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 ...

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

  • 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  
  •       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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  •              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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • is  sometimes  accompanied  by  tension  as  the  guru  becomes  vulnerable  to  criticism  by  competitors  for  giving  up  editorial  independence  and  producing  disguised  advertising.           21  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • 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  
  • The  YouTube  project  conducted  as  part  of  the  Digital  Ethnography  program  (Wesch,  2008)  used  a  method  that  also  occurs  exclusively  online  but  incorporates  the  social  experience  of  inhabiting  the  world  of  the  actors  being  researched.  Each  participant  of  the  team  of  researchers  created  individual  channels  on  YouTube,  and  the  group  produced  a  video  which  was  posted  on  the  website  explaining  the  project  and  inviting  the  YouTube  community  to  engage  in  conversations  related  to  the  different  topics  of  the  study.  Choosing  this  path  made  the  interaction  with  the  community  more  transparent  and  honest,  which  motivated  some  users  to  participate  and  reflect  on  their  experiences,  not  exactly  as  if  they  were  being  interviewed  but  as  if  they  were  having  a  conversation  about  the  subject.  The  video  that  resulted  did  not  belong  to  the  researchers,  but  existed  alongside  other  videos  as  part  of  each  participant’s  channels.  In  other  words,  the  reflections  remained  in  the  community  together  with  the  videos  the  researchers  made  as  part  of  the  dynamics  of  embodying  the  activities  of  the  natives  and  experiencing  the  world  from  that  perspective.  Even  the  result  of  the  project  was  not  a  book  or  an  academic  paper,  but  a  lecture  using  audio-­‐visual  documents  collected  during  the  research  and  published  on  YouTube.  By  making  this  choice,  the  team  gave  back  to  the  original  community  the  result  of  the  research  while  offering  those  interested  on  learning  about  the  study  to  do  so  by  accessing  the  same  channel  of  communication  studied  and  having  the  opportunity  to  move  further  from  there  to  explore  the  website.  I  attempted  to  do  something  similar  creating  a  YouTube  channel10  to  introduce  myself  and  the  research  to  the  beauty  guru  community,  while  establishing  conversations  with  different  actors.  I  abandoned  this  alternative  because  of  the  time  constraints  of  the  research  and  also  because  it  would  limit  the  contact  to  adult  gurus.                                                                                                                           10  http://www.youtube.com/youtubanthropologist     27  
  • Definition  of  informants   According  to  preliminary  observation,  the  community  of  gurus  dedicated  to  creating  beauty  related  tutorials  appears  to  be  one  of  the  larger,  if  not  the  largest,  on  YouTube.  I  did  not  have  access  to  quantitative  data,  therefore  I  base  this  speculation  on  the  fact  no  other  guru  community  has  as  many  representatives  in  the  top  of  the  rankings  of  subscriptions  worldwide.  Out  of  24  gurus  listed  among  the  most  popular,  half  produced  beauty  tutorials.  This  means  I  could  have  selected  many  different  groups  of  subjects  for  this  research.  The  first  criterion  used  to  select  participants  was  to  find  those  who  had  a  strong  drive  to  improve  their  skills  in  making  tutorials.  Aside  from  that,  I  looked  for  informants  that  were  close  to  each  other  online  (and  online  only)  and  experienced  the  beauty  guru  community  from  different  perspectives.   The  list  I  arrived  at  results  from  these  choices.  All  are  English  speakers:  five  are  Americans  (one  currently  living  in  Israel)  and  one  is  Scottish.  The  number  of  subscriptions  each  has  starts  at  60  and  goes  up  to  10,000,  and  their  ages  varied  from  13  to  26  years  old.  The  higher-­‐ranking  gurus  were  YTGuru26  and  YTGuru14,  which  had  respectively  close  to  10,000  and  3,000  subscriptions,  and  had  created  their  own  collab  channels.  Two  of  the  remaining  girls  auditioned  and  were  accepted  to  these  collabs:  YTGuru20  had  around  600  subscribers  and  was  part  of  YTGuru26’s  collab.  YTGuru13a  had  close  to  1000  subscribers  and  belonged  to  YTGuru14’s  collab.  The  two  remaining  girls  auditioned  but  were  rejected  for  both  collabs.   Guru   Subscribers   Collab   YTGuru26   10,000   Collab  1  (owner)   YTGuru14   2,500   Collab  2  (owner)   YTGuru17   1,000   -­‐   YTGuru13a   1,000   Collab  2  (subord.)   YTGuru20   600   Collab  1  (subord.)   YTGuru13b   60   -­‐     28  
  • Ethical  choices   Out  of  my  six  informants,  two  were  13,  one  was  14  and  one  was  17  years  old.  Their  parents  are  aware  that  their  daughters  have  channels  on  YouTube11  and  although  some  parents  did  not  appreciate  the  time  spent  on  the  site,  all  accepted  the  existence  of  these  YouTube  channels  and  also  had  the  option  of  following  the  content  published  there12.  All  accounts  on  both  YouTube  and  Formspring  are  public;  anybody  can  access  the  videos  and  other  exchanges  I  had  access  to  without  having  to  subscribe  to  either  of  the  websites.  For  this  reason,  I  considered  the  possibility  of  using  their  YouTube  usernames  to  allow  other  researchers  and  readers  in  general  to  be  able  to  access  the  same  data  and  also  follow  the  development  of  these  gurus  further.  Following  Snee  (2008:  3),  I  decided  not  to  expose  them  because  “some  interviewees  felt  that  putting  information  online  should  not  imply  consent  for  the  use  of  this  material.”  Their  participation  was  involuntary  on  this  research,  they  did  not  have  the  chance  to  opt  out  so  I  chose  to  conceal  their  usernames.  Instead  of  the  actual  usernames,  each  will  be  addressed  by  the  prefix  “YTGuru”  combined  with  a  number  that  corresponds  to  their  respective  ages.  In  the  only  case  of  coinciding  ages,  I  added  the  letters  A  or  B  to  distinguish  between  the  two.  Finally,  and  also  on  the  topic  of  privacy  concerns,  I  altered  the  fragments  of  texts  I  use  as  quotes  so  that  others  cannot  locate  their  original  sources  using  search  engines.                                                                                                                             11  It  is  not  uncommon  that  parents  or  other  family  members  occasionally  appear  on  these  videos,   particularly  during  the  recording  of  vlog  posts  like  “A  day  in  the  life”.  The  gurus,  particular  the  younger   ones,  also  discuss  among  themselves  and  with  their  audience  whether  their  parents  know  about  the   channel,  if  they  watch  the  videos  and  what  opinions  they  have  about  it.   12  I  don’t  know  whether  the  same  happens  with  Formspring,  which  is  a  service  mostly  popular  among   younger  internet  users.     29  
  •   Value  Production  and  Spatiotemporal  Expansion   Nancy  Munn’s  The  Fame  of  Gawa  has  become  an  influential  contribution  to  anthropology  since  its  publication  in  1986,  but  its  “fame”  did  not  spread  much  beyond  English-­‐speaking  scholars13.  Yet  it  is  remarkable  how  the  complexity  of  Munn’s  construct  for  explaining  the  creation  of  value  contrasts  with  how  simple  and  tempting  it  is  to  analyse  phenomena  in  radically  different  contexts  through  her  model.  For  instance,  two  of  its  early  reviewers  compared  books  to  Kula-­‐like  valuables  exchanged  through  academic  networks.  To  Kahn  (1988),  “In  writing  The  Fame  of  Gawa,  Munn  might  be  said  to  have  created  a  form  of  value  that  will  circulate  in  the  anthropological  world  and,  ultimately,  return  to  bring  fame  back  to  its  author.”  Less  optimistic,  Young  (1989)  writes  that  “Munn  has  taken  a  considerable  risk  in  that  her  reader  may  simply  refuse  to  learn  how  to  read  her  –  thereby  fulfilling  the  role  of  the  Gawan  witch  in  constricting  the  book’s  space-­‐time.”     In  this  chapter,  I  will  suggest  her  model  for  explaining  value  creation  through  acts  of  exchange  is  useful  in  understanding  the  motivations  for  producing  and  exchanging  a  particular  category  of  videos  called  Tags  that  circulate  mostly  inside  the  beauty  community  of  YouTube.  To  do  so,  I  will  briefly  recapitulate  Munn’s  interpretation  of  Kula  ceremonial  exchanges  for  the  people  of  Gawa,  discuss  the  social  aspects  involving  the  production  and  exchange  of  Tag  videos  and  then  examine  Tags  through  key  notions  of  Munn’s  theory  of  value.       General  Aspects  of  Comparison  between  Kula  and  YouTube     Gawa  is  one  of  the  islands  in  the  Massim  archipelago,  and  its  inhabitants  engage  in  acts  of  ceremonial  valuable  exchanges  called  Kula.  Many  gawans  devote  a  significant                                                                                                                           13  The  Fame  of  Gawa  hasn’t  been  translated  to  languages  such  as  French,  German  or  Spanish  and  its   page  on  online  retailer  Amazon  still  invites  reader  to  “be  the  first  to  review  this  item.”     30  
