Analyzing the Societal Effects of YouTube

The domain name YouTube first was activated in February 2005. By February 2008, the site was grabbing one-third of the estimated 10 billion views of online videos that month, up from 15 percent in 2007, according to Internet marketing research company comScore.

Ten billion views a month is a number that speaks for itself: Online video is an explosive new medium, and YouTube has proven to be dominant in this arena. And while for some the site provides mere entertainment, for others, YouTube is proving to be a valuable research tool, as well as a medium for expression or documentation of aberrant behavior.

The challenge in analyzing YouTube as a medium is that its meteoric rise makes it difficult to get a handle on its place in society. “Even though it’s an unavoidable force, the truth is we don’t yet know what kind of unavoidable force it is,” said Andrew Perrin, associate professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I like to think about new media that arrive on the scene in a number of dimensions, and one of them is the interactivity of it — — the extent to which a viewer or consumer is able to direct the content,” he said. “As a medium, YouTube has a certain pack mentality to it because there are only so many decision rules you can use to find stuff to watch on YouTube, and so whatever someone else has watched turns out to be what…


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