declared local historian of the city of Indianapolis. In his video performances, which Presnell uses as a raw material for his installations, he impersonates those characters by wearing absurd costumes. The characters are shown while engaged in their typical behaviour. Violent Bobby Knight thus demolishes chairs on basketball fields, while Robert Williams gives guided tours to historical sites such as the shop where David Letterman used to work as a teenager. Presnell's art consists mainly in developing the stereotypical identities of his characters, while he himself as a real person disappears (Presnell, 2008). As an artist, Presnell is only beginning to penetrate the art scene. His biggest success so far has been the above mentioned solo exhibition at the iMOCA. This exhibition was favorably reviewed by the independent weblog onthecusp.org (Scott, 2008). The exhibition thus can be said to have triggered art critical discussion on Presnell's work, however restricted. 79

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Brian Presnell hosts a channel on YouTube, on which he features 28 of his video performances (IMBPrez, 2008). The channel contains very different kinds of video material. There is a range of parodic country music clips, performances in which Presnell develops his characters, and absurd video safaris through the territory of allegedly carnivorous sparrows and squirrels. The channel is introduced by the laconic one-liner A series of short performance videos I use as a foundation for some of my art work. It provides no further information about Presnell, nor a link to his website. Hints that the individual pieces are part of a larger conceptual framework can only be found when watching the videos themselves. The are for example videos in which several characters (all embodied by Presnell himself) appear one after another and react to each other (e.g. Bobby Knight and William Robert). All videos are tagged in an ironically descriptive manner, e.g. William, Robert, squirrels, carnivorous, wildlife, etc. No video is tagged as art, performance, or the like. Obviously, Presnell consciously abstains from overtly stressing the artistic intention of his work. The channel has been viewed 1633 times since its launch on December 21, 2006. The number of views of his videos is generally modest, ranging between 77 and 6130. There are furthermore 28 subscriptions to the channel. Some of the subscribers are artists themselves and host YouTube channels of their own. Since most of them indicate to be equally located in the state of Indiana (IMBPrez, 2008), networking activity is obviously restricted to a local scale. Contacts between Presnell and other artists have probably been established through personal contact in the first place. Presnell's videos prompted very few comments. Some of these few comments though suggest that the videos were not perceived as being part of a larger artistic context, but merely as another specimen of typical YouTube fun videos. Issues discussed by users are consequently entertainment value and redundancy of the videos as compared to other YouTube content. See a comment from April 2008: blackdutch 1 This ish is funny as hell!! Especially the 'Hillbilly' store clerk! HA!HAAAA!! (IMBPrez, 2007a) Some users more specifically judge Presnell's success in satirizing everyday life in Indianapolis. This indicates again that the channel attracts a local audience. See the following comment from Ocotober 2007: jayniebabe this sucks! nowhere near as funny as the real thing! waste of time! 80

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(IMBPrez, 2007a) As mentioned above, the channel's most popular video was viewed 6130 times. It is a parodic performance of a song by popular country singer Charly Pride. One viewers' comment from November 2007 suggests that s/h hit upon it not because they s/he was interested in Presnell's work, but simply because they s/he was looking for Charly Pride material on YouTube. bleauuwitch Great song lol looks like fun im singing along with yas I love charlie pride he was my first country show. I was 5. More charlie tunes please. (IMBPrez, 2007b) Presnell's channel is another example of YouTube serving as a platform for networking among artists. Contrary to the McMillans' channel, this networking activity is restricted to a regional scale, and seems to be based on personal contact. Since Presnell abstains from declaring his videos as art or otherwise, he does not presuppose a particular audience. Most other users do not perceive the videos posted to Presnell's channel as pertaining to a larger conceptual framework. They rather consume it as typical YouTube entertainment content. There is consequently little evidence of community formation among users. Case study D) The last case study is concerned with photographer Noah Kalina, whose career as an artist was significantly triggered through the positive reception of his video Everday by the community of YouTube users (NK5000, 2006). Everyday was originally intended as a photo project. Kalina, who previously had no access to art establishment, took one picture a day successively throughout almost six years. Inspired by a video of artist Ahree Lee, Kalina decided to make a short film out of the material instead of merely assembling the photos as a series of selfportraitures. The video in its actual form shows 2356 pictures of Kalina in about six minutes, always taken from the same angle. Kalina's changing hairdo and clothes create a striking contrast to the steadfast expression of his face. The video is underlayed by a piano score composed by musician Carly Comando. Posted to YouTube on August 28, 2006, Everyday received several ten thousand views within a couple of days. Tastemaker sites like Kottke.org and Yahoo Pick recommended Kalina's video three days after he posted it, but their influence on its proliferation was probably not significant. CBS Evening News's feature on Everyday on the other hand, broadcast on

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September 8, certainly amplified its popularity to a significant degree. By October 8, the video had reached a number of 3 million views. Kalina was furthermore invited as a special guest to the VH1 award show in December 2008 (Kalina, 2008). Everyday started to attract attention by renowned international quality media such as the German Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (October 12, 2006) and the New York Times (March 18, 2007) with a slight delay (Kalina, 2008). Whereas big media like CBS and VH1 mainly helped to mediate Everyday to an even broader audience, those quality media initiated discussion on the artistic value of the video. The respective New York Times article for example quotes very favorable comments on Kalina's work by art historian and curator William E. Ewing. Ewing argues that Kalina's video has helped to establish a new form of portraiture and sets a new standard of audience interest. (...) He hypnotizes you with those eyes, Mr. Ewing said. The changing background and the changing hairstyle enhances a frenetic pace, the feeling of hurtling through space. But there is also a sense of a kind of dispassionate distance, the feeling of being the observer. Unlike a single digital image, the kind that appears on Flickr, in this film there is a sense of rapidity and infinite possibility. Its a remarkable piece, Mr. Ewing continued (Schneider, 2007). Art establishment started to adopt Kalina's work at the same time. He was thus invited to participate in the prestigious exhibition Were All Photographers Now, held at at the Muse de lElyse in Lausanne between February and May 2007. Exhibitions in Torrance, Los Angeles, and Milan, Italy, followed. This does not mean that Kalina's status as an artist was uncontested. Artist and Yale professor of photography Richard Benson for example referred to Kalina's work as a complete waste of time in an interview with the New York Times. However contested, Kalina had gained access to art establishment. Commodification of his art started to take place at about the same time. Although Everyday is still accessible to anybody via YouTube, Kalina's website now offers prints of most of the 2356 photographs the video is made up of. The prints are available in a format of 6x4.5, each signed and numbered by the artists. The price is 50$ for national delivery. As indicated above, YouTube users' immediate reaction to Everyday was overwhelmingly positive. Most viewers admit to be haunted by the combination of music and the evocative power of the images. Issues frequently discussed in early comments are furthermore the following: who composed the video's soundtrack? Is Kalina really as melancholic a person as a he appears to be in the video? etc. Typical for DIY culture, another group of early commenters discusses the technical aspects of Kalina's video. There is for 82

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example a considerable number of mostly negative comments that charge Kalina with having faked the photographs. Those users suggest that Everyday was actually composed of photos taken in a much shorter period than six years, thereby contesting the value of the video as such. See a comment from January 2007: killalopez: very gay. this shit is obvisouly fake, and can be done in a week, by taking numour fucking pictures and just taking a day to make a vid (NK5000, 2006). Many users on the other hand passionately defend Everyday, arguing that it cannot possibly be a fake. A comment from March 2007: Lord Drago80: Hey, I remember you from some other video. We got into this huge argument, remember? I see that your idiocy will always prevail wherever you go, eh? No, this man took a picture of himself every day for six years and compiled it on the computer. Everything else you could fake but there's one thing you can't fake; the hair and the eyes. Even if it had been faked, which it wasn't, there's no way he wouldn't have had to spend a considerable amount of time doing this video (NK5000, 2006). The question of authenticity seems to be an important criterion for most viewers' judgment on the video. The artist's daily commitment to his project is repeatedly highlighted by declared admirers of Everyday. See a comment posted in April 2007: The Mortal One: Commitment. 6 years. wow (NK5000, 2006). Remarkably, the arguments about wether or not the creation of Everyday involved post-editing visibly wear off in the later section of the comments. On the one hand, we may assume that growing media attention had an influence in the gradual disappearance of comments that debunk Everyday for being fake. The visibility of Kalina on influential TV stations certainly encouraged YouTube users to take the authenticity of his video for granted, according to the logic: If even TV says so, it must be true. At the same time, I more specifically suggest that it was also Kalina's increasingly confirmed status as an artist that made people loose interest in scrutinizing Everday for evidences of post-editing. The following comment posted in May 2007 for example argues that since Kalina's video is art, it simply should not be questioned in terms of fake/authentic. Even if Everyday was post-edited, this would not diminish its artistic achievement, since art is by definition artificial.

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TimbalandD: I agree, stop critisizing every aspect of this video, it is a cool piece of ART, it's unique, stop trying to find something wrong, and just enjoy it for what it is people, thank U, I'm out (NK5000, 2006)! Whereas most early comments on Everyday were written in a very personal tone, usually expressing the emotions the video aroused in viewers, later comments increasingly adopt a manifestly artistic discourse. Everyday is now being praised not only for moving the individual viewer, but more specifically for its metaphoric quality. See the following comment from July 2007: Selene231: it appears as though you gradually gain a deeper understanding of mortality. it seems as though as the film progresses, your expression becomes subtle - i think you gave this out through a change in lighting and color resolution. it reminds me of rembrandt's self portrait series and as he grows older, his portrait captures the subtler and denser feelings and wisdom that come from age. i was deeply moved by this piece and look forward to how this progresses. Just like in the case of Bill Viola, arguments between insiders and outsiders ensue. Some users adopt the role of connoisseurs, accusing others that they simply do not dispose of the cultural background necessary to appreciate Kalina's video. Marnold: Noah has a vision and a version of art he created. Whether you like it is your choice, but the pedestrian and vulgar comments make me sad for the state of education in our country. For something that so many seem to hate--we usually act against what we don't understandthe mouthbreathing contingency has dedicated quite some time. Noah, good stuff (NK5000, in April 2007). On the one hand, this case study proves YouTube's potential to create popularity transcending the medium. Everyday's enormous success finally attracted the attention of art critics and museums, who elevated Kalina to the rank of an acknowledged artist. On the other hand, user comments on the video once again shows YouTube users' receptivity to discourses originating in art establishment. As Kalina was gradually admitted to the art scene, many users' perception of his video Everyday changed. This brought into being a loose community of users who no longer refer to Kalina's video as a typical product of DIY culture, but as an acknowledged piece of art. As such, it is no longer open to technical scrutiny, but to aesthetic and art historic association.

