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

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

  • 1. MSC  IN  DIGITAL  ANTHROPOLOGY  DISSERTATION       MAKING  UP  ART,  VIDEOS  AND  FAME     The  Creation  of  Social  Order  in  the  Informal  Realm  of  YouTube  Beauty  Gurus     JULIANO  SPYER     Dissertation  submitted  in  partial  fulfilment  of  the  requirements  for  the  degree  of  MSc  in   Digital  Anthropology  (UCL)  of  the  University  of  London  in  2011.   WORD  COUNT:  18,000   UNIVERSITY  COLLEGE  OF  LONDON   DEPARTMENT  OF  ANTHROPOLOGY           1  
  • 2.       Abstract   This  research  focused  in  an  informal  group  called  “YouTube  beauty  gurus”.  They   invest  time  and  resources  attracting  attention  to  (and  thus  gaining  publicity  from)  videos   they  produce  mainly  about  how  to  perform  makeup  routines.  I  used  the  ethnographic   material  the  research  generated  to  analyse  the  production  of  social  order  in  a  virtual   space  where  everyone  has  the  same  infrastructure  to  act.  I  drew  from  Munn’s  (1986)   theory  of  value  to  analyse  a  digital  artefact  called  “Tag”  used  for  bridging  together   smaller  networks  of  users  through  the  spatiotemporal  expansion  of  those  who  trade  it.   Gell’s  (1998)  theory  of  art  provided  the  larger  framing  to  examine  video  makeup  tutorials,   a  sophisticated  construct  that  entraps  its  audience  by  creating  the  impression  of  affinity   of  the  guru  with  her  viewers.  The  final  chapter  applied  Munn’s  phenomenological   approach  to  map  debates  around  performance,  professionalization,  friendship  and   beauty,  which  are  central  to  this  group’s.  In  all  cases,  the  research  confirmed  that   conceptualizing  action  as  the  origin  of  value  creation  represented  a  rich  alternative  to   examine  how  this  group  engineers  its  social  organization.  Also,  this  work  discusses   methodological  possibilities  to  conduct  ethnographic  research  on  YouTube.   Key  words:  YouTube,  makeup,  fame,  theory  of  value,  agency         2  
  • 3. List  of  Contents   Title  page  .......................................................................................................................  1   Abstract  .........................................................................................................................  2   List  of  contents  ..............................................................................................................  3   Acknowledgements   ........................................................................................................  4   Introduction  ...................................................................................................................  6   Structure  of  the  Dissertation  ..................................................................................................  9   Chapter  1:  Introducing  YouTube  and  Beauty  Gurus  ......................................................  11   YouTube’s  Beauty  Gurus   .......................................................................................................  14   Chapter  2:  History  of  the  Project,  Method  and  Ethics  ...................................................  22   Preparation  for  the  Research  ................................................................................................  23   Methods  for  Gathering  Data  .................................................................................................  25   Definition  of  Informants  .......................................................................................................  28   Ethical  Choices  ......................................................................................................................  29   Chapter  3:  Value  Production  and  Spatiotemporal  Expansion  through  Tag  videos  .........  30   General  Aspects  of  Comparison  between  Kula  and  YouTube  ................................................  30   Tag  Videos  as  Virtual  Objects  of  Exchange  ............................................................................  32   Value  Production  and  Intersubjective  Spatiotemporal  Expansion  .........................................  34   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  35   Chapter  4:  YouTube  Makeup  Tutorials  as  Traps  ............................................................  37   Agency,  Trap  and  ‘Distributed’  Mind  ....................................................................................  38   The  Artificiality  of  Makeup  Tutorials  .....................................................................................  38   ‘Context  Collapse’  and  the  Trap  of  Context  Recreation  .........................................................  40   ‘Privately  Public’  and  the  Trap  of  Controlling  the  Release  of  Information  .............................  42   ‘Videos  of  Affinity’  and  the  Simulation  of  Closeness  .............................................................  43   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  45   Chapter  5:  Fake  or  Real:  the  Production  of  Value  among  Gurus  ....................................  46   The  Dialectical  Creation  of  Self-­‐Other  ...................................................................................  46   Authenticity  vs.  Performance  ...............................................................................................  48   Amateur  vs.  Professional  ......................................................................................................  49   Friends  vs.  Fans  ....................................................................................................................  50   Interior  Beauty  vs.  Exterior  Beauty  .......................................................................................  53   Haters  and  the  Subversion  of  Positive  Value  .........................................................................  55   Conclusion  ............................................................................................................................  56   Conclusion  ...................................................................................................................  58   Bibliography   .................................................................................................................  63         3  
