MSC	  IN	  DIGITAL	  ANTHROPOLOGY	  DISSERTATION	                                                                        	...
               	                	                Abstract	                This	  research	  focused	  in	  an	  informal	 ...
List	  of	  Contents	  Title	  page	  .......................................................................................
Acknoledgements	              I	  must	  thank	  first	  the	  academic	  team	  of	  our	  programme:	  Danny	  Miller,	 ...
received	  a	  practical	  training	  in	  basic	  makeup	  from	  Astra	  Wren,	  an	  excellent	  teacher	  and	  makeup...
Introduction	                                     The	  process	  of	  producing	  this	  dissertation	  began	  with	  a	...
power	  and	  limitations	  to	  upload	  videos	  and	  interact	  with	  others.	  Although	  companies	  are	  graduall...
less	  than	  two	  weeks.	  Phan’s	  welcome	  message	  for	  her	  YouTube	  channel	  says:	  “I	  was	  born	  an	  a...
by	  journalists	  and	  also	  by	  academics.	  I	  have	  also	  applied	  it,	  for	  convenience	  and	  lack	  of	  ...
artifacts	  forged	  through	  techniques	  to	  captivate	  the	  minds	  of	  viewers,	  particularly	  by	  making	  th...
Introducing	  YouTube	  and	  Beauty	  Gurus	                                     In	  this	  section	  of	  the	  dissert...
Founded	  in	  February	  2005,	  YouTube	  radically	  simplified	  the	  process	  of	  sharing	  audio-­‐visual	  docum...
future	  videos.	  This	  success	  might	  be	  converted	  in	  to	  money	  or	  material	  benefits,	  either	  by	  b...
content);	  Partners	  (institutional	  content);	  Reporters	  (editorial	  content);	  and	  Sponsors	  (advertising	  c...
YouTube	  shows	  the	  importance	  they	  have	  in	  attracting	  and	  mobilising	  attention.	  According	  to	  YouT...
being	  identified	  as	  one	  by	  other	  members	  of	  the	  “sorority”5,	  and	  one’s	  acceptance	  implies	  the	...
                                                                                                               	          ...
Together	  with	  acquiring	  the	  common	  visual	  language	  presented	  above,	  a	  beauty	  guru	  is	  recognized	...
through	  YouTube	  by	  means	  of	  videos	  and	  text	  comments,	  but	  also	  exceeds	  this	  domain	  to	  includ...
and	  experience	  by	  having	  to	  produce	  more	  videos	  and	  also	  by	  promoting	  their	  individual	  channel...
is	  sometimes	  accompanied	  by	  tension	  as	  the	  guru	  becomes	  vulnerable	  to	  criticism	  by	  competitors	 ...
Methodology	               My	  original	  project	  was	  to	  study	  informal	  learning	  online.	  I	  wanted	  to	  ...
when	  does	  a	  person	  move	  from	  the	  position	  of	  being	  in	  an	  audience	  to	  that	  of	  active	  part...
straightforward	  enough	  to	  produce	  direct	  answers	  and	  also	  general	  enough	  to	  allow	  the	  interviewe...
Methods	  for	  gathering	  data	               I	  spent	  over	  a	  month	  “living”	  among	  beauty	  gurus	  before	...
discussion	  forums	  and	  threads	  so	  interesting	  from	  the	  ethnographic	  point	  of	  view	  is	  that	  they	...
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus
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Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus

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Dissertation submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of MSc in Digital Anthropology (UCL) of the University of London in 2011. This research focused in an informal group called “YouTube beauty gurus”. They invest time and resources attracting attention to (and thus gaining publicity from) videos they produce mainly about how to perform makeup routines. I used the ethnographic material the research generated to analyse the production of social order in a virtual space where everyone has the same infrastructure to act. I drew from Munn’s (1986) theory of value to analyse a digital artefact called “Tag” used for bridging smaller networks of users through the spatiotemporal expansion of those who trade it. Gell’s (1998) theory of art provided the larger framing to examine video makeup tutorials, a sophisticated construct that entraps its audience by creating the impression of affinity of the guru with her viewers. The final chapter applied Munn’s phenomenological approach to map debates around performance, professionalization, friendship and beauty, which are central to this group’s. In all cases, the research confirmed that conceptualizing action as the origin of value creation represented a rich alternative to examine how this group engineers its social organization. Also, this work discusses methodological possibilities to conduct ethnographic research on YouTube.

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Making up Art, Videos and Fame: The Creation of Social Order in the Informal Realm of YouTube Beauty Gurus

  1. 1. MSC  IN  DIGITAL  ANTHROPOLOGY  DISSERTATION       MAKING  UP  ART,  VIDEOS  AND  FAME     The  Creation  of  Social  Order  in  the  Informal  Realm  of  YouTube  Beauty  Gurus     JULIANO  SPYER    Dissertation  submitted  in  partial  fulfilment  of  the  requirements  for  the  degree  of  MSc  in  Digital  Anthropology  (UCL)  of  the  University  of  London  in  2011.   WORD  COUNT:  18,000   UNIVERSITY  COLLEGE  OF  LONDON   DEPARTMENT  OF  ANTHROPOLOGY           1  
  2. 2.       Abstract   This  research  focused  in  an  informal  group  called  “YouTube  beauty  gurus”.  They  invest  time  and  resources  attracting  attention  to  (and  thus  gaining  publicity  from)  videos  they  produce  mainly  about  how  to  perform  makeup  routines.  I  used  the  ethnographic  material  the  research  generated  to  analyse  the  production  of  social  order  in  a  virtual  space  where  everyone  has  the  same  infrastructure  to  act.  I  drew  from  Munn’s  (1986)  theory  of  value  to  analyse  a  digital  artefact  called  “Tag”  used  for  bridging  together  smaller  networks  of  users  through  the  spatiotemporal  expansion  of  those  who  trade  it.  Gell’s  (1998)  theory  of  art  provided  the  larger  framing  to  examine  video  makeup  tutorials,  a  sophisticated  construct  that  entraps  its  audience  by  creating  the  impression  of  affinity  of  the  guru  with  her  viewers.  The  final  chapter  applied  Munn’s  phenomenological  approach  to  map  debates  around  performance,  professionalization,  friendship  and  beauty,  which  are  central  to  this  group’s.  In  all  cases,  the  research  confirmed  that  conceptualizing  action  as  the  origin  of  value  creation  represented  a  rich  alternative  to  examine  how  this  group  engineers  its  social  organization.  Also,  this  work  discusses  methodological  possibilities  to  conduct  ethnographic  research  on  YouTube.   Key  words:  YouTube,  makeup,  fame,  theory  of  value,  agency         2  
