Wednesday, February 8, 2012

More than "Yourself"?: YouTube's Redesign

For a brief but important update on Gauntlett's discussion of YouTube in Chapter 4, check out Ethan Tussey's (UCSB) recent post on the In Media Res (Media Commons/Future of the Book) site on YouTube's recent redesign and new emphasis on niche/personalization. His starting point is a video that the company released in December entitled "Get More Into YouTube" - a shift away from "Broadcast Yourself" that Tussey deconstructs for us by drawing our attention to the politics and implications (both positive and negative) of a more personalized, entertainment-driven YouTube experience. Here's an excerpt from the original post:
On December 1st, 2011, YouTube released a video, “Get More Into YouTube,” that previewed and promoted its redesigned interface. The major focus of the redesign was to “channelize” YouTube by asking users to subscribe to the video feeds of particular content creators. YouTube has long had a subscription function but the redesigned interface makes this the primary feature of the website, framing YouTube as an entertainment destination like HBO instead of a place to search for the clips everyone is talking about. For many users, “Getting More Into YouTube” would mean abandoning their current habits and joining a “monetizable” niche demographic.
I am not as unsettled by this prospect as many of my colleagues or the 15,000 people who “disliked” the video announcing the website redesign, I am more concerned with the way YouTube, a website that originally promoted itself with the motto “broadcast yourself,” is abandoning its digital ethics to become a better version of television.
Does this new design/focus change the ways in which YouTube operates as a "archetypal digital creative platform" (Gauntlett, p.89)?? Or is it just a more efficient way of organizing your own viewing/use experience? Or something else entirely?

Also - what does this redesign tell us about the ongoing struggle to curate, sort, filter, evaluate, make sense of, file and archive the endless reams of data and content available to us on these various platforms (or even the web more generally)?


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  2. Oh, I was surprised by this interpretation, because in my experience, when you viewed the homepage of YouTube as it was before, it just highlighted the most popular stuff in a few selected categories. It didn't reflect things I was interested in at all.

    Whereas now, by highlighting the people who you *subscribe* to, and by therefore making subscribing to people a more meaningful thing to do, it means I get more stuff I'm interested in and a *closer* relationship with the everyday creativity I'm talking about in 'Making is Connecting'.

    The idea that the new design steers you towards mass entertainment and television was, I felt, odd and surprising, because that would only be the case if you actively *subscribe* to mass entertainment channels.

    So, in short, I think it's the other way round: the *old* homepage seemed to steer you towards mass entertainment, and the *new* one is more likely to cater to your niche interests and quirky home-made kind of content providers.

    Of course, everyone uses these tools in different ways and so maybe my experience won't be the same as someone else's.

    Also, just to note, I hardly ever view the YouTube homepage anyway - I usually start at a particular video and then maybe explore around from there. And the tools for exploring and viewing seem to be a bit better than before, and helpful for remembering which quirky corners of YouTube you've discovered (the 'watch later' feature, for example, which is either new or I hadn't really noticed it before), so ... no complaints there either!

  3. Fantastic! Thanks so much for the response, David!!

  4. Looking again at what I wrote last night, you might think that it looks like I am saying that YouTube is simply brilliant and must not be criticised!

    That's not the case. YouTube is far from perfect. But I didn't really agree with the particular criticism of the new design that you outlined above, and I do think the new emphasis on subscribing to people whose videos you like makes it a bit *more* personal, and a bit less mass-media (unless, as I said, you make a deliberate choice to only subscribe to mass-media channels).

    So, it's got a bit better, rather than a bit worse, in my opinion.