  • part  of  their  adult  lives  travelling  long  distances  in  canoes  to  participate  in  Kula  activities.  The  objective  of  these  enterprises  is  to  achieve  personal  renown  as  a  trader.  There  are  two  main  items  that  travel  with  islanders  during  those  trips:  arm  shells  and  necklaces.  In  all  the  expeditions  that  have  been  studied,  arm  shells  always  travel  clockwise  while  necklaces  go  the  opposite  way.  Also,  exchanges  may  only  happen  between  items  of  different  types:  necklaces  for  arm  shells  and  vice-­‐versa.  Each  islander  can  only  conduct  exchanges  with  previously  defined  partners  from  a  limited  number  of  islands14.  A  man’s  fame  results  from  his  capacity  to  convince  partners  to  trade  valuable  shells  with  him.  Becoming  a  respected  trader  abroad  reflects  on  the  influence  that  a  man  has  in  Gawa,  making  him  a  person  of  distinction  in  a  traditionally  egalitarian  society.     Makeup  gurus  also  exist  in  an  online  environment  without  social  distinctions15.  Access  to  YouTube  is  free  and  registration  to  the  service  provides  each  person  with  the  same  conditions  to  participate.  The  hierarchical  differences  that  emerge  are  usually  the  consequence  of  each  guru’s  qualities  and  dedication  to  learning  about  producing  value  through  specific  actions.  It  is  a  world  that  revolves  around  a  similar  dynamic  of  circulating  valuables  and  accumulating  fame.  Similar  to  the  Kula  ring  in  the  context  of  the  Massim  archipelago,  not  everyone  in  the  community  that  produces  makeup  tutorials  engages  in  the  practice  of  exchanging  Tags  and  even  among  those  that  do,  some  devote  much  more  time  to  this  activity  than  others.  Like  valuable  shells,  Tags  have  a  symbolic  value  that  exists  in  a  collective  setting  and  among  those  who  are  interested  in  the  trade.  Tags  loose  a  significant  portion  of  their  meaning  if  one  watches  it  by  itself  without  being  able  to  see  the  responses  from  the  community  or  by  watching  it  from  outside  of  the  beauty  guru  world.                                                                                                                             14  For  more  information  on  rules  for  Kula,  see:  Campbell,  2002;  Leach,  1983;  Munn,  1986  and  2001;   Sillitoe,  1998.   15  There  are  cases  in  which  gurus  can  achieve  fame  artificially  by  offering  product  giveaways  in   exchange  for  subscriptions.  This  practice  is  questioned  among  gurus  who  argue  that  subscriptions   should  reflect  the  amount  of  time  and  effort  each  one  puts  in  to  developing  the  channel.       31  
  • Tag  Videos  as  Virtual  Objects  of  Exchange   In  Munn’s  ethnographic  account  of  Gawa,  the  value  of  armbands  and  necklaces  is  symbolic  and  depends  on  the  stories  each  of  these  objects  accumulates  through  transactions.  As  a  valuable  item  changes  hands,  it  carries  with  it  the  names  and  becomes  associated  with  the  stories  of  its  previous  guardians,  and  so  fame  is  transferred  from  object  to  person  and  vice-­‐versa.  Collecting  a  valuable  object  adds  to  the  reputation  of  the  trader  and  also  makes  the  shell  more  desirable  (Leach,  1983;  Munn,  2001;  Campbell,  2002).  In  the  case  of  YouTube,  the  “ceremonial”  item  that  circulates  connecting  people  around  the  website  is  called  “Tag16”  or  “video  Tag”.  I  argue  that  Tags  should  be  conceptualized  as  “ceremonial”  to  mark  a  difference  between  these  types  of  videos  and  the  more  common  type  of  audio-­‐visual  instruction  that  might  be  said  to  hold  a  commodity-­‐like  function  or  value  of  transmitting  a  particular  knowledge.   As  discussed  in  the  introduction,  Tag  is  the  name  given  to  themes  that  are  created  and  openly  shared  among  participants  of  the  YouTube  beauty  community  with  the  purpose  of  generating  responses.  A  Tag  may  have  a  questionnaire  associated  with  it,  as  is  the  case  of  the  “Back  in  the  Day  Tag”  shown  below,  or  be  as  simple  as  the  “Room  Tour”,  which  I  will  discuss  shortly.  Tags  offer  opportunities  for  gurus  to  get  to  know  each  other  beyond  their  circle  of  offline  relationships.  The  objective  of  Tags  is  to  invite  the  user  to  engage  in  a  conversation  by  displaying  opinions  and  preferences.  The  user  creates  a  Tag  by  defining  one  or  a  few  things  belonging  to  a  broader  theme  that  she  considers  pertinent.  Below  is  an  example  of  a  Tag  whose  theme  provides  an  opportunity  for  gurus                                                                                                                           16  I  will  refer  to  it  using  capitalized  “T”  to  signal  a  distinction  between  its  specific  meaning  in  the   context  of  beauty  gurus  and  the  common  use  of  “tag”  as  a  label  applied  to  index  content  uploaded  to   the  Internet.     32  
  • to  share  personal  accounts  and  reflect  on  generational  differences.  In  this  case,  the  questions  the  guru  has  to  answer  to  participate  are:   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  gaming  system?  I.e.  game  boy,  8  ball,  game  boy  advance   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  TV  Show?   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  movie?   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  food  or  drink  or  meal?  I.e.  chicken  fingers,  grape  juice,  pizza   -­‐ What  was  one  of  your  most  important  objects?  I.e.  stuffed  animal,  pillow,  blanket   -­‐ What  was  your  career  aspiration?  I.e.  superstar,  astronaut   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  computer  game  or  website?   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  song,  artist,  or  band?   -­‐ Show  a  picture  that  could  describe  you  as  a  child.   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  book?   -­‐ What  was  your  favourite  store?     The  “Room  Tour”  is  arguably  the  most  successful  Tag  that  exists  among  beauty  gurus.  It  has  achieved  a  level  of  recognition  inside  the  community  that  puts  it  in  a  distinct  position,  not  being  referred  as  a  Tag  but  simply  by  its  name.  It  is  interesting  to  draw  a  parallel  between  this  Tag  and  the  most  successful  Kula  valuables  that,  after  circulating  among  many  famous  traders,  received  a  name  and  acquired  the  status  of  an  individual  piece  (Sillitoe,  1998).  Room  Tours  are  a  common  item  on  most  gurus’  channel’s  video  list.  It  consists  of  precisely  what  the  title  suggests:  an  introduction  to  the  person’s  room  including  explanations  about  the  meaning  of  certain  objects  of  decoration  and  about  how  different  kinds  of  products  like  makeup  items  or  DVDs  are  organized  and  stored.  This  kind  of  video  resembles,  and  may  have  a  similar  function  to  that  of  showing  the  interior  of  the  house  to  guests  visiting  for  the  first  time.   As  Tags  are  an  informal  mechanism  to  promote  relationships,  part  of  the  process  of  participating  is  to  record  the  video  answering  the  questions,  and  part  is  “tagging”  users  from  one’s  circle  of  contacts.  This  second  meaning  of  “tagging”  happens  as  gurus  name  other  users  during  their  videos  and  by  doing  so,  formally  invites  them  to  answer  that     33  
  • same  “Tag”.  Anyone  can  propose  a  Tag  and  invite  others  to  participate.  Gurus  with  more  subscribers  have  an  advantage  in  the  creation  of  successful  Tags  as  their  ideas  will  reach  more  people.  Equally,  a  Tag  can  spread  from  small  circles  of  little  known  gurus  and  occasionally  arrive  at  a  successful  “trader”  who  might  promote  it  further.  The  important  aspect  of  this  exchange  is  that  creating  or  recommending  a  Tag  to  one’s  audience  represents  an  opportunity  to  be  credited  by  those  who  follow  the  lead.         Value  Production  and  Intersubjective  Spatiotemporal  Expansion   In  Munn’s  model,  the  element  that  entails  the  process  of  value  creation  is  action.  Graeber  writes  (2002)  that  this  innovative  approach  “breaks  the  gift/commodity  dichotomy  open”.  His  argument  develops  from  the  understanding  that  anthropology  was  caught  in  a  circular  debate  about  the  origins  of  value  between  Formalists  and  Substantialists  (and  later  by  Structuralists),  never  arriving  at  a  satisfactory  result.  Munn  proposes  an  original  solution  by  identifying  action  as  a  common  denominator  to  justify  the  deployment  of  human  energy,  intelligence,  time  and  concern  (Graeber,  2002:  45).  A  crucial  notion  presented  by  Munn  is  that  of  “intersubjective  spacetime”,  which  she  defines  as  “a  space  of  self-­‐other  relationship  formed  in  and  through  acts  and  practices”  (1986:  9).  This  translates  roughly  to  fame  or  renown,  as  these  represent  the  consequence  of  a  relationship  between  self  and  other,  activated  through  hospitality  and  cultivated  by  constant  practice  of  exchange.  Spacetime  is  taken  in  this  context  as  a  parameter  of  value.  The  value  of  an  act  is  defined  through  its  capacity  to  expand  or  contract  a  person’s  renown  further  in  space  and/or  time,  which  means  that  it  has  either  positive  or  negative  value  transformation  (1986:  9).  It  is  useful  to  note  the  particular  equivalence  of  this  aspect  of  the  model  of  value  creation  applied  to  the  context  of  YouTube  and  the     34  