  3. 3. List  of  Contents  Title  page  .......................................................................................................................  1  Abstract  .........................................................................................................................  2  List  of  contents  ..............................................................................................................  3  Acknowledgements   ........................................................................................................  4  Introduction  ...................................................................................................................  6   Structure  of  the  Dissertation  ..................................................................................................  9  Chapter  1:  Introducing  YouTube  and  Beauty  Gurus  ......................................................  11   YouTube’s  Beauty  Gurus   .......................................................................................................  14  Chapter  2:  History  of  the  Project,  Method  and  Ethics  ...................................................  22   Preparation  for  the  Research  ................................................................................................  23   Methods  for  Gathering  Data  .................................................................................................  25   Definition  of  Informants  .......................................................................................................  28   Ethical  Choices  ......................................................................................................................  29  Chapter  3:  Value  Production  and  Spatiotemporal  Expansion  through  Tag  videos  .........  30   General  Aspects  of  Comparison  between  Kula  and  YouTube  ................................................  30   Tag  Videos  as  Virtual  Objects  of  Exchange  ............................................................................  32   Value  Production  and  Intersubjective  Spatiotemporal  Expansion  .........................................  34   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  35  Chapter  4:  YouTube  Makeup  Tutorials  as  Traps  ............................................................  37   Agency,  Trap  and  ‘Distributed’  Mind  ....................................................................................  38   The  Artificiality  of  Makeup  Tutorials  .....................................................................................  38   ‘Context  Collapse’  and  the  Trap  of  Context  Recreation  .........................................................  40   ‘Privately  Public’  and  the  Trap  of  Controlling  the  Release  of  Information  .............................  42   ‘Videos  of  Affinity’  and  the  Simulation  of  Closeness  .............................................................  43   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  45  Chapter  5:  Fake  or  Real:  the  Production  of  Value  among  Gurus  ....................................  46   The  Dialectical  Creation  of  Self-­‐Other  ...................................................................................  46   Authenticity  vs.  Performance  ...............................................................................................  48   Amateur  vs.  Professional  ......................................................................................................  49   Friends  vs.  Fans  ....................................................................................................................  50   Interior  Beauty  vs.  Exterior  Beauty  .......................................................................................  53   Haters  and  the  Subversion  of  Positive  Value  .........................................................................  55   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  56  Conclusion  ...................................................................................................................  58  Bibliography   .................................................................................................................  63         3  
  4. 4. Acknoledgements   I  must  thank  first  the  academic  team  of  our  programme:  Danny  Miller,  Lane  De  Nicola  and  Stefana  Broadbent,  for  the  intellectual  insights  provided  through  the  year  as  much  as  for  the  availability  to  help  and  to  give  meaningful  academic  guidance.  I  especially  thank  Danny,  who  supervised  the  development  of  this  dissertation,  for  offering  rich  feedback  to  improve  the  work.  Christopher  Tilley  and  Ludovic  Coupaye  from  the  Material  Culture  programme  also  offered  valuable  attention  and  guidance.     I  am  grateful  to  the  office  staff  of  our  department,  more  directly  to  Diana  Goforth  and  James  Emmanuel,  for  the  professionalism  and  interest  they  demonstrated  throughout  the  year.  I  must  also  acknowledge  a  small  but  helpful  grant  from  UCL,  which  allowed  me  to  buy  two  books  and  pay  for  a  basic  makeup  course.   My  colleagues  at  the  postgraduate  level  at  the  Anthropology  Department  were  a  constant  source  of  support  and  intellectual  motivation.  I  would  like  to  mention  the  names  of  Andrew  Merril,  Cosimo  Lupo,  Hannah  Rose  Van  Wely,  Hussah  Al  Tamimi,  Jennifer  Robinson,  Jewel  Thomas,  João  Matta,  Laurence  Byrne,  Lida  Papamathaiaki,  Luiz  Vieira,  Matilda  Marshall,  Mika  Pasanen,  Nick  Gadsby,  Peter  Westman  and  Susanna  Inzoli.  I  am  also  in  debt  with  researchers  Jane  Cameron  from  the  London  College  of  Fashion  and  Sarah  Winkler  Reid  from  Brunel  University  for  the  opportunity  of  discussing  and  receiving  feedback  about  the  research.     During  the  initial  stage  of  my  fieldwork,  I  interviewed  six  women  about  their  experiences  with  cosmetics.  This  material  was  not  directly  used  on  this  dissertation,  but  it  was  nonetheless  a  very  helpful  introduction  to  the  subject.  They  are  Alex  Guado,  Chloe  Cook,  Dafne  Louzioti,  Helen  Saunders,  Kathleen  Sattore  and  Phoebe  Frangoul.  (Thanks  also  to  Jude  Saunders  for  putting  me  in  contact  with  Helen).  I  was  also  fortunate  to  have     4  
  5. 5. received  a  practical  training  in  basic  makeup  from  Astra  Wren,  an  excellent  teacher  and  makeup  artist  from  the  Rouge  London  Makeup  School.     I  own  the  YouTube  “gurus”  that  guided  me  through  their  world  for  a  significant  portion  of  the  enthusiasm  that  fuelled  this  project.   This  dissertation  is  dedicated  to  José  Carlos  Sebe  Bom  Meihy.  His  loves  of  knowledge  and  of  writing  and  his  belief  in  the  importance  of  addressing  public  themes  are  a  source  of  inspiration.  And  also  to  my  wife  Thais,  who  teaches  me  about  the  important  things  of  life  and  said  I  should  study  anthropology.         5  