  • 4. Acknoledgements   I  must  thank  first  the  academic  team  of  our  programme:  Danny  Miller,  Lane  De   Nicola  and  Stefana  Broadbent,  for  the  intellectual  insights  provided  through  the  year  as   much  as  for  the  availability  to  help  and  to  give  meaningful  academic  guidance.  I  especially   thank  Danny,  who  supervised  the  development  of  this  dissertation,  for  offering  rich   feedback  to  improve  the  work.  Christopher  Tilley  and  Ludovic  Coupaye  from  the  Material   Culture  programme  also  offered  valuable  attention  and  guidance.     I  am  grateful  to  the  office  staff  of  our  department,  more  directly  to  Diana  Goforth   and  James  Emmanuel,  for  the  professionalism  and  interest  they  demonstrated   throughout  the  year.  I  must  also  acknowledge  a  small  but  helpful  grant  from  UCL,  which   allowed  me  to  buy  two  books  and  pay  for  a  basic  makeup  course.   My  colleagues  at  the  postgraduate  level  at  the  Anthropology  Department  were  a   constant  source  of  support  and  intellectual  motivation.  I  would  like  to  mention  the  names   of  Andrew  Merril,  Cosimo  Lupo,  Hannah  Rose  Van  Wely,  Hussah  Al  Tamimi,  Jennifer   Robinson,  Jewel  Thomas,  João  Matta,  Laurence  Byrne,  Lida  Papamathaiaki,  Luiz  Vieira,   Matilda  Marshall,  Mika  Pasanen,  Nick  Gadsby,  Peter  Westman  and  Susanna  Inzoli.  I  am   also  in  debt  with  researchers  Jane  Cameron  from  the  London  College  of  Fashion  and   Sarah  Winkler  Reid  from  Brunel  University  for  the  opportunity  of  discussing  and  receiving   feedback  about  the  research.     During  the  initial  stage  of  my  fieldwork,  I  interviewed  six  women  about  their   experiences  with  cosmetics.  This  material  was  not  directly  used  on  this  dissertation,  but  it   was  nonetheless  a  very  helpful  introduction  to  the  subject.  They  are  Alex  Guado,  Chloe   Cook,  Dafne  Louzioti,  Helen  Saunders,  Kathleen  Sattore  and  Phoebe  Frangoul.  (Thanks   also  to  Jude  Saunders  for  putting  me  in  contact  with  Helen).  I  was  also  fortunate  to  have     4  
  • 5. received  a  practical  training  in  basic  makeup  from  Astra  Wren,  an  excellent  teacher  and   makeup  artist  from  the  Rouge  London  Makeup  School.     I  own  the  YouTube  “gurus”  that  guided  me  through  their  world  for  a  significant   portion  of  the  enthusiasm  that  fuelled  this  project.   This  dissertation  is  dedicated  to  José  Carlos  Sebe  Bom  Meihy.  His  loves  of   knowledge  and  of  writing  and  his  belief  in  the  importance  of  addressing  public  themes   are  a  source  of  inspiration.  And  also  to  my  wife  Thais,  who  teaches  me  about  the   important  things  of  life  and  said  I  should  study  anthropology.         5  
  • 6. Introduction   The  process  of  producing  this  dissertation  began  with  a  period  immersion  in  the   daily  lives  of  a  group  of  people  that  gather  spontaneously  on  YouTube  to  discuss  makeup.   They  call  themselves  “gurus”  and  their  routines  centre  on  attracting  attention  to  (and   thus  gaining  publicity  from)  videos  they  produce  using  portable  cameras  and  normal   computers.  For  this  reason,  part  of  the  contribution  this  work  intends  to  offer  relates  to   the  use  of  experimental  methodological  approaches  to  conduct  ethnographic  research  on   YouTube.  Since  teenagers  compose  a  significant  portion  of  the  group,  the  choices  I  made   also  respond  to  the  ethical  challenge  of  researching  subjects  who  are  underage.   These  gurus  invest  substantial  quantities  of  time  and  resources  to  crafting  videos   with  the  objective  of  gaining  recognition.  Some  have  risen  from  their  channels  to  achieve   the  status  of  celebrities  in  different  media  outlets,  arrived  at  distinguished  career   opportunities  or  launched  lines  of  cosmetic  products  with  their  names.  Many  are  not   quite  as  notorious  but  have  built  an  audience  with  tens  of  thousands  subscribers  who   regularly  watch  their  videos.  At  the  same  time,  it  was  clear  from  the  early  stages  of  my   fieldwork  that  acquiring  visibility  inside  this  group  did  not  result  from  the  simple   knowledge  one  had  about  makeup;  fame  resulted  from  an  intense  process  of  engaging  in   conversations  and  building  relationships.   I  chose  Munn’s  (1986)  theory  of  value  as  the  broad  conceptual  framework  to   analyze  the  ethnography  of  these  “beauty  gurus”.  Originally  developed  from  a  research   conducted  on  the  distant  island  of  Gawa  in  Papua  New  Guinea,  it  offers  a  model  to  study   an  informal  realm1  similar  to  the  one  I  found  on  YouTube,  where  users  have  the  same                                                                                                                           1  Winkler  Reid  (2010:  13)  conceptualizes  the  notion  of  “informal  realm”  in  the  contexts  of  schools,   where  it  represents  “a  network  of  pupil  action  creating  and  sustaining  intersubjective  relations,  and   producing  value  outside  that  recognized  by  formal  schooling  [but  also]  shaped  by  it.”  Similarly  to  what  I     6  
