The YouTubification of Politics, Impoliteness and Polarization

The YouTubification of Politics, Impoliteness and Polarization

Pilar Garcés-Conejos Blitvich
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch035
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This aim of this chapter is to relate deindividuation to impoliteness and impoliteness to polarization. To that effect, sequences extracted from the comments section to videoclips posted on YouTube and related to the 2008 US primaries and presidential elections were subjected to a quantitative and a qualitative analysis. The analysis sought to confirm the hypothesis that polarization, within this context, would be related to an increase in positive impoliteness strategies. Also, this chapter raises important questions regarding the applicability of current theories of impoliteness to the study of polyloguic, intergroup communication as most of their tenets were developed to tackle dyadic, interpersonal communication. Impoliteness is seen as multifunctional within the context analyzed and, contrary to general belief, it is argued that it can be also constitutive, rather than just disruptive, of communal life.
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Youtube And American Politics

As indicated above, the sequences that make up the corpus on which the present study is based were extracted from the comments to videos posted on YouTube. YouTube was launched on February 15, 2005 as a personal video sharing service. Today, it has become an “entertainment destination” where people watch more than 100 million videos on the site daily (YouTube Fact Sheet). Nielsen Net Ratings reports that YouTube has almost 20 million unique users per month. With a 70% of users claiming to be from the USA (Lange 2007), YouTube’s impact on US politics was first noticed during the congress electoral campaign of 2006. However, the 2008 primaries and presidential elections have witnessed the “YouTubification” of politics. (May 2008).

Grove (2008: 28) reports that “…each of the 16 one time presidential candidates had YouTube channels; seven announced their candidacies on YouTube. Their staffs uploaded thousands of videos that were viewed tens of millions of times.” Also, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations and ordinary citizens actively participated in the electoral conversation by posing their messages on YouTube. Furthermore, news organizations launched YouTube channels, among others, the Associated Press, New York Times, the BBC, and The Wall Street Journal. Grove points out that YouTube provides a useful sounding board for politicians as 20% of YouTube users are over age 55; the same percentage who is under 18, which means that the YouTube audience “…roughly mirrors the national population” (Grove ibid, p. 29). Moreover, crucially for the purposes of this paper, YouTube has been described as the world’s largest town hall for political debate, where voters connect with other voters, candidates and the media no longer constrained by conventional barriers of time and space.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Deindividuation: refers to the situation in which an individual is so immersed in a group that s/he is no longer seen as an individual.

Computer mediated communication/CMC: refers to any communicative transaction between two or more individual people who interact and/or influence each other through the use of two or more separated networked computers

Political discourse: refers to the discourse practices engaged in by all actors – from politicians and organizations to citizens- in a political process.

YouTube: started as a video sharing website on which users can upload and share video clips and view them. More recently, it has been become a social interaction platform and a locus for political debate.

Polarization: refers to the process in which - during or after political or other types of debate - a group divides itself into two, or more, factions with completely divergent views on the issue at hand.

Linguistic impoliteness: face threatening linguistic behavior leading to face loss.

Pragmatics: is a field of linguistics that aims to describe how social/cognitive constraints on the production /interpretation of discourse.

2008 USA Elections: After Senator Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the democratic primaries, Senators John McCain and Barack Obama ran for the presidency of the US.

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