  6. 6. Introduction   The  process  of  producing  this  dissertation  began  with  a  period  immersion  in  the  daily  lives  of  a  group  of  people  that  gather  spontaneously  on  YouTube  to  discuss  makeup.  They  call  themselves  “gurus”  and  their  routines  centre  on  attracting  attention  to  (and  thus  gaining  publicity  from)  videos  they  produce  using  portable  cameras  and  normal  computers.  For  this  reason,  part  of  the  contribution  this  work  intends  to  offer  relates  to  the  use  of  experimental  methodological  approaches  to  conduct  ethnographic  research  on  YouTube.  Since  teenagers  compose  a  significant  portion  of  the  group,  the  choices  I  made  also  respond  to  the  ethical  challenge  of  researching  subjects  who  are  underage.   These  gurus  invest  substantial  quantities  of  time  and  resources  to  crafting  videos  with  the  objective  of  gaining  recognition.  Some  have  risen  from  their  channels  to  achieve  the  status  of  celebrities  in  different  media  outlets,  arrived  at  distinguished  career  opportunities  or  launched  lines  of  cosmetic  products  with  their  names.  Many  are  not  quite  as  notorious  but  have  built  an  audience  with  tens  of  thousands  subscribers  who  regularly  watch  their  videos.  At  the  same  time,  it  was  clear  from  the  early  stages  of  my  fieldwork  that  acquiring  visibility  inside  this  group  did  not  result  from  the  simple  knowledge  one  had  about  makeup;  fame  resulted  from  an  intense  process  of  engaging  in  conversations  and  building  relationships.   I  chose  Munn’s  (1986)  theory  of  value  as  the  broad  conceptual  framework  to  analyze  the  ethnography  of  these  “beauty  gurus”.  Originally  developed  from  a  research  conducted  on  the  distant  island  of  Gawa  in  Papua  New  Guinea,  it  offers  a  model  to  study  an  informal  realm1  similar  to  the  one  I  found  on  YouTube,  where  users  have  the  same                                                                                                                           1  Winkler  Reid  (2010:  13)  conceptualizes  the  notion  of  “informal  realm”  in  the  contexts  of  schools,   where  it  represents  “a  network  of  pupil  action  creating  and  sustaining  intersubjective  relations,  and   producing  value  outside  that  recognized  by  formal  schooling  [but  also]  shaped  by  it.”  Similarly  to  what  I     6  
  7. 7. power  and  limitations  to  upload  videos  and  interact  with  others.  Although  companies  are  gradually  becoming  aware  of  this  “tribe”,  material  reward  does  not  represent  the  main  incentive  for  its  existence.  In  this  setting,  users  build  relationships  through  actions  such  as  watching,  evaluating,  commenting,  subscribing  and  uploading  videos.  Social  order  results  from  the  evaluation  of  these  actions  and  provides  individuals  and  groups  with  different  levels  of  status  (Winkler  Reid,  2010:  10-­‐11).   I  also  draw  from  Gell’s  (1998)  anthropological  theory  of  art  to  examine  the  “technology  of  enchantment”  used  to  produce  these  videos.  (One  could  call  it  “the  art  of  self-­‐representing  the  act  of  self-­‐decoration”.)  I  chose  Gell’s  more  general  framework  and  not  those  offered  by  anthropological  studies  of  self-­‐decoration  (see,  for  example,  Strathern,  1979;  O’Hanlon,  1989;  Gell,  1993;  and  Ewart  and  O’Hanlon,  2007)  because  his  work  was  conceived  as  a  corpus  of  theory  disembodied  from  indigenous  ethnography  to  be  applied  to  different  manifestations  of  art.  By  understanding  the  art  object  as  an  actor  that  mediates  social  relations,  it  is  possible  to  consider  that  these  objects  “mediate  a  technology  to  achieve  certain  ends,  notably  to  enmesh  patients  in  relation  and  intentionalities  sought  or  prescribed  by  agents”  (Thomas,  2001:  5).     (As  makeup  enthusiasts,  many  beauty  gurus  see  the  use  of  cosmetics  as  an  unrecognized  form  of  art  that,  as  such,  has  agency  and  creates  different  opportunities  for  empowerment.  Michelle  Phan’s  video  entitled  Catch  My  Heart  (2011)  could  be  a  starting  point  for  a  discussion  about  makeup  and  agency  just  by  considering  that  it  is  a  video  about  makeup,  directed  and  enacted  by  the  same  person,  exploring  new  grounds  regarding  the  narrative  of  makeup  tutorials  and  has  attracted  over  1.4  million  views  in                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           observed  among  beauty  gurus,  “the  most  successful  pupils  in  the  informal  realm  are  those  who  are   best  able  to  negotiate  their  investiment  in  order  to  create  the  most  value  .  .  .  through  their  acts  and   practices.”       7  
  8. 8. less  than  two  weeks.  Phan’s  welcome  message  for  her  YouTube  channel  says:  “I  was  born  an  artist,  a  self-­‐taught  painter  for  10  years  and  went  through  an  additional  3  years  at  Ringling  College  of  Art  and  Design.  Makeup  is  another  medium  to  me.”  One  of  my  informants,  a  guru  of  17  years  old  and  one  thousand  subscribers,  echoes  this  idea  in  her  channel:  “.  .  .  when  I  was  introduced  to  makeup  I  looked  at  it  as  an  art  and  it  helped  me  gain  confidence  in  myself.”)   As  a  telescope  uses  different  formats  of  lenses  and  mirrors  to  process  luminous  information,  I  sought  conceptual  tools  that  could  attach  to  the  more  robust  framing  of  Munn  and  Gell  and  allow  the  examination  of  social  relations  mediated  by  digital  networks.  I  initially  drew  from  Miller’s  (2001)  application  of  the  notion  of  “art  as  a  trap”  to  examine  websites  in  Trinidad,  demonstrating  the  possibilities  of  applying  this  framing  to  virtual  artifacts.  I  also  looked  for  analytic  tools  developed  for  previous  research  conducted  on  YouTube.   Those  less  familiar  with  YouTube  are  usually  indifferent  to  the  ways  people  appropriate  it  as  a  device  for  decentralized  group  communication.  Conversations  evolve  from  a  distinct  set  of  conditions.  For  instance:  exchanges  are  not  synchronous  and  may  be  directed  to  an  unpredictable  range  of  spectators.  If  the  experience  of  virtuality  throws  humanity  “off-­‐balance”,  as  Boellstorff  (2008)  suggests,  it  also  changes  the  way  people  perceive  the  world.  In  this  context,  notions  such  as  “privacy”  seem  insufficient  to  describe  a  type  of  shared  content  that  displays  intimacy  but  limits  information  about  identity.  I  draw  on  studies  conducted  on  YouTube  by  Lange  (2007  and  2009)  and  Wesch  (2008)  to  bridge  the  wider  analytic  framing  with  the  specificity  of  the  topic.   In  order  to  address  categories  of  socially-­‐interconnected  users  like  YouTube  gurus,  one  is  tempted  to  use  the  term  “community”,  which  is  largely  adopted  for  that  purpose     8  
