YouTube Tour #5: The Owner/User Dialectic (March 11, 2008)
NOTES: Origins and Context | See Also
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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.
According to Snickars and Vonderau, "YouTube presents videos in conjunction with viewer statistics, not detailed user profiles ... 'users' are by definition reduced to quantified traces of actual usage."[cit]

The Master-Slave dialectic in Hegelian philosophy understands that: "the master needs the slave for recognition. That is what objective certainty means. But this recognition is not reciprocal, as the master is recognized by someone whom he does not recognize, and recognition from one side is not sufficient ... His objective certainty is not confirmed by another self-conscious being and will never get satisfaction by being recognized by a slave or a thing."[cit]

For computers, "master/slave is a model of communication where one device or process has unidirectional control over one or more other devices. In some systems a master is elected from a group of eligible devices, with the other devices acting in the role of slaves."[cit]
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More videos related to the content of this page
The user is told she is free, but this is not the case. Nowhere near it.

She makes work in forms that best serve the master's (oops) owner's, well, corporation's needs. Her ideas, spoken freely through newly accessible cameras and on little screens encircled by ads, reflect those that the master taught her. Her videos gallop freely across the Internet, insulting some along the way, enshrouded by others' flames the longer they sit still.

The user feels she is free, and so she speaks. But the owner uses other users to censor her as the owner sees fit. The user might be a person; she's often a corporation; more often she's an individual servicing a corporation for free! Even though all of this is done gratis, justifying YouTube's highly celebrated "democratic" claims, little of this labor works outside a corporate economy (even for nonprofits) that does very well by free users' free work.

The owner? Well, he has very little to do.

The slave user does all the work, makes the content, rates it, censors it, watches it (and gets her eyeballs to the ads)—and all for no pay!

This is from my Tour #5. Yes, I know it's too negative. Yes, I know people get to speak and be heard through their user-generated content. But this is what my students learned, (perhaps because I am their master teacher [OOPS!])

"In computer networking, master/slave is a model for a communication protocol in which one device or process (known as the master) controls one or more other devices or processes (known as slaves). Once the master/slave relationship is established, the direction of control is always from the master to the slave(s). The County of Los Angeles, saying the term master/slave may be offensive to some of its residents, has asked equipment manufacturers not to use the term."[cit]