Group members: Anasthasya Mathilda, Anna Poggi, Bastian August, Bernhard Rieder, Blossem Kreffer, Bingwen (Serena) Wang, Brogan Latil, Chenxuan Zhang, Danique Vijlbrief, Deena Loman, Gabby Agustin, Harneet Bahal, In A Hwang,Jielu Liu, Li Jiang, Sophie Pattynama, Tianyi Li, Xiaolu Ji,mYanwen Chen, Yi Zhang, Yitong Liu
While YouTube is increasingly studied as a platform for mis-/disinformation, radical political content, and conspiracy theories, the broader ways current events are mediated on the platform is less well understood. What broader attempts to map the content on the platform (e.g. Rieder et al. 2020) show, however, is that there is considerable variety when it comes to the overall channel landscape, and this extends to content and content production that deals with current events or “news” in a broad sense. Content from traditional media companies, YouTube-native news production, various types of (political) commentary, vloggers relaying personal experiences, “on-the-ground” reporting, citizen journalism, streams of “primary” video material, disinformation entrepreneurs, bootleggers, and everything in-between make up a complex tapestry of information and interpretation, ideologies and institutional constructs, business models and modes of production.
This variety is, however, embedded within techno-administrative rules and affordances put forward by YouTube itself, circumscribing and governing what happens and can happen on the platform. This includes various systems that modulate content visibility (ranking, recommendation, interface design, etc.), community guidelines and their enforcement, pathways to monetization, and a changing set of features that define interaction possibilities not only between creators and viewers, but also within these groups themselves.
Comment sections, chats, and – importantly – the metricized clicking and viewing practices of everyone coming into contact with the platform (which includes those that consume content via website embeddings) are ways viewers feed back into the system, influencing both creator practices and the (algorithmic) ordering of content.
As Han et al. (2022: 2) argue, comment sections in particular are more than opportunities for feedback to creators, they serve as sites “of intense collective sense-making and knowledge production” and “function as an under-regulated epistemic space” that YouTube’s content moderation mechanisms seem to largely ignore. In this sense, comments are part of the mediation process evoked above, as they contribute to how viewers interpret content related to current events.
This project focuses on two (ongoing) conflicts to investigate the platform mediation in greater detail. Focusing on the Ukraine war and the so-called white paper protests against restrictive Covid-19 policies in China, we will attempt to understand the landscape and typology of actors that report and weigh in on these events, the video styles and formats that succeed (or not) in findings an audience, and the ways users (re-)interpret what is on offer. In doing so, we apply Munger and Phillips’ (2022) “supply-and-demand framework” not merely to “right-wing YouTube”, but to the ideologically diverse landscape of channels and videos focusing on the selected current events.
Since language is one of the dominant structuring lines on YouTube, we will - depending on our group participants – investigate and pay attention to differences between different cultural spheres.
2. Overall Research Questions
- Who is reporting on the Ukraine war and the white paper protests? How can these actors be classified effectively?
- What (kind of) content succeeds in reaching audiences?
- How are viewers (re-)interpreting contents and, by extension, the events themselves? Can we trace users across videos?
Ha, Lan, Timothy Graham, and Joanne Gray. 2022. “Where Conspiracy Theories Flourish: A Study of YouTube Comments and Bill Gates Conspiracy Theories.” Harvard Kennedy School Misinformation Review, October. https://doi.org/10.37016/mr-2020-107
Munger, Kevin, and Joseph Phillips. 2022. “Right-Wing YouTube: A Supply and Demand Perspective.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 27 (1): 186–219. https://doi.org/10.1177/1940161220964767
Rieder, Bernhard, Òscar Coromina, and Ariadna Matamoros-Fernández. 2020. “Mapping YouTube.” First Monday 25 (8). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v25i8.10667
- 30 Jan 2023