  9. 9. by  journalists  and  also  by  academics.  I  have  also  applied  it,  for  convenience  and  lack  of  better  alternatives,  as  a  synonym  for  “large  and  informal  social  group”.  I  do  so  being  aware  of  Postill’s  (2008)  discussion  of  this  topic,  which  considers  the  term  problematic  due  to  its  vagueness  and  emotionally  charged  character.  As  he  summarized,  “community  merits  attention  as  a  polymorphous  folk  notion  widely  used  both  online  and  offline,  but  as  an  analytical  concept  with  an  identifiable  empirical  referent  it  is  of  little  use.”     I  should  also  clarify  that  I  use  “she”  and  “her”  in  all  cases  except  when  the  person  referred  is  masculine.     Structure  of  the  dissertation     This  first  chapter  introduces  the  general  ground  where  the  research  takes  place.  I  explain  the  service  YouTube  offers  to  Internet  users,  give  a  general  idea  of  how  it  works  and  present  “makeup  gurus”,  which  are  the  subject  of  this  dissertation.  The  following  chapter,  which  focus  on  research  methodology,  exposes  different  aspects  that  I  found  relevant  about  the  process  of  engaging  ethnographically  with  YouTube  and  with  this  particular  group  of  users.  It  gives  the  reader  the  roadmap  I  followed  which  includes  indications  of  dead-­‐ends,  but  also  of  promising  paths  that  other  researchers  might  want  to  experiment  with.  It  is  there  I  describe  a  technique  also  used  by  Tarlo  (2010)  to  indirectly  participate  in  conversations  through  various  channels  of  interaction  used  by  the  subjects  of  the  research.   In  chapter  3  I  apply  Munn’s  (1986)  model  for  explaining  value  creation  through  acts  of  exchange  to  conceptualize  the  emergence  of  a  particular  category  of  videos  that  circulate  mostly  inside  the  beauty  community  of  YouTube,  called  “Tags”.  Chapter  4  draws  from  Gell’s  (1998)  theory  of  art  to  discuss  the  video  tutorials  created  by  gurus  as  virtual     9  
  10. 10. artifacts  forged  through  techniques  to  captivate  the  minds  of  viewers,  particularly  by  making  them  appear  to  be  produced  spontaneously  as  the  result  of  an  amateur  and  personal  labour  of  love.  I  develop  this  argument  using  the  notions  of  “context  collapse”  (Wesch,  2008),  “privately  public”  (Lange,  2007)  and  “video  of  affinity”  (Lange,  2009).     The  last  chapter  draws  mostly  from  Munn’s  (1986)  phenomenological  approach  to  attempt  to  map  key  aspects  that  derive  from  the  polarity  between  the  notions  of  “fake”  and  “real”.  This  chapter  also  focuses  more  on  ethnographic  material,  as  I  reflect  of  the  central  polarity  of  debates  around  the  topics  of  performance,  professionalization,  friendship  and  physical  beauty.   This  dissertation  contributes  to  the  emerging  field  of  digital  anthropology  as  it  explores  the  possibilities  of  applying  Munn’s  theory  of  value  to  study  the  creation  of  social  organization  and  hierarchy  in  decentralized  environments  on  the  Internet.  It  also  proposes  an  alternative  theoretical  path  to  the  study  of  self-­‐decoration  through  digital  technology,  as  most  of  the  production  on  the  topic  remains  focused  on  tribal  or  formally  tribal  groups.  My  work  is  also  intended  to  bring  a  contribution  to  the  anthropology  of  YouTube  as  it  deploys  an  analytic  toolkit  of  combined  notions  to  examine  the  agency  of  a  particular  type  of  video  and  how  it  mediates  relations  to  produce  particular  effects.           10  
  11. 11. Introducing  YouTube  and  Beauty  Gurus   In  this  section  of  the  dissertation,  I  will  briefly  introduce  the  website  YouTube,  explain  the  service  it  offers  to  Internet  users  and  give  a  general  idea  of  how  it  works.  By  presenting  the  various  ways  users  participate  in  YouTube,  I  will  arrive  at  the  informal  community  of  “gurus”  and,  particularly,  the  subcategory  of  “makeup  gurus”,  with  whom  I  conducted  fieldwork.  In  the  following  sub-­‐section,  I  will  address  the  types  of  contents  they  produce,  the  various  motivations  for  participating  in  the  community,  and  how  these  gurus  measure  success.  This  introduction  is  necessary  to  the  understanding  of  the  ethnography  presented  and  discussed  in  the  dissertation.   YouTube  is  a  social  networking  site2  based  on  the  distribution  of  audio-­‐visual  content  published  by  its  participants.  It  is  available  in  34  languages  and  it  is  the  third  most  visited  site  on  the  Internet  after  Google  and  Facebook3.  Participation  is  free  but  users  must  register  to  be  able  to  upload  content  and  perform  other  actions  like  rating  or  commenting  on  videos;  unregistered  users  may  only  watch  the  videos.  There  are  various  ways  of  accessing  a  given  content.  Users  can:  search  the  website’s  database;  select  one  of  the  options  suggested  by  the  content  editors;  or  receive  (from  an  acquaintance)  a  direct  link  to  open  a  video.  Once  content  is  made  available,  any  Internet  user  can  watch  it  at  any  time.                                                                                                                           2  YouTube  is  normally  described  as  a  “video-­‐sharing  site”,  which  stresses  the  audio-­‐visual  sharing   aspect  that  makes  it  different  from  other  social  networking  sites  and  also  represents  the  element  that   makes  the  site  valuable  to  the  majority  of  users  who  only  access  it  to  watch  –  and  not  to  upload  –   content.  As  noted  by  Lange  (2007),  this  definition  eludes  the  social  motivation  behind  the  website’s   success.  The  service  it  provides  matches  the  description  of  social  networking  site  offered  by  boyd  and   Ellison  (2008):  “We  define  social  network  sites  as  web-­‐based  services  that  allow  individuals  to  (1)   construct  a  public  or  semi-­‐public  profile  within  a  bounded  system,  (2)  articulate  a  list  of  other  users   with  whom  they  share  a  connection,  and  (3)  view  and  traverse  their  list  of  connections  and  those  made   by  others  within  the  system.”   3  Data  collected  by  Alexa  (http://www.alexa.com/)  in  September  of  2011.     11  
