The 'geographies' of YouTube


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Paper presented at Crossroads 2012, Paris, 2-8 July 2012

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The 'geographies' of YouTube

  1. 1. The ‘geographies’ of YouTube:Language and cultural identity negotiations in virtual space Phil Benson
  2. 2. YouTube‘Founded in February 2005, YouTube allowsbillions of people to discover, watch and shareoriginally-created videos. YouTube provides aforum for people to connect, inform, andinspire others across the globe and acts as adistribution platform for original contentcreators and advertisers large and small.’
  3. 3. YouTube – global/local• global in terms of the ‘universal’ structure of the YouTube page – replicability• local in terms of specific content of specific pages • how is the locality of a YouTube page produced? • what part does interculturality play in the geographies of YouTube?
  4. 4. East Asian popular culture• East and Southeast Asia – geographically widespread (Japan to Indonesia) – culturally and linguistically diverse• Evidence of uneven and sporadic transnational flows of popular culture (pop music, film, TV drama) (Iwabuchi, 2002; Chua, 2004)• Linguistic strategies in popular and problematization of ethnic and gender identities (Benson, in press; Jung, 2002)
  5. 5. YouTube comments• Study of YouTube comments on videos of Easy Breezy (Utada Hikaru) and Sexy, Naughty, Bitchy (Tata Young)• By (a) singing in English and (b) projecting sexually assertive identities in their videos, Utada and Young provoke discussion of language, ethnic and gender identities: – Do Asian singers have the right to sing in English? – Are Asian singers who sing in English really ‘Asian’? – Is it okay for Asian female singers to be so ‘cool with their sexuality’? [Benson, in press]
  6. 6. YouTube comments on Easy Breezy• Why is she singing english?• “You’re easy breezy and I’m Japaneze”???? Oh hel no. Asian card REVOKED!!!!!!!• I liked her japanese songs (lyric and melody wise) but her american album just sucked. Japanesy? wtf. I was embarassed to play this song in front of people... She’s half-assedly trying to look sexy here and its not working... obviously. urgh too much make up. better luck next time.
  7. 7. Comments section as ‘virtual region’• Comments create a space for negotiation of identity in East Asian popular music across a virtual region that encompasses East Asia and its diasporas.• It is significant that the discussion takes place in English, because it could not take place on the same scale in, for example, Thai or Japanese.• As the videos are viewed on YouTube, virtual representations of their market emerge, which become actual spaces for negotiation of identities that match the scale of the market itself.• The kinds of comments that might be made face-to-face to a friend in a specific location are opened up for public view and negotiation on a regional scale.
  8. 8. Invoking context Conversation Analysis• an interaction is made up of sequenced utterances and unfolds over time• the ongoing interaction constitutes the primary context for each utterance• the context of the interaction is invoked by the participants as the interaction proceeds
  9. 9. Invoking context the YouTube page• The YouTube page is a structured site for multimodal interaction• The page defines a limit to a single site of interaction• The interaction unfolds over time (e.g., owner posts video, user views alter statistics, comments are added, themes evolve, etc.)• A ‘cultural geography’ is invoked – the locality of the page is produced
  10. 10. Jacky Cheung 吻別 / Wen Bie••
  11. 11. Bus uncle••
  12. 12. Interculturality in bus uncle comments• problematization of language invokes intercultural spaces• categories of comment on bus uncle…. – Defense of HK/Chinese identity – This the typical “attitude” of Hong Konger (no big deal) – Ashamed of being a Hong Konger – Hong Kong culture – Taiwan and Hong Kong – Cantonese and Mandarin – If this happened in…
  13. 13. Intercultural geographies?I think the Bus Uncle is a very symbolic representativeof the older Hong Kong generation. A lot of them arelike that - they think theyre being logical and thereforetheyre all correct, and dont stop to really considerthings from the other persons perspective. Shoot first,and dont think about it later. For example, it nevercrossed the mind of Bus Uncle that he might reallyhave been a bit too loud. As a fellow HKer, I am quiteoften disturbed by this tendency.
  14. 14. Intercultural geographies?goddammit...this is why i am ashamed to be chinese.even though im halfway around the world in SF,theyre are just more and more of these loud mouthedbastards that crowd the buslol in Singapore will not be so easy for u to shout andscream... Bus uncle...either u will end up in hospital orPolice station..This is why I dont take public transportation.Happens all the time in Seattle. .
  15. 15. what a shame... this video pops right up on thetop when you type "hong kong" in youtube
  16. 16. Methodogical challenges• meaning of comments• locations and identifications• avoiding cherry-picking• moving beyond anecdote
  17. 17. referencesBenson, P. (in press). English and identity in East Asian popular music. Popular MusicChu, D. (2009). Collective behavior in YouTube: A case study of ‘Bus Uncle’ online videos. Asian Journal of Communication, 19(3), 337-353.Chua, Beng Huat (2004). Conceptualizing an East Asian popular culture. Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 5(2), 200-221.Iwabuchi. Koichi (2002). Recentering globalization: Popular culture and Japanese transnationalism. Durham and London: Duke University Press.Jung, E-Y (2010). Playing the race and sexuality cards in the transnational pop game: Korean videos for the US market. Journal of Popular Music Studies, 22 (2), 219-236.