  • 7. power  and  limitations  to  upload  videos  and  interact  with  others.  Although  companies  are   gradually  becoming  aware  of  this  “tribe”,  material  reward  does  not  represent  the  main   incentive  for  its  existence.  In  this  setting,  users  build  relationships  through  actions  such  as   watching,  evaluating,  commenting,  subscribing  and  uploading  videos.  Social  order  results   from  the  evaluation  of  these  actions  and  provides  individuals  and  groups  with  different   levels  of  status  (Winkler  Reid,  2010:  10-­‐11).   I  also  draw  from  Gell’s  (1998)  anthropological  theory  of  art  to  examine  the   “technology  of  enchantment”  used  to  produce  these  videos.  (One  could  call  it  “the  art  of   self-­‐representing  the  act  of  self-­‐decoration”.)  I  chose  Gell’s  more  general  framework  and   not  those  offered  by  anthropological  studies  of  self-­‐decoration  (see,  for  example,   Strathern,  1979;  O’Hanlon,  1989;  Gell,  1993;  and  Ewart  and  O’Hanlon,  2007)  because  his   work  was  conceived  as  a  corpus  of  theory  disembodied  from  indigenous  ethnography  to   be  applied  to  different  manifestations  of  art.  By  understanding  the  art  object  as  an  actor   that  mediates  social  relations,  it  is  possible  to  consider  that  these  objects  “mediate  a   technology  to  achieve  certain  ends,  notably  to  enmesh  patients  in  relation  and   intentionalities  sought  or  prescribed  by  agents”  (Thomas,  2001:  5).     (As  makeup  enthusiasts,  many  beauty  gurus  see  the  use  of  cosmetics  as  an   unrecognized  form  of  art  that,  as  such,  has  agency  and  creates  different  opportunities  for   empowerment.  Michelle  Phan’s  video  entitled  Catch  My  Heart  (2011)  could  be  a  starting   point  for  a  discussion  about  makeup  and  agency  just  by  considering  that  it  is  a  video   about  makeup,  directed  and  enacted  by  the  same  person,  exploring  new  grounds   regarding  the  narrative  of  makeup  tutorials  and  has  attracted  over  1.4  million  views  in                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           observed  among  beauty  gurus,  “the  most  successful  pupils  in  the  informal  realm  are  those  who  are   best  able  to  negotiate  their  investiment  in  order  to  create  the  most  value  .  .  .  through  their  acts  and   practices.”       7  
  • 8. less  than  two  weeks.  Phan’s  welcome  message  for  her  YouTube  channel  says:  “I  was  born   an  artist,  a  self-­‐taught  painter  for  10  years  and  went  through  an  additional  3  years  at   Ringling  College  of  Art  and  Design.  Makeup  is  another  medium  to  me.”  One  of  my   informants,  a  guru  of  17  years  old  and  one  thousand  subscribers,  echoes  this  idea  in  her   channel:  “.  .  .  when  I  was  introduced  to  makeup  I  looked  at  it  as  an  art  and  it  helped  me   gain  confidence  in  myself.”)   As  a  telescope  uses  different  formats  of  lenses  and  mirrors  to  process  luminous   information,  I  sought  conceptual  tools  that  could  attach  to  the  more  robust  framing  of   Munn  and  Gell  and  allow  the  examination  of  social  relations  mediated  by  digital   networks.  I  initially  drew  from  Miller’s  (2001)  application  of  the  notion  of  “art  as  a  trap”   to  examine  websites  in  Trinidad,  demonstrating  the  possibilities  of  applying  this  framing   to  virtual  artifacts.  I  also  looked  for  analytic  tools  developed  for  previous  research   conducted  on  YouTube.   Those  less  familiar  with  YouTube  are  usually  indifferent  to  the  ways  people   appropriate  it  as  a  device  for  decentralized  group  communication.  Conversations  evolve   from  a  distinct  set  of  conditions.  For  instance:  exchanges  are  not  synchronous  and  may   be  directed  to  an  unpredictable  range  of  spectators.  If  the  experience  of  virtuality  throws   humanity  “off-­‐balance”,  as  Boellstorff  (2008)  suggests,  it  also  changes  the  way  people   perceive  the  world.  In  this  context,  notions  such  as  “privacy”  seem  insufficient  to  describe   a  type  of  shared  content  that  displays  intimacy  but  limits  information  about  identity.  I   draw  on  studies  conducted  on  YouTube  by  Lange  (2007  and  2009)  and  Wesch  (2008)  to   bridge  the  wider  analytic  framing  with  the  specificity  of  the  topic.   In  order  to  address  categories  of  socially-­‐interconnected  users  like  YouTube  gurus,   one  is  tempted  to  use  the  term  “community”,  which  is  largely  adopted  for  that  purpose     8  
  • 9. by  journalists  and  also  by  academics.  I  have  also  applied  it,  for  convenience  and  lack  of   better  alternatives,  as  a  synonym  for  “large  and  informal  social  group”.  I  do  so  being   aware  of  Postill’s  (2008)  discussion  of  this  topic,  which  considers  the  term  problematic   due  to  its  vagueness  and  emotionally  charged  character.  As  he  summarized,  “community   merits  attention  as  a  polymorphous  folk  notion  widely  used  both  online  and  offline,  but   as  an  analytical  concept  with  an  identifiable  empirical  referent  it  is  of  little  use.”     I  should  also  clarify  that  I  use  “she”  and  “her”  in  all  cases  except  when  the  person   referred  is  masculine.     Structure  of  the  dissertation     This  first  chapter  introduces  the  general  ground  where  the  research  takes  place.  I   explain  the  service  YouTube  offers  to  Internet  users,  give  a  general  idea  of  how  it  works   and  present  “makeup  gurus”,  which  are  the  subject  of  this  dissertation.  The  following   chapter,  which  focus  on  research  methodology,  exposes  different  aspects  that  I  found   relevant  about  the  process  of  engaging  ethnographically  with  YouTube  and  with  this   particular  group  of  users.  It  gives  the  reader  the  roadmap  I  followed  which  includes   indications  of  dead-­‐ends,  but  also  of  promising  paths  that  other  researchers  might  want   to  experiment  with.  It  is  there  I  describe  a  technique  also  used  by  Tarlo  (2010)  to   indirectly  participate  in  conversations  through  various  channels  of  interaction  used  by  the   subjects  of  the  research.   In  chapter  3  I  apply  Munn’s  (1986)  model  for  explaining  value  creation  through   acts  of  exchange  to  conceptualize  the  emergence  of  a  particular  category  of  videos  that   circulate  mostly  inside  the  beauty  community  of  YouTube,  called  “Tags”.  Chapter  4  draws   from  Gell’s  (1998)  theory  of  art  to  discuss  the  video  tutorials  created  by  gurus  as  virtual     9  
