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Blocked by YouTube - Unseen digital intermediation for social imaginaries in the Asia Pacific


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YouTube is one of the most globally utilised online content sharing sites, enabling new commercial enterprise, education opportunities and facilities for vernacular creativity (Burgess, 2006). Its user engagement demonstrates significant capacity to develop online communities, alongside its arguably more popular use as a distribution platform to monetise one’s branded self (Senft, 2013). However, as a subset of Alphabet Incorporated, its access is often restricted by governments of Asian Pacific countries who disagree with the ideology of the business. Despite this, online communities thrive in these countries, bringing into question the sorts of augmentations used by its participants. This article reframes the discussion beyond restrictive regulation to focus on the DIY approach (augmentation) of community building through the use of hidden infrastructures (algorithms). This comparative study of key YouTube channels in several Asia Pacific countries highlights the sorts of techniques that bypass limiting infrastructures to boost online community engagement and growth. Lastly, this article reframes the significance of digital intermediation to highlight the opportunities key agents contribute to strengthening social imaginaries within the Asia Pacific region.

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Blocked by YouTube - Unseen digital intermediation for social imaginaries in the Asia Pacific

  1. 1. BLOCKED BY YOUTUBE? U n s e e n d i g i t a l i n t e r m e d i a t i o n f o r s o c i a l i m a g i n a r i e s i n t h e A s i a P a c i f i c Dr Jonathon Hutchinson The University of Sydney @dhutchman The University of Hong Kong and the University of Sydney Joint Symposium: Cross-border Media Flows, Infrastructures and Imaginaries in a changing Asia-Pacific
  2. 2. Work in progress - names still appear Please don’t Tweet or share these data outside this room today.
  3. 3. Unseen digital intermediaries for social imaginaries in the Asia Pacific: 2. Social Imaginaries 4. Unseen Infrastructures 5. Novel Cross- Border Communities 6. Results 1. Digital Intermediation 3. Methods
  4. 4. The aims of the project are: i. to identify countries in Asia Pacific region where YouTube has been blocked; ii. to identify popular channels, users, and videos within this environment; iii. to examine how communities of users form and operate around these media; iv. to understand the technologies that promote/inhibit these community formations; and v. to provide an understanding of how new media flows challenge, create, destroy, and recreate geopolitical borders.
  5. 5. The Hu Mongolian World Trad Metal, finding success in international markets through Western platforms
  6. 6. Digital Intermediation
  7. 7. Digital intermediation is the combination of these agents within a new media ecology: • data: presenting as online content producers with new approaches towards highly visible content (maybe shareable?) across platforms; and • algorithms: singularly and as the combination of algorithmic decision making, predictive media decisions, machine learning and possibly artificial intelligence within automated media systems. Digital intermediation describes the process of and between the infrastructure for information exchange processes of cultural intermediation. Digital intermediation creates new forms of online communities and knowledge exchange, suggesting new power relations and production methodologies also emerge within an entrepreneurial social media ecosystem.
  8. 8. Social Imaginaries • A “social imaginary … is shared by large groups of people, if not the whole society” (Taylor, 2003) • They often manifest through “techniques and design principles that are used to create software or to implement networking protocols [and] cannot be distinguished from ideas or principles of social and moral order for these informants” (Kelty, 2005) • Social imagination, then, is a combination of individuals and the materialities they use to create a legitimate process of constructing and engaging with their surrounding society.
  9. 9. Methodology Identify top ranked YouTube channels in blocked AP countries - SB Rank Sample popular channels in these countries Scrape data from channels, videos and comments Analyse networks
  10. 10. Countries Identified Country Press Freedom Scale China 177 North Korea 179 Afghanistan 121 Bangladesh 150 Pakistan 142 Indonesia 124 Malaysia 123 Thailand 136 Press freedom or limitations of soft power?
  11. 11. Strengthening Cultural Industries Popular videos, n=40 videos
  12. 12. Comment Networks Country Comments China 8,624 North Korea 5,442 Afghanist an 9,771 Banglade sh 3,842 Pakistan 26,084 Indonesia 1,595 Malaysia 1,766 Thailand 17,163 Total comment 74,287 (45,575 nodes & 23,000 edges)
  13. 13. Communities Emerge • Locations appear as anonymous or India primarily
  14. 14. Influential Actors • Increased information flows through these nodes • Community ‘starters’ • Conversation leaders • Encourage increased cultural/economic value in content and conversation • ‘Subversive community making’ through influencers
  15. 15. “those individuals who produce digital content for maximum visibility by engaging social influencer publication strategies that appease platform algorithms” (Hutchinson, 2019).
  16. 16. Ordinary to ‘everyday, bro’
  17. 17. Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash unseen infrastructures: MICROPLATFORMIZATION Beyond Multichannel Networks and Digital Agencies
  18. 18. Micro-platformization suggests a new digital intermediary has emerged who acts as an agency for digital agencies, in many ways ensuring advertisers receive the most appropriate influencer for their products or services. In a similar way that platformization makes data platform ready, micro-platformization makes influencers brand ready. While the marketplace of culture is still the process of providing audiences to advertisers across social media, the introduction of two significant stakeholder groups have demonstrated the specialist focus of communicating across social media. To send messages across social media effectively, one needs a unique vantage for their content production, but also requires the distribution capacity of the digital intermediaries that bring cultural production audiences and producers together.
  19. 19. Digital Intermediation Subversive Community Making Unseen digital infrastructures Micro- platformization Lead community influencers May start with a VPN, but Becomes an incredibly complex system of Non-human intermediation The appearance of new ‘micro-platforms’ that incubate community growth and development
  20. 20. Jonathon Hutchinson Lecturer Online Communication and Media University of Sydney @dhutchman The University of Hong Kong and the University of Sydney Joint Symposium: Cross-border Media Flows, Infrastructures and Imaginaries in a changing Asia-Pacific