Internationale Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen

Broadcast
Your Self
by
Simon Reynolds

BROADCAST YOUR SELF: YOUTUBE, MICRO-FAME, AND THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF DIGITAL LIFE

 

Since its 2005 launch, and even more so since being incorporated into the Google empire in late 2006, YouTube has become part of the daily life of a huge swathe of humanity.  Like the other new media forms of the Internet era, its effect has been both unifying and fracturing. Rather than simply usurping the role of the old mass-media monoculture, YouTube enables the coexistence of myriad micro-cultures. We may all be “on YouTube”, but we are looking at different things. Every so often a clip goes viral, momentarily resurrecting that bygone mass-culture feeling: a synchronization and focusing of collective attention. But for the most part YouTube’s effect is entropic and centrifugal.

 

Echoing Susan Sontag’s remark to the effect that there are pornographies plural, one could argue that there are YouTubes rather than YouTube. Given the astronomic scale at which the medium operates (1.5 billion regular users, I billion hours of video viewed per day) and its dizzying diversity of content (music, film, TV, politics, sports, fashion, wildlife, “how to” videos, vlogs, parody, conspiracy theory, ASMR...), the only sensible way to analyse YouTube is not using generalizations but through an extreme focus. The hope is that taking a partial view may, paradoxically, allow one to glimpse larger truths.  In what follows, then, I opt for a “narrow sociology” that confines my research to a single middle-class suburban American family – my own.   I examine the impact of YouTube on the lives of my son Kieran, now an 18 year old college freshman, but a creator of video content since the age of 12, and my daughter Tasmin, who at 11-years-old is very much an apprentice teenager, but who until recently engaged with YouTube as a child.

 

My initial plan was to look at the entire family’s use (including my wife’s minimal engagement with the medium) but space has precluded an inventory of my own addictive YouTube practices. Which would inevitably degenerate into a melancholy psycho-analysis of my nostalgic time-killing activities, which include creating blog posts that consist of a large number of video clips from the musical past accompanied with meagre commentary, using YouTube-to-MP3 conversion sites to expand an already unmanageably vast collection of audio files, wistfully watching children’s TV programs and bundles of TV commercials from the 1970s, etc.  In contrast with these retro-maniacal bad habits, Kieran’s and Tasmin’s use is present-tense: YouTube is a medium that plugs them into the electric now.

 

FROM “JUST DANCE” TO PANIC! AT THE DISCO: TASMIN’S YOUTUBE

 

Now nearly twelve, Tasmin cannot remember a time before YouTube. Her entry point, aged six, was looking for pop videos she’d seen through network and cable television, on kids-oriented television pop shows like Teen Nick Top 10. But soon YouTube became her principle discovery machine for music (and much else besides). Hours would be spent curled up in a little ball on the sofa, with her tiny iPod only inches away from her face. 

 

Taz’s initial musical orientation was in line with the tastes of prepubescent girls going back at least as far the mid-Twentieth Century. Visual attraction counted for as much – maybe more – than audio appeal. Just as my wife, as an early Seventies preteen, idolized David Cassidy (beautiful but also musically talented) but later switched to Leif Garrett (not much more than a pretty face), our daughter moved from Justin Bieber (impossibly cute but an intensely rhythmic singer who’s informed by his skill as a drummer) to the vapid Austin Mahone. 

 

The main focus of Taz’s enjoyment of pop was not mooning over pretty boy-men, though, but active and mimetic: she loved to dance. Ever since MTV’s eclipse of radio, and especially since the rise of choreographed boy bands and girl groups from the late Nineties onwards, it would make as much sense to talk about the Top 40’s stars as pop dancers as it would to describe them as pop singers. Dance routines involving spectacularly athletic moves became an essential component of success, whether performed in promo videos, during live TV performances, or in concert. Hence the scandalous rise at live shows of lip-synching to prerecorded vocals: the physical exertions onstage made it impossible for performers to reproduce the vocal gymnastics captured on record.  Where once promo videos mostly simulated live performance, now live performance had to simulate the quick-cut thrills of video.

 

Taz’s intense interest in dancing led her to copy exactly the moves in particular videos, like Kesha’s “Just Dance.”  She developed her own highly stylized routines for favorite songs. What struck me about her dancing was that it was always performative, designed to be a show. She would never dance without an audience - parents, relatives or friends, or in some kind of school context.  Because this was dancing as spectacle, the routines emphasized spectacular moves, sourced in breakdancing, rather than grooving to the rhythm. At this point in her young life, the idea of dancing anonymously in a crowd – the ethos of house music and rave– was completely foreign.  As was the “lost in music”, “losing yourself”, trancing-out idea. Dancing was for public display, and thus demanded concentration and discipline.