  • 10. artifacts  forged  through  techniques  to  captivate  the  minds  of  viewers,  particularly  by   making  them  appear  to  be  produced  spontaneously  as  the  result  of  an  amateur  and   personal  labour  of  love.  I  develop  this  argument  using  the  notions  of  “context  collapse”   (Wesch,  2008),  “privately  public”  (Lange,  2007)  and  “video  of  affinity”  (Lange,  2009).     The  last  chapter  draws  mostly  from  Munn’s  (1986)  phenomenological  approach  to   attempt  to  map  key  aspects  that  derive  from  the  polarity  between  the  notions  of  “fake”   and  “real”.  This  chapter  also  focuses  more  on  ethnographic  material,  as  I  reflect  of  the   central  polarity  of  debates  around  the  topics  of  performance,  professionalization,   friendship  and  physical  beauty.   This  dissertation  contributes  to  the  emerging  field  of  digital  anthropology  as  it   explores  the  possibilities  of  applying  Munn’s  theory  of  value  to  study  the  creation  of   social  organization  and  hierarchy  in  decentralized  environments  on  the  Internet.  It  also   proposes  an  alternative  theoretical  path  to  the  study  of  self-­‐decoration  through  digital   technology,  as  most  of  the  production  on  the  topic  remains  focused  on  tribal  or  formally   tribal  groups.  My  work  is  also  intended  to  bring  a  contribution  to  the  anthropology  of   YouTube  as  it  deploys  an  analytic  toolkit  of  combined  notions  to  examine  the  agency  of  a   particular  type  of  video  and  how  it  mediates  relations  to  produce  particular  effects.           10  
  • 11. Introducing  YouTube  and  Beauty  Gurus   In  this  section  of  the  dissertation,  I  will  briefly  introduce  the  website  YouTube,   explain  the  service  it  offers  to  Internet  users  and  give  a  general  idea  of  how  it  works.  By   presenting  the  various  ways  users  participate  in  YouTube,  I  will  arrive  at  the  informal   community  of  “gurus”  and,  particularly,  the  subcategory  of  “makeup  gurus”,  with  whom  I   conducted  fieldwork.  In  the  following  sub-­‐section,  I  will  address  the  types  of  contents   they  produce,  the  various  motivations  for  participating  in  the  community,  and  how  these   gurus  measure  success.  This  introduction  is  necessary  to  the  understanding  of  the   ethnography  presented  and  discussed  in  the  dissertation.   YouTube  is  a  social  networking  site2  based  on  the  distribution  of  audio-­‐visual   content  published  by  its  participants.  It  is  available  in  34  languages  and  it  is  the  third  most   visited  site  on  the  Internet  after  Google  and  Facebook3.  Participation  is  free  but  users   must  register  to  be  able  to  upload  content  and  perform  other  actions  like  rating  or   commenting  on  videos;  unregistered  users  may  only  watch  the  videos.  There  are  various   ways  of  accessing  a  given  content.  Users  can:  search  the  website’s  database;  select  one  of   the  options  suggested  by  the  content  editors;  or  receive  (from  an  acquaintance)  a  direct   link  to  open  a  video.  Once  content  is  made  available,  any  Internet  user  can  watch  it  at  any   time.                                                                                                                           2  YouTube  is  normally  described  as  a  “video-­‐sharing  site”,  which  stresses  the  audio-­‐visual  sharing   aspect  that  makes  it  different  from  other  social  networking  sites  and  also  represents  the  element  that   makes  the  site  valuable  to  the  majority  of  users  who  only  access  it  to  watch  –  and  not  to  upload  –   content.  As  noted  by  Lange  (2007),  this  definition  eludes  the  social  motivation  behind  the  website’s   success.  The  service  it  provides  matches  the  description  of  social  networking  site  offered  by  boyd  and   Ellison  (2008):  “We  define  social  network  sites  as  web-­‐based  services  that  allow  individuals  to  (1)   construct  a  public  or  semi-­‐public  profile  within  a  bounded  system,  (2)  articulate  a  list  of  other  users   with  whom  they  share  a  connection,  and  (3)  view  and  traverse  their  list  of  connections  and  those  made   by  others  within  the  system.”   3  Data  collected  by  Alexa  (http://www.alexa.com/)  in  September  of  2011.     11  
  • 12. Founded  in  February  2005,  YouTube  radically  simplified  the  process  of  sharing   audio-­‐visual  documents  (Wesch,  2008).  The  problem  users  faced  before  the  arrival  of  this   kind  of  web  publishing  was  that  video  files  were  typically  very  large,  and  the  ability  to   share  videos  was  limited  to  those  who  had  access  to  broadband  connections.  Due  to  its   success,  Google  bought  the  company  in  2006.  In  2008,  users  were  uploading  200,000  new   videos  to  YouTube  per  day4  (Wesch,  2008).    The  same  study  showed  that  88%  of  this   content  was  new  or  original  and  was  made  for  audiences  of  100  or  less.  Most  of  these   “amateur”  uploads  consisted  either  of  users  displaying  a  certain  expertise  (i.e.  playing  the   piano),  or  personal  recordings  of  everyday  life.  Out  of  the  total  daily  amount,  10,000   videos  were  directed  to  the  YouTube  community  itself,  adding  to  on-­‐going  debates  of   users  on  topics  of  common  interest  (Wesch,  2008).     Users  interested  in  publishing  content  on  YouTube  must  first  create  their  own   channels,  but  there  is  no  limit  to  the  number  of  channels  a  user  can  have.  Participants  are   not  obliged  to  use  their  real  names;  only  a  valid  email  address  is  required,  as  is  the  norm   among  similar  websites  like  Facebook,  Wikipedia  and  Twitter.  The  channel  they  create   will  then  be  the  repository  of  the  user’s  uploaded  content  and  it  is  through  this  channel   that  the  subscription  system  works.  If  a  registered  user  likes  a  given  channel,  she  can   subscribe  to  it  and  be  notified  when  new  content  is  published.  Not  all  users  are   interested  in  measuring  the  attention  their  videos  generate,  but  those  who  are  do  so  by   comparing  numbers  of  views  a  video  has,  and  subscribers  a  channel  has.  The  most   successful  accumulate  a  greater  number  of  views,  a  measure  of  the  attention  they   gathered  up  the  present  and/or  a  greater  number  of  subscribers,  which  represent  the   channel’s  potential,  given  that  it  shows  how  many  people  want  to  watch  the  channel’s                                                                                                                           4  At  that  rate,  in  a  period  of  six  months  the  website  gathered  more  content  than  all  the  material   broadcasted  by  the  three  major  TV  networks  of  the  United  States  combined  (Wesch,  2008).       12  
