YouTube Tour #6: Losing Community in the Video Archive (March 17, 2008)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
[ X ]
Origins of this content
This 2008 blog post is connected to my YouTour project where, after teaching the 2007 LFYT class, I attempted to create on YouTube a structure to think through, display, and organize the hundreds of student videos made for the course, which were (like other videos on YouTube) hard to systematize, see, or make sense of via our class page. I created tours around six themes: community/archive, owner/user, vernacular, popularity, entertainment, and education. As was true for the entire project, I was attempting to hack YouTube to force it to do the things I needed as an educator and scholar: organize, track, build, map, and otherwise make randomly displayed information more coherent.
Community on the internet has been a focus for academic study. "Research into Internet communities and online behavior constituted one of the earliest and most dynamic fields of interest in the new field of Internet studies ... including understanding how social order was possible in mediated environments, the social and political dimensions of community, the impacts that online communities could have on their offline counterparts."[cit] Users have been drawn to YouTube, and other Web 2.0 platforms in the name of community.

The Internet (and YouTube) is somewhere between an archive and a database (an organized collection of data for one or multiple uses[cit]). Theorists of the archive discuss the authority and power of the archive (and archivist); its stake in finding and naming origins, producing history, and creating knowledge; and its (impossible) attempts for totality.

"IT practitioners have a specialized meaning of archive of course. It's what we do to data that nobody ought to want any more, but we aren't allowed to delete it altogether, so we wipe it off the main database and stuff it onto tapes in a vault and God help anyone who wants to read it." [cit]
[ X ]
More videos related to the content of this page
I speak of the failures of YouTube's archive and how this structures its problems with community.

The architecture and corporate ownership of YouTube draw users in by fueling their desire for community. While many come to the site to be seen and heard by others (to make friends), they are much better served by the outside world or Facebook. For, the very tools and structures for community-building that are hallmarks of Web 2.0 (or a library or classroom)—those that link, gather, index, search, version, allow participation, commenting, and networking—are studiously refused on the site, even as it remains the poster child of Web 2.0. People go elsewhere for these functions, dragging their favorite YouTube videos with them to more hospitable platforms (with YouTube's generous permission).

YouTube is a site to upload and store (and use to embed on other sites) videos. The very paucity of its other functions feeds its primary purpose: moving users' eyeballs aimlessly and without direction, scheme, or map across its unparalleled archive of moving images and associated advertisements.

YouTube is a mess: videos are hard to find, easy to misname, and quick to lose. While its users would certainly be aided by a good archivist, the site expresses to us via its conscientious failings that it is not a place to hunker down or hang out with others, not a place within which to seriously research or study, not a place for anything but solo-play. Enjoy!