  • exchange  of  Tags.  The  representation  of  spacetime  for  gurus  is  the  number  of  subscribers  each  channel  accumulates.  This  means  that  the  acts  that  expand  the  spacetime  of  a  guru  become  effectively  a  link  (or  a  relationship  connection)  between  them.   Two  types  of  situations  cause  the  attainment  of  fame  in  Gawa,  one  at  the  level  of  the  individual  and  the  other  at  the  level  of  the  society.  The  first  cause  of  fame  happens  in  the  context  of  the  ceremonial  transfer  of  food  for  hospitality.  If  a  man  eats  all  his  food  instead  of  saving  part  to  feed  occasional  guests,  his  chances  of  leaving  the  island  decreases  and  as  a  consequence  the  opportunities  the  island  will  have  to  expand  its  renown  also  become  compromised.  In  the  context  of  Tag  exchanges,  a  guru  must  establish  herself  as  a  trader,  which  translates  to  developing  partnerships  with  other  gurus  by  watching  their  videos  and  interacting  with  their  content.     Conclusion   In  this  chapter  I  attempted  to  compare  the  exchange  of  ceremonial  shells  in  the  contexts  of  the  Kula  ring  in  the  Massim  archipelago  and  of  a  special  type  of  video  called  Tags  inside  the  beauty  community  of  YouTube.  I  analysed  general  correspondences  of  how  value  is  created  and  transformed  as  these  objects  are  produced  and  shared  among  participants.  I  first  introduced  the  basic  aspects  about  the  Kula  ring  and  Tags  videos,  indicating  how  their  circulation  beings  renown  to  traders.  I  suggested  that  Tag  videos  share  a  particular  similarity  with  Kula  valuables:  both  have  ceremonial  rather  than  practical  use.  While  common  videos  about  how  to  create  certain  looks  have  the  practical  function  of  transferring  certain  knowledge,  Tag  videos  are  meant  to  produce  conversation  through  the  exchange  of  biographical  information  and  opinion  about  topics  of  interest  inside  the  beauty  community.  In  other  words,  Tags  are  instruments  to     35  
  • promote  relationships  that  are  materialized  through  subscriptions  to  channels.  An  interesting  Tag  theme  is  more  likely  to  spread  among  beauty  gurus  and  interesting  answers  to  the  questions  of  particular  Tags  also  cause  the  name  of  the  guru  travel  beyond  her  direct  circle  of  contacts.     In  order  to  support  this  analysis,  I  drew  on  Munn  (1986)  and  on  Graeber’s  (2001)  discussion  of  Munn’s  theory  of  value  to  present  key  notions  such  as  action,  intersubjective  spacetime  and  value  transformation.  I  suggested  that  Munn’s  model  can  be  successfully  applied  to  explain  the  motivation  YouTube  beauty  gurus  have  for  spending  time  and  resources  creating  videos  that  do  not  display  their  knowledge  about  makeup.  By  participating  on  activities  of  Tag  production  and  exchange,  gurus  have  the  opportunity  to  differentiate  themselves  among  the  many  other  participants  of  the  community.  This  differentiation  occurs  as  the  guru  offers  to  the  community  a  kind  of  valuable  that  goes  beyond  the  craft  and  allows  participants  to  discuss  why  they  exist  as  a  community,  why  they  are  interested  in  beauty  products  and  are  engaged  in  producing  video  tutorials.  I  also  point  out  the  particular  correspondence  between  Munn’s  Gawa  and  the  YouTube  beauty  community  regarding  how  action  based  on  ritual  exchange  results  in  the  formation  of  intersubjective  relationships.  If  the  Kula  trader  seeks  fame  by  transacting  valuable  shells,  this  fame  is  translated  to  the  number  of  people  from  his  inter-­‐island  world  that  know  his  name  and  his  stories.  Likewise,  participating  in  the  ceremonial  exchange  of  video  Tags  increases  the  possibility  that  the  content  of  her  channel  will  have  more  subscribers.           36  
  • YouTube  Makeup  Tutorials  as  Traps   In  this  chapter,  I  will  draw  from  Gell’s  anthropological  theory  of  art  to  discuss  makeup  video  tutorials  as  products  of  what  he  called  “technology  of  enchantment”  (1999),  a  process  of  barely  comprehensible  virtuosity  that  impresses  the  mind  of  the  observer  through  complex  and  convoluted  patterns  (Thomas,  2001;  Miller,  2001).  Gell  develops  his  theory  from  the  notion  of  action  as  the  original  form  of  value  creation  (1998:  221-­‐30).  He  posits  that  these  especially  crafted  objects  can  carry  the  intention  of  their  creators  to  become  extensions  of  the  artists’  bodies  that  travel  in  spacetime.  Their  agency  appears  in  the  power  they  have  to  attract  and  trap  the  minds  of  others.  I  will  explore  this  framing  to  discuss  makeup  video  tutorials  on  YouTube  as  virtual  artefacts  forged  through  key  techniques  that  captivate  the  minds  of  particular  viewers.   In  Coming  of  Age  in  Second  Life  (2008)  Boellstorff  argues  that  “our  humanity  is  thrown  off  balance  …  through  transformed  possibilities  for  place-­‐making,  subjectivity,  and  community”  that  arrive  from  the  effect  of  virtuality  brought  about  by  the  Internet.  I  would  like  to  further  this  idea  by  arguing  that  the  Internet  as  a  platform  for  decentralized  group  communication  destabilizes  how  reality  is  understood,  allowing  for  the  creation  of  value  through  new  kinds  of  artefacts.  I  will  argue,  following  this  path,  that  the  mastering  of  skills  to  create  different  ‘looks’  through  cosmetics  is  only  part  of  the  set  of  abilities  that  makes  a  successful  beauty  guru.  I  will  draw  from  frameworks  developed  by  Wesch  (2008)  and  Lange  (2007  and  2009)  to  discuss  video  tutorials  as  traps  evolving  from  the  rearrangement  of  notions  such  as  social  context,  public  space  and  amateur  production.  The  understanding  of  these  notions  is  equally  important  to  achieving  social  distinction  as  a  beauty  guru,  but,  as  with  other  traps,  those  are  not  exposed  publicly  and  must  be  learned  through  practice.     37  
  • Agency,  Trap  and  ‘Distributed’  Mind   The  idea  of  art  as  a  trap  (Gell,  1996;  Gell,  1998)  has  already  been  applied  to  the  context  of  virtual  environments.  Miller  (2001)  conducted  a  study  through  the  observation  of  three  distinct  types  of  websites  in  Trinidad  and  discusses  the  apparent  paradox  of  websites  created  with  limited  resources  by  teenagers  being  more  successful  in  attracting  viewers  than  those  of  companies  produced  with  the  help  of  paid  professionals.  Using  Gell’s  model  introduced  in  the  previous  paragraphs,  Miller  analyses  who  were  the  intended  “preys  ”  targeted  in  each  of  these  cases,  concluding  that  as  the  different  sites  were  directed  toward  specific  recipients,  being  unattractive  made  sense  as  a  particular  strategy  as  much  as  being  exuberant  worked  for  another  purpose.     Miller  (2001)  complements  the  framing  of  this  study  following  Gell  by  drawing  on  Strathern’s  notion  of  the  ‘distributed’  person  (Gell,  1998:  222).  The  similar  concept  of  a  ‘distributed’  mind  is  useful  to  demonstrate  the  social  unity  of  the  different  groups  he  analysed.  He  explains  that  their  websites  “are  not  mere  idiosyncratic  or  individual  extensions,  since  even  after  a  very  short  time  they  take  on  genred  and  conventional  forms  as  a  collective  oeuvre  of  artworks  that  enable  us  to  recognize  and  respond  to  what  is  presented,  and  contain  the  individual  or  company  into  the  techniques  and  strategies  of  the  web.”  (2001:  22)  Similarly,  I  will  argue  that  YouTube  beauty  gurus  produce  videos  that  are  destined  to  act  inside  a  definite  communication  setting  and,  thus,  must  not  be  analysed  individually.       The  Artificiality  of  Makeup  Tutorials   Beauty  gurus  record  their  videos  from  their  rooms.  The  equipment  and  the  products  are  placed  on  the  table  near  the  camera.  They  normally  wear  casual  clothes  and     38  