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Conclusion My case studies show a clear relation between Bourdieu's category of institutionalized cultural capital and the formation of art related communities on YouTube. Bill Viola's widely acknowledged status as a classic of video art for example visibly informed many users' opinion on his works. In the case of Noah Kalina, we can complementarily observe how reception among YouTube users changed as the artist acquired more institutionalized cultural capital through exhibitions and favorable reviews by art critics. Users increasingly perceived his video Everyday as a piece of art, and no longer as a random specimen of typical YouTube content. In both cases, the high amount of institutionalized cultural capital made some users group into a loose community of self-declared connoisseurs, who share the jargon and intellectual habitus of art criticism. This result is consistent with what Schepers (this issue) and Wolters (this issue) find in their contributions. Similar to communities of flash mobbers and smokers, the formation of art related communities on YouTube is significantly triggered through discourses originating outside YouTube. I observed another relation between the formation of art related communities on YouTube and the category of embodied cultural capital. By explicitly declaring their works as art, the McMillans address an exclusive community of users who dispose of the cultural capital necessary to comment on high art. Brian Presnell on the contrary has no interest in stressing the artistic intention behind his videos. Since he does not presuppose a connoisseur audience, users did not group into an art related community. In all these aspects, YouTube as a platform reproduces the dynamics Bourdieu has sketched in his theory of cultural capital. But in other regards, YouTube also challenges these dynamics. It is specific to this platform that artists like Viola and Kalina not only attracts a connoisseur community, but also the comments of users who share their disrespect and even opposition to the intellectual habitus and jargon of art establishment. Audiences who would not normally meet in traditional contexts like museums or art journals are thus directly confronted. Typically, arguments between insiders and outsiders ensue, in which the conventions of art establishment are alternately affirmed and contested. This allows to draw another parallel to Wolters' contribution (Wolters, this issue). Just like YouTube serves as a platform where smoker communities subvert the dominant social discourse on smoking, it aggregates users who oppose the otherwise widely accepted conventions of art establishment. The case of Noah Kalina also shows that YouTube has a specific discursive power that can feed back on the dynamics of art establishment. The millions of views his video Everyday achieved on YouTube attracted the attention of art critics and museums, who consequently 85

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elevated it to the rank of art. Kalina thus achieved access to art establishment by using YouTube as a platform for his work. My investigation finally proves that YouTube serves as a platform for community building among artists. Both the McMillans and Presnell use YouTube for networking with peers, most likely for the purpose of professional collaboration. While the McMillans do so on a larger geographical scale, Presnell's networks seem to be more regional and mostly based on prior face-to-face contacts. This ties in again with Schepers' observation that YouTube communities potentially complement the activities of offline communities (Schepers, this issue). As Schepers suggest though, further research would be needed to assess the relation between online and offline aspects of these networking activities in greater detail.

References Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital (R. Nice, Trans.). In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook for theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241258). New York: Greenwood Press. Bourdieu, P. (1993). The field of cultural production: Essays on art and literature (R. Johnson, Ed. & Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. Cooke, R. (2008, April 23). 'Bill Viola. The man known as the Rembrandt of video art returns to Australia'. Time Out Sidney. Retrieved May 12, 2008 from http://timeoutsydney.com.au/ arts/bill-viola.aspx McKenzie, J. (2004, February 17). 'Bill Viola: The Passions.' Studio International. Retrieved May 13, 2008 from http://www.studio-international.co.uk/new_media/viola_passions.asp McMillan, M. & McMillan, M. (2008a). Exhibitions. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from http://www.meganandmurraymcmillan.com/McMillan.html McMillan, M. & McMillan, M. (2008b). N.b. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from http://www.meg anandmurray.com/the_listening_array/index.html McMillan, M. & McMillan, M. (2008c). N.b. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from http://www.meg anandmurraymcmillan.com/ Kalina, N. (2008). N.b. Retrieved May 15, 2008 from http://everyday.noahkalina.com/faq.htm Parfait, F. (2001). Video: Un art contemporain. Paris: Editions du Regard. Presnell, B. (2008). N.b. Retrieved May 15, 2008, from http://www.brianpresnell.com/

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Rawlings, A. (2006, May 15). 'Interview with Bill Viola.' Tokyo Art Beat. Retrieved May 12, 2008 from http://www.tokyoartbeat.com/tablog/entries.en/2006/11/interview_with_bill_ viola.html Scott. (2006). Review: Who's Brian Presnell? ON THE CUSP. Posted March 29, 2006, accessed May 12, 2008 from http://on-the-cusp.blogspot.com/2006/03/review-whos-brianpresnell.html Schneider, K. (2007, March 18). 'Look at Me, World! Self-Portraits Morph Into Internet Movies.' The New York Times. Retrieved May 10, 2008 from http://www.nytimes.com/2007/03/18/arts/design/18schn.html?_r=3&ref=design&oref=slogin& oref=slogin&oref=slogin Wikipedia (2008). Bill Viola. Retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Viola YouTube sources Daverowland45. (2006). Bill Viola is Rubbish! [posted November 4, 2006, accessed 10 May 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJPW31Bt9v0 IMBPrez (2007a). Duct tape bandit. [posted August 21, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N_P0UOZ6fEs IMBPrez. (2007b). Charlie pride song. [posted May 22, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eN63eQPLPoE IMBPrez. (2008). IMBPrez Channel. [joined December 21, 2006, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=IMBPrez MeganandMurray (2008). Meganandmurray's Channel. [joined January 20, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/user/meganandmurray Meganandmurray. (2007a). Underwater Testing: Tzia, Greece. [posted July 9, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a9wWiDyNcMA Meganandmurray. (2007b). Yellow Window, 1998. [posted January 26, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BGSqlyVckJU NK5000. (2006). Noah takes a photo of himself everyday for 6 years. [posted August 27, 2006, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B26asy GKDo SKB123. (2006). The PASSIONS A Bill Viola Parody. [posted August 16, 2006, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsmXY9_1KYc Svsugvcarter. (2007). Hatsu Yume Part 1. [posted May 10, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FvRmU6YjcRo

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Raskado. (2007a). Anthem. [posted March 8, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp_UJ7EsT38 Raskado. (2007b). The Reflecting Pool. [posted March 9, 2007, accessed May 13, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxTl5Km_hbs

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Feeling Lonely Planet The social negotiation of a brand on YouTube


Lucas Cornips Suppose youve made a wonderful backpack trip around Thailand some years ago. Now you sit behind the desk in your room and in the bookshelves you see your old beloved Lonely Planet travel guide of Thailand how nostalgic! You sigh and long for new traveladventures, but this time you really want to travel the world. But how to make a travel plan? Where exactly would you like to go and what kind of travelling would fit best? You turn on the computer. Without a prefixed goal you surf the web to find inspiration for types of travelling and wonderful destinations. As you normally do in these surfing sessions, you go to YouTube. In the search bar you type in the first thing that accidentally comes up in your head: Lonely Planet travelling. A world of travel videos opens up for you Searching for Lonely Planet on YouTube results in tens of videos posted by the user LonelyPlanet. The avatar26 of this user consists of the official logo of the travel company27 and most of the video descriptions end with a call to travel with Lonely Planet. That commercial interests play a role on YouTube should not be very remarkable: one would have to be very nave to suppose that only individuals engage in the largest video-sharing platform in the world. Brouwers (this issue) for example investigates how a big commercial actor in her case Oprah strategically infiltrates this web 2.0 application. The commercial activities of brands on YouTube provide the wider context for this article, which will investigate one particular form of commercial involvement. Examples of (big) commercial parties on YouTube are not hard to find: the number of advertisements (often located right next to the frame in which the videos play) is increasing (Montgomery, 2008, p. 34). But simple advertising is just one concrete form through which companies pursue their commercial goals on YouTube; there are also other more sophisticated types of commercial involvements: The nature and extent of direct involvement by marketers into the daily communication and community-building activities of young people is unprecedented. Using sophisticated data mining, research, and targeting tools,
An avatar is a small picture that represents a YouTube user. Lonely Planet is a worldwide company with over 400 employees. Core business is the publishing of all kinds of travel guides. The corporation also produces television for broadcasters like Discovery Channel and National Geographic: see www.lonelyplanettelevision.com.
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companies are able to strategically penetrate MySpace, YouTube, and other social-networking platforms in order to exploit them for commercial purposes (Montgomery, 2008, p. 34). This article will explore a particular kind of the sophisticated infiltrations in YouTube by marketers. Lonely Planets activities on YouTube will be understood by adopting two complementary empirical approaches, both framed by appropriate marketing theory. A short discussion of emotional-branding theory will give insight in the Lonely Planet videos from a marketing perspective. By mediating certain alluring themes in their videos, Lonely Planet aims to create a particular positive brand image. Secondly, this article will use marketing literature on brand communities to give insight in the social dynamics that underlie the presence of the brand Lonely Planet on YouTube. Adopting this marketing literature consequently leads to a question posed from the viewpoint of Lonely Planet: to what extent takes a brand-friendly community form on YouTube? Before investigating this issue, I will introduce a marketing framework that sheds light on the Lonely Planet videos on YouTube. Feeling travel experiences: emotional branding on YouTube Since the late 1990s marketers increasingly realised the shortcomings of the conventional benefit-driven approach to branding. This branding paradigm is based on the claim that brands will gain a competitive advantage if they succeed in establishing a clear benefit position in the mind of the consumer (Thompson, Rindfleisch & Arsel, 2006, p. 51). In contrast, emotional branding marketers argue that straightforward benefit appeals are insufficient to bind consumers to a particular brand for a long time, especially in the often saturated marketing environments in which brands like Lonely Planet move. Rather than just capitalize on rational consumer motives, the emotional branding strategy is based on the premise that it is the brand meaning that moves people to abiding brand loyalty. Thus, the goal for the brand strategist is to forge strong, meaningful, affective bonds between consumers and the brand. Such a goal can be pursued by telling stories that inspire and captivate the customer (Thompson, Rindfleisch & Arsel, 2006, p. 51). In the case of Lonely Planet, those stories are mediated through 31 travel videos28. Most of these videos are derived from Lonely Planets own video-sharing website www.lonelyplanet.tv. Lonely Planet encourages travellers to upload their DIY travel videos to this website by offering 500 dollar for the best videos, which will then also be featured on the Lonely Planet channel on YouTube.
28

This number of videos was counted on May 22, 2008. The Lonely Planet channel was officially launched in April 2008.