  • 13. future  videos.  This  success  might  be  converted  in  to  money  or  material  benefits,  either  by   becoming  a  YouTube  partner  and  receiving  part  of  the  channel’s  advertising  revenue,  or   by  making  deals  with  other  companies  to  promote  their  products  or  services.   The  different  motivations  users  have  for  sharing  their  content  on  YouTube  will  be   discussed  at  a  different  part  of  this  dissertation.  For  the  moment,  it  is  enough  to  mention   that  there  are  many  levels  of  involvement  with  the  website  and  its  community  as  well   many  different  types  of  content  published.  This  varies  according  to  variables  such  as   experience  in  using  virtual  social  environments  and  access  to  and  knowledge  of  video-­‐ processing  software  and  equipment.   YouTube  organises  categories  of  information  based  on  types  of  content  and  types   of  accounts.  The  category  of  content  –  similar  to  that  of  types  of  magazines  –  is  defined  at   the  moment  the  video  is  published.  Before  uploading  the  document,  the  author  has  the   option  to  choose  from  the  following  possibilities  in  order  to  best  describe  their  content:   Autos  &  Vehicles;  Comedy;  Education;  Entertainment;  Film  &  Animation;  Gaming;  Howto   &  Style;  Music;  News  &  Politics;  Nonprofits  &  Activism;  People  &  Blogs;  Pets  &  Animals;   Science  &  Technology;  Sports;  and  Travel  &  Events.     The  easiest  way  one  arrives  at  these  categorist  is  by  accessing  the  homepage  of   YouTube  and  clicking  on  the  option  “browse”,  located  at  the  top  of  the  page,  to  the  right   of  the  search  button.   Type  of  account  is  a  category  chosen  at  the  time  the  user  creates  or  edits  the   information  on  her  channel.  The  options  provided  follow  a  different  rationale  to  that  of   traditional  media  outlets  and  represent  major  topics  of  interest  mapped  by  the  website’s   team.  Those  topics  are:  Comedians  (humour  content);  Directors  (fictional  content);  Gurus   (instructional  content);  Musicians  (musical  content);  Non-­‐Profit  (social  responsibility-­‐like     13  
  • 14. content);  Partners  (institutional  content);  Reporters  (editorial  content);  and  Sponsors   (advertising  content).     These  categories  are  not  easily  accessible,  but  allow  registered  users  to  access   channel  rankings.  The  list  of  account  types  can  be  found  at  this  address:   http://www.youtube.com/channels,  on  the  left  hand-­‐side  menu  which  integrates  content   types  and  account  types.  By  choosing  an  account  type,  the  website  will  offer  two  options   of  rankings:  by  number  of  views  or  by  number  of  subscriptions.  These  alternatives  can  be   changed  according  to  parameters  of  location  and  time  span  –  i.e.  a  certain  guru  might  be   the  7th  most  subscribed  this  month  in  Brazil  or  a  certain  comedian  maybe  the  31st  most   viewed  this  week  worldwide.     A  person  that  chooses  to  describe  herself  as  “gurus”  tells  us  that  specific  the   content  of  her  channel  will  primarily  display  videos  with  instructions  on  how  to  perform   certain  tasks.  There  are  many  subcategories  that  exist  within  the  broader  category  of   gurus.  For  example,  there  are  channels  dedicated  to  teaching  fitness  routines,   showcasing  the  effects  of  different  types  of  weapons,  showing  the  positions  of  the  Kama   Sutra,  giving  lessons  on  how  to  programme  in  various  computer  languages,  discussing   topics  related  to  academic  centres  of  interest  (linguistics,  astronomy,  etc.),  giving  lessons   to  students  of  various  levels  and  basically  anything  that  can  be  imagined  to  mobilise  the   attention  of  groups  of  people.       YouTube’s  Beauty  Gurus   The  group  studied  for  this  dissertation  identify  themselves  as  “beauty  gurus”  or   “makeup  gurus”  for  the  obvious  reason  that  the  types  of  instructions  they  create   surround  the  themes  of  cosmetics,  beauty  and  fashion  in  general.  The  usage  statistics  of     14  
  • 15. YouTube  shows  the  importance  they  have  in  attracting  and  mobilising  attention.   According  to  YouTube’s  ranking  of  gurus  in  May  2011,  half  of  the  top  24  channels   produced  beauty  related  content  and  none  of  the  other  gurus  (non-­‐beauty  gurus)  belong   to  a  single  category.  Michelle  Phan,  a  24  year-­‐old  Vietnamese-­‐American,  is  the  most   popular  beauty  guru  active  today  (Von  Pfetten,  2010).  She  has  nearly  1.5  million  users   subscribing  to  her  content  and  in  2010  became  the  most  subscribed  woman  on  YouTube.   In  order  to  evaluate  the  relevance  of  these  numbers,  it  might  be  useful  to  mention  that   the  BBC’s  YouTube  channel  has  close  to  268,000  subscribers.  Newcastle’s  Lauren  Luke,   the  most  famous  beauty  guru  from  the  United  Kingdom,  has  465,000  subscribers.   Based  on  my  broader  observation  of  English  speaking  participants,  most  gurus  are   either  teenagers  or  in  their  20s,  don’t  have  regular  jobs  and  record  their  videos  after   arriving  home  from  school  or  university.  (These  characteristics  seem  to  differ  from   country  to  country.  In  the  few  cases  of  Brazilian  beauty  gurus  I  observed,  a  number  of   them  related  their  activities  on  YouTube  to  earning  money  by  selling  the  products  they   use  to  create  “looks”.)  There  are  also  some  gurus  who  are  makeup  artists  that  adopted   the  “amateurish”  aesthetic  of  beauty  gurus  as  a  strategy  to  gain  popularity  and   consequently  open  up  new  career  opportunities.  These  gurus  tend  to  make  videos  only   about  makeup,  whereas  the  others  mingle  instructions  and  personal  accounts  of  their   lives  and  view  cosmetics  as  means  for  women  to  gain  self-­‐esteem  by  improving  their   appearances.     I  call  them  an  “informal  group”  because  it  is  a  group  without  controlled   boundaries.  Nobody  owns  it  (apart  from  YouTube)  or  limits  who  gets  in  or  out.  All  one   needs  to  do  to  become  a  guru  is  to  sign  up  for  a  YouTube  account  and  post  videos  related   to  the  subject.  In  this  sense,  being  a  beauty  guru  has  more  to  do  with  being  seen  as  such,     15  