  • behind  the  guru,  the  audience  often  see  part  of  the  bed,  dresses  and  also  objects  for  decoration.  At  the  start  of  these  videos  the  gurus  greet  viewers,  say  their  YouTube  names  and  explain  what  that  video  will  be  about.  The  recording  develops  in  a  conversational  mode  and  she  thanks  her  subscribers  for  watching,  both  at  the  beginning  and  the  end  of  the  video.  It  is  not  uncommon  to  hear  expressions  like  “I  love  you  guys”,  “this  means  the  world  to  me”  and  “I  will  be  here  if  you  need  me”  during  recordings  or  for  them  to  exhibit  or  mention  elements  of  their  symbolic  world17.  The  piece  that  gets  uploaded  normally  lasts  between  five  and  ten  minutes  and  brings  a  continuous  flow  of  information,  occasionally  interrupted  by  the  rough  extraction  of  unwanted  portions  of  the  recording.     Playing  these  videos  may  cause  the  partial  impression  that  these  are  girls  who  love  makeup  and  decided  to  share  their  passion  with  others  by  turning  on  their  webcam  and  performing  their  favourite  routines.  One  may  also  think  that  the  popularity  they  acquire  is  only  the  unexpected  but  deserved  result  of  offering  something  valuable  to  the  world.  In  the  following  paragraphs  I  will  argue  instead  that  the  videos  of  YouTube  beauty  gurus  can  also  be  understood  as  products  of  a  makeup  routine  that  intends  to  artificially  engineer  the  appearance  of  something  genuine  and  spontaneous.  I  will  initially  defend  this  argument  using  Wesch’s  (2008)  notion  of  “context  collapse”,  which  was  coined  to  explain  the  effect  people  normally  have  when  recording  their  first  video-­‐blogs18  (or  “vlogs”).                                                                                                                                 17  To  English  speaking  teenage  gurus  from  the  United  States  this  world  usually  includes  things  like   iPods,  apps  downloaded  from  iTunes,  Converse  All  Stars  tennis  shoes,  teenage  celebrities  Justin  Biener   and  Selena  Gomez,  episodes  from  the  TV  series  Pretty  Little  Liars  and  playing  The  Sims3  online.   18  Video  blogging,  normally  shortened  to  vlogging,  is  a  form  of  blogging  for  which  the  medium  is  video   (Garfield  and  Tames,  2006).       39  
  • “Context  Collapse”  and  the  Trap  of  Context  Recreation   Making  a  vlog  often  consists  in  recording,  processing  and  uploading  audio-­‐visual  content  in  which  the  person  speaks  for  a  few  minutes  about  one  or  more  subjects,  but  it  is  not  a  simple  craft  to  master.  Wesch  (2008)  points  to  a  particular  difficulty  for  beginners,  which  he  calls  “audience  dilemma”.  Being  alone  and  looking  at  the  camera,  the  person  attempts  to  anticipate  the  context  she  will  be  speaking  too,  but  this  context  in  uncertain  and  can  be  composed  of  the  imaginary  presence  of  any  one  of  the  half  a  billion  Internet  users  that  watch  videos  on  YouTube  every  month19.  This  wide  spectrum  of  audiences  includes  herself  in  the  present  and  in  the  future,  people  from  different  social  circles  she  inhabits  including  work  or  school  colleagues,  family  members  and  friends.  It  also  includes  potential  stalkers  and  an  undefined  range  of  people  that  may  arrive  at  the  video  and  choose  to  respond  to  it  either  by  posting  a  comment  or  even  remixing  its  content.  It  is  this  experience  of  trying  to  measure  or  identify  a  known  context  that  has  not  yet  been  mapped  and  understood  that  produces  what  Wesch  (2008)  called  “context  collapse”.  The  result  of  this  experience  is  a  commonly  frustrating  process  of  self-­‐consciousness  and  attempts  of  anticipating  scenarios  that  leads  to  many  unsuccessful  recordings.       Wesch  (2008)  explains  that  to  overcome  “context  collapse”,  the  person  creates  a  new  mask  to  use  for  similar  situations,  which  may  include  defining  a  way  of  speaking  and  body  posture,  and  also  defining  the  particular  appearance  of  places  where  the  recordings  are  made.  This  event  is  critical  and  I  will  use  ethnographic  material  to  illustrate  how  it  happens.                                                                                                                           19  "YouTube  Attracts  490  Million  Unique  Visitors  Per  Month."  PR  Newswire.  12  Feb.  2011.     40  
  • The  transition  from  the  position  of  audience  to  producer  of  content  –  during  which  the  guru  composes  her  virtual  context  –  happens  gradually.  Many  say  that  their  participation  on  YouTube  evolved  over  time  and  included  experiences  with  more  than  one  channel.  YTGuru17  mentioned  she  “debuted”  on  YouTube  at  12  or  13  years  old  trying  to  make  comic  videos  imitating  a  popular  user  at  the  time.  Later  she  created  another  channel  to  publish  music  videos20  and  it  was  only  after  these  previous  steps  that  she  became  interested  in  makeup  and  created  a  new  channel  to  upload  that  type  of  content.  This  next  case  reveals  elements  of  gurus’  acts.  YTGuru20  made  a  video  paying  tribute  to  her  “favourite  youtubers”  through  which  it  is  possible  to  observe  key  aspects  of  performances  she  internalized  and  that  are  recurrent  among  beauty  gurus:  the  spontaneous  flow  of  speech  (iJustine21),  the  use  of  humour  and  self-­‐mocking  as  a  preventive  strategy  against  haters’  attacks,  (communitychannel)  and  the  release  of  personal  information  to  satisfy  fans  (onisionspeaks).   These  cases  expose  a  process  of  learning  related  to  becoming  a  knowledgeable  YouTube  beauty  guru.  Lave  and  Wenger  (1991)  conceptualized  a  process  of  informally  acquiring  knowledge  in  a  situated  context.  Their  notion  of  legitimate  peripheral  participation,  originally  developed  from  the  study  of  apprenticeship,  describes  learning  as  part  of  participating  in  a  number  of  practices  as  part  of  a  broader  social  setting.  The  actor  starts  her  practice  from  the  periphery  of  the  group  and  evolves  gradually  to  mastering  activities  she  is  exposed  to.  In  the  beauty  community,  though,  gurus  manipulate  the                                                                                                                           20  These  clips  represent  a  genre  common  among  younger  English  speaking  teens  that  consists  of   collectively  producing  a  music  clip  for  a  popular  song   21  I  reveal  the  real  usernames  she  lists  because  it  will  give  the  reader  of  this  dissertation  a  notion  of  the   elements  YTGuru20  refers  to.  The  users  that  I  mention  are  adults  and  internet  celebrities  (with  not  less   than  100,000  subscribers  on  YouTube  alone)  and  by  consequence  publicly  known  personalities.  The   search  for  their  names  does  not  produce  unequivocal  connections  with  YTGuru20  so  the  display  of   these  references,  while  being  one  of  the  few  opportunities  to  offering  an  example  of  the  topic   discussed,  does  not  represent  a  threat  to  the  actor’s  anonymity.     41  
  • display  of  this  evolution  by  making  private  or  erasing  the  videos  that  do  not  correspond  to  their  actual  position  of  development.  In  other  words,  it  is  a  common  practice  among  gurus,  during  the  course  of  their  learning  and  growth  inside  the  community,  to  eliminate  from  the  public  view  the  material  that  displays  earlier  and  less  sophisticated  versions  of  themselves  on  video.     “Privately  Public”  and  the  Trap  of  Controlling  the  Release  of  Information   Videos  produced  by  gurus  do  not  mention  information  that  may  lead  to  their  localization  or  identification,  but  that  is  an  unspoken  rule  that  one  learns  by  experiencing  and  participating  in  the  community.  I  will  argue  that  this  topic  is  avoided  to  maintain  the  impression  of  complicity  that  is  present  in  the  offline  environment  where  women  talk  and  exchange  makeup  tips.  I  will  use  the  notion  of  “privately  public”  created  by  Lange  (2007)  to  analyse  virtual  contexts  like  these  created  through  YouTube  videos  that  carry  characteristics  of  both  public  and  private  space.  I  will  elaborate  on  this  analysis  based  on  my  observation  of  “Room  Tours”,  a  very  popular  type  of  video  Tag  I  described  in  detail  earlier.   Watching  some  Room  Tours  caused  in  me  a  feeling  of  awkwardness  that,  borrowing  from  Wesch  (2008)  may  have  resulted  from  projected  “context  collapse”.  A  Room  Tour  exposes  (what  we  might  have  called  before)  one’s  privacy  by  displaying  the  interior  of  a  person’s  bedroom  to  a  potentially  large  number  of  anonymous  viewers.  Lange’s  research  (2007)  suggests,  though,  that  this  kind  of  exposure  is  calculated  as  the  producer  chooses  to  attract  attention  by  offering  content  of  relevance  (something  others  would  be  interested  in  watching)  while  withholding  identity  (i.e.  surname  and  information  that  could  lead  to  physical  localization).  She  calls  this  virtual  space  “privately     42  