 

In this phase, Taz’s mode of engagement was less about identification with the performer or what a song expressed emotionally, and more like aspirational modelling:  a desire to be in the star’s place, being looked at.  In my mind, I connected this to the non-music television she was watching on Disney and Nickelodeon: sitcoms like Victorious, about an aspiring singer at a performing arts school; iCarly,  about teengirls who create their own hit web TV show;  Austin + Ally, about two friends who become a singing duo;  Big Time Rush, about a rising boy band. Maybe it sounds paranoid, but it seemed to me these shows were purposefully designed as recruitment drivers, propagandizing the idea that nothing could be finer than a life in show business, and thus ensuring a steady supply of young hopefuls approaching Nickelodeon and Disney. And Tasmin did then entertain thoughts of entering the performing arts.

 

Taz now seems embarrassed by that phase of her engagement with pop. “The music I like now isn’t as easy to dance to,” she explains. “And I just don’t enjoy dancing anymore. I’m not going to have you sit down and I’ll dance in front of you.” She attributes the shift in taste to feeling “less confident,” more self-conscious.

 

What Taz focuses on now is not melody and beat but words and singing: she values lyrical complexity and vocal virtuosity. She’s a fan of emo, a dramatic and melodious descendant of punk. Emo’s mostly male singers are pretty, but usually in a more unusual way than the One Direction / Bieber mold, with a Gothic hint of dark depths.   Where Top 40 fare emphasizes love, celebration, and positive-thinking, emo songs speak of anguish, bitterness, and frustration. Taz’s proto-adolescent sense of life as fraught with uncertainty and danger parallels her bibliomaniac appetite for the young adult fiction genre, mostly the near-future dystopia type, but also books like The Fault In Our Stars, about teenagers struggling with cancer.

 

YouTube was where Taz discovered emo, in the form of a flamboyantly theatrical video from 2006 that originally came out around the time of her birth:  Panic! At the Disco’s “I Write Sins Not Tragedies.” Panic!’s highly-strung songs like “Sins Not Tragedies” and “Death of A Bachelor” are wordy and make use of singer Brendon Urie’s multi-octave range.  YouTube’s scrollable sidebar then led Taz to other emo groups like The Killers and All American Rejects. “I like how emo talks about interesting topics....  The songs are all sad, most of them”. Although these groups are still active, emo’s commercial and creative peak occurred around 2006-2008. Yet, thanks to the atemporality effect of YouTube – the way it places past cultural production right next to the latest releases – these groups and songs feel new to Taz.

 

Emo’s verbose lyrics and vertical melodies (tunes that leap up and down the scale, as opposed to the horizontal melodies of blues-based rock) mean that it has a surprising amount in common with another genre that Taz discovered through YouTube: musical theater. Her specific passion is Hamilton, the hip hop musical based around early 19th Century American politics, but she also loves Dear Evan Hansen and La La Land.  The unexpected resurgence of this seemingly moribund genre (whose generally accepted high point occurred in the mid-Twentieth Century) is a side-effect of a broader process, hastened by singing contests like American Idol and The Voice as well shows and movies like Glee and Pitch Perfect, in which rock history has been reabsorbed into a longer showbiz tradition (Broadway, vaudeville, cabaret, etc). This is an entertainment tradition that rock in general, and punk in particular, was originally opposed to both ideologically and sonically.

 

In rock performance, slurring the words in a sensual or snarling style is part of the music’s authenticity. But in musical theater, diction and decipherability is paramount. For Taz, Hamilton’s appeal party lies in its merger of rap’s emphasis on lyrics with musical theater’s tradition of clear enunciation. She’s hooked on the propulsive logorrhea of the Hamilton songs - acres of verbiage that’s she’s memorized and can reproduce with virtuosic accuracy. She’s been assisted here by the “lyrics” videos that proliferate on YouTube – often just a blank screen across which the song’s words roll in large letters. Lyric videos enable another of Tasmin’s YouTube usages, one that effectively turns it into a personalized form of radio. “I go on YouTube when I do my homework and I listen to a playlist of songs, without watching the videos.”

