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#AoIR2018 has ended
Thursday, October 11 • 11:00am - 12:30pm
Viral videos, the YouTube 'adpocalypse' and creative labour in social media

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GLEAMING INEQUALITIES: THE ROLE OF TALENT INTERMEDIARIES IN THE UK VLOGGING INDUSTRY
Sophie Helen Bishop
In this paper I critically sketch the role of the digital talent agent, using a case study of the ‘vlogging industry’ in the UK. I define the ‘vlogging industry’ as the interlinked network of stakeholders invested in content production on YouTube including audiences, intermediaries, brands, YouTube itself and content creators. In this case study I particularly focus on a highly commercial and feminized YouTube genre of beauty vlogging.

Due the steady professionalization of influencer economies, accounts of vlog production as amateur or authentic have become complicated. In this paper I use analysis of interviews with digital talent management, and ethnography at vlogging events, to argue that widely connected, highly knowledgeable intermediaries, digital talent agents and management staff are involved from the early formation of some vloggers’ brands. Through myriad praxes, intermediaries shape their client’s content, and ensure their visibility and sponsorship suitability through the support of their channels. Ultimately I ask: who are the talent managers, who do they legitimize as talent, and what support do their clients receive? My findings demonstrate the pervasive influence of managers with significant links to so-called ‘traditional’ media, as they shape and support vloggers in the UK, influencing their content and with material consequences for those attributed visibility in the wider vlogging industry.

FROM YOUTUBE TO TV, AND BACK AGAIN: VIRAL VIDEO CHILD STARS AND MEDIA FLOWS IN THE ERA OF SOCIAL MEDIA
Tama Leaver, Crystal Abidin
While talk shows and reality TV are often considered launching pads for ordinary people seeking to become celebrities, we argue that when children are concerned, especially when those children have had viral success on YouTube or other platforms, their subsequent appearance(s) on television highlight far more complex media flows. At the very least, these flows are increasingly symbiotic, where television networks harness preexisting viral interest online to bolster ratings. However, the networks might also be considered parasitic, exploiting viral children for ratings in a fashion they and their carers may not have been prepared for. In tracing the trajectory of Sophia Grace and Rosie from viral success to The Ellen Show we highlight these complexities, whilst simultaneously raising concerns about the long-term impact of these trajectories on the children being made increasingly and inescapably visible across a range of networks and platforms.

“SOSHAL” MEDIA ENTERTAINMENT IN THE PHILIPPINES: RELATIONAL LABOUR IN A FRAGMENTED SOCIOCULTURAL ENVIRONMENT
Stephanie A Hill, Jeremy Shtern, Daphne Chan
This paper draws on a series of semi-structured interviews with Filipino influencers to investigate the social position of influencers and their relationship to their audiences. Social position of online producers versus their audience often includes disparities in race and family income and raises questions about opportunity in online production. This paper also interrogates the demands of audience, who are alternately portrayed as empowered and in control or as cultural dupes but whose relationships with content creators are complex, intimate, and contingent on implicit standards for behaviour. This categorization of audiences is in keeping with a long history of strained relations between editorial content, advertiser interests, and audience expectations. The power dynamics of those three groups are being renegotiate with the rise of a global social media entertainment industry. This paper maps specific relationships of power, agency, and culture in a specific non-Western content to gain useful insights into patterns within these industries. It argues that despite ambitions of many creators to reach global stardom, social media content production in the Philippines is restricted to a niche marked by deep social, economic, and cultural divisions between creators and audiences. We underline that the work of influence here (as elsewhere) is structured around the commodification of affective relationships between creator and audience. Creators achieve these relationships through a type of performed authenticity of language, culture and local identity markers that is proving difficult to sustain as blogging loses audience traction to more revealing video platforms for influencer content.

'ADPOCALYPSE' AFTERMATH: THE CHILLING EFFECTS OF ALGORITHMIC CHANGES ON YOUTUBE’S CONTENT
Sangeet Kumar
This paper analyzes the effects of the changes within YouTube’s features in the aftermath of the advertiser revolt (March-April 2017) against their commercials playing around controversial and sensitive content. The changes that were introduced after what has been called the “adpocalypse” included the ability for advertisers to avoid broad content categories such as “Tragedy and conflict”, “Sensitive social issues”, and “Sensational and shocking”. These changes saw wild swings in the revenue streams of content creators, especially those dealing with topics and issues that were political in nature and that may be remotely deemed to be sensitive. Through its analysis of the changes and its aftermath, this paper advances three claims about the emerging importance of digital platforms in shaping cultural ideas and norms. First, this episode shows the effects of the dominance of an advertiser-centered logic on YouTube that privileges profit over values such as plurality, dissent and critique on the platorm. Second, it points to the quandary of increasing dependence on algorithmic decision-making systems in sorting through and categorizing cultural data on a computational scale. While inevitable, this process risks erasing context and nuance while incentivizing and rewarding (through monetizing) cultural texts that reproduce broad hegemonic tropes instead of challenging them. Lastly, the paper claims that the “adpocalypse” controversy shows us the pitfalls of digital platforms increasingly playing the role of public utilities but remaining entirely out of the purview of democratic processes of public debate, deliberation and accountability.



Thursday October 11, 2018 11:00am - 12:30pm
Sheraton - Drummond West

Attendees (47)