  • public”22  as  it  is  directed  towards  a  larger  audience  than  that  of  friends  and  family,  while  providing  lower  risks  of  social  embarrassment,  loss  of  credibility  or  exposure  to  stalkers23.  While  those  are  reasonable  concerns,  my  interest  lies  in  the  performative  act  of  exposing  intimacy  while  intentionally  hiding  identity  related  data,  because  it  is  this  practice  that  is  collectively  deployed  by  gurus.     “Videos  of  affinity”  and  the  Simulation  of  Closeness   The  notion  of  “video  of  affinity”  (Lange,  2009)  was  created  to  help  analyse  types  of  hybrid  content  that  did  not  fit  the  definition  of  amateur  or  professional  productions.  As  Lange  explains,  “many  so-­‐called  amateur  video  creators  can  use  characteristics  found  in  videos  of  affinity  to  gain  support  and  viewership  for  work  that  they  will  happily  commercialize.”  This  is  the  case  of  most  –  if  not  all  –  the  gurus  I  followed  during  fieldwork.  It  is  considered  normal  to  include  near  the  channel’s  description  an  email  contact  “for  business  enquires”.  After  YTGuru13a  reached  one  thousand  subscribers,  she  received  her  first  package  of  free  products  sent  from  a  company  in  return  for  a  review,  and  this  occasion  was  performatively  celebrated  on  the  review  she  uploaded.  I  suspect  that  this  type  of  contact  with  the  professional  world  has  a  symbolic  meaning  and  can  be  displayed  as  a  sign  of  prestige.  Following  these  previous  considerations,  I  will  use  Lange’s  notion  of  “video  of  affinity”  to  analyse  portions  of  ethnographic  material  and,  and  I  will                                                                                                                           22  Together  with  this  notion,  she  also  offers  that  of  “publicly  private”  to  describe  the  opposite  situation   where  personal  content  is  uploaded  openly  to  facilitate  access  inside  a  trusted  circle  of  people.  In  this   case,  the  user  also  calculates  that  the  low  technical  quality  of  the  production  associated  with  the  lack   of  relevance  will  limit  the  video’s  circulation.   23  Security  is  the  main  justification  gurus  give  to  hiding  identity  and  localization,  but  many  consider   YouTube  as  a  separate  part  of  their  lives  and  for  that  reason  some  reported  embarrassment  when,  for   instance,  some  actual  friends  found  out  about  their  channel  dedicated  to  makeup  and  beauty.  Lange   (2007)  adds  that  some  users  avoid  saying  their  identities  to  avoid  losing  credibility  with  employers  or   clients.       43  
  • also  argue  that  the  strategy  of  simulating  closeness  contributes  to  the  amount  of  attention  makeup  tutorials  and  their  creators  receive.   “Affinity”  as  an  element  of  communication  was  initially  used  to  describe  exchanges  through  instant  messaging  services  that  lacked  a  practical  function.  Nardi  (2006  in  Lange,  2009)  researched  users  that  sent  messages  to  acquaintances  without  the  intention  of  initiating  a  conversation  and  without  anything  important  to  say.  Developing  from  this  study,  she  explained  that  the  experience  of  affinity  “is  achieved  through  activities  of  social  bonding  in  which  people  come  to  feel  connected  with  one  another,  readying  them  for  further  communication.”  This  notion  is  useful  because  it  helps  explain  the  popularity  of  broadcast  ephemera  that  is  commonly  criticized  for  its  low  quality  or  relevance,  while  critics  fail  to  see  the  “social,  cultural  and  material  circumstances  that  influence  how  individuals  use  video  to  communicate.”  (Lange,  2009:  84)   Two  elements  of  makeup  gurus  can  be  presented  to  demonstrate  that  such  videos  trap  their  audiences  by  portraying  an  image  of  amateur  production.  One  is  the  appropriation  of  the  room  as  scenery  that  inculcates  values  such  as  intimacy  and  closeness.  This  choice  of  an  “informal”  setting  is  maintained  even  by  gurus  that  evolve  to  become  celebrities  outside  the  Internet,  as  is  the  case  of  Lauren  Luke.  The  idea  of  the  practicality  of  making  the  video  may  cover  the  intention  of  giving  viewers  “a  feeling  of  being  connected  not  to  a  video  but  to  a  person  who  shares  mutual  beliefs  of  interests.”  (Lange,  2009:  83)  In  addition  to  being  virtually  present  in  the  guru’s  room,  the  audience  is  constantly  and  also  enthusiastically  reminded  of  their  importance  and  of  their  singularity  in  the  life  of  that  guru.  Even  those  having  hundreds  of  thousands  of  subscriptions  recur  to  this  type  of  paternalistic  act  by  saying  that  they  will  always  be  available  to  anybody  who     44  
  • needs  attention.  These  acts,  Lange  adds,  “can  exhibit  varying  degrees  of  sincerity,  personalization  and  realistic  expectations  of  interactivity.”  (2009:  83)     Conclusion   Based  on  the  arguments  presented,  I  suggested  that  an  essential  aspect  of  the  trap  beauty  video  tutorials  use  to  attract  their  viewership  is  to  create  the  impression  that  the  conversation  is  happening  not  as  it  is  –  asynchronous  and  directed  to  anyone  watching  –  but  as  if  it  was  a  synchronous  conversation  among  friends  or  at  least  people  with  certain  familiarity  with  each  other.  The  perception  of  the  audience  is  that  she  just  turned  on  the  camera  and  from  the  beginning  acted  with  the  same  spontaneity.     I  drew  from  Gell’s  notion  that  described  artefacts  as  having  agency  and  this  agency  being  the  capacity  of  attracting  a  certain  type  of  viewer.  I  used  Wesch’s  concept  of  “context  collapse”  and  Lange’s  concepts  of  “privately  public”  and  “video  of  affinity”  to  analyse  the  practice  and  techniques  used  to  create  tutorials.  I  showed  how  these  lenses  exposed  the  intentional  manipulation  of  what  is  displayed.  For  instance,  many  gurus  erase  or  make  private  older  videos  where  they  appear  less  confortable  and  secure  than  they  do  in  the  latest  productions.  Similarly  they  expose  intimacy,  control  identity  and  perform  “affinity”  to  create  the  impression  of  closeness.           45  
  • Fake  or  Real:  the  Production  of  Value  among  Gurus   In  this  final  chapter,  I  will  draw  from  another  portion  of  Munn’s  (1986)  work  to  analyse  the  process  through  which  meaning  is  created  among  beauty  gurus  on  YouTube.  Initially,  I  will  present  the  framework  used  to  identify  the  polarities  from  which  Gawans  draw  ideas  and  concepts  about  themselves  and  the  world.  A  key  element  here  is  Munn’s  phenomenological  approach  that  understands  social  reality  as  resulting  from  a  self-­‐other  relation.  I  will  also  draw  from  Winkler  Reid  (2010)  to  adjust  this  conceptual  lens  to  function  in  an  environment  less  culturally  homogenous  than  that  of  Gawa.   The  text  that  follows  attempts  to  organize  the  material  collected  during  fieldwork  in  order  to  present  the  “web  of  meanings”  surrounding  the  world  of  YouTube  beauty  gurus  (as  I  experienced  it  in  2011  following  mostly  the  interaction  of  English  speaking  participants).  By  doing  that  I  am  subscribing  to  Munn’s  position  (1986:  6)  that  “theoretical  arguments  dealing  with  sociocultural  phenomena  must  be  based  on  culture-­‐specific  meanings.”  This  translates  to  the  choice  to  focus  on  the  description  and  analysis  of  a  portion  of  the  symbolic  reality  of  this  group  rather  than  discussing  previously  defined  elements  like  speech  acts  or  dyadic  relations.   This  is  the  chapter  that  includes  more  ethnographic  material.  The  different  cases  that  will  be  exposed  and  analysed  exist  as  a  whole  connected  by  the  conceptual  frame  applied,  but  are  also  separate  pieces  that  will  occasionally  echo  arguments  from  other  parts  of  the  dissertation.     The  Dialectical  Creation  of  Self-­‐Other   The  symbolic  world  of  Gawa,  according  to  Munn  (1986),  results  from  the  dialectical  tension  of  two  founding  values:  on  one  hand,  the  island  conceives  its  wellness,     46  
  • its  internal  viability,  based  on  how  the  island  is  viewed  from  the  perspective  of  the  inter-­‐island  world;  on  the  other  hand,  Gawan  society  understands  that  its  lack  of  social  hierarchy  is  fundamental.  This  polarity  simultaneously  attracts  Gawans  to  the  outside  world  (where  they  seek  distinction  through  fame,  which  will  reflect  on  the  perception  others  have  of  Gawa)  while  it  also  justifies  the  negation  of  the  cases  of  individual  fame  in  the  intra-­‐island  world  (where  one  must  not  maintain  a  position  of  hierarchical  distinction).  The  dialectical  construct  suggested  by  Munn  is  based  on  conflicting  values;  but  instead  of  producing  a  destructive  outcome,  this  tension  is  culturally  active  in  its  process  of  expanding  the  symbolic  world  through  its  self-­‐expansion.  In  other  words,  the  conflict  provides  a  framework  from  which  Gawans  are  able  to  think  about  themselves  in  the  world  and,  by  doing  so,  generate  themselves  and  their  world.     It  is  central  to  Munn’s  argument  the  notion  that  sociocultural  phenomena  don’t  happen  in  space,  rather  space  is  created  through  the  dialectical  symbolic  process  of  generating  and  resolving  cultural  dilemmas  (1986:  22).  The  individual  is  not  subordinated  to  society  and  society  is  not  conceived  and  developed  through  external  forces.  Individuals  change  themselves  while  attempting  to  transform  their  world;  and  by  doing  so,  individuals  become  subjected  to  new  challenges.  Society  does  not  so  much  exist  in  the  world  but  exists  with  the  world  as  a  dynamic  part  of  the  creation  of  the  world.     Prior  to  starting  the  analysis,  it  is  necessary  to  make  an  adjustment  in  the  analytic  tool-­‐kit  to  make  it  work  in  a  setting  that  is  more  culturally  dynamic  than  Gawa.  I  will  draw  from  Winkler  Reid  (2010:  40-­‐41),  whose  study  also  focused  on  a  contemporary  Western  setting,  to  suggest  that  Munn  does  not  pay  enough  attention  “to  the  contemporary  relations  of  spacetime  …  and  possibilities  of  historical  transformations  in  value-­‐production  …”  Winkler  Reid’s  solution  was  to  recognize  that  the  sub-­‐groups  she  studies     47  