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The travel videos aim to associate Lonely Planet with a diverse set of positive meanings. I have categorised those meanings according to three themes that stand out most prominently: the theme of adventure, a fun theme, and a feel-good theme29. Although some of the featured videos encompass more than just one theme, I will elicit videos that most strikingly express one of each themes. The in-depth analysis of themes will focus on video content (e.g. featured narratives, anecdotes or events), video style (e.g. pace of editing or camera movements) and style and function of the music or sounds. The video Lonely Planet: Jump into the deep end travel (LonelyPlanet, 2008a) explicitly expresses the adventure theme. Narrator is Citt Williams, a documentary producer for Lonely Planet television who claims to be a sucker for adventure. As Citt acknowledges, she bites off a little more than she can chew. To illustrate this, Citt relates her three most adventurous travel experiences in wild places. Her third best experience is glacier walking in a national park in Patagonia, Chile. When Citt arrived in the park, so she narrates, it started to snow and therefore the national park would close. Citt, not shying away for a little danger, put up her tent anyway. In the middle of the night this freezing cold wind came in () and I lay in the tent and its shaking around and Im thinking to myself: what the hell am I doing here!? Her number two travel adventure is a mountain climbing experience at MtCook National park, New Zealand. While showing airplane-shots of New Zealands impressive mountains, Citt relates how a blizzard surprised her and her climbing group. After staying in a mountain hut for a couple days, the team run out of food and had no option but to walk out into the blizzard. Because of the snowstorm, Citt couldnt see the person in front of her, nor the mountains or the ground: I dont think Ive ever been so scared in my whole life. Finally, Citt shares her experiences in Mongolia, through which she cycled 2500 kilometres. The trip was tough: the roads were bad, the bikes were heavy and at the end of each day Citt and her fellow travellers had to put up their tents and cook their own dinners. But it was totally worth it; Citt recommends cycling in Mongolia for being one the most frontier travel experiences that youll ever have. In this video, the official logo of Lonely Planet is edited clearly visible in the bottom left corner of the screen:
Of course, the 31 travel videos could be categorised by several criteria. Amongst others, by their maker: either Lonely Planet employees or independent travellers who made a DIY video for the Lonely Planet video contest on www.lonelyplanet.tv. Also, the videos could be categorised by the destination (e.g. travelling to New York) or the event (e.g. a tattoo festival) covered in the videos. However, since the emotional branding strategy is all about captivating stories, it seems most logical to categorise the videos along the type of captivating story. The majority of the 31 videos recurrently and explicitly stress the excitement of adventure in travelling, the ironic and fun nature of Lonely Planet travelling, and the alluring, nostalgic experiences associated with travelling. The dominance of these types of captivating stories justifies the selection of the adventure, fun and feel-good themes for a more in-depth analysis.
29

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All the Lonely Planet videos on YouTube show this logo. Similarly, all the videos start and end with a full screen display showing the brands name on a blue background the returning colour of all Lonely Planets products:

Finally, the video description ends with a call to the viewer to travel with Lonely Planet. Thus, the goal of this video is two folded: it aims to associate Lonely Planet with a sense of adventure, and the viewer is urged to travel with Lonely Planet. The fun theme is amongst others clearly expressed in Lonely Planet: Dammed Yangtze travel (LonelyPlanet, 2008b). This video is centred around a couple of young 92

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British and American males sharing their holiday enjoyments in China. The friends booked a trip on a cruise ship. Stopping by in a town, the boys visited a local club and decided to go weird. At this point in the video, up-tempo western-style music sets in and the corresponding images show the strangely dressed friends doing a clearly ridiculous dance. The camera turns upside down to underline the crazy and fun character of the disco visit. The video description emphasizes this fun image of the video: Rollin' on down the river. Flippin', partyin', and enjoying the sights. Thus, this video aims to associate Lonely Planet with a sense of fun. The video Lonely Planet: Timeless in Thailand (LonelyPlanet, 2008c) is the best example of a video creating a feel-good atmosphere. Timeless in Thailand is a video of Tony, a young man looking back on his unforgettable experiences in Thailand. Tony nostalgically wonders whether his stay lasted for one moment or one month. He recalls how Thailand was his never never land, while filming and describing some of his everlasting experiences: visits to exotic markets, parties on the beach until sunrise and most of all numerous relax sessions: Time did not exist, () no schedule, no plans. In this place, you couldve called me Peter Pan. Near the end of the video, Tony recalls how he asked a fellow traveller hey man, was this one moment or one month? The man replied it was two. In combination with the slow pace editing and the soft, soothing narration and acoustic guitar music, Timeless in Thailand aims to mediate a melancholic but very positive travel story. Thus, this video aims to associate Lonely Planet with what Ive called the feel-good theme. Community dynamics around Lonely Planet So far, I have investigated Lonely Planets activities on YouTube by analysing the content of the featured videos. What has not been discussed so far is the social dynamics that underlie the process of emotional branding. By disseminating a set of meanings through videos, Lonely Planet may partly shape peoples perception of the brand, but this perception is also shaped through interaction with other people (Thompson, Rindfleisch & Arsel, 2006). Rather than being delivered unaltered from brand to consumer (here: the viewer of the video), the brands meanings are socially negotiated in a consumer-brand-consumer triad30 (Muniz & OGuinn, 2001). Marketing literature addresses the social negotiation of brand meanings by

30

Muniz & OGuinn (2001) introduce this symbolic triad to emphasise the social nature of brands. Their description of brand negotiations in this triad aims to correct traditional approaches of marketing scholars who understood brands from the perspective of a simplistic consumer-brand dyad (p.427).

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focussing on the dynamics of brand communities; more broadly called commercial communities31. From a commercial point of view the internet and web 2.0 applications such as chat rooms and bulletin boards, provide platforms where consumers can gather to exchange meanings, ideas and information about products, services and brands (Wiertz, 2005; McWilliam, 2000; Stockdale & Borovicka, 2006). For companies, hosting such platforms intends to enhance communication between people in a virtual community. This offers diverse potential advantages for companies like Lonely Planet: In addition to increasing loyalty to the brand, virtual communities allow for () stronger relationship building. Furthermore, the company has the opportunity to monitor the ongoing peer-to-peer conversations in order to gather insights about the ideas, trends and problems that their customers deal with, as well as collect information about how its customers evaluate the products and services offered by the sponsor. () Finally, by solving each others problems in the virtual community, customers essentially take over service functions traditionally performed by service employees (Wiertz, 2005, p. 7-8). This consumer to consumer collaboration differs from the traditional brand relationship where the communication flows between the vendor and the consumer (McWilliam, 2000, p. 45). Opinions, advices and information provided by regular people are attractive to peers because they enable to recognize in each other people like me and () form genuine relationships with like-minded people (McWilliam, 2000, p. 45). This peer-to-peer advantage helps explaining why commercial communities proliferate so strongly since the growth of web 2.0 applications: the interactive interfaces (e.g. bulletin boards, chat rooms) support and stimulate the customer to customer communication (Ridings & Gefen, 2004, p. 2). Marketers point to the special importance of virtual communities for the travel industry. Due to the experiential nature of travelling, commercial communities are supposed to meet the urge of travellers to shape and share their travel tales enabling others to imaginatively travel the world as well (Wang, Yu & Fesenmaier, 2002). Apart from facilitating the exchange of these subjective experiences, provide communities also in practical travel needs:

31

Wiertz (2005) defines commercial communities as aggregations of customers who collectively co-produce and consume content about a commercial activity that is central to their interest by exchanging informational and social resources (pp. 6-7). She considers brand communities as particular kinds of commercial communities; aggregations of people with a passion for a brand (p.8).

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In the travel industry the Web is becoming our collective travel square as more and more travellers are turning to online travel communities to fulfil their travel-related tasks, ranging from seeking travel information and tips, making travel transactions fostering relationships with people from far away, finding travel companions (Wang, Yu, Fesenmaier, 2002, p. 407). Particularly the demand of consumers for travel information is stressed as an important incentive for the travel industry to foster online communities. Unlike regular, physical consumer products, the products and services in the travel community are to a great extent intangible, which means that tourism services cannot be physically displayed or inspected at the point of sale before purchasing. They are bought before the time of their use and away from the place of consumption (Buhalis, 1998, p. 411). As a result, the travel industry must rely upon representations and descriptions for example in the form of travel brochures to attract and inform consumers. This information-intense nature of travel products and services makes it attractive for Lonely Planet to create online communities since they ideally function as rich resources of travel-related information, exchanged by peers32. The marketing literature generally addresses four components as essential for the functioning of commercial communities: a shared interest (1), participation & interaction (2), reciprocity (3), and a facilitating online interface (4). Generally, marketers perceive a commercial community strong and successful when all of these components are present. The shared interest that binds community members is regarded as the most important characteristic of that community (Stockdale & Borovicka, 2006; Wiertz, 2005). Second, commercial communities should display active participation and interaction by and among the members relating to the commercial activity on which the community is based. Often, the marketing literature stresses the importance of much interaction: the more communication and interaction, the stronger the community (McWilliam, 2000, p. 45). The third desired attribute of communities is closely connected to interaction & participation: reciprocity. This holds that for a community to flourish, users are expected to feed back on the information, support and services they receive from others (Stockdale & Borovicka, 2006). Finally, online communication must be structured and supported by an online interface, using for example bulletin boards (Wiertz, 2005). Stockdale & Borovicka (2006) argue that Lonely Planet is successful in creating a brand community on their homepage www.lonelyplanet.com. The so-called Thorn Three Travel forum for instance is a much used platform where people come together to discuss all
32

Furthermore, an important advantage of these online communities is that their facilitation is relatively cheap (Wiertz, 2005).