  • 16. being  identified  as  one  by  other  members  of  the  “sorority”5,  and  one’s  acceptance   implies  the  adoption  of  a  certain  aesthetic  for  producing  videos.  As  one  browses  through   the  production  of  different  gurus,  it  is  noticeable  how  the  videos  are  aesthetically   homogeneous,  independent  of  linguistic  or  geographical  differences.  Makeup  gurus   primarily  produce  videos  using  a  format  of  video-­‐narrative  called  “tutorial”.  An  “online   tutorial”  or  an  “internet  video-­‐tutorial”  is  a  step-­‐by-­‐step  instruction  on  different  topics.   As  I  observed  during  the  fieldwork   for  this  project,  beauty  gurus   worldwide  share  a  set  of  body   communication  techniques  to   create  makeup  tutorials.  Below  I   present  images  that  display  some   of  the  most  recurrent  types  of   Figure  1  I  n ever  saw  a  video  from  a  guru  that  was  not  recorded   in  their  rooms  or  at  another  personal  environment  (i.e.  the   body-­‐action6.   bathroom  or  the  dresser  room).             Figure  2  The  camera  and  the  monitor  takes  the  place  of  the     mirror.  The  guru  moves  her  face  closer  or  further  from  the   camera  according  to  the  instruction  she  is  giving.                                                                                                                           5  Although  there  are  male  gurus  –  mostly  gay  men  and/or  professional  makeup  artists  –  the   overwhelming  majority  of  gurus  devoted  to  beauty  related  topics  are  female.     6  All  the  images  of  gurus  portrayed  here  are  of  adults.  The  only  image  that  shows  a  full  frontal  face  is   the  first  and  it  is  from  a  celebrity  guru  with  over  100  thousand  followers.  I  do  not  inform  their   usernames  for  safety  reasons  that  will  be  discussed  opportunely.       16  
  • 17.               Figure  3  When  a  new  product  is  used,  before  applying  it,  the   guru  brings  it  near  the  camera  to  show  the  label  with  the     product's  specifications.                 Figure  4  When  displaying  colour  is  important,  they  show  the     product  -­‐  i.e.  a  lipstick  -­‐  against  the  palm  of  their  h ands  to   produce  a  clearer  visualization.                 Figure  5  A  common  variation  of  this  gesture  is  to  apply  the   product  to  the  back  of  the  hand  to  show  its  effect  on  skin.     17  
  • 18. Together  with  acquiring  the  common  visual  language  presented  above,  a  beauty   guru  is  recognized  also  for  being  active  in  creating  specific  kinds  of  content.  The  tutorial  is   the  most  frequent  and  it  includes  instructions  about  makeup,  hair  and  nails.  Product   reviews  are  also  popular  and  there  is  a  subcategory  of  reviews  called  “haul”  where  the   guru  showcases  various  items  she  has  recently  purchased.  “Outfit  of  the  day”  or  OOTD  is   a  brief  description  of  the  composition  of  clothes  and  accessories  the  guru  is  wearing  at   the  moment  of  making  the  video.  “Vlogs”  are  a  type  of  content  similar  to  a  diary  entry;   popular  subcategories  of  vlogging  are  “A  day  in  the  life”  and  “Follow  me  around”.     In  all  the  cases  I  observed,  the  makeup  guru  was  responsible  for  performing  all   the  tasks  related  to  the  production  of  the  video,  including  defining  the  particular  theme   of  each  video.  These  are  either  themes  of  their  own  repertoire  –  i.e.  a  certain  makeup   routine  to  go  to  school  –  or  represent  more  complex  objectives  like  reproducing  a  certain   “look”  used  by  a  celebrity  or  a  character  in  a  TV  show  or  film  –  i.e.  the  “look”  of  Kate   Middleton  for  the  Royal  wedding.  To  record  the  tutorial,  they  select  the  necessary   makeup  equipment  and  products,  turn  on  the  recording  software  and  perform  the   sequence  of  tasks  in  order  to  arrive  at  the  proposed  objective.  After  this  stage,  they   normally  use  editing  programmes  to  cut  unnecessary  parts  and  add  the  desired  visual  or   audio  effects–  like  textual  instructions  on  the  top  of  the  image.  Beginners  find  it  easier  to   film  the  makeup  process  and  later  add  the  audio  with  the  instructions,  but  it  is  a  sign  of   seniority  or  technical  superiority  to  be  able  to  perform  the  makeup  and  simultaneously   explain  each  act.     The  routine  of  YouTube  gurus  involves  both  making  videos  and  participating  in  the   conversations  proposed  by  others  inside  their  community.  This  conversation  happens     18  