  • were  involved  in  different  modes  of  value  production  and  often  didn’t  agree  on  what  constituted  positive  value.   A  central  polarity  in  the  world  of  makeup  gurus  is  formed  around  what  is  “fake”  and  what  is  “real”.  Makeup  doesn’t  have  the  specific  purpose  of  concealing;  it  also  magnifies  qualities  that  exist  by  giving  them  visual  distinction.  On  the  other  hand,  makeup  may  be  responsible  for  disguising  “natural”  features  and  adding  artificial  ones.  It  is  from  this  original  tension  that  several  conflicting  aspects  of  the  lives  of  gurus  play  out  in  their  virtual  arena  of  debate.  Finally,  I  will  discuss  “haters”,  a  social  phenomenon  spreading  on  YouTube  that  is  the  negative  manifestation  of  fame.  I  will  argue  that  haters  on  YouTube  represent,  particularly  in  the  beauty  guru  world,  the  same  destructive  power  witches  have  on  Gawa.  Motivated  by  jealousy,  both  witches  and  haters  have  the  function  of  radically  subverting  one’s  spacetime.       Authenticity  vs.  performance   Personal  history  is  a  strong  enhancer  of  one’s  fame  on  YouTube  guru  world.  YTGuru14  was  frequently  asked  if  her  father  had  indeed  died  and  what  was  the  cause  of  his  death.  This  information  was  always  in  the  mind  of  her  fans  so  if  a  woman’s  voice  appeared  on  one  of  her  videos  saying  the  word  “husband”,  YTGuru14  was  questioned  and  had  to  explain  this  was  her  neighbour  speaking.  Later  when  a  men’s  voice  was  heard,  she  had  to  explain  it  was  her  stepdad  and  then  disclosed  to  the  eventually  convinced  but  still  curious  fans  that  her  father  had  died  of  cancer.     Some  gurus  constantly  include  videos  about  their  lives  outside  of  YouTube,  possibly  for  a  number  of  reasons  but  also  to  show  “how”  real  they  are.  In  the  summer  of  2010,  YTGuru26  went  with  her  mother  and  6  year-­‐old  son  to  Disneyland.  On  returning     48  
  • from  this  trip,  she  uploaded  a  music  clip-­‐like  video  that  showed  in  detail  the  apartment  and  the  condominium  they  had  stayed  in.  In  a  different  piece,  she  shows  five  of  the  six  tattoos  she  has  and  recounted  the  history  behind  each  of  them:  how  old  she  was,  what  was  happening  in  her  life,  what  made  her  decide  to  get  the  tattoo  and  why  she  chose  that  specific  image.  She  explains  that  many  people  had  asked  her  to  make  that  video  and  before  ending  she  discusses  her  decision  of  having  the  tattoos  done  in  places  on  her  body  that  could  be  covered,  to  avoid  discrimination  when  applying  for  jobs.     YTGuru26’s  son  participates  in  some  of  her  videos,  sometimes  as  a  “guest  commentator”,  at  other  times  as  cameramen  (in  the  cases  she  needed  to  film  outside  of  their  house).  Other  recent  guests  on  her  videos  were  her  boyfriend  and  her  mother.  Both  were  brought  to  participate  on  Tags,  the  “Boyfriend  Tag”  and  the  “Mom  tag”.  Another  example  of  these  is  the  “Best  Friend  Tag”.  The  main  purpose  of  these  activities  is  to  offer  more  and  more  evidence  of  the  gurus  “real”  life  and  ‘proof’  of  her  personality.       Amateur  vs.  professional   As  an  experienced  guru,  YTGuru26  often  makes  videos  giving  advice  about  how  to  become  a  renowned  guru.  The  most  important  thing,  according  to  her,  is  to  know  the  reason  one  has  for  becoming  a  guru.  If  all  people  want  is  to  get  free  products  and  make  money  through  partnerships,  they  are  “greedy”  and  “money  hungry”  and  should  give  up.  According  to  her,  one  must  have  passion  for  makeup,  beauty  and  fashion  and  making  videos  about  makeup  should  be  a  result  of  that.  Making  money  must  not  be  expected,  she  says,  as  she  tells  she  never  considered  making  a  living  from  her  passion.  The  material  reward  will  come,  though,  if  one  has  both  patience  and  disposition  to  work.       49  
  • YTGuru17  occasionally  discusses  how  money  affects  the  world  of  gurus.  In  one  of  her  videos,  she  complains  about  the  use  of  contests  to  give  out  products  as  a  way  of  artificially  building  an  audience.  At  the  time  she  had  700  subscribers  and  said  it  took  her  a  year  and  a  half  of  intense  work  to  arrive  at  that  figure.  She  then  pointed  to  a  case  where  an  audience  of  400  subscribers  was  formed  after  three  weeks.  The  success  was  credited  to  another  guru  with  a  large  following  who  proposed  a  contest,  one  of  the  conditions  of  entry  being  to  subscribe  to  that  guru’s  channel.  This  was  unfair,  she  concluded.   The  community  does  not  regard  all  movements  toward  professionalism  as  problematic,  however.  Some  are  seen  differently  or  communicated  in  a  way  as  to  transform  the  negative  into  positive  expectation.  One  example  is  that  of  YTGuru14.  Early  in  2011  she  produced  and  published  a  video  where  she  celebrates  with  her  mother  the  arrival  of  a  message  from  YouTube  informing  her  that  she  had  been  accepted  as  partner.  Partnership  is  a  symbol  of  prestige  because  it  implies  an  understanding  that  the  user  attracts  a  significant  number  of  viewers  to  the  website  so  she  should  be  rewarded  with  receiving  a  portion  of  what  YouTube  makes  in  advertisement  from  that  user’s  channels.     Friends  vs.  fans   Beyond  the  technical  aspect  of  relationships  on  YouTube  related  to  who  subscribes  and  who  is  subscribed,  the  words  “friend”  and  “fan”  have  several  connotations  and  may  even  be  interchangeable  in  some  cases.  A  user  may  also  use  the  word  “friend”  to  describe  a  general  positive  feeling  for  her  followership.     YTGuru26  talks  in  one  of  her  videos  about  the  importance  of  YouTube  in  her  life  saying  she  feels  better  when,  after  a  bad  day,  she  gets  home  and  reads  the  positive  comments  posted  on  her  channel.  To  her,  and  also  to  YTGuru17,  much  of  the  reason  for     50  
  • becoming  a  guru  is  attributed  to  the  people  one  gets  to  know  and  becomes  friends  with,  as  seen  in  the  following  exchange  through  Formspring  between  YTGuru17  and  an  anonymous  guest:   -­‐ How  do  you  have  so  many  subscribers?   -­‐ I  actually  don’t  consider  it  so  much,  but  I  put  a  lot  of  effort  into  my  videos,  and  I   value  each  of  my  subscribers  as  people  and  not  just  a  number,  i  also  love  making   friends...  I  have  fun  with  it.   Relations  exclusively  mediated  by  computer  communication  may  develop  into  what  is  traditionally  defined  as  friendship  and  include  long  term  stable  virtual  presence.  YTGuru14  and  YTGuru13a  have  achieved  this  status.  They  met  online  when  they  were  around  10  years  old  and  in  four  years  all  of  the  contact  they  had  was  mediated  by  a  screen.  Broadband  internet  and  video-­‐conferencing  technology  offered  the  infrastructure  for  continuous  communication  that  in  the  recent  past  the  telephone  offered  especially  for  young  women  (Winker  Reid,  personal  communication).  Different  services  that  include  channels  for  group  communication  like  Tinychat.com  are  used  to  throwing  parties  where  both  virtual  friends  and  fans  mingled  with  actual  friends.     Compared  to  other  gurus  of  their  age  group,  YTGuru13a  and  YTGuru14  are  both  well-­‐known  and  frequently  talk  about  their  audience  as  “fans”.  Message  exchanges  like  the  following  frequently  occur  between  them  and  their  followers:     -­‐ I  keep  refreshing  your  youtubee!  if  you  can’t  tell,  I’m  like  a  hard-­‐core  fan.  I’ve   watched  every  single  one  of  your  vids  :)       -­‐ Awh,  thanks!  That  means  so  much  <3   There  are  different  modes  of  communication  that  mark  statuses  between  gurus.  Higher  ranking  gurus  make  themselves  available  to  chat  with  their  followership  but  they     51  
  • display  this  connection  publically  less  frequently.  A  “public  display  of  connection”  signs  to  the  others  as  a  manifestation  of  preference.  This  is  also  a  recurrent  centre  of  tensions  among  gurus  as  some  struggle  to  demonstrate  their  affinity  with  higher  ranking  users  while  these  higher  ranking  gurus  are  selective  about  acknowledging  these  actions.     I  followed  a  case  of  internal  dispute  that  aimed  to  clarify  the  nature  of  a  relationship.  The  users  involved  were  YTGuru17,  YTGuru14  and  YTGuru13a,  and  this  situation  must  be  contemplated  bearing  in  mind  that  YTGuru17  is  the  oldest  but  has  the  same  number  of  subscribers  as  YTGuru13a  –  around  1,000  at  the  time.  YTGuru14  was  the  highest  ranking  from  the  three  having  2,500  subscribers  and  was  only  openly  friends  with  YTGuru13a.   Out  of  all  the  videos  I  watched  from  these  gurus,  only  YTGuru17  talked  about  the  other  two  publically.  She  constantly  made  the  point  of  including  YTGuru14  and  YTGuru13a  among  her  “best  friends”  and  often  expressed  “loving  them  to  death”.  Here  she  is  replying  to  a  Formspring  anonymous  participant  requesting  names  of  gurus  to  “check  out”.  The  content  on  brackets  is  mine.   -­‐ YTGuru14,  YTGuru13a,  [others]  LOL  repeating  answers...  i  don’t  watch  makeup   gurus  much  anymore  (no  time)  i  basically  watch  my  friends  videos  and  some   bigger  gurus   As  time  passed,  the  lack  of  reciprocation  made  YTGuru17  be  more  specific  about  how  she  was  using  the  word  “friend”,  as  in  this  Formspring  dialog  where  an  anonymous  person  asked  her  who  her  best  friends  on  YouTube  were.  Here  is  the  answer:       -­‐ This  question  is  complex  because  I  don’t  want  to  leave  anyone  out  and  i  don’t   want  to  say  that  someone  is  my  best  friend  unless  I  know  its  mutual...  and  i  can’t   guess  that  someone  would  think  of  me  as  a  friend  unless  they  say  so  ...  but     52  