  12. 12. Founded  in  February  2005,  YouTube  radically  simplified  the  process  of  sharing  audio-­‐visual  documents  (Wesch,  2008).  The  problem  users  faced  before  the  arrival  of  this  kind  of  web  publishing  was  that  video  files  were  typically  very  large,  and  the  ability  to  share  videos  was  limited  to  those  who  had  access  to  broadband  connections.  Due  to  its  success,  Google  bought  the  company  in  2006.  In  2008,  users  were  uploading  200,000  new  videos  to  YouTube  per  day4  (Wesch,  2008).    The  same  study  showed  that  88%  of  this  content  was  new  or  original  and  was  made  for  audiences  of  100  or  less.  Most  of  these  “amateur”  uploads  consisted  either  of  users  displaying  a  certain  expertise  (i.e.  playing  the  piano),  or  personal  recordings  of  everyday  life.  Out  of  the  total  daily  amount,  10,000  videos  were  directed  to  the  YouTube  community  itself,  adding  to  on-­‐going  debates  of  users  on  topics  of  common  interest  (Wesch,  2008).     Users  interested  in  publishing  content  on  YouTube  must  first  create  their  own  channels,  but  there  is  no  limit  to  the  number  of  channels  a  user  can  have.  Participants  are  not  obliged  to  use  their  real  names;  only  a  valid  email  address  is  required,  as  is  the  norm  among  similar  websites  like  Facebook,  Wikipedia  and  Twitter.  The  channel  they  create  will  then  be  the  repository  of  the  user’s  uploaded  content  and  it  is  through  this  channel  that  the  subscription  system  works.  If  a  registered  user  likes  a  given  channel,  she  can  subscribe  to  it  and  be  notified  when  new  content  is  published.  Not  all  users  are  interested  in  measuring  the  attention  their  videos  generate,  but  those  who  are  do  so  by  comparing  numbers  of  views  a  video  has,  and  subscribers  a  channel  has.  The  most  successful  accumulate  a  greater  number  of  views,  a  measure  of  the  attention  they  gathered  up  the  present  and/or  a  greater  number  of  subscribers,  which  represent  the  channel’s  potential,  given  that  it  shows  how  many  people  want  to  watch  the  channel’s                                                                                                                           4  At  that  rate,  in  a  period  of  six  months  the  website  gathered  more  content  than  all  the  material   broadcasted  by  the  three  major  TV  networks  of  the  United  States  combined  (Wesch,  2008).       12  
  13. 13. future  videos.  This  success  might  be  converted  in  to  money  or  material  benefits,  either  by  becoming  a  YouTube  partner  and  receiving  part  of  the  channel’s  advertising  revenue,  or  by  making  deals  with  other  companies  to  promote  their  products  or  services.   The  different  motivations  users  have  for  sharing  their  content  on  YouTube  will  be  discussed  at  a  different  part  of  this  dissertation.  For  the  moment,  it  is  enough  to  mention  that  there  are  many  levels  of  involvement  with  the  website  and  its  community  as  well  many  different  types  of  content  published.  This  varies  according  to  variables  such  as  experience  in  using  virtual  social  environments  and  access  to  and  knowledge  of  video-­‐processing  software  and  equipment.   YouTube  organises  categories  of  information  based  on  types  of  content  and  types  of  accounts.  The  category  of  content  –  similar  to  that  of  types  of  magazines  –  is  defined  at  the  moment  the  video  is  published.  Before  uploading  the  document,  the  author  has  the  option  to  choose  from  the  following  possibilities  in  order  to  best  describe  their  content:  Autos  &  Vehicles;  Comedy;  Education;  Entertainment;  Film  &  Animation;  Gaming;  Howto  &  Style;  Music;  News  &  Politics;  Nonprofits  &  Activism;  People  &  Blogs;  Pets  &  Animals;  Science  &  Technology;  Sports;  and  Travel  &  Events.     The  easiest  way  one  arrives  at  these  categorist  is  by  accessing  the  homepage  of  YouTube  and  clicking  on  the  option  “browse”,  located  at  the  top  of  the  page,  to  the  right  of  the  search  button.   Type  of  account  is  a  category  chosen  at  the  time  the  user  creates  or  edits  the  information  on  her  channel.  The  options  provided  follow  a  different  rationale  to  that  of  traditional  media  outlets  and  represent  major  topics  of  interest  mapped  by  the  website’s  team.  Those  topics  are:  Comedians  (humour  content);  Directors  (fictional  content);  Gurus  (instructional  content);  Musicians  (musical  content);  Non-­‐Profit  (social  responsibility-­‐like     13  
  14. 14. content);  Partners  (institutional  content);  Reporters  (editorial  content);  and  Sponsors  (advertising  content).     These  categories  are  not  easily  accessible,  but  allow  registered  users  to  access  channel  rankings.  The  list  of  account  types  can  be  found  at  this  address:  http://www.youtube.com/channels,  on  the  left  hand-­‐side  menu  which  integrates  content  types  and  account  types.  By  choosing  an  account  type,  the  website  will  offer  two  options  of  rankings:  by  number  of  views  or  by  number  of  subscriptions.  These  alternatives  can  be  changed  according  to  parameters  of  location  and  time  span  –  i.e.  a  certain  guru  might  be  the  7th  most  subscribed  this  month  in  Brazil  or  a  certain  comedian  maybe  the  31st  most  viewed  this  week  worldwide.     A  person  that  chooses  to  describe  herself  as  “gurus”  tells  us  that  specific  the  content  of  her  channel  will  primarily  display  videos  with  instructions  on  how  to  perform  certain  tasks.  There  are  many  subcategories  that  exist  within  the  broader  category  of  gurus.  For  example,  there  are  channels  dedicated  to  teaching  fitness  routines,  showcasing  the  effects  of  different  types  of  weapons,  showing  the  positions  of  the  Kama  Sutra,  giving  lessons  on  how  to  programme  in  various  computer  languages,  discussing  topics  related  to  academic  centres  of  interest  (linguistics,  astronomy,  etc.),  giving  lessons  to  students  of  various  levels  and  basically  anything  that  can  be  imagined  to  mobilise  the  attention  of  groups  of  people.       YouTube’s  Beauty  Gurus   The  group  studied  for  this  dissertation  identify  themselves  as  “beauty  gurus”  or  “makeup  gurus”  for  the  obvious  reason  that  the  types  of  instructions  they  create  surround  the  themes  of  cosmetics,  beauty  and  fashion  in  general.  The  usage  statistics  of     14  
