According to John Burgess, “Participatory culture is a term that is often used to talk about the apparent link between more accessible digital technologies, user created content, and some kind of shift in the power relations between media industries and their consumers.” For the past five years or so, there has been a drastic increase in user created content on the internet. This new trend puts the ball in the consumers “court” and essentially allows you to be as creative as you want, and has brought thousands of people fame and notoriety for the content that they have created. There is an endless amount of viral platforms to which you can upload your user created videos, pictures, or words, but in 2010, no site does it quite as well as YouTube.
I can still remember my first time on YouTube like it was yesterday. It was winter of my senior year, and I remember hearing everyone talk about this new video that a bunch of the skater kids in my high school had put together. At the time, I had never even heard of YouTube, but I followed instructions upon arriving to the site and found their video with no problem.
The video that they had created was a four minute lip synch of the song “Stay Fly” by Three Six Mafia. In total there were seven kids in the video, each taking turns rapping and dancing around the inside and outside of one of the kid’s houses. I was very impressed with their editing skills. At the time my only real experience with editing was sitting on a duel VCR TV and hitting record and stop while trying to put together a basketball highlight tape for colleges to look at. Very amateur when compared to the non-stop cuts and transitions that this video possessed. The video they made looked like the most fun thing to be a part of that I had ever seen. Since it was really early on in the YouTube days it got tons of hits and if I’m not mistaken even received some recognition. As of today the video has close to 155,000 views, and as I re-watch it again, I’m immediately brought back to the youthful feeling of wonder and appreciation that I felt when I would watch it in high school.
Seeing a video on YouTube for the first time is great feeling. It’s as if once you watch a video on the site for the first time you immediately feel connected with the rest of the world, or at least the other million people or so that have watched said video. Just the fact that a video is on the internet means that someone, somewhere, deemed it viewable, important, and thought the world should see it. YouTube has become the household name in terms of video sharing on the internet. My eight year old sister watches clips of “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with my dad all the time, and it is the most used platform in the classroom these days when a video needs to be shown to the class. People of all ages are on it, making the user content range from pre-teens to senior citizens. The variety of videos is almost too much to handle sometimes, and on numerous occasions I’ve wondered where my day has gone just clicking from video to video.
I grew up in Westchester, New York, after living in Manhattan until I was five. Looking back now, I am very grateful for all the opportunities that I was given. Raised by very open-minded parents, creativity was something they always encouraged. As a child I would always write stories, songs, and draw comics. As I grew older, and eventually received a digital camera (December 2004), taking pictures and videos became my new hobby. I would bring that camera everywhere and was essentially the paparazzi for my group of friends. Webshots.com was the first website that I uploaded pictures to, and my experience with that site didn’t go over too well. Sometimes I would take and post pictures that perhaps the world wasn’t quite ready for, and after the school got a hold of my account, a few of my friends and I were reprimanded for some underage drinking pictures I had posted. But as my maturity increased, so did my love for the video camera, and after learning of YouTube, it became one of my passions. I started a YouTube account back in 2006 (danye33), and as of today have viewed over 29,000 videos (that I have been logged on to watch, thus excluding another easy 10,000 that I’m sure I wasn’t signed in for), and have uploaded 27 videos of my own that have been viewed over 20,000 times by people all over the world.
The shift in Internet use from passive to active is something that I have certainly lived through and been a part of. My first real memory of Internet participation would have to be when I used to create and edit my “profile” on AOL. As time has gone on, and the Internet continues to evolve just as all creations do, more and more sites have added features that beg for user participation. You would be hard pressed to find any website that doesn’t have some kind of poll on it for readers or at the very least comment boxes at the end of an article or video so that you can voice your personal opinions. I jumped into the YouTube craze head first, as opposed to the majority of my friends who passively chose to watch rather than create. Yes, there absolutely was a part of me that felt compelled to create content for the site, if not for creative reasons then merely for the fact that I loved what was going on, and wanted to be a part of it.
If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it a billions times; trends are changing, and yes, today's youth has it much different from the world that even I grew up in. Television has become a luxury, it’s not something we need, or relay on like in the old days. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that over 90% of shows on television can be found in some shape or form on the Internet. With thousands of sites like Hulu, TV Shack, fancast and tvduck, not to mention all the networks sites that broadcast their own shows, you can basically watch any show, anytime, and with less, or at times no commercials. YouTube plays into this factor as well. Anytime something memorable happens on TV, i.e. Kanye West steals the microphone from Taylor Swift, you can bet your bottom dollar that the clip will end up on YouTube within the hour. This goes for almost anything, live performances, great sports plays, as well as countless unscripted mess-ups that normally we would never know about, but since there is a place like YouTube now we get to see it all hundreds and hundreds of times. Another thing that YouTube does is the occasional live broadcast of events such as electoral debates, concerts and state of the union addresses. YouTube continues to further fuse the two mediums of television and Internet together, and in the near future, I could see these two become one.
YouTube has provided me with more laughs, information and entertainment then I ever dreamed possible. It is a place of refuge from the everyday struggle, a place where you can sit back and enjoy what others out there just like you have created. In a small amount of time, I’ve watched the site grow into the worldwide phenomenon that it has become today, and luckily for me, I have been along for almost the entire ride. There is no telling what is next for the Internet, there never is. However, I’m thankful for what we have now, and the opportunity that YouTube has given me and millions of others like me to be heard, and now, to be seen.
I mean come on, without YouTube we may never have gotten to witness spaztic singing boy, peanut butter man, or the "Oh you mad cuz I'm stylin on you" rap battle fight gone wrong!