Show me how much washi tape you bought today.
In "Reload: Liveness, Mobility, and the Web," Tara McPherson (Hi!! :-D) identifies the initial distinctions between television and the Internet (in its relative infancy) that have become so nebulous today. While both mediums are united by and contingent upon an "illusion of liveness," TV was historically seen as a passive experience, through which audiences were encouraged to identify with onscreen content via a fixed gaze. In contrast, the Web represents three different "modalities of experience," categorized by McPherson as: volitional mobility, the scan-and-search, and transformation. To summarize them: 1) A sense of mobility and agency driven by volition is represented by the cursor, which marks our presence and trajectory, tracking "clicks" or choices that “guide” our virtual movements; thus desire is formed and transmitted through the processes of “liveness” or “real time.” 2) The scan and search is an expression of volitional mobility, a lateral impulse toward 'the next thing' rather than an imposed unity or fixed gaze (as with TV). And finally 3) The promise of transformation is embedded in all Internet processes for they offer the opportunity to “[remake] information into a better reflection of the self” (205). Of course these modalities of experience are often a by-product of corporate machinations and are not without ideological consequences. McPherson questions how Web spaces might train their users for a "new Neo-Fordist experience" (207) and "enable specific selves and particular publics" (205).
While Youtube is a media exhibitor with its own structures of engagement distinct from other websites, Youtube Lifestyle videos (haul vids, vlogs, reviews, and tutorials) do engage with ideas of desire and liveness through apparent authorship. With roots in lifestyle blogging, many Youtube "authors" have capitalized on bedroom content creation as a democratic and transparent space through which corporate bodies (such as those mentioned in McPherson's article) might be counteracted or filtered out. The subjects, hosts, authors, and producers of these videos are the Everyman or Everywoman, teaching viewers how to successfully apply a smokey eye from a fellow consumer's perspective. Yet desire and liveness play a key role in the videos' educative appeal: one key aspect of engagement is the viewer's identification with the video producer. Check these GRWM (Get ready with me) videos (1.6 million results!!):
Viewers get to feel like they are occupying the same time and space as the producer, and producers work hard to make it feel as if the video is a collaborative effort and shared experience -- the assumption is that together, producer and consumer are getting ready for a night out or unboxing a new product or driving to check out a new coffee shop. Such an intimate unveiling of personal life thus becomes an avenue of commerce and instruction: as producers build relationships with their viewers, they not only expect participation in return (Subscribe, comment, and share plz!), but implicitly adopt positions of power through the subject position. One need only look at "career" or "veteran" Youtubers such as Zoella, Michelle Phan, Pixiwoo, and Jenna Marbles to locate how an industry can be built around the "I" of a video blog--via the merging of work and leisure, research and entertainment, labor and merchandise, within what McPherson calls a "neo-Fordist feedback loop" (206). Furthermore, as companies and corporations have become alert to the power of the lifestyle vlogger, sponsorships, advertisements, endorsement deals have emerged as a by-product and marker of their success.
Not only can you be a Youtube partner,
You can be an outside brand ambassador:
This has sparked a pretty recent conversation (though long in the making) about transparency, trust, and industry practice, in which consumers have begun to draw dividing lines and to negotiate the conditions of their loyalty within the creator/consumer relationship:
New FTC guidelines for sponsored content
Can You Really Trust a Beauty Blogger?
More things to think about: How do Youtube and Youtubers continue to structure the volitional viewing experience for their watchers? How might the 'double construction' of such content both indoctrinate and alert viewers to their own practices of image construction?