301117075 Revision Photo Essay

From SFU_Public
Jump to: navigation, search

Contemporary Archive of Social Media

Social and cultural theories of new media have evolved drastically over the advancement of technology. To date, the diversity of social media platforms allow individuals to connect with a world that was not fathomable nearly a few decades ago. One can even consider in this new media age, our society has become an informational society that composes of complex human interactions and formations. Despite the negative view surrounding the generation of Web 2.0, new definitions of what is “normal” have been redefined due to the shift in dominancy of communication method in the virtual realm. Through online social networks, people are able to interact with one another through means of text, video, and sound simultaneously (Gane, 2008), opening up opportunities for multi-directional information exchange in a modern way of archiving. This essay focuses on how new social medias, particularly YouTube, have allowed its users to take advantage of the opportunities these platforms provide, and how that simulated the online phenomenon of the way people create, store and share information in the contemporary society.

Through YouTube, users are free to upload any content or idea to the public in the medium of videos, generating a pool of archives that are more personalized than the traditional storage of information. Like many other contemporary social websites, what YouTube encourages is a user-generated and self-regulated communication system that is “intrinsically designed for participation”; this is also what Tim O’Reilly, the founder of O’Reilly Media, calls ‘architecture participation’ (O’Reilly, 2004). The content born from this mean of archiving are becoming more and more tailored through the user’s own production and post-production process, enabling them to publish private information out to the public without external modification.

Case study: Shay Carl Butler started his own YouTube channel that is purely based on an on-going video blog of him and his family’s daily lives. Till this day, he has generated three years worth of daily video for his audience, and has become one of the most prominent YouTube partners that are known for making a living off of YouTube. A typical video on his channel would consist him interacting with his family, mainly featuring his children, and the events and obstacles he goes through in his daily life. What the audience is receiving are selected moments of representation of his private life. Because he is able to edit the videos himself and essentially construct his channel like a television programme without the embedded formal constraints attached, he has greater control over the information broadcasted. This results with the content of the archive to be tightly aligned with and articulated according to his original intention and meaning.

Youtubers (partners of YouTube) such as Butler, however, raised concerns for many theorists about social media websites promoting ‘lay-users’ who are piling on subject matter that have not gone through proper content filter before it reaches the public, demolishing the sacred structure of professionalism (Gane, 2008). Nonetheless, optimists such as Nicholas Gane, author of “New Media” (2008), have taken a stand on how archives should be viewed in the light of new media technologies. Instead of viewing archives through the traditional paradigm that consists of “hierarchy constraints” (p.84) and protocols, he argues that as changes are happening to contemporary culture, we, as participants of its digital society, should also change our perception of information storage and sharing process. As users click the mouse and enter social websites, they are to be aware of the flaw of bias information they are viewing without the fine filters.

To judge the topic of appropriateness and professionalism, we cannot only consider the change in representation of archives, but also the construction and process of the information flow. To better explain this, Stuart Hall notions the concept of encoding and decoding of information (1980). The idea Hall illustrates is that each piece of information goes through their own ‘passage of forms’ in terms of how they are shared through the chosen medium; the limitations and system structure of theses medium will shape the audience’s perception of these information (Hall, 1980).
First, though there is a downside to user-generated information society, the open-access of platform enables people to tap into other’s lives and make connections through the act of a mouse click. In the case of Butler’s YouTube channel, his audience is able to view his personal archive in almost real-time and interact with the generator through commenting on and “liking” their videos. Contemporary archiving such as this allows simultaneous interaction during the viewing process as well as impacting the prospective videos as the archive continues to grow. Furthermore, Gane (2008) mentions the idea of an ‘electronic agora’, where “virtual space in collective solutions can be sought to seemingly personal and private problems.” (P.78). What Butler is sharing via the medium of video is the combination of visual and aural resource for his audiences to use and apply to their own private issues. Instead of learning histories that have been modified through regulations, YouTube allows a real-time archive for people to understand and connect with others instantaneously.

Second, we, as viewers on the decoding end of the material, need to adapt accordingly and decipher the credibility and authority through our own judgments. What we choose to obtain as we browse through these archives is just as important, if not more important than, the formation of these information itself. Perhaps the more appropriate concern is the audience’s discernment to judge and digest the quality of information that is associated with the current method of information sharing. For example, a major part of the interaction on YouTube is the comment section provided directly below the video for users to participate and share their thoughts. In that, many have found common grounds or disagreement on how they have interpreted the videos. Some judge the lifestyle of Butler, while others gathered to support him because of the connection they find through viewing their lives day to day.


As the world continues to shift society’s communication methods, whether due to the advancement of technology or not, we should not settle in our familiarity and comfort, judging the foreign as lack of depth or improper. Rather, we should see the change as an unavoidable growth any advancing culture would experience, and adapt our perception accordingly. The digital form of archiving through social medias such as YouTube demonstrates the strength of the contemporary use of medium and how many of its partners, such as Butler, have successfully used it to create, store, and share information with viewers in an active interaction.

Crampton, J. W. (2002). Interactivity Types in Geographic Visualization. Cartography and Geographic Information Science, Volume 29. Retrieved

     from http://unrgeog.wikispaces.com/file/view/interactivitiy_types_of.pdf

Gane, N. & Beer, D. (2008). New Media : The Key Concepts. New York: Berg.

Hall, S. (1980). ‘Encoding/decoding’. Georgetown University. Retrieved

     from http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/irvinem/theory/SH-Coding.pdf

Montgomery, W. L., Durlak, J., Hoffert, P. & Green, J. G. (1993) Towards a Typology For Effective Machine Mediated Learning. Retrieved

     from http://www.paulhoffert.ca/Shared/phDocs/T013%20Towards%20a%20Typology.pdf

O’Reilly, T. (2004). The Architecture of Participation. Spreading the Knowledge of Technology Innovators. Retrieved

     from http://oreilly.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/articles/architecture_of_participation.html

Picture Reference
Butler, S.C. (Producer). (2012, March 18) THE FINISH LINE! [video]. Retrieved March 18, 2012 from