  • anyways,  some  of  the  girls  that  i  love  are:  YTGuru13a,  YTGuru14,  [goes  on  listing   others]   The  debate  goes  further  as  another  anonymous  participant  asks  YTGuru17  if  she  doesn’t  think  some  of  the  people  she  calls  “friends”  on  YouTube  are  “kind  of  fake”  and  also  have  more  subscribers  than  they  deserve  for  the  quality  of  video  they  make.  Her  answer  is:   -­‐ The  people  I  am  actually  friends  with  are  not  fake.  These  people  include:  [another   name],  [another  name]  and  YTGuru13a...  Also,  I  have  acquaintances.  I  guess  you   could  call  it  that,  people  that  I  have  no  problem  talking  to  on  YouTube,  that  I  do   think  are  fake,  but  chances  are  if  I  have  referred  to  them  as  my  friend  they  aren’t...     I  used  these  cases  to  show  the  central  topic  of  debate  related  to  authenticity  unfolding  into  this  specific  domain.  The  meaning  of  the  terms  “friend”  and  “friendship”  varies  if  the  relationship  is  private  or  public  and  acknowledging  a  friendship  often  seems  to  represent  a  political  display  of  support  and  mutual  respect.       Interior  beauty  vs.  exterior  beauty   In  no  other  topic  previously  discussed  does  the  universe  of  Gawa  appear  to  be  so  well  connected  with  that  of  YouTube  beauty  gurus.  If  for  Gawan  men,  not  eating  more  than  the  necessary  is  an  act  displayed  through  a  healthy  body,  for  gurus  this  act  is  signified  in  attractiveness  and  social  acceptance.  Authenticity  in  this  case  can  be  acknowledging  that  low  weight  is  the  consequence  of  sacrifice,  which  is  the  opposite  of  what  a  person  really  wants  to  do.  Conversely,  authentic  beauty  is  also  attributed  to  personal  values  that  are  morally  more  important  than  “physical-­‐correctness”  and  can  become  physical  beauty  through  makeup.  Makeup  is  what  produces  value-­‐   53  
  • transformation  similar  to  a  Gawan  spell,  enabling  what  is  inside  emerge  from  the  body.  Many  beauty  gurus  talk  about  makeup  and  cosmetics  in  general  as  tools  to  extracting  the  inter-­‐beauty  of  women  and  consequently  making  them  more  at  ease  with  not  having  all  the  physical  attributes  associated  with  exterior  beauty.       This  polarity  between  pleasure  and  sacrifice  surfaces  in  a  Tag  created  by  YTGuru26,  where  gurus  were  invited  to  tell  the  things  they  would  change  in  their  ideal  world.  Everything  she  lists  as  “imperfect”  is  a  side  effect  of  complying  with  standards  of  beauty.  To  begin,  she  says  in  her  ideal  world,  weight  would  be  controlled  the  same  way  a  thermostat  controls  temperature.  Pimples,  she  says,  would  last  only  a  week.  The  sun  wouldn’t  harm  the  skin  and  nail  polisher  wouldn’t  have  such  a  strong  smell.   One  of  the  Tags  that  most  clearly  opens  the  debate  about  inter-­‐beauty  versus  external  beauty  is  called  “My  perfect  imperfections”  and  it  challenges  the  guru  to  talk  about  three  things  she  likes  about  her  body  and  three  things  she  doesn’t  like.     At  the  beginning  of  her  video-­‐response,  YTGuru26  explained  she  did  not  like  the  theme  at  first  but  decided  to  make  a  video  as  that  Tag  became  popular  and  everyone  was  responding  to  it.  In  her  introductory  speech  she  says  both  she  doesn’t  care  about  discussing  her  “imperfections”  (as  she  has  the  love  of  her  family  and  friends  and  doesn’t  need  the  approval  of  others)  and  that  she  managed  to  accept  almost  everything  about  her  body  that  she  didn’t  like.  These  things  included  having  a  “big  nose”,  a  “big  butt”,  and  not  having  white  teeth.  She  added  having  accepted  the  fact  she  will  never  go  back  to  the  weight  she  had  before  getting  pregnant.  The  only  part  of  her  body  she  feels  she  will  never  learn  to  accept  is  her  hair,  because,  she  explained,  it  is  neither  straight  nor  curly,  it  is  not  defined,  so  it  has  to  be  artificially  straightened.  Before  ending  the  recording,  she  criticises     54  
  • other  gurus  who  talk  about  being  unhappy  with  “small  boobs”  and  adds  she  has  better  things  to  spend  her  money  than  on  plastic  surgery.   The  tension  between  inner  and  outer  beauty  is  recurrently  discussed  by  YTGuru17.  On  a  video  published  in  2011,  she  narrated  how  bullying  affected  her  life  and  how  her  lack  of  self-­‐love  made  her  eat.  Lack  of  self-­‐esteem  becomes  the  signifier  of  contraction  of  spacetime,  as  she  gains  weight  proportionally  to  distancing  herself  from  others  and  having  no  social  life.       Haters  and  the  Subversion  of  Positive  Value   “Haters”,  like  fans,  follow  people  that  acquire  social  visibility,  but  instead  of  showing  admiration,  their  intention  is  to  find  flaws  and  contradictions  with  the  purpose  of  exposing  that  guru  as  a  fraud.     In  her  video  giving  advice  to  new  gurus,  YTGuru26  encourages  users  to  be  themselves,  because  if  you  hide  or  pretend  to  be  someone  else,  the  “haters  will  find  out”.  This  subversive  capacity  of  bringing  the  desired  authenticity  to  the  guru  environment  does  not  convince  her  to  defend  this  category  of  attitude.  In  the  same  video  she  describes  haters  as  people  that  are  either  jealous  of  other’s  talents  or  accomplishments  or  have  psychological  problems  and  release  their  anger  on  others.  The  problem,  she  concludes,  doesn’t  have  a  solution  as  haters  will  always  exist  and  one  has  to  develop  thick  skin  to  survive  their  attacks.   Here  is  an  example  of  the  content  of  a  message  from  a  hater  published  on  YTGuru17’s  Formspring  page:   -­‐ You  need  to  stop  kidding  yourself.  Your  videos  suck!  You  will  NEVER  be  big  on   YouTube.  You  are  just  a  wanna-­‐be.  Stop  trying.     55  
  • As  I  read  this  anonymous  attack,  I  speculated  about  the  possibility  of  this  person  being  also  a  guru  who  participates  on  the  same  online  social  circles  as  YTGuru17.  Here  is  the  answer  YTGuru17  left  to  the  author  of  the  message:   -­‐ I  make  videos  because  I  enjoy  doing  it.  While  being  more  popular  on  YouTube   would  be  a  plus,  it  is  not  “make  or  break”  for  me.  If  my  videos  suck,  you  don’t  have   to  watch  them.  At  least  I  don’t  spend  my  spare  time  crushing  peoples  hopes...   Haters,  like  Gawan  witches,  usually  don’t  have  names.  A  hater  is  more  an  entity  or  a  category  of  behaviour  than  a  person.  I  never  witnessed  a  guru  accusing  another  of  being  a  hater  –  mostly  because  haters  do  not  normally  reveal  their  identities.  They  either  post  anonymously  through  sites  like  Formspring  or  have  different  usernames  to  manifest  their  criticism.  From  my  observations  among  makeup  gurus,  haters  represent  the  complementary  part  of  hierarchical  relations.  They  are  accused  of  spending  time  to  destroy  other’s  positive  investments  but  also  are  respected  for  their  capacity  to  expose  fraud  and  keep  gurus  from  manipulating  their  followership.       Conclusion     In  this  chapter,  I  suggested  the  YouTube  beauty  guru  community  shapes  itself  through  relationships  generated  by  debating  variations  of  the  polarity  “real”  vs.  “fake”.  Gurus  construct  their  selves  as  gurus  by  engaging  in  practices  and  debates  inside  the  community.  The  perception  each  of  them  has  results  from  the  feedback  they  constantly  receive.  This  information  comes  in  terms  of  the  number  of  views  each  video  has,  the  number  of  comments  it  receives,  the  number  of  video-­‐responses  it  generates  and,  more  importantly,  the  number  of  subscribers  a  given  piece  traps  to  the  channel.       56  
  • Drawing  from  phenomenology,  Munn  argues  that  Gawans  construct  their  individual  and  collective  meanings  based  on  the  tension  between  the  importance  of  fame  and  the  importance  of  social  equality.  It  is  through  this  tension  that  Gawans  organise  their  world  and  conceptualise  solutions  to  the  problems  they  face.  The  community  of  YouTube  participants  in  general  represent  a  valid  environment  in  which  to  apply  this  framework  because  the  actions  that  initiate  intersubjective  relationships  are  materialized  in  statistics,  links,  comments  and  other  forms  of  interaction.     Makeup,  in  the  context  of  gurus,  offers  a  powerful  metaphor  for  debates  surrounding  the  topic  of  authenticity.  I  suggested  this  core  theme  allows  gurus  to  share  their  views,  history  and  feelings  on  issues  that  reflect  this  original  concern  and  form  bonds  with  other  gurus  who  share  similar  world-­‐views.  I  presented  four  centres  of  debate  that  represent  spin-­‐offs  from  discussions  about  authenticity:  authenticity  vs.  performance  online;  amateurism  vs.  professionalism;  friendship  vs.  relationships  of  different  status;  and  finally  interior  vs.  exterior  beauty.  The  presentation  of  each  topic  attempted  to  portray  the  symbolic  contradictory  (or  dialectical)  nature  of  the  debates  and  not  a  perspective  that  one  side  was  better  than  the  other.             57  
