YOUTUBE- the ultimate public sphere?

BCM 110

The theory of a public sphere claims that it is an informative source for current issues. It’s where we as individuals discover the social, cultural and political happenings of the time and works as a platform for us to engage with others about those issues.

For this post, let’s look at how my favourite social media platform Youtube works as a public sphere.

How it works

Youtube operates as a platform where individuals upload their own video content to their own channels. These channels are able to be watched by anyone with internet access and people are able to leave comments  on videos, enabling them to interact with the creator and other audience members. As a public sphere; The video content works as the information on current issues, and the comment section is where people engage with these issues.

As there is such a wide variety of video content on Youtube, not all videos are made to be informative on current issues. However, many in some way or another will be. For example, BuzzFeed videos create content about specific current issues. Whereas for Clare Siobhan- a gaming Youtuber current issues will be brought up in her sims series as the characters replicate a modern life and struggle with these issues themselves.

The Problem And Beauty Of Youtube

Access.

The problem with Youtube is access. Internet access is vital to participate in Youtube- leaving many excluded from participating in this public sphere. However, for those with internet access, the beauty of Youtube is the ease of access. Youtube is a fairly inexpensive and simplistic way to create and broadcast video content. This allows for more diversity than ever before in media, which also gives way for a larger amount of issues and opinions to be heard.

What role does ‘the media’ play in it at all?

With Youtube, the company itself is the ultimate media source with control over all of the individual channels who are micro media sources. In regards to censorship, Youtube has specific guidelines of what can and can’t be uploaded and has the ability to demonetize and take down individual videos.

Although in my opinion, Youtube has a lot more variety as a public sphere then major media institutes do. This is because Youtube has no control or influence over any of the content produced by channels, it only has the ability to regulate it once it’s already uploaded, and usually only will if there has been an uproar of controversy about a video. Furthermore, it is a global public sphere with producers who have many different upbringings and ideologies in life. Youtube is a diverse public sphere.

I like that.

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Who controls your ideology?

BCM 110

Our ideology can be defined as the way that we perceive the world around us. It involves our views, our morals, and our values and has a great impact on our behavior and choices in life. Our ideologies are a very important part of our being, but what forms our ideologies?

A large portion of what controls our ideology is the knowledge and information that we consume, a lot of which we receive through the news and other media sources. People are pretty compliant in using ‘reliable’ media sources as compasses to guide their ideological values. However, it isn’t often that we consider who controls the media that we see, and how diverse the ideologies that are being pushed onto us actually are.

This diagram from ACMA shows a snapshot of current media ownership in Australia.

As you can see, there is a handful of people who own Australia’s major media corporations, most of which share similar profiles of older, white, straight Australian men. This indicates that these people are likely to share similar ideologies providing us with minimal diversity of ideas in our media sphere, and with the recent abolishment of the ‘2 out of 3 rule,’ this only become more concerning.

Furthermore, in some ways, these major corporations can be subliminally influencing us on how to consume our media. Take Gogglebox, for example. Gogglebox is a reality tv show where the audience watches other audiences watch other current tv shows. Weird right? But it has a purpose. In 2013 the PEW Research Centre indicated here that amongst the younger generations the Internet was overtaking Television as the main source for international and national news. It is reasonable to suggest that Gogglebox is an attempt to rebuild the ideology that television is the ideal source of information and entertainment. Additionally, Gogglebox also promotes the other television shows that are being watched by the people of Gogglebox.

 

Another interesting point is how social media can influence our ideology through controlled media. Facebook is a good example for this as it uses algorithms to intentionally gear specific media to users and only show them the media that they’re interested in as they are more likely to consume it. This is a problem as it disables people from viewing opposing opinions which constricts their ability to question, reconstruct, and develop their own ideology. What furthers this problem is when Facebook is one’s main or only media source. As indicated in this concerning blog post here ‘Millions of Facebook users have no idea they’re using the internet’ as they see Facebook and the Internet as entirely separate entities.

I urge you to take some time to discover who controls the media that you consume, and how might it affect you.

 

The Happiest Place on Earth

BCM 110

Banksy_issa_8

In 2011 pseudonymous artist Bansky created a piece of street art on a billboard in Los Angeles. The billboard depicts Mickey Mouse drinking a martini and groping a partially unclothed woman while Minnie Mouse snorts cocaine. These images are accompanied by the slogan “Livin’ the Dream.”

