The Dangers of Vlogging

There are several fears circulating about the consequences of the proliferation of user-generated content.

First is the fear that authenticity and truth are lost in the anarchic content on the web. The internet has been criticized by some as encouraging obsessions with unimportant things such as bad television and celebrities (Creeber and Martin, 2009). Others, like Andrew Keen go so far as to extend the "infinite monkey theorem" (that says that infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters will eventually write Shakespeare) to describe the whole of internet users as infinite monkeys "with no more talent than our primate cousins, creating an endless forest of digital mediocrity”. Keen continues, “For today's amateur monkeys can use their networked computers to publish everything from uninformed political commentary, to unseemly home videos, to embarrassingly amateurish music, to unreadable poems, essays, and novels," (Keen, 2007). Keen feels that the chaotic flood of self-publishing on the internet results in the most intellectually deserving sources being drowned out by the more numerous and equally weighted productions of lesser individuals.

Second is the fear of the loss of creativity. Pre-made frameworks for the transmission of images or ideas save time, while streamlining knowledge about the mechanisms behind the scenes and inevitably tethering society to technology. The minimal rights that YouTube users have to the intellectual property of work they upload also brings up a fear that, with the rise of commercial presence on the site, user-generated content will seen at most as a rough material that can be used by these professionals in order to achieve wider acceptance of their products among the public (Juhasz). Keen worries that if people aren’t rewarded for originality, there will be no demand for innovation, and creativity in the form of good art or innovation will come to a halt.

Third, is the disgust toward the purportedly narcissistic nature of YouTube. Personal networking sites have long been described as mirrors for presentations of self-identity (Creeber and Martin, 2009). Sites which claim to be about social networking are viewed by many as existing only so that we can advertise ourselves via our favorite books or photos from our summer vacations (Keen, 2007). Time spent attending to the shallow projection of oneself on a social networking site undoubtedly could be spent better elsewhere.

Closely related to the fear of consumptive narcissism is a fourth fear of the dissolution of real world interaction due to preoccupation with the virtual. Indeed, there is a mythic notion that through social media, everyone's experience may be connected to everyone else's (Blank, 2009). Some critics fear that this will be taken to far and that face-to-face human contact will be seen as increasingly redundant.

Fifth, and most convincing to me, is the concern regarding the exploitation inherent in the open usage of a commercialized forum meant to profit. Alexandra Juhasz illustrates this in her article Why Not (to) Teach on YouTube by describing a hypothetical internet user on this network:

Her ideas, spoken freely through newly accessible cameras, and on little screens encircled by ads, reflect those that the master taught her: re-cut sit-coms, testimonials from reality TV, fan mash-ups. They move freely across the internet, insulting some along the way, and encrusted by the flames of others the longer they sit still. The user feels she is free, and so she speaks. But the owner uses other users to censor her as the owner sees fit. The user might be a person, she's often a corporation, but more often yet, she's an individual servicing a corporation. And all of this is done gratis, justifying YouTube's highly celebrated 'democratic' claims. The owner, well, he has very little to do! The user (slave, oops) does all the work: makes the content; rates it; censors it; watches it; marks that she was there (and gets her hungry restless eyeballs to the ads).

It is clear that commercial culture has invested a great deal in the pursuit of business via YouTube, and that, as members of cultures inundated with advertisements, vloggers will reproduce some of these values while constructing a social identity in their videos. Keen, again, fuels this argument by citing Chad Hurley, the founder of YouTube, in an interview with Adweek suggesting that advertising and content can be collapsed on YouTube; that "advertising is entertainment and entertainment is advertising" (Keen, 2007).
All of these fears about Web 2.0 and social media seem a little bit exaggerated. Though the digital age does demand a reassessment of the workings of everyday life, it might be the case that it cannot be explained through any of the traditional frameworks for understanding media. It seems that all internet users need not be recognized solely as complacent victims of media and technology, or as constant creators, instigators, and valued consumers of a new art variant, though we all engage in some type of ceaseless digital productivity via the uploading and appropriation of images and text. Burgess et al. described the difference between old internet and new internet like this: "Web 1.0 was invented to allow physicists to share research papers. Web 2.0 was created to allow people to share pictures of cute cats." (2009). While it may appear that this statement implies intellectual regression because the sophisticated new technology is used to create and disseminate banal content, research papers did not disappear. In Web 2.0, both research papers and photos of cute cats are shared.

.txt - home