  15. 15. YouTube  shows  the  importance  they  have  in  attracting  and  mobilising  attention.  According  to  YouTube’s  ranking  of  gurus  in  May  2011,  half  of  the  top  24  channels  produced  beauty  related  content  and  none  of  the  other  gurus  (non-­‐beauty  gurus)  belong  to  a  single  category.  Michelle  Phan,  a  24  year-­‐old  Vietnamese-­‐American,  is  the  most  popular  beauty  guru  active  today  (Von  Pfetten,  2010).  She  has  nearly  1.5  million  users  subscribing  to  her  content  and  in  2010  became  the  most  subscribed  woman  on  YouTube.  In  order  to  evaluate  the  relevance  of  these  numbers,  it  might  be  useful  to  mention  that  the  BBC’s  YouTube  channel  has  close  to  268,000  subscribers.  Newcastle’s  Lauren  Luke,  the  most  famous  beauty  guru  from  the  United  Kingdom,  has  465,000  subscribers.   Based  on  my  broader  observation  of  English  speaking  participants,  most  gurus  are  either  teenagers  or  in  their  20s,  don’t  have  regular  jobs  and  record  their  videos  after  arriving  home  from  school  or  university.  (These  characteristics  seem  to  differ  from  country  to  country.  In  the  few  cases  of  Brazilian  beauty  gurus  I  observed,  a  number  of  them  related  their  activities  on  YouTube  to  earning  money  by  selling  the  products  they  use  to  create  “looks”.)  There  are  also  some  gurus  who  are  makeup  artists  that  adopted  the  “amateurish”  aesthetic  of  beauty  gurus  as  a  strategy  to  gain  popularity  and  consequently  open  up  new  career  opportunities.  These  gurus  tend  to  make  videos  only  about  makeup,  whereas  the  others  mingle  instructions  and  personal  accounts  of  their  lives  and  view  cosmetics  as  means  for  women  to  gain  self-­‐esteem  by  improving  their  appearances.     I  call  them  an  “informal  group”  because  it  is  a  group  without  controlled  boundaries.  Nobody  owns  it  (apart  from  YouTube)  or  limits  who  gets  in  or  out.  All  one  needs  to  do  to  become  a  guru  is  to  sign  up  for  a  YouTube  account  and  post  videos  related  to  the  subject.  In  this  sense,  being  a  beauty  guru  has  more  to  do  with  being  seen  as  such,     15  
  16. 16. being  identified  as  one  by  other  members  of  the  “sorority”5,  and  one’s  acceptance  implies  the  adoption  of  a  certain  aesthetic  for  producing  videos.  As  one  browses  through  the  production  of  different  gurus,  it  is  noticeable  how  the  videos  are  aesthetically  homogeneous,  independent  of  linguistic  or  geographical  differences.  Makeup  gurus  primarily  produce  videos  using  a  format  of  video-­‐narrative  called  “tutorial”.  An  “online  tutorial”  or  an  “internet  video-­‐tutorial”  is  a  step-­‐by-­‐step  instruction  on  different  topics.   As  I  observed  during  the  fieldwork   for  this  project,  beauty  gurus   worldwide  share  a  set  of  body   communication  techniques  to   create  makeup  tutorials.  Below  I   present  images  that  display  some   of  the  most  recurrent  types  of   Figure  1  I  n ever  saw  a  video  from  a  guru  that  was  not  recorded   in  their  rooms  or  at  another  personal  environment  (i.e.  the   body-­‐action6.   bathroom  or  the  dresser  room).             Figure  2  The  camera  and  the  monitor  takes  the  place  of  the     mirror.  The  guru  moves  her  face  closer  or  further  from  the   camera  according  to  the  instruction  she  is  giving.                                                                                                                           5  Although  there  are  male  gurus  –  mostly  gay  men  and/or  professional  makeup  artists  –  the   overwhelming  majority  of  gurus  devoted  to  beauty  related  topics  are  female.     6  All  the  images  of  gurus  portrayed  here  are  of  adults.  The  only  image  that  shows  a  full  frontal  face  is   the  first  and  it  is  from  a  celebrity  guru  with  over  100  thousand  followers.  I  do  not  inform  their   usernames  for  safety  reasons  that  will  be  discussed  opportunely.       16  
  17. 17.              Figure  3  When  a  new  product  is  used,  before  applying  it,  the  guru  brings  it  near  the  camera  to  show  the  label  with  the    products  specifications.                Figure  4  When  displaying  colour  is  important,  they  show  the    product  -­‐  i.e.  a  lipstick  -­‐  against  the  palm  of  their  h ands  to  produce  a  clearer  visualization.                 Figure  5  A  common  variation  of  this  gesture  is  to  apply  the   product  to  the  back  of  the  hand  to  show  its  effect  on  skin.     17  
  18. 18. Together  with  acquiring  the  common  visual  language  presented  above,  a  beauty  guru  is  recognized  also  for  being  active  in  creating  specific  kinds  of  content.  The  tutorial  is  the  most  frequent  and  it  includes  instructions  about  makeup,  hair  and  nails.  Product  reviews  are  also  popular  and  there  is  a  subcategory  of  reviews  called  “haul”  where  the  guru  showcases  various  items  she  has  recently  purchased.  “Outfit  of  the  day”  or  OOTD  is  a  brief  description  of  the  composition  of  clothes  and  accessories  the  guru  is  wearing  at  the  moment  of  making  the  video.  “Vlogs”  are  a  type  of  content  similar  to  a  diary  entry;  popular  subcategories  of  vlogging  are  “A  day  in  the  life”  and  “Follow  me  around”.     In  all  the  cases  I  observed,  the  makeup  guru  was  responsible  for  performing  all  the  tasks  related  to  the  production  of  the  video,  including  defining  the  particular  theme  of  each  video.  These  are  either  themes  of  their  own  repertoire  –  i.e.  a  certain  makeup  routine  to  go  to  school  –  or  represent  more  complex  objectives  like  reproducing  a  certain  “look”  used  by  a  celebrity  or  a  character  in  a  TV  show  or  film  –  i.e.  the  “look”  of  Kate  Middleton  for  the  Royal  wedding.  To  record  the  tutorial,  they  select  the  necessary  makeup  equipment  and  products,  turn  on  the  recording  software  and  perform  the  sequence  of  tasks  in  order  to  arrive  at  the  proposed  objective.  After  this  stage,  they  normally  use  editing  programmes  to  cut  unnecessary  parts  and  add  the  desired  visual  or  audio  effects–  like  textual  instructions  on  the  top  of  the  image.  Beginners  find  it  easier  to  film  the  makeup  process  and  later  add  the  audio  with  the  instructions,  but  it  is  a  sign  of  seniority  or  technical  superiority  to  be  able  to  perform  the  makeup  and  simultaneously  explain  each  act.     The  routine  of  YouTube  gurus  involves  both  making  videos  and  participating  in  the  conversations  proposed  by  others  inside  their  community.  This  conversation  happens     18  
  19. 19. through  YouTube  by  means  of  videos  and  text  comments,  but  also  exceeds  this  domain  to  include  several  other  online  destinations  like  Twitter  and  Facebook.     Part  of  these  conversations  represent  attempts  to  build  relationships  which  are  helpful  to  promote  one’s  channel  and  give  it  visibility.  The  easiest  way  a  user  can  increase  the  number  of  subscribers  is  by  proposing  an  exchange:  she  subscribes  to  the  channel  of  another  guru  and  leaves  a  message  asking  the  other  for  to  do  the  same.  This  practice  is  especially  common  among  those  who  are  just  beginning  to  build  an  audience,  but  it  is  criticised  by  more  experienced  users.  There  are  other  practices  that  equally  offer  the  possibility  of  developing  an  audience,  and  are  more  widely  accepted,  namely  the  creation  of,  or  participation  in,  “collabs”,  or  the  engagement  in  a  practice  called  “tags”.  I  will  discuss  these  in  greater  detail  in  the  following  sections  of  this  dissertation,  but  will  introduce  them  briefly  here.     “Collab”  is  the  casual  name  given  to  “collaborative  channels”,  which  are  channels  produced  collectively  and  that  ultimately  serve  the  purpose  of  promoting  the  work  of  their  participants.  A  collab  is  usually  started  by  a  higher  ranking  guru  because  she  needs  to  have  a  sufficient  reputation  in  order  to  promote  this  new  channel  and  attract  others  to  participate  in  it.  There  is  a  selection  process  conducted  to  choose  the  other  participants  and  this  happens  through  auditioning.  Those  interested  submit  video-­‐responses  to  the  original  video  posted  announcing  the  new  collab.  Usually  a  collab  has  seven  participants  and  each  becomes  responsible  for  posting  a  new  video  on  a  certain  day  of  the  week.  Every  week  one  of  the  participants  comes  up  with  a  theme  that  all  the  others  will  use  to  produce  their  videos;  this  gives  consistency  to  the  content  of  the  channel.    Higher  ranking  gurus  display  their  influence  by  creating  collabs  while  lower  ranking  users  gain  visibility     19  
