YouTube Politics

YouTube Politics

Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 33
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9855-0.ch004


“With the shift of television to digital format in the next decade, it will become virtually interchangeable with the internet. Hence, those firms that come to dominate digital television may well be poised to play a major role in the age of the internet” (McChesney, 1999, p. 167). The previous quote, written long before YouTube existed, is somewhat prescient. YouTube is a website of influence and power for traditional media conglomerates. Even early in scholarly literature about mass media, Todd Gitlin suggested that human experience, as it relates to mass media, has become a commodity. According to Gitlin (1980), the only way to solve that problem is to “demolish the media and to create a movement as an alternative source of values, network of relations and standard of authenticity” (p. 255). His politically charged language frames well what it means to be political in YouTube. That said, being “political” in YouTube is different for everyone and all of the definitions resonate with traditional ideas of political activity in terms of demonstrations and the exercise of democratic and free speech. For many, the 2008 presidential campaign is a watershed moment for YouTube, as it is credited with helping candidates gain supporters and increase political activism, specifically among younger voters. While this technologically deterministic view is limited, YouTube provides an inexpensive and socioculturally relevant platform for political messages from politicians and the people. International politics, in particular the Arab Spring and the spate of horrific murders committed in the name of fundamentalist political and religious fervor by Isis and others, have found a worldwide audience in YouTube who comment, post, and repost videos and generally provide thoughtful criticism about what's happening. This is an obvious contradiction of what many in the popular press see as YouTube's raison d'être. YouTube is also a place for local political activity, although not as prevalent as national politics nor used as efficiently. In terms of political activity, user-generated videos uploaded by “citizen journalists” have been credited for motivating change in countries around the world, no doubt related to YouTube's worldwide audience.
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Being Political

What does it mean for a YouTuber to be political? This is a difficult question made even more complex because of how the word has taken on a variety of connotations, depending on one’s generation, location in the world, and cultural and ethnic background. Blitvich, Bou-Franch, and Lorenzo-Dus discussed politics on YouTube from a cultural-ethnic perspective.

A “YouTubification” of politics certainly occurred during the 2008 US presidential elections (May 2008; Garcés-Conejos Blitvich 2010) with citizens enthusiastically submitting postings and commenting on others’ postings in response to YouTube video-clips about the elections. One of these postings featured a video-clip made up of a collage of images of, principally, Barack Obama campaigning in front of, or interacting with, Latino groups in the US. (Blitvich, Bou-Franch, & Lorenzo-Dus, 2013, p. 564)

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