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kinds of travel related issues.33 As mentioned before, Lonely Planet also hosts a video-sharing website www.lonelyplanet.tv.34 An analysis of the social dynamics on these Lonely Planet platforms obviously falls outside the scope of this research. However, these homepages do provide an interesting background for this research because Lonely Planet explicitly attracts YouTube users to Lonely Planets own online environments. Indeed, the Lonely Planet channel on YouTube incites viewers twice to visit the website www.lonelyplanet.tv for more videos. The fact that Lonely Planets channel incites users to visit Lonely Planet homepages may be regarded as an additional purpose of the channel, apart from the efforts to create a community around Lonely Planet on YouTube. As a matter of fact, Lonely Planets product manager acknowledged in an email-interview that their YouTube channel ultimately has two goals. Firstly, it aims to increase the brand exposure to the wide YouTube audience, and secondly, it aims to drive traffic back to www.lonelyplanet.tv (Sze, 2008). In the following part of this article I will assess to what extent a Lonely Planet community takes form on YouTube by loosely investigating the occurrence and attributes of the four components of successful commercial communities. This will be done by an in-depth qualitative analysis of the content (i.e. discussed topics, arguments, expressed meanings) and style (i.e. tone) of the interactions: the comments. I will start this empirical work with an investigation of a member-initiated community of Lonely Planet on YouTube. Indeed, apart from organisation sponsored communities Lonely Planets official You Tube channel also communities initiated by regular people or fans of a brand exist online (Porter, 2004, p.5). Ideally, member-initiated communities are highly valuable for brands such as Lonely Planet because the initiators will often act as brand missionaries, promoting the brand through their own invocative, personalised brand stories (Thompson, Rindfleisch & Arsel, 2006, p. 52). On March 20, 2006, the YouTube user Borderhopper initiated a group called Lonely Planet: backpackers and travellers of the world. Borderhopper appears to be a very dedicated fan of Lonely Planet35:

33

Stockdale & Borovicka (2006) claim that the Thorn Three Travel forum facilitates a successful travel community because the mutual support network is enhanced by the enthusiasm of the Thorn Three contributors who encourage fellow members to report back on their trips, offer advice and show a high level of interaction. 34 Visitors of this website are seduced to participate by the typical slogan A whole new world to explore. Live it. Shoot it. Share it (www.lonelyplanet.tv). 35 No evidence could be found that Borderhopper is a disguised employee of the corporation. This possibility however should be notified because YouTube users conceal their true identity see also the introduction of this journal (Brouwers, Cornips, Kaltenbrunner, Lamerichs, Schepers, Wolters, this issue).

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This group is dedicated to those of us who live each waking moment pondering the memories of their backpacking trip around the world () There is a place here for you if you live your life to travel, to explore, to learn, and to roam this fascinating world of ours. () Even if you've got an entire bookcase full of Lonely Planet guide books & haven't even crossed the pond there is still room for you here in this lonely corner of ours. () Happy travels!! (Borderhopper, 2006). As of May 22th 2008 the Lonely Planet backpackers group consists of 2212 videos, 1027 members and 127 discussions. These large numbers seem to reflect a true lively and successful community of Lonely Planet fans. Nothing is further from the truth: this group lacks many of the discussed elements of a commercial community. As one would expect in a Lonely Planet travel community, discussions concerning travel related issues are initiated by members. In the first discussion thread, opened on May 10, 2006, UptownKiko asked the group members whether anyone has had recent experiences in the city Buenos Aires in Argentina. UptownKiko writes not to have been there for twelve years, and she hopes for others to share their experiences of Buenos Aires with her. As of May 22, 2008, UptownKikos call still hasnt been answered to. This simple example of passivity by the members a lack of communal reciprocity is typical for this group. Still, many of the discussion threads are from users calling attention to their travel videos, and as such they reveal an incentive to share travel experiences with others. Unfortunately, the interface of YouTube has changed since the creation of this group in 2006, and the videos that users refer to in the discussion threads from 2006 are not easily accessible anymore. Therefore, posts like Beautiful British Columbia, need I say more by the user DeanSwosProductions have become rather peculiar; the videos referred to are not there anymore36. Here, the fast changing interface of YouTube is not supporting but obstructing the community dynamics. Another attribute of this group that stands out is the seemingly absence of a shared interest of its members. Since everyone can become a member by just one click, it may not be surprising that users also join this group who do no share an interest for travelling. This results in many videos not related to travelling at all. Consequently, the interactions around those videos if even present dont refer to the groups original subject. Other featured videos are geared towards supporting competitors of Lonely Planet. An example of this can be found by following the video-link under the forum thread PJ's Contiki Trip 2006 36

By clicking on the users name, one can still trace this video of a travel experience in British Columbia. It can be found in the list of videos of the user DeanSwosProductions. This clumsy detour, however, seems to work against an effective facilitation of community interactions.

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Australia/New Zealand. The video, made by pjcrap (2006), would fit the emotional branding paradigm fairly well: it is an attempt to tell an inspiring and captivating story.37 However, the problem from the stance of Lonely Planet of course is that the video aims to associate the related feel-good stories with the Contiki corporation. The discussion threads never successfully triggered discussion and interaction: most discussions received zero replies, and only some received one or more. The longer this travel group existed, the less to the point the discussions became: most members posted comments with the sole purpose to attract viewers for their (non-travel related) videos. Thus, the members in this group lack a shared interest to join the community and to participate in it. For these reasons, the attempt of the Lonely Planet travel fan to create a brand-friendly community did not succeed very well. In the following section I will assess the community dynamics in the organisation initiated Lonely Planet community. The channel comments provide a first indication of the question whether a friendly community-environment takes shape in this channel.38 The channel comments (52 as of May 22, 2008) are all short. Some comments are just requests for a subscription.39 Others explicitly compliment the exposed videos or post requests for more travel videos of certain countries not yet covered.40 Other comments are warm welcoming messages for Lonely Planet, or even straightforward fan declarations.41 Finally, the channel comment of gisbrei on April 20, 2008 stands out because it consists of an explicit call for help of peers in her decision process for a travel destination: Where should i go on vacation this fall? It has to be somewhere on the european side of the mediterrenean. () Someone help me!. Unfortunately for gisbrei, until May 22, 2008 no replies with tips have been posted a sign of a lack of interaction. Because the channel comments are generally favourable towards the channel, the videos and Lonely Planet, at least some of the channel visitors seem to have a shared interest: the brand or travelling in general. Still, this shared interest does not result in a

37

Note also how the description of this video refers to the nostalgic, positive travel experiences of the traveller: I miss Australia/New Zealand! I hope I can help bring back some memories of the friends and experience you have had over there =) (borderhopper, 2006). 38 The following elicited data all comes from the Lonely Planet channel page: http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=LonelyPlanet. 39 A typical example is from the user ayybayybayy, on April 10, 2008: Awesome videos I subscribed! Subscribe back? 40 On May 8, 2008 JeloRoc wrote for example: love the Lonely Planet bookshey, how about some videos to do with Africa? Senegal specifically:) 41 Such as the comment from throwashape on April 12, 2008: Woooohooo! .. so glad i found this channel! .. i adore Lonely Planet and it adores me :D ...... ive relied on LP books so many times and they never fail ... huge hug! X

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lively brand community as defined in the previous section: the comments do not reveal substantive interaction related to Lonely Planet or travelling. What about the community dynamics surrounding the Lonely Planet videos discussed in the first part of this article? I will start with the adventure video Lonely Planet: Jump into the deep end travel (LonelyPlanet, 2008a). Until May 22, 2008 this video received twenty text comments. These comments reveal widely divergent views on adventurous travelling. This gap in reception is clearly visible in two successive comments. The user jamesjdm expresses his enthusiasm towards the video: this is what hardcore travelling is all about! real traveling by real travellers! great vid lonely planet! The following comment by Raksaht is much more critical: Biting off more than you can chew is not adventure, it's irresponsible and Lonely Planet shouldn't publish stuff that Lonely Planet zombies will certainly try to emulate. Raksahts criticism must have touched a nerve; other users reacted fairly extensively on his condemnation of the video. For instance, the user ikabinks points to the inspiring nature of the adventurous video, stating that exactly the lack of control is what makes adventure real: I'm sorry if you think adventure should come in a bottle, nice and manufactured... personally I think you're missing out a little on life. Raksaht participates again in this controversy, stating that the adventurous traveller in the video not only put her own life, but also that of others in jeopardy. Although this video clearly incited communication amongst users, it is not the positive adventure tale that is the focal point of the communication. Rather, it is the perceived irresponsibility of the documented travel experiences that receives attention, thereby polarising the commentators in supporters and opponents of the video. The comments thus illustrate the presence of interaction around the Lonely Planet videos, but the characteristics of this interaction were probably not foreseen by the marketers. The video Lonely Planet: Dammed Yangtze travel (LonelyPlanet, 2008b) reveals a similar tension between supporters and opponents of the items documented in the video. Until May 22, 2008, this video received 29 comments, of which approximately half expresses a positive stance towards the video. These comments typically are short and simply confirm the entertaining value of the video. The user j2itellya for example wrote: These guys are hilarious, fun and would be awesome to travel with. Contrary to this supportive comment are the comments that condemn Lonely Planet, for instance the remark by drspin0501: Lonelyplanet recuited these low live presenters for the purpose of discreting themselves! Similarly, the user zeeyeezone responded: Wut a bunch of maggots!!! looneyplanet Shameful! These comments clearly reveal the heterogeneous perception of the fun theme 99