 

Music videos, however, only make up 40 % of her time on YouTube, Tasmin estimates. “There’s so much more! People who do DIY.... vloggers...  challenges.  People do weird sports things, or drop cellphones off buildings. There’s this one channel done by a guy called Gizmo Slip, who wraps different things - like bouncy balls - around a phone and drops it from a high height to see if that will protect the phone.” Another favorite micro-genre is cooking videos. “There’s this channel How To Cake It, where she makes giant cakes. It’s fun to watch.”

 

Tasmin’s own attempts to enter the content-creator fray have not been successful, though.  Forbidden by her mother to show her face or reveal her name, Taz – in collaboration with her best friend – attempted to do a vlog wearing masks and using the pseudonyms Charlie and Lexi. But the views never got beyond double figures. Then the two friends’ one big success backfired in an unsavory way. A later YouTube channel they launched involved showing only the lower half of their bodies. One particular video got a thousand views and brought fifty subscribers to the channel. The problem was that it had been “picked up by some foot fetish website,” says Taz, looking queasy. “There were comments like ‘oh I wonder how Tiger’s foot smells’ – my friend was wearing a tiger sock in the video. And ‘I want to lick it’.”

 

FIGHT FOR YOUR RIGHT TO PARODY: KIERAN’S YOUTUBE

 

Unlike his sister, Kieran has experience micro-fame thanks to YouTube. Not that micro, actually: his channel CheekiiChaps built up a 140 thousand subscriber base in just a few years, his videos have received a  total of 30 million views, while his record for a single video is over three million.  But Kieran has also undergone the rise-and-fall arc of celebrity. When he started to make a name as a video-maker on the “montage parody” scene, Kieran signed a contract with a company that places ads on videos. At his height in 2016, he earned improbable amounts of money for a sixteen-year-old, but by mid-2017 – as the montage parody genre waned in popularity - the cash-flow slowed to a trickle and his subscriber base had topped out.

 

Starting in 2008, Kieran’s early content-creation efforts included videos of himself playing Gameboy with text-bubble annotations added using YouTube’s creator studio, Pokemon pack opening videos showing showed his reactions to each new card, and various kinds of Minecraft-related clips.  But when he plunged into the world of MLG montage parody in 2014, Kieran “got famous,” experiencing both celebrity’s highs and lows:  the ego-boost of praise from fans and recognition from established montage parodists he admired like Senpai Kush and Snipars, versus the ego-damage of “tons of mean comments and hate.”

 

“Montage” refers to the way the videos are constructed: mostly from sampled video and audio materials sourced in mainstream entertainment (especially animated cartoons), which are then   edited and overlaid into a brain-frazzling barrage. “Parody” expresses the irreverent tone of caricature and travesty suffusing the videos. “MLG” comes from Major League Gaming. The competitive gaming community is a freestanding entity that doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with montage parody. But most of the first wave of montage parody video-clips involved memes associated with gaming - specifically the shooter game Call of Duty. MLG stuck as part of the name because using it in the title of your video ensured it came up in viewers’ search results. “If it was a parody of Spongebob, they’d call it MLG Spongebob Squarepants,” explains Kieran. But he emphasizes that “the genre opened up quickly to many other things besides MLG. “ I’ve parodied literally everything imaginable: people, movies, items, TV shows, games, activities, holidays...”

 

Nonetheless MLG memes remain integral to the genre’s audio-visual iconography. The overall aesthetic also shares a lot with gaming:  rapid-fire edits strain the viewer’s capacity to follow what’s going on, the audio FX are literally explosive. Like videogames, these clips palpitate with a kind of ecstatic digitalism. Leading montage-makers are praised for their editing and might spend a couple of months making a single video, which typically last anywhere from 90 seconds to five minute long. The clips impact the viewer not just as a sensory assault but as a rush of semiosis: the brain is taxed by a cognitive overload of jokes to decode and the simultaneous appearance in every corner of the screen of multiple memes in new configurations.

 

Although montage-parodies are not music videos, music is a core part of their aesthetic. Clips are punctuated by irruptions of contemporary electronic music and hip hop: the splatter-bass of dubstep, the bombastic beats of trap, the digital maximalism of EDM producers like Skrillex.  Many of the memes come from rap: performers like Snoop Dogg and Fetty Wap, catchphrases like “smoke weed every day,” “turn down for what”, and “let’s blaze it”.  The MLG-montage genre fits into a landscape of parody and misappropriation on YouTube in which music holds a privileged place. The spectrum here includes amateur cover versions, mash-ups, fan-made videos to many different kinds of music, songs digitally distended to several times their original length (like the famous “Justin Bieber 800% Slower” clip that transformed  “U Smile” from a bouncy ballad into a celestial swathe of shimmering ambient), dance craze videos of the type whose escalating views propelled “Harlem Shake” and “Black Beatles” to #1 in Billboard despite minimal radio play, and innumerable other micro-genres of mischief and misuse.

