The Me in Media: A functionalist approach to examining motives to produce within the public space of YouTube
Often news organizations perceive social media platforms, such as YouTube, as a distribution tool for their content and the users of these sites as audiences yet to be acquired. From this perspective, the value within the site is either a benefit to the organization but only if they retain control of their content. When they are not in control of the content, practices within these sites are considered a threat in terms of thievery (piracy of their content) or time displaced from consuming mass media programming. From the other side of this argument, media scholars argue that social media platforms are tools of self-expression that return a benefit to a public good, even when that expression is directly built upon content produced by mass media.
Deliberately, this work took the stance that understanding the intersection between journalistic function and social media practices must consider the user first. YouTube and its users was chosen for this work since it is the largest social media site and uses video content as its main exchange. A conceptual model that locates three spaces, not two, of YouTube is presented: an interpersonal space, a public space, and a commercial space. Two studies were undertaken: study one was a content analysis of video responses to a question posed by a popular YouTuber on why they "Tubed?" Study two surveyed YouTubers directly on their motive changes and self-concept changes since they had first began to produce for the site. However, the main question posed was drawn from the findings in the first study. In study one, the YouTube space was mainly spoken about as community. In study two, producer/users (creators) were significantly more likely than users (watchers) to perceive YouTube as a community. However, items drawn from the Sense of Community Index and Brief Sense of Community Index scales did not correlate as they have for geographical communities.
Findings from both studies place theories frequently used to examine new media uses in a new light. Although uses and gratifications is one of the tried-and-true theories used to explain motivations to use new media sources, YouTubers' produce motives were more diverse and complex than their watch motives. This suggests that U & G might be helpful in understanding motives consistent with being an audience, but is not as helpful in understanding motives to produce. Study two extended this inquiry by asking YouTubers how their motives and their self-concept had changed since beginning their YouTube channel. While there were no quantitative variables that influenced motive change, the elaborations provided by the respondents on how they changed suggest that migrations in social media sites, instead of motives changes, should be considered for future work. As to self-concept changes, quantitative analysis revealed that producer/users whose videos had generated discussion were significantly more likely to see themselves differently. Both quantitative and qualitative findings are presented and discussed. At the heart of it, though, this dissertation highlights the need to understand exactly what online cohorts - such as YouTube producer/users - mean when they use the term "community" and how that construct shares similarities to and differs from geographic communities.
0558: Multimedia Communications
0708: Mass communications