Routledge Encyclopedia of Citizen Media: Abstracts [Y]

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Abigail Keating, University College Cork, Ireland

While perennially promoted as a grassroots community with an emphasis on you – the user, the content creator, the viewer – YouTube has, since its inception, fallen under the rubrics of traditionally opposing logics, at once an amateur space and a platform for professional, corporate media. Thus, to consider YouTube as a public space to which the citizen has access, and of which you can shape the content, one must evaluate the conditions under which this plays out – its mechanics, its democratization of media space, the incentives it offers (explicitly or indirectly) to active citizens, and its erosion of the boundaries between consumer and producer.

Early scholarly work on YouTube addressed questions of its importance in the context of broader shifts in participatory culture (Burgess and Green 2009), and of its significance as a tool of cultural memory, as archive, as laboratory, and as medium (Snickars and Vonderau 2009). As the site has continued to develop and cultivate new trends in digital culture, its negotiation between the micro and the macro of contemporary screen media and society remains fundamental to an understanding, and indeed theorization, of it.

Using these foundations as a backdrop, this entry maps four major themes of YouTube in the first thirteen years of its history: firstly, the question of anarchy and YouTube as a site of disruption; secondly, YouTube as a site of conformity, and the professionalization of the amateur moving image; thirdly, YouTube as private sphere, and contemporary definitions of personal media space; and lastly, YouTube as public sphere and as a tool of social justice, social change and citizen activism.


Burgess, J. and J. Green (2009) YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture, Polity.

Fuchs, C. (2015) Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media, London and New York: Routledge.

Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide, New York University Press.

Snickars, P. and P. Vonderau (eds) (2009) The YouTube Reader, National Library of Sweden.

Zimmermann, P. R. (1995) Reel Families: A Social History of Amateur Film, Indiana University Press.