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and Lonely Planet in general. Furthermore, some of the users debunk Lonely Planet by contesting the expertise of the travelers and the guide book corporation. A clear example of this is the comment by PoppyMonsterMunch: Bit disrespectful don't you think? You haven't even spelt the name of the river correctly. Other than this, no travel related issues where raised in the discussion to this video, which again illustrates the lack of a shared interest and travel related interaction. The video Lonely Planet: Timeless in Thailand (LonelyPlanet, 2008c) received 34 text comments until May 22, 2008. This video, expressing what Ive called the feel-good theme, received again highly divergent comments - ranging from resentful to supportive. Interestingly, the user Raksaht participant in the adventure video discussion also commented on this video. Raksaht is clearly not happy with the way Thailand is documented in the video: And the overall message to the locals is that foreigners think that Thailand is a place to be irresponsible and a place to party. Full Moon Parties result in tons of trash. Stay home and ruin your own country and leave Thailand for folks who have a bit more respect for the people, the culture and the natural environment. This critical stance is shared by some other users. The user moonsseayp for example condemns travelers like the protagonist in the video for their prime interest in partying and getting drunk. However, the camp of opponents encounters contrary winds from supporters of the video. The user karlberg for example reacts against the negative comments, stating that this video is a nice attempt to express positive travel experiences: I think I understand what this video is all about...i guess it's about one of the best times the 'artist' has ever had. I respect that. It's poetic in some ways too as well. And it shows newbies how beautiful Thailand can look. The user mcctg13 unmistakably relates the video to his or her own positive (youth) experiences in Thailand: How i'd love to experience that feeling again. It's like your young and stupid once more. Despite this supportive comment, it is remarkable how the diverging responses to the video reveal the differences in perception of the mediated feel-good theme. The judgmental comments show from the perspective of the commercial community that a shared interest in (travel stories from) Thailand is not necessarily accompanied with positive interaction. Although the communication is centered around travel-related issues, it does not fit the community purpose to exchange travel information or experiences. Rather, these communications centre around controversies over the integrity of Lonely Planet (travelers).

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The non-supportive attitude of viewers towards Lonely Planet is a recurring phenomenon in Lonely Planets community on YouTube. One Lonely Planet video not discussed so far invoked particularly aggressive, anti-brand comments: Lonely Planet: a sick bag tour of Asia (LonelyPlanet, 2008d). For some unknown reason, this video received a relatively great deal of attention: it has been viewed over 500.000 times and it received 582 text comments until May 22, 200842. The video is centred around Howard Ralley, an employee of the marketing department of Lonely Planet. Howard says he likes to think of himself as an adventurer and a man of mystery, although, so he acknowledges, this self-image doesnt fit reality: who am I kidding, Im actually the worlds worst traveller: I get ill everywhere. But dont get me wrong, I love travelling. It opens up my eyes! Its just that it opens up my bowels as well.... With this introduction, screened in front of a bathroom interior, the author sets the tone for this video of travel experiences in Asia: it obviously expresses what Ive called the fun theme. Irony, corny remarks and a lot of banality appear in this video. Howards sick bag tour starts with food poisoning in India. After introducing India briefly this is done in a serious narration tone as a fantastic country with the most warming people in the world, Howard relates his experience with the local food: you might call it a curry, I call it a night from hell. In his second story about Thailand, Howard first stresses the beauty of the country, but for some unknown reason Howard suddenly ended up in the hospital. Howard ironically remarks that the hospital offered him the best view of Bangkok youve ever seen. Finally, Howard shares his experiences with deadly flora and fauna in Borneo. While showing sturdy footage of a hike through rough jungle, Howard relates a pseudo-adventurous story, about tracking along streams and crossing rapids. Arrived at their destination, Howard recalls his anxiety for the vampire fish, a tiny fish that is said to swim into your body via your urinary passages. Howard shares a very important travel tip with us: use a tea strainer in Borneo to safely pee in the dangerous waters of the jungle. Now, what kind of responses or: community interactions did this video evoke? First of all, many of the comments do not refer to the video at all; surprisingly many users ask to watch their videos or to subscribe to their channel. Generally, this video evoked condemning or hateful comments directed at the protagonist and/or Lonely Planet in general. Many users express their dislike of Howards way of speaking, his travel tales, and his corny remarks. A comment by USAidiotnomore is a rather aggressive but typical example: Im not
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All the other Lonely Planet videos received somewhere between 3000 and 30000 views and 5 to 50 text comments until May 22, 2008.

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sure which is more annoying, HIS VOICE, HOW INEPT HE IS, OR HOW LAME his trip was. Other users direct their comments not just to Howard, but to Lonely Planet. Some of these comments dispel the quality or the trustworthiness of Lonely Planet products. Some complain that Lonely Planet always leaves out the best parts of a country, others complain about the western style travel guides. Remarkable is the recurring contesting of Lonely Planets expertise as a travel guide. Numerous users claim that the so-called vampire fish lives in South America, and not in Borneo as Howard tried to make the viewers believe. This perceived fallacy incited the user unchangeableBird to comment that You'd think that a travel guide writer wouldn't be so retarded. The user AdreamOfSpring posted a comment in which a recent controversy around Lonely Planet is shared. In April 2008, Lonely Planet was discomforted by reports of a Lonely Planet author who claimed to have written the Colombia guide book without even visiting the country once (CNN, 2008). The comments of the user isilder clearly refer to this controversy; he or she ironically commented that the video at least proves that Howard has been to Asia. In a successive comment isilder immediately adds: Or does it? maybe the speaker is just making it all up, the video is stock footage! Some of the comments directed at Lonely Planet dismiss the corporation as an irresponsible or disrespectful brand and corporation. The previously discussed user Raksaht again expresses his dislike of Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is single-handedly responsible for the destruction of many formerly wonderful destinations. Lonely Planet zombies are only interested in saving money. They do NOTHING for the country that they visit. Raksaht is definitely not alone in this condemnation of the corporation. The user Sunbeam11 similarly connects the corporation with a particular type of travellers: Who do you think locals really want? Rich tourists or grumpy middle class kids haggling over everything whilst clutching bottled water like a comforter? We need higher airfares to stamp this plague of lonely planet pricks out. This comment clearly expresses a view on Lonely Planet as a brand that attracts cheap, reprehensible travellers: a burden to the inhabitants of the countries they visit. DIY and commercial infiltrations This article has explored a particular form of commercial infiltration in YouTube: the Lonely Planet videos and the accompanied social dynamics. What could the travel fan, discussed in the introduction, have encountered while watching Lonely Planet videos on YouTube? First of all, he or she would have been subjected to the emotional branding efforts by Lonely Planet. My analysis of three representative videos revealed three of the positive meanings that Lonely Planet aims to express. The travel fan would furthermore have been subjected to a 102

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wide range of socially negotiated brand meanings. By investigating the community processes in which these brand meanings are negotiated I have shown on the one hand a discrepancy between the purpose of the video (associating the brand with the adventure, fun and feelgood theme) and the viewers perception. On the other hand this analysis showed the discrepancy between the ideal brand community (as discussed in the marketing literature) and the passive or anti-Lonely Planet behavior apparent in the member initiated and organization initiated communities. Although the social dynamics around videos like sick bag tour of Asia seem to revolve around a shared interest (Lonely Planet corporation, travelling in Asia) and incite much interaction, it is unlikely that these community-aspects will be regarded desirable for Lonely Planet. The lack of substantive peer-to-peer exchanging of travel related information, services and experiences, and most importantly the sometimes fierce anti-Lonely Planet interactions furthermore underline this conclusion. The by marketers highly assessed peer-to-peer interactions revolve in this case not around supportive travel related exchanges, but rather around the perceived restraints and flaws of a big commercial actor. The critical social negotiations that occurred around this video may provide us with a suggestion why Lonely Planet urges the viewers to visit the homepage www.lonelyplanet.tv. Lonely Planets own online environments allow for close monitoring of the social processes and the content of the interactions can be moderated by the corporation (Stockdale & Borovicka, 2006; Sze, 2008). In this sense, further research is necessary to investigate to what extent Lonely Planet succeeds in driving traffic to their homepages. The influence of Lonely Planets call to participate in the video contest is also a matter for future research. The 500 dollar reward for the best uploaded videos can be regarded as an appropriation of YouTube users for Lonely Planets commercial purposes. An interesting question concerning this issue is whether videos can still be regarded DIY when they are created to compete in a company initiated contest? From the perspective of Lonely Planet it is more or less logical to feature only those videos that express a set of positive meanings (in line with the emotional branding strategy) on YouTube. But from the perspective of the average online traveller browsing through YouTube content in search of authentic travel experiences from co-travellers it may be undesirable to be confronted with travel videos that primarily aim to strengthen the brand Lonely Planet. Interestingly moreover, this issue is not confined to YouTube: Lonely Planets product manager addressed several web2.0 environments in which Lonely Planet is somehow active. For instance, networking sites such as MSN Australia, podcastgo.com and imeem.com are all official partners of Lonely Planet 103

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(Sze, 2008). Further research should investigate how a commercial actor such as Lonely Planet infiltrates these web2.0 applications, and what the potential undesired consequences are for the much hailed DIY culture (see Brouwers, Cornips, Kaltenbrunner, Lamerichs, Schepers, Wolters, this issue) and the demands of independent internet users. Fortunately, for those who perceive the scouting of YouTube users for commercial objectives as undesirable, there is still hope. Although videos may be appropriated by Lonely Planet in order to carefully construct a favorable brand image, the public perception of those videos cannot be controlled fully. This article showed how commentators critically assessed a worldwide corporation, airing their condemnations of the corporation to other YouTube users. Despite all their branding efforts, Lonely Planet is at least on YouTube defenseless against social negotiation processes of alternative brand meanings.