  • 19. through  YouTube  by  means  of  videos  and  text  comments,  but  also  exceeds  this  domain  to   include  several  other  online  destinations  like  Twitter  and  Facebook.     Part  of  these  conversations  represent  attempts  to  build  relationships  which  are   helpful  to  promote  one’s  channel  and  give  it  visibility.  The  easiest  way  a  user  can  increase   the  number  of  subscribers  is  by  proposing  an  exchange:  she  subscribes  to  the  channel  of   another  guru  and  leaves  a  message  asking  the  other  for  to  do  the  same.  This  practice  is   especially  common  among  those  who  are  just  beginning  to  build  an  audience,  but  it  is   criticised  by  more  experienced  users.  There  are  other  practices  that  equally  offer  the   possibility  of  developing  an  audience,  and  are  more  widely  accepted,  namely  the  creation   of,  or  participation  in,  “collabs”,  or  the  engagement  in  a  practice  called  “tags”.  I  will   discuss  these  in  greater  detail  in  the  following  sections  of  this  dissertation,  but  will   introduce  them  briefly  here.     “Collab”  is  the  casual  name  given  to  “collaborative  channels”,  which  are  channels   produced  collectively  and  that  ultimately  serve  the  purpose  of  promoting  the  work  of   their  participants.  A  collab  is  usually  started  by  a  higher  ranking  guru  because  she  needs   to  have  a  sufficient  reputation  in  order  to  promote  this  new  channel  and  attract  others  to   participate  in  it.  There  is  a  selection  process  conducted  to  choose  the  other  participants   and  this  happens  through  auditioning.  Those  interested  submit  video-­‐responses  to  the   original  video  posted  announcing  the  new  collab.  Usually  a  collab  has  seven  participants   and  each  becomes  responsible  for  posting  a  new  video  on  a  certain  day  of  the  week.   Every  week  one  of  the  participants  comes  up  with  a  theme  that  all  the  others  will  use  to   produce  their  videos;  this  gives  consistency  to  the  content  of  the  channel.    Higher  ranking   gurus  display  their  influence  by  creating  collabs  while  lower  ranking  users  gain  visibility     19  
  • 20. and  experience  by  having  to  produce  more  videos  and  also  by  promoting  their  individual   channels  to  the  audience  of  the  collab.   If  collabs  produce  visibility  through  structured  social  organization,  “tags”  generate   visibility  through  the  engagement  in  a  collective  but  informal  activity.  The  term  tag  refers   to  two  ideas:  a  theme  for  a  video  and  the  naming  (“tagging”)  of  other  users.  The  themes   are  usually  about  one’s  personality  and  only  indirectly  about  makeup7;  for  instance,  in  the   theme  “My  perfect  imperfections”  the  users  are  challenged  to  make  a  video  talking  about   three  things  that  they  like  and  three  that  they  dislike  about  themselves8.  At  the  end  of   the  video,  they  may  “tag”  other  gurus  from  their  social  circle,  which  means  that  they  are   publically  inviting  them  to  produce  a  video  with  the  same  theme.  The  advantage  of   engaging  in  this  kind  of  activity  is  that  by  producing  videos  using  the  same  or  similar   titles,  gurus  expand  the  possibilities  of  these  videos  being  watched  by  a  wider  audience   since  YouTube  binds  similar  content  together.  A  person  that  watches  a  video  called  “My   perfect  imperfections”  will  automatically  see  other  videos  about  that  same  theme,   displayed  for  them  to  select.     Many  gurus  expect  to  gain  recognition  and  one  of  the  ways  this  happens  is  by   being  approached  by  cosmetic  companies.  It  is  a  sign  of  maturity  for  a  guru  to  be  chosen   to  review  products  and  many  include  contact  information  for  commercial  inquires  on   their  channel.  The  highest  ranking  gurus  with  hundreds  of  thousands  of  subscribers  sign   deals  with  makeup  companies  and  can  become  “online  ambassadors”  of  a  certain  brand   or  eventually  launch  their  own  makeup  products.  This  contact  with  the  commercial  world                                                                                                                           7  I  haven’t  verified  if  tags  (and  also  collabs)  exist  in  other  communities  on  YouTube.  These  activities   may  result  from  the  high  number  of  beauty  gurus  and  from  the  fact  makeup  is  a  collective  activity   among  groups  of  women  interested  in  that  practice.     8  Since  beauty  gurus  normally  talk  about  beauty  related  issues,  videos  produced  following  this  theme   refer  to  part  of  their  bodies  that  they  find  more  or  less  attractive,  which  then  links  to  the  use  of   cosmetics  or  other  means  as  an  attempt  to  improve  their  looks.     20  
  • 21. is  sometimes  accompanied  by  tension  as  the  guru  becomes  vulnerable  to  criticism  by   competitors  for  giving  up  editorial  independence  and  producing  disguised  advertising.           21  
  • 22. Methodology   My  original  project  was  to  study  informal  learning  online.  I  wanted  to  observe  and   attempt  to  understand  the  process  in  which  Internet  users  gain  certain  skills  through  the   development  of  social  relations  in  informal  settings.  I  chose  to  conduct  this  research  on   YouTube  beauty  gurus  mainly  because  they  represent  an  informal  group  that  gathers   spontaneously  through  the  Web  and  share  the  purpose  of  exchanging  knowledge  and   experiences  related  to  fashion,  beauty  and  particularly  about  cosmetics  and  makeup  with   each  other.  At  the  early  stage  of  the  project,  while  I  was  still  considering  how  to  approach   this  community  and  conduct  the  research,  I  received  two  recommendations  from  my   supervisor,  one  of  which  I  could  not  adopt.     Firstly,  I  was  asked  to  research  not  gurus  but  the  audience  of  gurus.  Instead  of   looking  at  the  guru’s  individual  histories  to  explain  the  popularity  they  have,  I  should   study  those  who  choose  to  watch  videos  of  gurus  and  see  the  motivations  behind  that   interest.  I  attempted  to  follow  this  path,  but  had  to  reconsider  because  after  a  month  of   looking  for  people  who  matched  this  profile,  I  was  only  able  to  locate  and  interview  one   person.     I  faced  the  following  difficulties:  1)  considering  as  an  “audience”  those  who  do  not   participate  in  the  conversation,  I  could  not  look  for  them  through  YouTube  since  their   presence  watching  the  videos  does  not  leave  traces.  I  tried  to  find  these  people  through   recommendations  of  friends  but  this  strategy  is  not  efficient  for  a  research  project  that   has  to  start  and  end  in  four  months.  2)  What  is  the  definition  of  “audience”  in  the  context   of  the  Internet?  Prior  to  the  Internet,  the  audience  were  those  who  mostly  consumed   media  content:  readers  of  newspapers  and  magazines,  for  instance.  After  the  Internet,   being  the  audience  became  a  choice  for  those  who  were  online.  From  this  perspective,     22  
