“Would YouTube have survived WWll?”

17 Oct


If we look at all of these new digital platforms such as Hulu, Netflix, and my personal favorite YouTube, we have to wonder how the multimedia research methods changed throughout time. If we take the digital medium of YouTube and apply the early developed theories such as the interpretive theory of “McLuhanism” and a type of normative theory, Libertarianism we can better understand just how much has changed. It was during the 1960s that a Canadian literary scholar by the name of Marshall McLuhan, that predicted the anticipation of the most recent developments in electronic media today. Some critical cultural theorists believed that McLuhanism was too similar to Harold Innis’ basic ideas. Yet younger theorists are intrigued by McLuhanism and inspired by his optimism on new media. Wired magazine acknowledges McLuhan’s theory.

When applying McLuhanism to a new digital medium such as YouTube, we can imply that “The medium is the message”. YouTube is a captivating gateway for its audiences as they are able to use its search engine to watch any type of video content they’d prefer. This recently new form of media has transformed the user’s experiences, regardless of content. McLuhan predicted that a new “global village” would emerge due to electronic media that would tie the entire world into one big social, political, and cultural system. This can be said about YouTube being a type of “global village”.

YouTube gives its users the freedom to stream any type of video topic they desire. Additionally, it has been known that everyone is able to upload content, from political leaders to young teenagers. McLuhan presented an idea that media literally is an extension of a person’s sight, hearing, and touch also referred to as “extensions of man”. With this concept, we can imply YouTube’s qualitive efforts to be an outlet in the digital world. Users can replay videos, watch them on their own time, and from mostly any location.

McLuhan’s findings are viewed by some as prophetic, as much of his research has manifested since the 1960s. Yet many found that although his ideas rationalized rapid expansions of new media, McLuhan showed little concern for the negative consequences of these new medias. Although McLuhanism has its weakness of being empirically unverifiable, overly optimistic of technology, and ignores important effects issues, I believe this theory is extremely useful in studying YouTube.

Innovative ideals and optimism is exactly the way McLuhan would view this new type of digital medium. I would however change the indifference towards the effects of content being presented on YouTube. I believe YouTube content should be regulated, and it has been proven that it is. Unacceptable content is filtered out, and even investigated by the government. If digital medium consequences were considered by McLuhanism, it would be an almost perfect theory to apply when researching YouTube.

Libertarianism can be applied to the digital medium of YouTube because Libertarianism promotes media freedom. YouTube is a platform for individuals to share their own content and is even a creative outlet for them. For example, there are users who use their YouTube channel to do reviews on products, movies, restaurants and just about anything else. Other users decided to create “How-To” videos which are tutorials for their digital counter parts.

There is little government regulation on YouTube in the United States. Yet in other countries such as China, it is not allowed. Some content from abroad cannot be watched in the United States, due to regulation and laws of other countries. This is where Libertarianism falls short when understanding YouTube as one of its weaknesses is over-optimism on ethics and responsibility. I would also change the fact that Libertarianism disregards the fine line between freedom and invasion of privacy. Some videos on YouTube are flagged as mature or user only, causing non-members to have to sign up. Other than that, YouTube is not a place for users to go if they value privacy. Some users become famous for their video content. For example, Justin Beiber was discovered on YouTube. Thus Libertarianism can be greatly applied when conducting research on YouTube.

However, there are theories that most certainly cannot be applied to a digital medium such as YouTube. Theories such as the critical cultural theory, named Elite Pluralism and another critical cultural theory, called Phenomenistic Theory. Elite Pluralism was created by Paul Lazarsfeld in attempts to understand the voting community in our country around the 1950s. Elite Pluralism research findings ultimately concluded that the media has little ability to directly influence people, because people already have their own opinions based on emotion, prejudice, and stability. These principles are contrasting to the Libertarianism model in that the idea of informing people through the media can cause social or political disorder.

The goal of Elite Pluralism was to reinforce political party loyalties and assist parties to develop and maintain larger voter coalitions. The problem with this theory being applied to a digital medium such as YouTube is that YouTube is a community based network in which people are encouraged to become informed, do their own research, and voice their opinions rather than stay stuck and ignorant in their ways. Since new media has emerged, it has become rather difficult for elites to attempt keeping the public ignorant. More forms of resources calls for more unity among a democratic society.

Another theory that couldn’t be applied to the understanding of YouTube would be Phenomenistic Theory. Like Elite Pluralism, Phenomenistic Theory argues that media has rarely any effects on its audience yet it goes more in depth by comparing psychological factors, social status, attitudes, and education to the influences it has on the audience. Joseph Klapper created in this theory in the 1950s when he became concerned that average people exaggerated the power of the media. This theory cannot be applied to YouTube research because at the time, Phenomenistic Theory was created without the notion that new media would ever emerge beyond radio broadcasts or newspapers. Klapper did not envision a world of internet and digital media like Marshall McLuhan did.

With new technology constantly emerging with passing time, and new digital mediums to project an expressive public and government, it is important to choose research methods that are best applicable to these new digital mediums. We know how McLuhanism and Libertarianism can work to better understand a medium such as YouTube, and how Elite Pluralism and Phenomenistic Theory can never be applied to its understanding. With the changing times, it is only inevitable that along with the creation of new digital platforms, new mass communication research methods will be born as well.


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