References Buhalis, D. (1998). Strategic use of information technologies in the tourism industry. Tourism management, 19 (5). p. 409-421. CNN. (2008, April 13). Travel writer tells newspaper he plagiarized, dealt drugs. Cnn.com/travel Retrieved May 22, 2008, from http://edition.cnn.com/2008/TRAVEL/ 04/13/lonely.planet/index.html McWilliam, G. (2000). Building stronger brands through online communities. Sloan management review 41 (3). p. 43-53. Montgomery, K. (2008). Youth and digital democracy: intersections of practice, policy, and the marketplace. In: Bennett, L. (ed). Civic life online: learning how digital media can engage youth. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Muniz, A., OGuinn, T. (2001). Brand community. Journal of consumer research, 27. p. 412432. Porter, C. (2004). A typology of virtual communities: a multi-disciplinary foundation for future research. Journal of computer-mediated communication. 10 (1). Retrieved May 22, 2008 from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue1/porter.html Ridings, C., Gefen, D. (2004). Virtual community attraction: why people hang out online. Journal of computer-mediated communication, 10 (1). Retrieved May 22, 2008 from http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol10/issue1/ridings_gefen.html Stockdale, R., Borovicka, M. (2006). Developing an online business community: a travel industry case study. Proceedings of the 39th Hawaii international conference on system sciences. Retrieved May 11, 2008, from http://csdl2.computer.org/comp/proceedings/hicss/2006/2507/06/250760134c.pdf

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Thompson, C., Rindfleisch, A., Arsel, Z. (2006). Emotional branding and the strategic value of the Doppelgnge brand image. Journal of marketing, 70. p. 50-64. Wang, Y., Yu, Q., Fesenmaier, D. (2002). Defining the virtual tourist community: implications for tourism marketing. Tourism Management, 23. p. 407-417. Wiertz, C. (2005). The kindness of strangers. Studies on customer behavior in commercial virtual communities. Dissertation University Maastricht: Maastricht. Interview Sze, J. (2008). Email interview, May 29, 2008. YouTube sources Borderhopper. (2006, March 20). Lonely Planet: Backpackers & Travelers of the World. YouTube.com. Retrieved May 22, 2008, from http://www.youtube.com/group/lonelyplanet LonelyPlanet. (2008a). Lonely Planet: jump in the deep end. [posted March 25, 2008, accessed May 22, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmFu4DEDtdo LonelyPlanet. (2008b). Lonely Planet: Dammed Yangtze. [posted March 24, 2008, accessed May 22, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vyv3qsa6Xao LonelyPlanet. (2008c). Lonely Planet: timeless in Thailand. [posted March 18, 2008, accessed May 22, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yQa_cGF-YGQ LonelyPlanet. (2008d). Lonely Planet: a sick bag tour of Asia. [posted April 8, 2008, accessed May 22, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DLC9sbjrxJ0 Pjcrap. (2006). PJ's Contiki Trip 2006 - Australia/New Zealand. [posted September 8, 2006, accessed May 22, 2008]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-qvwTUbGe7A

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YouTube vs. O-Tube Negotiating a YouTube identity


Janneke Brouwers Introduction YouTube is generally understood as a participatory channel for various communities fan communities, brand communities and subcultures that often also function on other online or offline domains In contrast to the other articles in this special issue, this research does not address YouTube as a platform for communities in the plural. Rather it focuses on YouTube as the object of community building itself. This article investigates how YouTube members negotiate a collective YouTube identity when confronted with broadcasting stations that have become a recognizable part of YouTube. It is one of the defining features of YouTube that it accommodates both amateurs and (aspiring) professionals, both user-generated content and televised material (Van Dijck, 2007). However the relation between regular users and corporate users has altered much since the birth of YouTube in 2005. Since Googles acquisition of the company in October 2006, large multimedia companies such as CBS, BBC, and Oprah Winfreys Harpo Productions, have become official partners of YouTube. They are not simply advertisers; they are full members and can therefore broadcast their brand related content directly to users through their own YouTube videos. As members, partners can make use of all the social network practices available to regular members like holding a personal profile page which YouTube calls a channel page to which other users can subscribe and leave text comments (Lange, 2008). Furthermore, partners can make use of an enhanced environment so they can showcase their videos with a look and feel that is consistent with their brand imagery (YouTube, 2006). The channels of these partners are not personal profile pages like any other, but advertising channels designed to make brands an organic part of YouTubes fabric (Cornips, this issue). However, another direct consequence of the companies membership is that they stand under the close scrutiny of their fellow members, who can freely express their opinions about the presence of corporate identities in relation to their convictions of what YouTube is and should be. By taking the debut of the Oprah Winfrey channel (OPRAH) as a case-study, this article investigates the attitudes of regular YouTube members towards brand members as expressed in text comments and videos. The main question is: how do YouTube members express and negotiate a collective YouTube identity in confrontation with television broadcast

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companies? Oprah is a particularly interesting example because on the one hand the user OPRAH represents a broadcasting company or brand, and on the other hand OPRAH is still equated with the individual Oprah Winfrey. In contrast to for example CBS, OPRAH is a single person like any other user, at least in name and appearance. Do users view Oprah as a member that has a right to be on YouTube and whose contributions should be welcomed, or as broadcasting giant that does not belong? This article argues that in attempting to define OPRAH, YouTube members also negotiate and construct a common YouTube identity. The logical starting point for this study is the OPRAH channel, its videos and its elicited text comments. This research only takes into account the text comments that were posted within four weeks after the initial OPRAH video was uploaded. For the analysis of video responses, this research limits itself to those videos posted in the short period between 5 November and 10 November in 2007, which marks the peak of the Oprah craze. Unfortunately I could not make use of the video response feature as Harpo Productions have never accepted users requests to link their videos to the ones on OPRAH. Therefore it was necessary to use the main and advanced search modus in order to find relevant video responses. I used different combinations of the following keywords: Oprah, YouTube, community, message and partner Apart from the search modus, video blogspots such as YouTube Stars!43 and the related videos feature have helped to find the most popular and most discussed videos and some of their less viewed responses. KennyCrane (2007) for example gives a brief overview of the Oprah-debate with the mentioned videos attached. YouTube, like other video blogging websites, is highly decentralized and exhibits a core/periphery structure (Warmbrodt, 2007). I have selected a small number of widely viewed videos which are uploaded by prominent members and I followed the track of responses leading from them. In this way the peripheral group of significantly less active members is also included. The chosen sample of videos illustrates three community aspects that are being negotiated by YouTube members: YouTubes identity as televisions adversary, its protocol of communication behaviour, and a respect for social hierarchy. However, first I will discuss the Oprah channel and its videos by using the remediation theory of Bolter and Grusin (1999), and Henry Jenkins (2006) work on new media and convergence culture. A brand new brand member On November 1, 2007 Oprah Winfreys multimedia company Harpo Productions became an
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YouTube Stars: a guide to the most popular and most entertaining YouTube members and their videos KennyCrane (2007): http://youtubestars.blogspot.com/2007/11/oprah-is-on-youtube.html

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official partner of YouTube. The Oprah fan who tunes in daily to her daytime talk show, reads the Oprah magazines, or who participates in the famous online Book Club, can now also visit the brand channel OPRAH. OPRAHs videos feature authorized content from, and behindthe-scenes of, Winfrey's television show (OPRAH, 2007). The channel has uploaded thirty two videos in the five months after OPRAHs debut as a member44, and a majority of these videos can be described as advertising previews of upcoming television shows. In the second uploaded video which forms the fist confrontation with Oprahs face on the tubes screen Oprah expresses her excitement about the possibilities of You Tube for ordinary people to create post and watch videos, and she advertises for her not yet aired television show (OPRAH, 2007b). The video, named Oprahs Message to YouTube has got 1.540.675 views and shows Oprah sitting in the studio welcoming the YouTube community to her YouTube channel. Next, the viewer is shown short fragments of the upcoming television show about YouTube, featuring what Oprah describes as some of the already stars of YouTube: Tyson the skateboarding dog, the Dutch blogger and singer Esmee Denters, and a couple who danced Dirty Dancing style on their wedding day. Oprahs message is an interesting example how two different media become intertwined. The YouTube user can hardly distinguish which medium here is the commodity and which is meant to advertise: the television show promotes the new YouTube channel while the channel is used to attract a new public to the Oprahs talk show and website. These marketing aims are also not well disguised. When visiting the Oprah channel, the user reads: Welcome to the official Oprah channel on YouTube! Want to see more of what's going on in Oprah's world on TV, on radio, in print and online? Visit Oprah.com for more videos and behind the scenes highlights you can't get anywhere else. (OPRAH, 2007) And Oprah herself states at the end of her message to YouTube: So all I can say is tune in to the Oprah show and see YouTubes greatest hits and then come back to our YouTube channel to see what is new (OPRAH, 2007b). It is not a specific object or program that viewers are here encouraged to consume, but the brand Oprah itself (Lunt & Lewis, 2008). Through adding YouTube to the list of media platforms, Oprah continues her brand extension45, by bringing her audience into contact with her brand across multiple media platforms.

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This number of views was counted on May 2, 2008. For information on brand extension, see Muniz, A. M. jr. & OGuinn, T.C. (2001) and Holt, B.D. (2004).