  • 23. when  does  a  person  move  from  the  position  of  being  in  an  audience  to  that  of  active   participant  in  the  public  sphere?  Are  users  that  don’t  publish  videos  but  comment  on   them  an  audience?  YouTube  users  with  less  visibility  might  influence  more  people  while   others  with  a  greater  number  of  views  might  be  communicating  only  within  a  circle  of   friends.  I  resolved  this  problem  by  choosing  to  observe  a  group  of  gurus  that  had  average   audiences,  as  I  will  explain  later  at  this  section.  In  the  end,  it  was  important  to  accept  that   being  a  guru  is  a  social  experience  and  that  it  is  part  of  being  a  guru  to  be  both  audience   and  producer.   The  suggestion  I  could  incorporate  was  to  go  in  to  the  field  without  a  specific  set   of  questions;  instead,  I  should  immerse  myself  in  the  world  of  these  gurus  to  find  out,   among  other  things:  what  it  is  that  makes  somebody  want  to  become  part  of  this  group?   What  do  they  talk  about  besides  makeup?  Do  they  have  specific  forms  of  organization?   How  does  one  moves  inside  this  group?  I  should  allow  my  curiosity  to  look  for  interesting   things  happening  and,  at  the  end  of  this  process,  produce  a  theory  explaining  what  is  like   to  be  a  guru.  That  is  how  I  conducted  this  work.     Preparation  for  the  research   Prior  to  conducting  participant  observation,  first  with  gurus  in  general  and  later   with  the  specific  network  of  actors  that  resulted  in  the  ethnography  used  for  this   dissertation,  I  learned  about  cosmetics  and  its  use  in  Britain  by  conducting  six  interviews   with  women  who  are  active  users  or  even  enthusiasts  of  makeup.  The  questions  I  asked   in  these  interviews  were:  1)  at  what  moment  in  life  they  first  acquired  an  interest  in   cosmetics?  How  did  it  start  and  with  whose  support?  And  2)  what  do  you  normally  keep   in  your  box  of  cosmetic  accessories  and  why?  I  considered  these  questions     23  
  • 24. straightforward  enough  to  produce  direct  answers  and  also  general  enough  to  allow  the   interviewees  to  formulate  the  answers  without  constrains  or  moral  judgments.     Alongside  the  interviews,  I  participated  in  a  daylong  intensive  makeup  course  for   amateurs  and  had  the  opportunity  to  get  to  know  the  different  properties  of  products   and  apply  the  products  on  my  own  face.  Being  the  only  man  among  eight  other   participants  including  the  teacher  and  her  assistant,  I  had  the  chance  to  experience  the   awkwardness  that  results  from  crossing  this  clearly  gender-­‐related  border  and  also  feel   the  difficulties  related  to  the  execution  of  different  routines.  I  did  not  know  that  makeup   required  such  complex  procedures,  involved  so  many  utensils  and  followed  so  many   patterns  to  add  different  layers  of  products.  I  was  also  confronted  with  the  understanding   that  makeup  is  as  much  about  showing  as  it  is  about  concealing.  This  is  something  I  will   explore  later  on.       Figure  6  Figure  6  Photograph  taken  at  the  end  of  the  makeup  course  at  the  Rouge  London  Makeup  School,  2011.     24  
  • 25. Methods  for  gathering  data   I  spent  over  a  month  “living”  among  beauty  gurus  before  choosing  my  informants   and  then  I  dedicated  myself  to  observing  these  informants  full  time  during  two  weeks.  All   the  data  gathered  for  this  research  was  collected  online  and  through  this  process  of   immersion  in,  and  observation  of,  their  past  and  present  activities.  Observation  here   means  watching  their  videos  and  following  their  online  public  communication  through   comment  exchange  and  also  through  the  dialogues  developed  through  the  website   Formspring,  a  service  through  which  many  gurus  receive  and  respond  to  questions   posted  either  openly  or  anonymously.  Formspring’s  value  derives  from  the  fact  other   popular  social  websites  like  YouTube  and  Facebook  do  not  allow  this  feature  of   anonymously  publishing  questions.  Since  gurus  are  interested  in  being  known  and   expanding  they  range  of  relationships,  Formspring  gives  the  possibility  of  receiving  from   friends  and  fans  the  kind  of  personal  questions  they  would  not  dare  to  ask  openly.   Formspring  is  widely  adopted,  especially  among  younger  beauty  gurus;  all  but  one  of  the   six  actors  selected  had  an  account  with  this  service.   Aside  from  one  public  exchange  of  online  comments  with  one  of  the  adult   informants,  I  did  not  attempt  to  communicate  with  the  actors.  I  decided  not  to  talk   directly  to  them  because  four  out  of  six  of  my  informants  were  less  than  18  years  of  age   and  I  didn’t  want  to  conduct  interviews  with  some  of  them  and  not  others.  This  solution   proved  useful  for  two  reasons:  it  offered  an  opportunity  of  conducting  research  in  a  safe   manner  with  actors  that  are  minors,  and  it  also  created  an  environment  that  allowed   actors  to  speak  and  share  opinions  that  seemed  more  welcoming  than,  for  instance,  that   of  an  academic  interview.  Tarlo  (2010:  146)  arrived  at  the  same  conclusions  while   conducting  research  on  Muslims  and  fashion  in  Britain.  She  wrote:  “What  makes  Internet     25  
  • 26. 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  
  • 27. 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  
  • 28. 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