 

Anticipated by such analogue era phenomena as karaoke, drag balls, fan fic, and Rocky Horror Picture Show cultists with their “callbacks” and “shadow casts”, YouTube is the riotous flowering of what could be termed paraculture. The “para” here primarily means “beside”: all this stuff thrown up onto YouTube is a parallel stream of unruly commentary on the mainstream. But “para” also adds a hint or echo of the word “parasitic”. As insubordinate as this material often is, and as much as theorists like Henry Jenkins celebrate this sort of practice in terms of “textual poaching” or “prosumer” creativity, the makers of these clips are dependent on the mainstream to generate the content that they mess with or mock.

 

Montage parodies feature most of the qualities that Carol Vernallis lists in Unruly Media as prerequisites of viral success for YouTube clips:  “pulse and reiteration”, “irreality and weightlessness”, “unusual causal relations”, “intermediality and intertextuality”, “sardonic humor.” The genre’s sarcasm folds back on itself reflexively with a demented repetition of the genre’s own clichés, as video makers compete to find ever more preposterous twists on them.

 

That meme set includes brand-names like Doritos (“gamer fuel”, says Kieran of the snack that sustains Call of Duty players through long sessions) and Mountain Dew (ditto). There are also clothing items like fedoras and mirrored sunglasses; popcult icons such as Shrek; an emoji called Love the Lenny Face and the Illuminati symbol; airhorns as both a visual icon and a deafening noise-blast; the Comic Sans font. Certain video effects are reiterated: rainbow strobing, a shaking of the entire screen like there’s an earthquake.  And there are MLG-montage catchphrases, generally sourced in gangsta rap or pornography:  “real trap shit”, “damn son, where did you find this”,   “dank” (a term for pungent-smelling super-strong weed that became an all-purpose praise term, as in the expression “dank memes”). Another mini-vogue is Britishness: using terms that seem quaint to Americans like “lad”, or, conversely, contemporary slang from the grime scene, like “shank your nan” (it means “knife your granny”). A well-spoken English accent is “the MLG iconic dubbing voice”, says Kieran, with clip-makers using the text-to-speak dialogue website Oddcast and its character “Daniel U.K.” The incongruity of the posh, diffident Daniel uttering gangsta rap expressions seems to be endlessly amusing.

 

One of the defining montage parody moves is the defilement of innocent earlier forms of children-oriented entertainment that the MLG-er might have enjoyed only a few years earlier but now cynically derides. Vernallis identifies anthropomorphism as another feature of successful YouTube clips: MLG-parodists love to use children’s animation series involving talking animals, like Peppa the Pig and Spongebob. Kieran himself hilariously vandalized the cartoon Max and Ruby, about a bunny rabbit toddler and his older sister.

 

When I first watched Kieran’s videos and others in the genre, the hyper-digitalism of the aesthetic struck me first. It was only later that I noticed the underlying resemblance to things that I and my brothers and friends had done as teenagers in the 1970s: a parody of Stars Wars made only months after the film’s release, obscene defacements of the “Peter and Jane” how-to-read books.  Partly this was influenced by comedy culture in the 1970s, which was rife with parody: Monty Python spin-offs like Ripping Yarns and The Rutles’s mockumentary All You Need Is Cash, National Lampoon’s Tolkien spoof Bored of the Rings, and many more.  But in truth, parody has been a pastime for the precociously clever young for centuries. Its perennial appeal is that it enables the parodist to demonstrate cultural sophistication and technical craftmanship, while simultaneously disrespecting one’s cultural elders and betters.

 

What’s interesting about the montage parody subculture is how quickly it went meta: parodying its own generic conventions, making fun of its own audience. AncientReality’s  “The Video Game Audience in 2014”, for instance, depicts a gamer grunting like a caveman while rubbing Doritos over his face and pouring Mountain Dew over his head, then masturbating using the Dew-and-Dorito mush as lubricant. Materialismo’s “Plants Vs Memes” starts with a parental-advisory style content-rating that warns of “intense memes”, “overused Jokes”, and “inmature humor [sic].” (Deliberate misspelling is another MLG hallmark).