The signifiers of Mickey and Minnie Mouse have connotations ranging from children, happiness, magic, and good morals to a large capitalist corporation. However, as each individual has their own ideology it is possible to gather different interpretations of what this depiction means.  Individuals interpret signifiers so differently that the basic denotation of this image is often debated. Some people interpret Minnie Mouse as watching Mickey grope the woman and possibly wanting to join in, whilst others see Minnie as unrelated to the incident and simply sorting cocaine. One thing that is clear, however, is that this depiction is meant to elicit a very shocking and corrupt view of Disney.

One interpretation of the connotations of this image could be focused on the view of Disney as a major money-making corporation. One where the want for money is outweighs Walt Disney’s original intentions to make people happy and to transport them into another world. As the first ever Disneyland was built in Anaheim- a city outside of Los Angeles it could be a nod to both Disney, stereotypes of L.A. culture and the Hollywood entertainment industry as money grabbing.

Following on from this, the meaning of this depiction could also be interpreted as part of the “casting couch” sexual assault incidents of the entertainment industry, which at the time of this artwork were not encouraged to be openly spoken about and many victims are still coming forward to this day.

Another interpretation could also derive from conversations about the ‘Dark Side’ of Disney. A morally questionable tactic of Disney’s to upkeep their image of “the happiest place on earth” is Disney’s ability to say that no one has ever died at Disneyland. However, this is not actually true. Disney has been known to not allow people to be declared dead until taken to a hospital off Disney property.

Whatever the intent of this image, what may be even more relevant is the importance to continuously question major media companies as they do control a large portion of what we see which forms a basis for our knowledge, values, and ideologies. Perhaps this even was Banksy’s true message?

Gaming for those who cannot

BCM 110

I was eight years old the first time that I ever played the Sims. I was at a friend’s house sitting beside her at her office desk on a pulled up chair from the kitchen table. I watched with amazement as she typed in the cheat code ‘motherlode’ and our digital family grew $50,000 richer. Ever since then I have been in love with the Sims franchise. After completely destroying the family laptop with all of games and expansions that came with the Sims 2 and 3 I decided to opt against buying the Sims 4 and undergo my HSC with a laptop that actually functioned. This is when I discovered the niche Youtube market of gamer channels.

claire siobhan

This angel here is Clare Siobhan, a British Youtuber who produces gaming and vlog videos. What originally began as Clare creating Sim versions of herself and boyfriend Ali-A who also has a Youtube gaming channel quickly became much more than that. While most Youtube Sims series last at the most 50 parts long, focus on a particular game pack and lose their novelty after all of the new gameplay has been discovered Clare managed to break this mold.

With her engaging storytelling skills, mods, and a focus on in-depth character development Clare grew her Sims series into an interwoven 5 part mini-series focusing on Sim Clare and Ali’s legacy. This successful and unique Sims series is currently 11 months old and still going strong. This is a media audience that I am proud to be a part of.

Clare’s videos reach thousands of fans globally making me part of such a diverse media audience. It is interesting to think about how all of us subscribers interact with the series differently. For me personally; as Clare is a British Youtuber she uploads her videos when I’m asleep I have made it part of my morning routine that when I wake up, I pick up my phone and spend 40 minutes watching the next part of her series before getting up and going about my day. I also don’t leave comments on Youtube videos- I never have, which I feel is unusual for a Youtube audience as the creators are very responsive to what the audience wants to see happen in the series. But weirdly enough I always read the comments to see if people are commenting the same things that I want to see happen to make sure that my voice is being heard. And what’s even stranger is that there are usually many people commenting exactly what I want to see happen in the series.

However, thousands of people with different cultures, backgrounds, and opinions get so invested in the series’ characters. Part of what makes this series successful is that Clare asks her audience what they want to see which ranges from decisions like who a Sim will marry or small decisions such as what hairstyle a Sim should have. It is impossible to please everyone and sometimes you end up in the minority of a decision leaving you feeling slightly unfulfilled and deflated. I find this to be a weird phenomenon as usually in tv shows you don’t get to decide what happens, it just does and you accept that. The interactive environment is what makes being part of a Youtube media audience so fulfilling.

To be a part of this media audience makes me feel that not only am I a part of the Sims community but I am a part of the Clare fan base. This duality of audiences is a unique experience, and I recommend that everyone try and find a Youtube series to follow.