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Not all that glisters is gold

Sean Black's picture
Oh God, do I have to talk about this topic? I guess I don’t but the subject matter is interesting no matter who is involved. So here we go: Felix Kjellberg aka PewDiePie.
For those who don’t know who PewDiePie is here is a link. I’m not here to talk about him specifically, but it is probably good to know that he is an incredibly successful ‘YouTuber’ who has amassed a subscriber base of over 30 million ‘bros.’
Before we get onto how Felix specifically gets into this blog post – I should contextualise. I am really looking at the medium on which he operates – namely YouTube. YouTube has, without a doubt, become the most successful video sharing service in history.
It is even said to be the second biggest search engine (behind Google); bigger than Yahoo!, Bing, AOL, and Ask combined. YouTube generates more than 3 billion searches a month, and 100 hours of video are uploaded every minute. That is actually absurd to think about; but it is testament to the medium.
I think one of the main reasons YouTube took off in such a huge way – besides the obsession with video that the current generation has – is because of its interactivity. People can, easily, interact with content and content producers; thinking about it, it is possibly the very epitome of what the Internet/Internet age stands for.
This aspect of YouTube makes it stand, head and shoulders, above television as a broadcast medium. There is no longer this ‘analogue’ broadcast system where a mediator, usually a large corporate, deems what should be watchable and what is important to the audience.
We now have this ‘digital’ service where the audience can interact, choose, and mediate for themselves. It seems to be a far better and – if you want to go so far as to say – democratic and free system.
This is where PewDiePie comes into the mix. He recently posted a video about various developments in his personal life, and importantly, his decision to disable comments from all his future videos, for good. This is an interesting development for me because (although he justifies it) it seems to be a step backwards for the overarching medium.

Although the ability to disable commentary is not a new feature – with many other prominent YouTubers opting for it – it is just made apparently clear because Felix is so popular and beloved by so many.
Inside Gaming (in the video above) also raises ideas about the influence that YouTubers have on the gaming industry. They essentially say that YouTubers, like Felix, have more influence than 'traditional' gaming editorial outlets.
I tend to agree with that -- which only raises more debate about the effect of disabling comments on such channels.
With the ability to not comment on content returns us to an analogue era of broadcast media that really shouldn’t be accepted because it doesn’t allow for critique, and discussion around topics.
There are worse examples – like Feminist Frequency – but PewDiePie is so huge, is could not not be talked about.
You may say that this is blowing it out of proportion and yes, you are right because Felix gave compelling reasons for disabling comments (as well as possible alternatives for audience interaction), but the point is that this trend should be avoided because it destroys the community built from the Internet and YouTube.

That is how the Internet has to remain, if it is to remain free and fair; an issue that is hot on the lips of Internet-users, as governments, advertisers, and large corporates get increasingly involved online. I, for one, don't want an Internet renaissance of the 'golden' age of broadcast.

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