The Vlog Aesthetic

Most amateur videos recorded with the intention of self-documentation adhere to a specific set of visual semantics unique to the vlog genre. As many vloggers on YouTube only have basic film editing skills, they overwhelmingly tend to depend significantly on their own bodies for imagery and the spoken word for content, instead of coreographed text and graphics. This leads to expression primarily through the prototypical 'talking-head' of the vlog.

Vlogs generally feature a single person facing the camera head on, giving a personal, conversational feel to the video. Usually the vlogger presents him or herself to the camera from the shoulders up, with the camera centered on the face. This may be partially due to limitations of web cam technology that cannot allow for a more distant or wide shot without significantly reducing legibility or sound quality. It also may be a practical choice, as the vlogger's face and speech are quite literally the focus of any vlog. It seems as though the close-up shot of the user's face is essential for the intimate communication of vlog.

The video is shot almost exclusively in a private space, such as the bedroom, living room, or office. It is rare to find an assembled backdrop in front of which the monologue is filmed, or even any sort of clear censoring of the room's natural state. Though the vlogger may very well have planned to film in that specific place or position, there is often a sense of spontaneity or practicality to the choice because of the casual aura of the domestic space. Glimpses of the truly private life of the vlogger outside of the performance are provided at either side of the centered vlogger figure.

More often then not, the video blog consists of one continuous scene (or point in time), with only the occasional cut. Cuts that are present often do not seem to add any complexity to the narrative or aesthetic, but instead indicate an attempt to eliminate some 'mistake' or unnecessary part of the monologue as an afterthought during editing. This too adds to its sense of veracity and genuineness.

The typical vlogger does not script his or her monologue, and often meanders through content without a great deal of structure or concern for the relevance of the material to the audience (though there are many vlogs that subvert this norm by self-consciously questioning the validity of their post). The natural patterns of speech are not overtly censored and the use of filler words like 'like' and 'um' is ubiquitous. However, bloopers in the monologue are regularly addressed by the vlogger with self-deprecating remarks either within the video, or in the description, and there are hundreds of self-produced vlog blooper videos.

Vloggers tend to address 'YouTube' or 'you' in their videos, imitating real-world communication, and some reference to specific users. There is an overall effort on the part of vloggers to elicit viewer feedback either by commenting on another video, or asking for comments on their own. Soliciting feedback or subscriptions is relatively common, as is the implication of future reciprocity: if you interact with me on my channel, I will with you on yours.

Because of the homogeneity of both the YouTube page layout, the strictures of inexpensive webcam technology and the price of high-end video editing software, many of these introductory videos end up looking incredibly similar (ironic for a genre that focuses almost exclusively on the affirmation of oneself as an individual in the YouTube world). This leads to troublesome dichotomy for some, such as Alexandra Juhasz, who feel that this supports the corporate hegemony of YouTube culture and undermines creativity.

Vlog expression labeled as "amateur" in derogatory terms, as compared to the "professional" content distributed by companies, both by media critics and YouTube users is generally considered a "low" culture artifact. The lack of professional skill and tools, coupled with the everydayness of the content and imagery undoubtedly fuels the criticisms of the genre.

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