  • Conclusion   I  arrived  in  the  world  of  YouTube  beauty  gurus  without  a  specific  set  of  questions.  I  was  surprised  that,  although  I  have  been  employed  by  Internet  companies  for  almost  15  years,  I  had  never  heard  that  such  a  large  and  active  group  existed.  Some  of  its  most  important  participants  have  risen  to  fame  beyond  the  borders  of  the  Internet,  but  the  social  environment  where  these  people  came  from  remains  under  the  radar  of  society.  Like  the  private  spaces  where  people  put  on  their  makeup,  this  portion  of  YouTube  seems  to  be  known  only  by  those  interested  in  cosmetics.  I  was  intrigued  by  the  number  of  women  from  many  parts  of  the  world  that  engaged  actively  and  for  long  periods  of  time  in  creating  a  channel  with  makeup  tutorials.  I  was  particularly  enchanted  with  the  performances  of  children  as  young  as  11,  able  to  captivate  an  audience  by  displaying  their  skills  and  knowledge  of  the  subject.     The  notion  of  “informal  realm”,  used  by  Winkler  Reid  (2010),  and  based  on  Munn’s  (1986)  theory  of  value  offered  the  main  analytic  framework  for  this  dissertation.  Gurus  exist  in  a  decentralized  environment  where  all  arrive  with  the  same  tools  and  limitations.  Action  is  at  the  centre  of  this  process  of  creating  meaning  among  gurus.  It  is  through  action  that  they  engage  in  conversations,  such  as  through  video  Tags;  this  “ceremonial”  form  of  video  that  serves  to  bridge  previously  disconnected  clusters  of  gurus  by  proposing  dialogs  around  topics  of  common  interest.  Before  being  ready  to  propose  a  theme  for  a  Tag,  the  new  guru  must  establish  partnerships  through  cooperation  with  others  in  similar  situations.  Like  Kula  shells,  the  participation  in  the  exchange  of  videos  is  a  social  act  that  demands  the  acquisition  of  particular  sets  of  knowledge  about  video  production,  YouTube  and  how  to  form  relationships  there.  Munn’s  model  is  relevant  for  this  context  because  it  places  the  participants  of  the  group     58  
  • not  as  mechanical  pieces  that  reproduce  social  patterns,  but  as  active  producers  of  their  own  symbolic  world.     The  three  chapters  that  focus  on  the  analysis  of  ethnographic  data  bring  loosely  connected  aspects  of  similar  themes.  They  represent  a  progression  of  attempts  to  examine  aspects  of  the  ethnographic  material  using  different  configurations  of  concepts.  What  unified  these  three  experiments  is  the  interest  in  understanding  what  creates  and  transforms  the  motivations  for  people  to  spontaneously  form  social  ties  by  talking  about  makeup,  using  mainly  video  as  platform  for  interaction.  These  have  been  preliminary  attempts  that  resulted  in  more  uncertainties  and  questions  about  anthropology  and  the  conduction  of  anthropological  research  than  conclusive  answers.  Conversely,  in  all  three  cases  Munn’s  and  the  auxiliary  framings  proved  relevant  to  examine  the  social  organization  of  an  informal  realm  like  YouTube  is  for  beauty  gurus.  The  research  also  points  to  methodological  alternatives  to  conduct  ethnographic  research  on  digital  settings.   Traditional  anthropological  research  is  normally  conducted  through  long  periods  of  direct  engagement  with  the  culture  one  intends  to  study.  What  should  be  done,  then,  if  the  people  in  question  have  chosen  to  function  using  the  computer  as  a  platform  for  interaction?  Should  the  researcher  examine  the  “real”  person  behind  the  monitor  or  look  at  the  world  in  question  from  the  same  perspective  as  those  who  choose  to  live  in  it?  My  choice  for  this  research,  for  various  reasons,  was  to  experience  life  as  a  “YouTuber”.  It  gave  me  a  privileged  perspective  to  follow  the  evolution  of  six  women,  at  different  stages  of  their  lives,  investing  time  and  energy  to  become  renown  beauty  gurus.  I  experimented  an  alternative  of  conducting  research  within  the  virtual  places  where  actors  meet;  Tarlo     59  
  • (2010)  used  this  solution  as  an  important  resource  of  material  that  would  be  much  more  difficult  to  find  offline  but  that  exists  in  abundance  online.     The  remaining  part  of  the  dissertation  has  looked  at  particular  aspects  of  the  life  of  gurus  and  the  processes  through  which  they  gained  social  distinction.  The  first,  in  chapter  3,  explored  the  possibilities  of  conceptualizing  a  specific  kind  of  video  called  Tag  as  a  ceremonial  device  used  to  create  and  expand  intersubjective  spacetime.  These  virtual  objects  bear  a  fundamental  resemblance  to  Kula  shells;  they  don’t  have  a  “practical”  use  except  that  of  acquiring  fame  through  participation.  Also,  both  “Tags”  and  shells  develop  during  their  journeys,  are  formed  and  receive  social  validation  through  exchange  and  occasionally,  as  they  embed  the  history  of  their  previous  traders,  become  unique  entities  like  in  the  case  of  the  “Room  Tour”.       Chapter  4  presented  a  framework  with  multiple  layers  of  concepts  that  intended  to  analyse  video  tutorials  as  traps.  I  suggested  that  an  essential  aspect  of  the  trap  these  videos  use  to  attract  their  viewership  is  to  create  the  impression  that  the  conversation  is  happening  not  as  it  is  –  asynchronous  and  directed  to  anyone  watching  –  but  as  if  it  was  a  synchronous  conversation  among  friends.  The  perception  of  the  audience  is  that  the  guru  turned  on  the  camera  without  rehearsing  and  shared  tips,  motivated  by  passion.  The  reality  is  different:  gurus  evolve  their  knowledge  about  video  production  while  erasing  the  traces  of  their  evolution.  One  of  the  key  elements  used  in  the  crafting  of  popular  videos  is  the  capacity  to  recreate  the  context  of  an  offline  conversation  while  speaking  to  a  camera  and  to  an  unknown  audience.  The  deconstruction  of  videos  to  explore  their  invisible  constitution  was  primarily  possible  thanks  to  Gell’s  concept  of  the  artefact  that  possesses  agency,  but  the  analysis  would  not  have  been  effective  without  the  addition  of     60  
  • notions  developed  from  Lange  (2007  and  2009)  and  Wesch  (2008)  through  previous  studies  conducted  on  YouTube.   In  chapter  5,  I  suggested  the  YouTube  beauty  guru  community  shapes  itself  through  relationships  generated  by  debating  variations  of  the  polarity  “real”  vs.  “fake”.  The  framing  I  used  to  analyse  the  ethnography  also  came  from  Munn’s  (1986)  study  of  the  Gawans.  There  she  suggested  that  the  web  of  meanings  that  composed  the  symbolic  world  of  these  islanders  was  constantly  being  developed  out  of  an  original  tension  or  polarity  between  the  collective  desire  for  social  equality  and  the  individual  aspiration  of  social  distinction.  Similarly,  gurus  invent  themselves  as  participants  of  this  collectivity  by  engaging  in  practices  and  debates  inside  the  community.  Makeup,  in  this  context,  is  a  subject  of  interest  because  it  offers  a  powerful  metaphor  for  debates  surrounding  the  topic  of  authenticity.  I  suggested  that  this  core  theme  enables  gurus  to  share  their  views,  history  and  feeling  on  issues  that  reflect  this  original  concern  and  form  bonds  with  other  gurus  who  hold  similar  world-­‐views.     I  consider  these  valid  starting  points  for  engaging  further  with  this  community  or  eventually  others  on  YouTube.   For  those  interested  in  engaging  with  the  YouTube  beauty  group,  I  recommend  looking  at  two  aspects  to  expand  the  scope  of  investigation.  Firstly,  it  would  be  interesting  to  look  more  precisely  at  the  cases  of  young  teenagers  starting  their  careers  as  beauty  gurus.  Makeup  seems  to  be  one  of  the  subjects  that  best  represents  the  transition  to  adult  life  for  women,  and  its  manipulation  in  social  settings  is  related  to  the  process  of  forming  one’s  identity.  Many  of  these  girls  are  expanding  their  experimentations  with  identity  to  include  engagement  with  the  production  of  video  tutorials.  Secondly,  on  the  other  side  of  this  world  there  is  an  almost  invisible  subject.  As     61  
  • far  as  I  could  perceive  from  my  brief  investigation,  these  are  adult  women  that  for  different  reasons  avoided  learning  about  makeup  while  growing  up  and  now  seem  to  feel  excluded  or  recriminated  in  some  circles  for  not  knowing  how  to  use  cosmetics.  To  these  women,  YouTube  tutorials  represent  an  opportunity  to  achieve  a  minimal  level  of  proficiency  in  the  use  of  makeup  without  having  to  submit  themselves  to  the  criticism  or  humiliation  of  asking  for  help  from  their  peers.  Focusing  more  attention  on  these  two  groups  might  provide  valuable  resources  to  several  fields  of  enquiry,  especially  identity  and  gender  studies.           62  
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