Everyday YouTube: Commonplace Media

As most of you likely know, YouTube is a popular video-sharing website. The site, which is now a Google subsidiary, allows anyone to create a profile and post either original or found content (this is dependent upon usage rights, of course). The result is a mass of content that ranges from individual user-generated content to that generated by large corporations. Though, it is notable, that YouTube often applies emphasis on its accessibility to the everyday user. After all, the slogan is “Broadcast Yourself”. Many of the videos that go viral are consistent with the aesthetic of being user-made. In her essay User-Created Content and Everyday Cultural Practice: Lessons from YouTube, Jean Burgess writes, “The dominance of the vlog entry as a particularly YouTube-centric form emphasizes the everyday locatedness and investment in interpersonal communication, rather than producerliness, that we identify as part of the “YouTubeness” of YouTube. And even some of the most spectacularly popular viral videos share the vlog entry’s genealogy in the privatized spaces of everyday personal media use” (319).

Rhett and Link, creators and hosts of “Good Mythical Morning”

The aesthetic of the vlog carries across a large variety of user-generated content. Henry Jenkins cited these “short clips characterized by trickery and humor, an explicit awareness of an audience of peers, and a fascination with the technologies of digital video” as containing a “vaudeville aesthetic” (Burgess 319). Many popular YouTube bloggers like Good Mythical Morning, JennaMarbles, and charliesocoollike used this “vaudeville aesthetic” to gain popularity and continue to rely on it for almost every video that they post.

This form of “common content” reaches beyond vlogs to lip-synch videos, song covers, how-to videos, and more. Just picture someone sitting in their bedroom talking/ singing/ dancing/ whatever it may be for their computer camera, editing it (often with a relatively basic program), and then uploading it to YouTube for millions (maybe billions) to see… you get the idea. In fact, one of the most popular viral video trends of the past few years consists of simply taking a picture of yourself, or a “selfie” as one might phrase it, everyday for a specified amount of time (often a year) and editing these photos into a montage. The idea is a simple one but the results are often very interesting, even beautiful. YouTube user Beckie0 has a video of this kind ranging 6.5 years that has managed to garner a whopping 11,478,913 views and 48,596 likes.

Though it contains no words, the video not only chronicles Beckie0’s aging process, but also subtly hints at her depression and Trichotillomania which she has opened up about in the comment section. Beckie0 is not alone. Noah Kalina has posted a similar video spanning 12.5 years.

Unlike the primarily uplifting responses on Beckie’s page, Noah’s comment section is a little harsher. 03blaird writes, “From bright eyed youth to a man crushed by the world…lol” and BOLTdm writes, “How to turn into Zach Galifianakis in 12 years”. Reactions aside, both of the users garnered a significant view count based on very everyday, commonplace, personal content that would not initially seem to be of that much interest to other random users. Despite its relative unremarkableness, these videos have become a popular enough viral movement to spur the creation of multiple apps. Everyday is an application that not only archives your daily photo, but also allows reminders to be set, gives an overlay to line up face positioning, and then compile the footage. 1 Second Everyday takes the idea one step further by creating a montage from second-long clips of footage.

The popularity of this form of video speaks to the patterns of content-creation that Burgess delineates. She contends that, “if YouTube remains in existence for long enough, the result will be not only a repository of vintage television content, but also something even more significant: a record of contemporary global popular culture (including vernacular and everyday culture) in video form, produced and evaluated according to the logics of cultural value that emerge from the collective choices of the distributed YouTube user community” (325). As is evident with these videos, the content of the video itself, but also the responses to the content that is posted on YouTube is essentially a record of life in the 2000s (albeit an often very sarcastic one). The participatory nature of the site fosters an audience/producer relationship far removed from that of traditional television, but this does not mean it not worth analyzing. In fact, it is a renewed opportunity for insights into audience practice and their new heightened level of engagement.

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