 

Materialismo also explored a less ludic (and ludicrous) form of self-reflexivity with “My YouTube Experience”, a touchingly candid account of his rise to internet fame (with 800 thousand subscribers, he’s the biggest montage-maker of them all.). The trajectory started at the age of 12 with early attempts at vlogging, which led him to retreat temporarily, discomforted with having “that many eyes pointing at my channel”. After discovering  MLG through a Reddit thread, Materialismo caught the fame fever again and ultimately became so successful that he fell victim to freebooting” (people stealing his videos and posting them uncredited on Facebook). He also fell foul of “claims”: attempts by the rights owner of videos or music sampled in montage parodies, to take ownership of the entire video and thus all the ad revenue accruing to it.

 

My son was a relative latecomer to montage parody, but rapidly established himself as a name with “Diary of an MLG noscoper,” a spoof on the popular kids book series Diary of A Wimpy Kid. “Noscoper” comes from Call of Duty and refers to a sniper who is so good he “gets the kill” without using a telescopic sight.  Speaking in the cyborg-Brit voice of Daniel U.K., the video’s protagonist wakes “to the pitter patter of Mountain dew rain on my window.” He eats Dorito pancakes for breakfast, then heads off to school (his mum cheerily calling after him, “Lad, don’t forget your blunt”), and ends the day “getting blazed” while watching “giraffe porn”.

 

Kieran’s other huge hits were “Sid the MLG Kid”, a parody of the animated PBS kids show Sid the Science Kid, and the video series “Battle for MLG Island”, a hybrid of MLG and a micro-genre of YouTube parodies of reality-TV elimination contests. Here the levels of meta stacked up high: “Battle for MLG Island” parodied the earlier YouTube series “Battle for Dream Island”, itself a spoof of Cartoon Network’s Total Drama Island, which in turn was a lampoon of CBS’s Survivor. In Kieran’s parody-of-a-parody-of-a-parody series, two teams compete for victory, with viewers voting in each stage of elimination. Team Items includes Airhorn, Dorito, The Dew, and Blunt (also known as “Snoop’s slave”). Team People includes Snoop, Illuminati, and Lenny. The challenge in the first round of season 1 is to smoke the most blunts, something that Blunt can’t do, “because I’m not a cannibal”.

 

Being a name in a corner of the Internet spilled out into real-world renown. “People who didn’t know me at school started to talk to me and say ‘you’re the famous YouTube guy, right?’”, Kieran recalls. “In my senior year, if I had to go up on stage, people would shout ‘CheekiiChaps! CheekiiChaps!’.” But while all this attention boosted Kieran’s self-esteem, YouTube micro-celebrity imposed burdens: a sense of obligation to his fan base. Like a miniature version of a Hollywood studio, Kieran succumbed to the logic of the sequel.  “It’s like a double service: I’m doing it for my audience, who are asking for a sequel, but I’m also going to profit off it.” Just like with a movie production company, the play-it-safe move of pandering to existing demand could result in inferior work. “I stopped making the ‘Sid the MLG Kid’ videos after number five. I ran out of substance after four of them. Well, after three of them, really.”

 

Kieran’s peak as a montage parodist was 2016. CheekiiChaps acquired 65 thousand new subscribers that year and when Kieran crossed the 100, 000 mark he received a plaque in the mail from YouTube. He also did what many YouTubers do when they reach 100K: he made a “face reveal” video, fulfilling a promise he’d made to his fans ever since reaching fifty-thousand subscribers.  But Kieran is self-deprecating, noting that while he could be considered a Top 5 figure in the montage-parody pantheon, much of that stature comes from being the last man standing.  While viewers defected to commentary videos made by new stars like LeafyIsHere, and creators moved into other genres, Kieran “kept beating a dead horse...  People would comment saying ‘You’re the king of MLG, keep going, no one does it anymore!’ But I’d also get comments like ‘MLG sucks, kill yourself,’ ‘MLG is so 2016.’”

 

Bored by the style himself, Kieran diversified into other kinds of video like live-action skits. “24 Hour Overnight Challenge in My House”, a parody of the “24 Hours Overnight Challenge” genre - in which youths sneakily stay inside a store like Walmart all night - exhibited genuine acting talent.  But the views for this kind of “real-life comedy” are much lower than his MLG heyday.

 

Looking back on his short but intense experience of fame, Kieran acknowledges the downsides. “I didn’t ever expect to get that big, and even when I did, my goal was to get bigger and bigger – so I was never satisfied.”  He had to deal with fans abandoning him and creator-peers going from praising his work one year to insulting him the next. “Those were the ones that hurt, because I respected those people. But the anonymous commentators who said ‘Kill yourself’, I would just ignore them. I have thousands of ‘Kill yourself’ comments.”