  20. 20. and  experience  by  having  to  produce  more  videos  and  also  by  promoting  their  individual  channels  to  the  audience  of  the  collab.   If  collabs  produce  visibility  through  structured  social  organization,  “tags”  generate  visibility  through  the  engagement  in  a  collective  but  informal  activity.  The  term  tag  refers  to  two  ideas:  a  theme  for  a  video  and  the  naming  (“tagging”)  of  other  users.  The  themes  are  usually  about  one’s  personality  and  only  indirectly  about  makeup7;  for  instance,  in  the  theme  “My  perfect  imperfections”  the  users  are  challenged  to  make  a  video  talking  about  three  things  that  they  like  and  three  that  they  dislike  about  themselves8.  At  the  end  of  the  video,  they  may  “tag”  other  gurus  from  their  social  circle,  which  means  that  they  are  publically  inviting  them  to  produce  a  video  with  the  same  theme.  The  advantage  of  engaging  in  this  kind  of  activity  is  that  by  producing  videos  using  the  same  or  similar  titles,  gurus  expand  the  possibilities  of  these  videos  being  watched  by  a  wider  audience  since  YouTube  binds  similar  content  together.  A  person  that  watches  a  video  called  “My  perfect  imperfections”  will  automatically  see  other  videos  about  that  same  theme,  displayed  for  them  to  select.     Many  gurus  expect  to  gain  recognition  and  one  of  the  ways  this  happens  is  by  being  approached  by  cosmetic  companies.  It  is  a  sign  of  maturity  for  a  guru  to  be  chosen  to  review  products  and  many  include  contact  information  for  commercial  inquires  on  their  channel.  The  highest  ranking  gurus  with  hundreds  of  thousands  of  subscribers  sign  deals  with  makeup  companies  and  can  become  “online  ambassadors”  of  a  certain  brand  or  eventually  launch  their  own  makeup  products.  This  contact  with  the  commercial  world                                                                                                                           7  I  haven’t  verified  if  tags  (and  also  collabs)  exist  in  other  communities  on  YouTube.  These  activities   may  result  from  the  high  number  of  beauty  gurus  and  from  the  fact  makeup  is  a  collective  activity   among  groups  of  women  interested  in  that  practice.     8  Since  beauty  gurus  normally  talk  about  beauty  related  issues,  videos  produced  following  this  theme   refer  to  part  of  their  bodies  that  they  find  more  or  less  attractive,  which  then  links  to  the  use  of   cosmetics  or  other  means  as  an  attempt  to  improve  their  looks.     20  
  21. 21. is  sometimes  accompanied  by  tension  as  the  guru  becomes  vulnerable  to  criticism  by  competitors  for  giving  up  editorial  independence  and  producing  disguised  advertising.           21  
  22. 22. Methodology   My  original  project  was  to  study  informal  learning  online.  I  wanted  to  observe  and  attempt  to  understand  the  process  in  which  Internet  users  gain  certain  skills  through  the  development  of  social  relations  in  informal  settings.  I  chose  to  conduct  this  research  on  YouTube  beauty  gurus  mainly  because  they  represent  an  informal  group  that  gathers  spontaneously  through  the  Web  and  share  the  purpose  of  exchanging  knowledge  and  experiences  related  to  fashion,  beauty  and  particularly  about  cosmetics  and  makeup  with  each  other.  At  the  early  stage  of  the  project,  while  I  was  still  considering  how  to  approach  this  community  and  conduct  the  research,  I  received  two  recommendations  from  my  supervisor,  one  of  which  I  could  not  adopt.     Firstly,  I  was  asked  to  research  not  gurus  but  the  audience  of  gurus.  Instead  of  looking  at  the  guru’s  individual  histories  to  explain  the  popularity  they  have,  I  should  study  those  who  choose  to  watch  videos  of  gurus  and  see  the  motivations  behind  that  interest.  I  attempted  to  follow  this  path,  but  had  to  reconsider  because  after  a  month  of  looking  for  people  who  matched  this  profile,  I  was  only  able  to  locate  and  interview  one  person.     I  faced  the  following  difficulties:  1)  considering  as  an  “audience”  those  who  do  not  participate  in  the  conversation,  I  could  not  look  for  them  through  YouTube  since  their  presence  watching  the  videos  does  not  leave  traces.  I  tried  to  find  these  people  through  recommendations  of  friends  but  this  strategy  is  not  efficient  for  a  research  project  that  has  to  start  and  end  in  four  months.  2)  What  is  the  definition  of  “audience”  in  the  context  of  the  Internet?  Prior  to  the  Internet,  the  audience  were  those  who  mostly  consumed  media  content:  readers  of  newspapers  and  magazines,  for  instance.  After  the  Internet,  being  the  audience  became  a  choice  for  those  who  were  online.  From  this  perspective,     22  