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At the same time Oprah tries to appear as a normal user by uploading user-generated content. The next seven videos that have been uploaded on the channel all contain after-show material that Oprah filmed herself with a portable net-sharing camera. However in the videos, this material has been effectively combined with professionally footage. The viewer is therefore continuously made aware that he or she is watching televised content. Henry Jenkins concept of convergence culture and Bolter and Grusins theory of remediation are helpful to shed light on this phenomenon. Bolter and Grusin (1999, p. 47-48) explain that television and video sharing websites are engaged in an unacknowledged competition in which each seeks to remediate and outdate the other. Traditional broadcasting media firms very much like to incorporate participatory elements and use video sharing websites as an extension of medium of television. At the same time, as Jenkins (2006, p. 169) explains, consumers are using new media technologies to engage with old media content and they also assert the right to do this on their own terms. There is an interplay, which is also a tension, between the top-down force of corporate convergence and the bottom-up force of grassroots convergence. This interplay or tension is also clearly present on YouTube as Van Dijck (2007, p. 12) clearly states: The dialogue between self-produced content and televised content is more than arbitrary: it is actually at the heart of YouTubes and GoogleVideos technological and cultural constitution. YouTube is entrenched in television; it makes use of the same audiovisual language that was previously monopolized by broadcasting companies. Yet at the same time, members are not al equal; YouTube does not completely erase the boundary between producers and consumers. All members are potential collaborative co-producers of video content, but there still remains a thick line between amateur You-Tuber-ers and broadcasting partners. The same applies to the case-study of Oprah. Harpo production wants to go along with the participatory movement, but they also want to reroute, commodify and market it, in order to draw more people to Oprahs television show and other media projects. Users might not object to the content of televised material per se, but do have a problem with the top-down control which is exemplified and symbolized by the medium of television. The tension between YouTube and television already becomes clear in the commentary to the very first OPRAH video (2007a). This first video shows two out of three YouTube founders, namely Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, just outside Harpo Studios. In the video they explain they just finished up shooting of Oprahs special television show about YouTube on which they were honoured guests. The two men express their excitement about being on the Oprah show, which they view as the pinnacle of their careers. With even more enthusiasm they tell how special it was to meet in real life (IRL) some of the great users 109

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who that made YouTube what is today. They thank the member of YouTube multiple times users to whom they owe this success. Apart from statements about how cute Steve really is (Tsaravitch), many users express their gratitude for their achievements and appreciation of Chad and Steves modesty. Many users, irrespective of whether their comments are positive, refer to the medium of television as the opposite of what YouTube stands for. bartonone2005: To: Chad Hurley and Steve Chen () My computer is my window on the world. YouTube is part of that. My TV sits disconnected in a corner of the basement. manhattanbound11: Thank you for YouTube! What other invention in history has allowed the everyman to be in control of his own destiny? YouTube is free and global - unlike many other "get discovered" gimmicks and tv shows - where you can just put your talent or thoughts out there and gather the attention of the world. CjtheRS: I'm sorry but Youtube, imo, has just become like every other TV station out there. It's not about giving the average joe a voice anymore, it just seems to be giving the already powerful celebrity *more* of a voice : \ Kawamura2: All this oprah channel is spam, pure and simple, All the channel is advertisement for her damned show, which doesn't even need the advertisements because everyone knows about it anyway. For bartonone2005 television is simply an outdated medium, which functions can be taken over (remediated) by the internet. In the second quote mangattenbound11 stresses that a YouTube member is in control of its creative recourses, while a guest in a television show is subjected to corporate interests of third parties. For CjthRS YouTube should be a home to every man, while television is all about celebrities. The final example expresses resistance to advertising, partly also because Oprah is famous enough already. The commentary of this particular video expresses and continues a common identity in which Oprah does not fit. For these users YouTube exists to give the ordinary person a chance to produce and distribute their user-generated content (UCG). They share a collective interest in maintaining YouTube as a broadcasting platform for the common man. It is not just that these users do not like to watch television; broadcasting companies become part of a larger community narrative, as will become clear in the following paragraph. YouTube nostalgia In the video called RIP the golden age of youtube, which has been viewed 57,311 times and has twenty linked video responses, YouTube partner Paperlilies (2007) expresses her concern 110

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about YouTube.46 At first she was quite enthusiastic about the way mainstream media and YouTube came together, believing that it would draw more people to the YouTube community. However Paperlilies continues by saying that as a result of YouTube paying people to produce video content, including herself, there is an overflow of sensationalist tvlike videos which makes it increasingly difficult to find creative videos and small channels. She considers it to be unfair that that normal users should compete with large media stations who upload material that has already been tested and tried out on television, and she proposes a separation between corporate and personal (blog) videos in the navigation interface. You have got the corporate thing now; you have that down parked. Everybody wants to come on YouTube and thats great. But now you need to back to the people that made YouTube what it is and cater for them again, and promote them and help them out some more. Because at the moment I think a lot of people feel very neglected by YouTube. The site that they have grown to love last summer is no more. () It felt like it was a community and it does not feel like that anymore. It feels like we are living in a TV channel, nobody is watching us and we are being trotten all over by corporate people that do not care about people who are making videos. () And me and other people like me that make videos in their bedroom are the people that we are the people man, we are the people. We are the citizens of YouTube. (Paperlilies, (2007) According to Paperlillies YouTube is no longer a real community, or at least it has been tainted by the corporate thing. However here it is not just corporatism to which Paperlillies positions herself against, it is also television. The danger that YouTube faces is not just that of becoming corporate, but that of YouTube regressing to the state of television through this corporate infiltration, which means that the interests of ordinary yous that YouTube meant to serve is neglected. Moreover, Paperlilies also constructs a historic narrative of YouTube. Once, when Youtube was still inhabited by mere video bloggers, YouTube felt like one community of friends. However, this golden age has passed, and because of all; the unoriginal and uncreative videos, the participatory user has again become a passive viewer who feels like living in a TV channel. RIP the golden age of youtube constructs a sense of YouTube community in at least three ways. Firstly, the video supports a strong YouTube identity in opposition to television, which is picked up by many commenters. Not just the broadcasting companies, but the medium itself is devalued: it's true, I never watch TV anymore, cause I'm so sick of the unoriginal shit that comes out (loser078). In the video response Oprah on YouTube, and Vice
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Versa Preceporos (2007) agrees with Paperlilies that: all the celebrities and all the TV-crap ruins a lot about YouTube that used to be really great. However, her blog spends twice as much time on debunking Oprahs television show than on discussing the consequences of her being on YouTube: All these previews and reviews and trailers about what was going to be on the show. () By the time they actually got to the part, you had already seen everything that happened. It is so pointless. I hate TV. This is why I hate TV (Prepoceros, 2007). Even a user such as pedroatlarge (2007), who is not to bothered with the Oprah-issue and wants to direct al the attention to other problems, stresses that he does not own a television for YouTube really is an outdated medium. Secondly, Paperlilies positively identifies the YouTube community (with usergenerated content which to her is specific to the medium of YouTube. The original community is described as a videoblogging community, and Paperlilies places herself in that same tradition by posting a serious oldschool vlog. Other users also acknowledge her position through statements as: and brilliant vloggers like Bryony (zipdoodah). Moreover similar voices are heard on OPRAHs channel: we don't want to watch your show on youtube we want your personal vlogs just like everyone else in youtube community (aaea25; OPRAH, 2007b). Finally, Paperlilies (2007) constructs a historic narrative of an originally fair and creative YouTube that is being threatened by corporate infiltrators. Her republican language is taken up by multiple users: who post texts such as viva la yt revolutuibe! (neowolf2012) and We the citizens of youtube are truly being abused. Corporate media has begun a reign of imperialism on our dear beloved website. We must unite and attack!! (babehurst88). So not only is Paperlilies narrative accepted, many users agree that YouTube should strike back. Of course Paperlilies conception does not remain uncontested, especially her preference for old school blog videos does not agree with everyone. They notion that of video blogging is somehow better than other forms of video content, even copyrighted material, is considered to be elitist by some, as the next sequence of comments (Paperlilies, 2007) illustrate. Spectrem: the way i see it, people like oprah will bring more viewers. the people who make great videos will be more recognized for it, possibly world-wide. besides, youtube is getting so big now you can watch anything you want. its not like there is not enough room Beefdlo: Yeh, exactly. Youtube is bigger than the 'community'.

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mkline718: a lot of what brings people to youtube is the copyrighted video clips and music videos. If all those were taken down it would be a huge loss. "youtube celebs" all seem to think they are what brings people to the site. These users are unhappy with any equation of the YouTube with what they see as an elitist group of YouTube celebrities; the online celebrities seem to become almost as arrogant as the offline celebrities they battle. For them YouTube includes much more than just video blogging and they do not hold the YouTube celebrities as representatives for all of YouTube. So not only the identity of YouTube is to be negotiated; people also debate about who has the right to define the community. As stated earlier in the introduction, inequality also exists in a participatory platform. andymcgaffiga (2007) goes a step further than the other respondents by stating that Paperlilies misrepresents YouTubes history. The community of friends she has experienced is according to andymcgaffiga a made-up myth, a nostalgia for a past that never existed, like a YouTube that never existed. He continues by saying that he too was around when YouTube started and therefore knows what was uploaded: Vague pornography, copyrighted content and long windy video blogger who made posts about their mundane lives. According to andymcgaffiga YouTube was never a tight and cosy community of friends: The golden age never was. Though there are patterns to be observed in the way YouTube-users construct a YouTube community identity, no conception remains uncontested. YouTube does not form a real discourse community, in which the person who fails to demonstrate ones adherence to the communitys values is to be silenced or disqualified (Howard, 1997, p.101). Moreover, it is exactly in this process of negotiation that tacit norms and protocol become visible. However these self-reflective videos of prominent members do set the agenda and determine what part of YouTubes identity is open for debate and negotiation. Divergence in values and form of expression is allowed, as we have seen; diversity, decentralization and deinstitutionalization are central to YouTube. However the case of Oprah is somewhat different. Even when Oprahs televised content remains within the boundaries of the acceptable, there is another and perhaps more serious problem: Harpo Productions uses its status as official partner to reinforce central control over all comments and responses to its videos. Showing her how its done The main objection against Oprah is that she behaves as a community leader rather that a community member. She is the one inviting experienced YouTube users on her Channel, 113