 

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

 

YouTube is fascinating in so many ways, but the aspect that most intrigues me relates to the preoccupations of my recent book Shock and Awe: a history of glam rock and its 21st Century legacy that doubles as a meditation on the cultural pathology of fame. 

 

The ideology of celebrity is detectable in YouTube’s founding slogan, “Broadcast Yourself”. The implicit promise here is access to a potentially vast audience: the “general public” once upon a time marshalled into existence by such centripetal institutions of the monoculture as the terrestrial broadcast television networks and radio stations, major label record companies and the pop charts, national newspapers, etc. Radically expanding the likelihood of micro-fame as an outcome, YouTube has contributed to a democratization of stardom. Many more people today are able to experience the positives and negatives of being a well-known public figure than was possible in the days of the mass-media mainstream, with its filters and gatekeepers.

 

The upsides include the ego-reinforcement of positive feedback from fans and pundits; YouTube analytics that provide a metric for success akin to first weekend box office takings or Billboard chart placings. The downsides include the ego-erosion of negative feedback; the onset of self-consciousness and a performative public persona; nagging feelings of obligation to a fan base; the harshness of obsolescence, as the rapid turnover of the novelty cycle consigns  your channel into the “last year’s things” category.

 

Internet culture in general and YouTube in particular is an inversion of the Situationist notion of theSpectacle. That concept emerged in reaction to the post-World War Two expansion of the mass media, with its centralized and unidirectional broadcasting. Situationists like Guy Debord critiqued entertainments that enforced passivity and isolation, and called for participatory “situations” that would breach the barrier between art and everyday life. This in turn influenced punk’s ideology of do-it-yourself.  DIY, as conceptualized by punk, was not just about unleashing your personal creativity: regardless of any political content to the art, it was a political act that threw down an egalitarian challenge to the professionalized culture of media and the hierarchy of stardom. The existence of the mass media mainstream gave DIY its utopian charge: you were “answering back” the monologue of the monoculture.

 

In Situationist terms, YouTube allows spectators to become part of the Spectacle. Digiculture as a whole – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Bandcamp, Soundcloud, Blogger etc – incites us both to create and to present that self-expression to the public, seeking love – or at least attention – from strangers. The result of this digitally-facilitated excess of access is a glut of creative supply that far exceeds demand. Nowadays, with so many forums and mechanisms through which we can generate personalized content, we’re all doing it for ourselves, incessantly and uncontrollably. In some ways, the procedures of Internet life – downloading, uploading, blogging, vlogging, sharing, liking, commenting, etc. – are even more addictive and distracting than the earlier modes of consumerism maligned by the Frankfurt School as passive and sedative. Beyond the do-it-yourself ethos, the montage parody genre has several other things in common with punk:  iconoclasm, puerility, profanity, an ironic “moronic” aura, an aesthetic of collage and grotesque surreality. Where it differs from punk is the extent to which it is in thrall to the ideology of fame, which is arguably more dominant and pervasive than ever in the 21st Century. (In that sense, montage-parody has more in common with fame-obsessed, hyper-self-reflexive rap, where you can turn aestheticized misbehavior into stardom). Digiculture media formats like YouTube harness the DIY impulse and recuperate it, such that you could talk about Spectacle 2.0: a new “improved” spectacle that works by inciting participation rather than suppressing it, and that furthermore trains people in the performative arts of creating and maintaining a public persona.    Let Materialismo, from “My YouTube Experience,” have the last word:

 

“I’ve had ups and downs. One day I feel like a winner and other days I feel like I’m YouTube’s slave. I feel like have to be uploading. Or else you guys will forget about me. I feel like I owe you something when I don’t upload... I swear, I can’t go more than three days without going in my head like, ‘I have to start planning another video’. If you’re an aspiring YouTuber, I can only give you one advice: get fucking ready...  YouTube is a pretty sick experience. But I swear it’s a pretty intense job too and it’s the most fucking unstable shit ever.”

 

 

WORKS CITED

1. Sontag, Susan, “The Pornographic Imagination”  (1967), reprinted in Styles of Radical Will (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1969). Page 205.

2. Jenkins, Henry. “’Layers of Meaning’: Fan Music Video and the Poetics of Poaching”, passim. From Textual Poachers: Television Fans and Participatory Culture, 2nd edition. (New York: Routledge, 2012)

3. Vernallis, Carol, Unruly Media: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema