YouTube and the Struggle for Online Sociality (Part 2)
YouTube and the Struggle for Online Sociality

YouTube and the Struggle for Online Sociality (Part 2)

By Ngozi Adighibe

In this post, we’ll continue with our analysis of Van Dijck’s take on the struggle to define online sociality. But, this time, our focus will be on YouTube.

YouTube – The “Alternative” Television

The ideology behind the establishment of YouTube was like the story of a rebellious child; then it later became like that of the “prodigal son.” YouTube created a platform through which anyone in any part of the world could upload videos online and view that of others. Cool, right? I thought so too!

Unfortunately, this strategy generated problems for the company; so they returned and made peace with the parent organization – television. Hence, there are observable similarities in the YouTube website design and that of some television web pages, such as CNN. Also, the language used on the YouTube site has more to do with television than a social networking site; words like “subscribe,” instead of the usual, “like,” “share” and “follow,” and “channels” in place of “pages.”

Despite these changes in the structure of YouTube, some users still consider it an alternative to television. One user from Nigeria called Obi, who is also a gospel artist, described it as a platform that helped him save time that might have been spent watching television. He also acknowledged that YouTube enables him to upload his music videos for free and allows him to watch only selected videos. Hear what he has to say! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PyvpDfswj9A

This platform adopted another format, and yet it still continued to grow in size. Did you know, “Within 8 years, YouTube became the third most popular internet site in the world, boasting four billion videos and uploading more content per month than all three major US television networks combined have done in sixty years” (Van Dijck, 2013)?

The company was able to accomplish this remarkable feat because it created something user-friendly and different from the traditional way of broadcasting. It was like a grand theory – a break from past ideologies and practices of the media. Users no longer had to pay to air their views, tell their stories, broadcast their songs and videos to the world. Therefore, even when it had to adapt to its environment, it still maintained its user volume.

Food for Thought

Reflecting on this, I wonder if YouTube thrived because it introduced a new trend or because its adaptation was inclined towards the social environment rather than the online environment or “connectivity” as Van Dijck (2013) puts it. Did individuals and organizations find it easier to adjust to YouTube’s new interface, because of their familiarity with that kind of structure (traditional media) and framework? If this is so, just maybe “social determinism” (believe that people determine the technology created and its use) wins after all.

Also, contrary to popular opinion that traditional forms of media – television, radio and print would be replaced with newer technologies, they seem to be going nowhere. They are now part of the “connective media” (Van Dijck, 2013), and some are even setting the pace too.

Stay tuned for our next post, which will focus on Wikipedia.

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