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rather than being the newcomer who must have a modest stand and earn the recognition from other members. Instating her on House Rules of Oprah.com47 on YouTube has been the biggest focal point for criticism, for she breaks the cultural norms of behaviour that the YouTube-uses have developed over the life of this networking site. You-ser renetto (2007) or Paul Robinett posted a video on November 7 in which he tells how ridiculous the OPRAH channel is: There is a little section here that says talk to Oprah; it literally says talk to Oprah. Please know that while we invite your comments - and by the way you dont come into our community and tell us that you invite our comments. Our comments are part of the gig; that is what the site is all about. Its about interaction. So youre coming here and telling you invite them like if it is something special, we get to come to your house today? Its ridiculous. (Renetto, 2007) Renetto continues with quoting the OPRAH channel and reads out that the channel manager of OPRAH will only allow a selected number of comments to be posted and cannot guarantee a response due the large number of comments. Then rennetto checks what kind of comments have been allowed through and the viewer sees rennettos cursor move across the navigation screen. He sees that the channel shows only thirteen comments while he thinks that a video which has been viewed over a million times must easily receive five thousand comments. His conclusion therefore is that there was not a single comment which praised Oprah enough to be come through the screening process. To be able to praise Oprah you need to use PR-firm to come up with a comment. He concludes by saying that through uploading YouTube-ers can still comment upon everything they like, and at the end the following text appears on screen: How do you join the revolution? Leave lots of comments. Leave lots of videos. Raise your voice. We are just getting warmed up (Renetto, 2007). The video of renetto (2007) has over 10.000 views, 1168 text comments, twelve linked video responses and many more unlinked video responses. In the video response DOING AN OPRAH - the response RENETTO asked for! Talk 74 (2007) answers renettos call for videos. Some maybe we can coin the phrase doing an oprah, which is the equivalent to sticking your foot in your mouth or doing something that really shouldnt be done and trying to a new thing in an old way () You cant stick old media in a new format, its horrible and out of place.
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Please note that, while we invite your comments, the Oprah YouTube Channel was created to provide a place where people committed to living their best lives, personal growth and generating positive, thoughtful dialogue can find information and one another for support, comfort and shared experiences. Talk to Oprah on OPRAHs CHANNEL. Retrieved April 21, 2008, from: http://uk.youtube.com/user/OPRAH

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Oprah is thus become the symbol of what media giants should not do, an example of bad YouTube behaviour: it is like cumbering over something sacred (Talk74). Renetto does not only tell that allowing all comments is part of YouTube, he also shows Oprah how it is done by responding regularly to other commentators, sixty times within the first month, and by showing that he truly welcomes all comments to his videos, unless they include death threats48: WICKEDmount: You suck renetto. go die johnnyhbobbyhi: brilliant! your back in from paul!!!!!49 renetto: The person commenting above you has a slightly different opinion... thats right Oprah... you have to give everybody a chance to be heard. Other You-sers also want to show Oprah what is proper YouTube behaviour. Micheal Buck of WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, a popular entertainment show using the format of a glossy news report, uploaded a video called To-Oprah with Love and is with over a hundred thousand views the most watched response video about Oprah coming on YouTube. WHATHEBUCKSHOW says he has no issues with Oprah being on YouTube, he is even subscribed to her magazine. However he does express his amazement about Oprah reviewing and selecting of comments: You are on tv, you are on the radio, you publish a magazine and now you have to be on YouTube?! Thats cool, thats cool, but there is one thing: you have to allow comments on your videos. On tv we just yell at the tv but you cannot hear us, but on YouTube you need to hear from us and have the full YouTube community experience, even if its porn, span, and even if people say they like to do dirty things to you (that is the most fun part), thats part of being on YouTube Oprah. We all have to deal with it. You can tell us what to eat, what to read, how to poop, but do not tell us how to comment on YouTube. (WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, 2007) The commentary includes some serious replies of people agreeing (and disagreeing) that Oprah does not understand that censuring comments is not done on YouTube. People assume that Oprah just want to stay in everybody-loves-Oprah land or that she knows she would receive a ton of hate replies and therefore is scared to open up her channel. Others think she probably only learned about YouTube two days before buying a partnership and that she has
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Renetto: I approve all relevant video responses... I do not have any blocked users... I have in the past for death threats only... I NEVER delete comments unless they are directed at my wife and children or other people leaving me comments in a threatening way... if it directed at me in the open... well others handle that kind of thing for me... I can't wait to see your video. (Renetto, 2007) 49 With the name paul jihnyhbobbyhi refers to renetto, whose real name is Paul Robinett

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no clue about what YouTube really is. YouTube without free commenting is no longer YouTube: Oprah minus comments = just plain old fucking television, except on youtube (13generation13; WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, 2007) Furthermore, many users were irritated by the manner in which Oprah Winfrey made use of her position as guest editor which had been offered to her for to days. As guest editor OPRAH could select highly rated videos to be featured on the YouTube front-page. On multiple occasions she chose her own videos to be featured, thereby using her top-down power to gain a wider audience. In his video Buck asks for many comments in order to show that YouTube users still have some say and if he gets an e-mail complaint from the directory he will just say I did not know this was O-Tube, what about the Y and the U! (WHATTHEBUCKSHOW, 2007). May people did leave comments at To-Oprah with Love, telling Oprah to feature Bucks videos. xleahcarx explains in detail why Oprah should feature Buck: he works hard by having a normal job; he spends many hours on his videos to please his viewers and is loyal to his subscribers. Buck is what Oprah is not, a member that is popular and plays by the rules. Furthermore he does not only post the What the Buck Show, he also shows something of his personal life in his video blog. However, it is not just sharing this opinion and expressing it that creates a common bond between the participating users. On his website buckhollywood.com, six hundred visitors also signed Micheal Bucks petition addressed to Oprah, which pleads to make Micheal Buck Oprahs official YouTube correspondent and to allow commenting. His lightheartedness and satiric rhetoric that characterizes this action and WHATTHEBUCKSHOW in general, is adopted by the commentators. This in itself is a statement. Via their humoristic and sometimes cruel remarks they try show to Oprah that YouTube really means you should be able to say anything. Dunyanna33 writes that you cannot become a member in order to tell other members that they cannot comment on your videos for that's like being a jew and refusing circumcision, i'm pretty sure it's against the rules. Oprah features her own videos and does not allow free commenting and consequentially many YouTube users do not recognize Oprah as full member of YouTube. They want to reproach her as a group for not honouring the local norms and protocol of the YouTube platform. Users also literally respond as group through making collaborative videos. In producing videos with numerous participants to make Oprah clear that something like a YouTube community exist. Collaboration becomes part of the YouTube community identity. A video uploaded by kenrg (2007) has six participants and as a we they describe the core principles of YouTube, of which collaboration is one: 116

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* This isn't broadcasting; it's a conversation, it's about 2-way communication, * We're not all aspiring pop stars or novelty acts; we're real people, * The animal clips and TV clips may bring us to the site; but it's the people that bring us *We watch YouTube as an alternative to TV, not an extension of it, * We collaborate like crazy. There are users who belief anyone should be welcomed on YouTube (sexymaria08, u2NEED2know; OPRAH,, 2007b), though only a handful of comments of all the comments studied in this research state that they either do not care or that selecting comments is actually a good thing. Those who agree with the management of the Oprah channel have a negative opinion about a protocol of free commenting and do not identify with a YouTube community. They identify with an Oprah community instead: This is the Oprah channel and we all know that Disrespect for one another will not be tolerated (dgd417; OPRAH, 2007c). However we can speak of a YouTube community even though it does not include all subscribers and though its members disagree on what the identities of Oprah and YouTube rally are. A common discourse is constructed exactly in the self-reflexivity and the negotiation process itself. As Prismaya (2007) summarized in her video blog: Everybodys talking about Oprah on YouTube, Oprah on YouTube, people are complaining and explaining to Oprah what YouTube is all about (2007). Through talking about and commenting to Oprah, in this a YouTube community begins to take shape. Community building is largely an articulatory practice (Howard, 1997) and on YouTube a community is being articulated. Conclusion In the online debate about the OPRAH channel, a YouTube Community becomes visible. Through their text comments and video responses YouTube users define their platform as a creative alternative to television, a place for user-generated content and as community with norms and rules of behavior that should acknowledged and followed. Despite, or perhaps because of, the reality of broadcasting corporations on YouTube, the grassroots origins of YouTube are again much emphasized. In many instances Oprah is seen as a threat to YouTubes identity, an infiltration or corporatism and of a foreign medium, and faced with this threat, the otherwise fragmented YouTube unites to defend their position on YouTube. The revolution where renetto and Paperlilies steer towards is not likely to happen because of the diversity of users online, but the popular and self-referential videos of prominent members do help to create the experience of community.

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The main objective of the collective project of this special issue on YouTube, is to explore and map the different communities that emerge or are supported on YouTube. Most of the contributions focus on communities that have their basis in the offline world or that are shaped by external discourses. Wolters has shown a YouTube serves a community which could not find an effective platform offline. Schepers concludes that flash mob communities are mainly shaped by discourse originating outside and Kaltenbrunner makes clear that art communities on YouTube in many ways refer to the conventions of the art establishment. This article however shows that YouTube is not only a platform for multiple communities and a channel for outside discourses, but that it also has its own discourse. YouTube is also the object of community building itself. From a more literary perspective, Lamerichs has already shown that there is a group of videos which are whose basis is not only grounded in a source-text (for instance Star Wars) but also in YouTube itself. With this article I would like to add that this self-referential discourse is (temporarily) strengthened when another discourse, that of corporate broadcasting television, becomes part of the YouTube application. Though corporations may fail to create a brand community on YouTube (Cornips), they may support a community of resistance. Wilbur (2002, p. 55) once wrote: We should be prepared to find community under a wide variety of circumstances, in a broad range of environments, and intermingled with any number of elements that seemed to work against the development of sufficient human feeling. As is made clear in the introduction chapter, YouTube is a very large and highly decentralised platform and perhaps an unlikely place to look for an overarching community, yet as we have seen there is large group of videos that construct a common YouTube identity. Future research should therefore not ignore communities that have roots in the identity of a web application rather than in external environments. Furthermore it would be interesting to investigate how a community based on the identity of the web application, develops over time. How stable is the YouTube identity? This article has focussed on the Oprah affair which only stretches over a period of weeks. And as this website is YouTube and not O-Tube, dependent on the participation of its changing users, the its development is difficult to predict.

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