  23. 23. when  does  a  person  move  from  the  position  of  being  in  an  audience  to  that  of  active  participant  in  the  public  sphere?  Are  users  that  don’t  publish  videos  but  comment  on  them  an  audience?  YouTube  users  with  less  visibility  might  influence  more  people  while  others  with  a  greater  number  of  views  might  be  communicating  only  within  a  circle  of  friends.  I  resolved  this  problem  by  choosing  to  observe  a  group  of  gurus  that  had  average  audiences,  as  I  will  explain  later  at  this  section.  In  the  end,  it  was  important  to  accept  that  being  a  guru  is  a  social  experience  and  that  it  is  part  of  being  a  guru  to  be  both  audience  and  producer.   The  suggestion  I  could  incorporate  was  to  go  in  to  the  field  without  a  specific  set  of  questions;  instead,  I  should  immerse  myself  in  the  world  of  these  gurus  to  find  out,  among  other  things:  what  it  is  that  makes  somebody  want  to  become  part  of  this  group?  What  do  they  talk  about  besides  makeup?  Do  they  have  specific  forms  of  organization?  How  does  one  moves  inside  this  group?  I  should  allow  my  curiosity  to  look  for  interesting  things  happening  and,  at  the  end  of  this  process,  produce  a  theory  explaining  what  is  like  to  be  a  guru.  That  is  how  I  conducted  this  work.     Preparation  for  the  research   Prior  to  conducting  participant  observation,  first  with  gurus  in  general  and  later  with  the  specific  network  of  actors  that  resulted  in  the  ethnography  used  for  this  dissertation,  I  learned  about  cosmetics  and  its  use  in  Britain  by  conducting  six  interviews  with  women  who  are  active  users  or  even  enthusiasts  of  makeup.  The  questions  I  asked  in  these  interviews  were:  1)  at  what  moment  in  life  they  first  acquired  an  interest  in  cosmetics?  How  did  it  start  and  with  whose  support?  And  2)  what  do  you  normally  keep  in  your  box  of  cosmetic  accessories  and  why?  I  considered  these  questions     23  
  24. 24. straightforward  enough  to  produce  direct  answers  and  also  general  enough  to  allow  the  interviewees  to  formulate  the  answers  without  constrains  or  moral  judgments.     Alongside  the  interviews,  I  participated  in  a  daylong  intensive  makeup  course  for  amateurs  and  had  the  opportunity  to  get  to  know  the  different  properties  of  products  and  apply  the  products  on  my  own  face.  Being  the  only  man  among  eight  other  participants  including  the  teacher  and  her  assistant,  I  had  the  chance  to  experience  the  awkwardness  that  results  from  crossing  this  clearly  gender-­‐related  border  and  also  feel  the  difficulties  related  to  the  execution  of  different  routines.  I  did  not  know  that  makeup  required  such  complex  procedures,  involved  so  many  utensils  and  followed  so  many  patterns  to  add  different  layers  of  products.  I  was  also  confronted  with  the  understanding  that  makeup  is  as  much  about  showing  as  it  is  about  concealing.  This  is  something  I  will  explore  later  on.       Figure  6  Figure  6  Photograph  taken  at  the  end  of  the  makeup  course  at  the  Rouge  London  Makeup  School,  2011.     24  
  25. 25. Methods  for  gathering  data   I  spent  over  a  month  “living”  among  beauty  gurus  before  choosing  my  informants  and  then  I  dedicated  myself  to  observing  these  informants  full  time  during  two  weeks.  All  the  data  gathered  for  this  research  was  collected  online  and  through  this  process  of  immersion  in,  and  observation  of,  their  past  and  present  activities.  Observation  here  means  watching  their  videos  and  following  their  online  public  communication  through  comment  exchange  and  also  through  the  dialogues  developed  through  the  website  Formspring,  a  service  through  which  many  gurus  receive  and  respond  to  questions  posted  either  openly  or  anonymously.  Formspring’s  value  derives  from  the  fact  other  popular  social  websites  like  YouTube  and  Facebook  do  not  allow  this  feature  of  anonymously  publishing  questions.  Since  gurus  are  interested  in  being  known  and  expanding  they  range  of  relationships,  Formspring  gives  the  possibility  of  receiving  from  friends  and  fans  the  kind  of  personal  questions  they  would  not  dare  to  ask  openly.  Formspring  is  widely  adopted,  especially  among  younger  beauty  gurus;  all  but  one  of  the  six  actors  selected  had  an  account  with  this  service.   Aside  from  one  public  exchange  of  online  comments  with  one  of  the  adult  informants,  I  did  not  attempt  to  communicate  with  the  actors.  I  decided  not  to  talk  directly  to  them  because  four  out  of  six  of  my  informants  were  less  than  18  years  of  age  and  I  didn’t  want  to  conduct  interviews  with  some  of  them  and  not  others.  This  solution  proved  useful  for  two  reasons:  it  offered  an  opportunity  of  conducting  research  in  a  safe  manner  with  actors  that  are  minors,  and  it  also  created  an  environment  that  allowed  actors  to  speak  and  share  opinions  that  seemed  more  welcoming  than,  for  instance,  that  of  an  academic  interview.  Tarlo  (2010:  146)  arrived  at  the  same  conclusions  while  conducting  research  on  Muslims  and  fashion  in  Britain.  She  wrote:  “What  makes  Internet     25  
  26. 26. discussion  forums  and  threads  so  interesting  from  the  ethnographic  point  of  view  is  that  they  represent  unmediated  conversations  between  people  who  voice  their  opinions  far  more  freely  than  they  would  if  interviewed  by  a  researcher.”  The  richness  of  the  data  that  emerges  from  this  online  research  practice  –  that  presupposes  an  active  form  of  being  present  –  might  justify  the  act  of  naming  it  “observant  participation”,  to  indicate  it  has  evolved  from  the  anthropological  tradition  of  research.   A  possible  criticism  this  approach  may  generate  results  from  the  fact  the  researcher  does  not  meet  the  subject  in  “real  life”,  which  raises  questions  of  authenticity.  How  do  we  know  if  the  subject  is  who  she  says  she  is?  This  is  a  complex  issue  that  invites  further  debate  and  should  be  considered  in  light  of  the  particularity  of  each  case.  For  instance,  on  the  YouTube  beauty  guru  community,  users  follow  an  unwritten  rule  that  says  one  should  avoid  mentioning  places  or  other  information  that  could  lead  to  the  physical  localization  of  the  informant9.  They  also  prefer  not  to  use  surnames.  In  the  same  way  this  situation  might  make  it  easier  for  a  person  to  lie  about  herself,  it  also  makes  it  safer  for  her  to  discuss  topics  and  share  opinions  that  she  might  not  feel  comfortable  doing  under  different  conditions.  Regarding  this  matter,  I  agree  with  Boellstorff  (2008:  4,  60-­‐86),  who  conducted  a  three-­‐year  research  about  Second  Life  entirely  inside  the  virtual  world.  He  argues  that  the  users  that  choose  to  establish  relations  through  these  mediums  agree  to  do  so  knowing  that  most  likely  they  will  never  meet  face  to  face  the  people  they  met  online.  The  anthropologist  should  not  question  if  these  relationships  exist  but  study  them  “in  their  own  terms”.  That  is  why  he  considers  it  crucial  to  develop  research  methods  that  keep  up  with  the  “realities  of  technical  change”.                                                                                                                           9  Lange  (2007)  discusses  the  practice  of  making  videos  that  are  promoted  beyond  one’s  social  circles   but  where  the  author  conceals  her  identity.  She  labels  these  videos  as  “privately  public”.     26  

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