YouTube: the ‘you’ matters!

# this blog is answering the question: While discussing YouTube, José van Dijck argues that the site’s interface influences the popularity of videos through ranking tactics that promote popular favourites (Reader, page 94). How do ranking tactics impact on the formation online ‘communities’? 

copyrighted by YouTube

YouTube = the ‘you’ matters, it’s an online community!

But what is community?

Upon defining the term community, Dijk (2009:46) says that it is not merely having a particular number of audience, but it refers to their involvements – their participation.

As a “Web 2.0“, YouTube has offered better access to the network, which enables audience to “talk back” easily, and thus gives ‘life’ towards the site (Dijk, 2009: 43). Nevertheless, not all users actively participate in the new media, and most of them are just passive recipients (over 80% of the audience) (Dijk, 2009: 44).

If this is the case, YouTube has failed to reach its purpose as a social network that enables people to interact with each other (Pauwell & Hellriegel, 2009:52). The goal is then to convert the passive recipients into active participants, hence YouTube introduces ranking tactics, which will be discussed below (Dijk, 2009:45).

Long story short, ranking tactics can be interpreted as the number of views and likes of a video. When a user views a particular video, likes it, and shares it to his friends, the ranking of that video goes up, promoting that video to be seen by other users. YouTube is then able to single-out the “most-viewed”, “most discussed”, “top favourites” and “top rated” videos (Dijk, 2009:45). This notion thus creates a certain online community of the users, based on a sheer identification of seeing that video.

But specifically, how do these ranking tactics be able to generate an online community?

The first reasoning that I will give is that ranking tactics creates a sense of belonging with the people who share the same taste. Based on personal experience, upon seeing and liking a certain video, and knowing that there are other 100,000 people who like that video as well, I will feel connected towards that community. Hence, knowing that they have the same view as me, I will be more likely to participate, reading the comments and commenting on the video, interacting in conversations with other users. This notion is referred by Dijk (2009: 45) as “taste community”, where similar ‘taste’ will tie individuals with the social groups, creating a sense of belonging with the people.

Moreover, liking certain video also constructs the image of the users to be in control; they are in charge on what videos they want to promote (Pauwell & Hellriegel, 2009:66-67). As I have the authority to freely comment and critique on certain videos, I will be more willing to participate, contribute my opinions, and thus be a part of that online community.

Liking a certain video on YouTube - I feel connected!

Nevertheless, it has been argued (see link) that most viewers are only passive recipients and do not participate in YouTube, although the viewers feel a sense of belonging towards the community (taste community). Although it is true that YouTube provides rich communication tools, however the audience doesn’t fully utilise these tools, thus disrupts the formation of the online community. Hence, YouTube may only serve as “a communal place to find the videos and communicate with others who shares the same values and beliefs rather than a place to host the community.

Participation is a very important aspect in YouTube, as a social network without participants will result in its death.

YouTube = online community? or not? I guess the answer is yes, but just to a certain extent.


Pauwells, L. & Hellriegel, P. (2009) ‘Strategic and Tactical Uses of Internet Design and Infrastructure: the Case of YouTube’, Journal of Visual Literacy, 28(1): 51-69.

Van Dijck, J (2009) ‘Users like you? Theorising agency in user-generated content’, Media, Culture & Society, 31: 31-58.

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