Tredinnick (2008) highlights two major implications of the digital effect on culture: the effect on the narrative and the emphasis on collaboration and participation. Online authenticity he suggests, is ‘not rooted in the cultural artefact and its indexial associations with an original creative act but in the use of those artefacts within social contexts’ (p 79) The YouTube platform offers participation on the level of using (viewing) and producing (creating). This, I would suggest, can be perceived as a kind of YouTube bricolage which situates the various levels of creativity in the hands of the user/producer. Tredinnick suggests that under such conditions the value and authenticity of cultural objects are reinvested in a participatory mode of cultural production (p. 89).  

Koznets (2010, p. 34), in his typography of online users, identifies 4 categories of users from one study (de Valck, 2005) which he aligns with a further 4 categories to pair up as follows: the newbie/lurker, the mingler/networker, the devotee/interactor and the insider/maker. What is unusual in the YouTube environment is that interaction of the various categories is often indistinguishable, and each of the category can progress to a more advanced level.  

What becomes clear when looking at the YouTube platform is one of interweaving and intertwining, a disparate community where members and visitors, fans and indeed the band members themselves can mix and anyone can offer a comment and reflect. Each type of user can interact, and their level of ‘expertise’ is to some extent irrelevant to the fan. For example, music festival upload by fans, bands, music promoters and TV companies all contribute to a sense of ‘I was there’, turning online activity into a MOOC, or a Massive Open Online Club.

Koznets'(2010) classification of the type of online community YouTube represents is more fluid, with elements of each satisifying various types of fans' needs: cruising (recreational needs), bonding (as being a 'signed up' YouTube member), geeking (with the emphasis on the visual rather than textual) and building (when one considers the sheer number of uploads and comments). This ambiguity reflects the many attempts at defining what YouTube does best: curating the largest archive of images for the purpose of almost anything and everything and for which anyone can potentially take part in. A ‘Community of Practice’ (Nancy Baym, 1999, quoted in Koznets 2010, p. 29) may be more applicable, although the anonymous and casual nature of YouTube is less likely to support a tight community. I would suggest that the practice is more relating to the technical practice, facilitated by the ease of uploading the materials. Therefore the affordability of the platform gives it a homogeneous interface and the perceived heterogeneous uploads support the ideal conditions for continuous consumption.

Indeed, two aspects of online activity related to the above play a key role for the music fan: the first is the ‘proximity’ to the band and the second is the ‘consumption’ of the band.
Web 2.0 facilitates the reconfiguration of the relations between performers and their audiences (Beer, 2008, 233-34): the befriending with other fans and potentially the band, through other social media such as Facebook and MySpace enhance the impression of proximity. This closeness is enhanced by the ability to physically carry this mediated object of desire literally in your pocket, through handheld devices such as smartphones and tablets.

A second factor is the ‘consumption’ of the band. The availability of the uploads, snippets or full music videos, concerts, TV appearances, anything featuring ‘the band’ is unstable, meaning material is uploaded (and removed) regularly. It is suggested (Hand 2008, p. 37 and Treddenick, p. 89 ) that there is a blurring of boundaries between the production and consumption of culture, with digitally mediated and circulated artefacts available in abundance. Hand (2008,p. 37) argues that the generation of ‘value’ is not in relation to either price (exclusivity) or origins (authenticity) but in relation to information (distinctiveness).’  Treddenick does not just take the information value into account, but the ability to move away from the materiality of the object (the record as analogue music, the band as a physical entity) into ‘the process of participation’. ‘The objects of culture are no longer secured behind glass cases tied to the walls of museums and galleries’ or, in the case of a music fan, constrained by the control over publishing and broadcasting of the established institutions, but ‘are created and recreated in the social process.’ (p. 90) The autocratic power of the record company or music promoter, as a ‘publishing force’ is increasingly erased, fans create their own online broadcasting galleries, continuously re-propagated, re-uploaded.
Tredennick (2008, p. 138) highlights the concept of ‘disintermediation’  whereby consumers are bypassing the established channels of media. YouTube is overtaking this corporate role, and through its validation of these heterogeneous group of contributors and participants a global music outlet is being maintained by everyone concerned.

Burgess and Green (2009, p. 60) regard YouTube as a 'patron' similar to an art gallery, nevertheless a gatekeeper in that it controls some of the conditions under which this creative content is produced, ordered and presented for the interpretation of audiences. 
William Ulricchio (2009) comments that YouTube is participatory and embracing mashup culture, as well as an openness to textual destabilisation and radical recontextualistation, together with a fundamental reliance on user-generated content (p. 24). The same patron-ness has a monetary 'transmutation of numbers into gold' which opens up interesting challenges with regards to proprietary conditions and moral dilemmas for the loyal music fan. Sharing bootleg material, poor quality recordings may well earn the fan 'likes', a certain status  and re-embedding power, but how will this benefit the musicians? 
Could it be that, as Mark Poster (2006, p.147) suggests when reflecting on digital culture, that YouTube music fans can lose their distance from the public sphere, lose a sense of separateness from objects and events outside themselves, and run the risk of losing cultural distance which is essential to autonomous ethical judgement, bringing 'chaos to the souls of those online' (p. 160)? 

No comments:

Post a Comment