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The Age of the Observer

YouTube has become increasingly popular, almost like a "new TV" for younger demographics. On the platform, one can see a trend starting to happen where viewers want to watch other peoples’ lives through their vlogs and other content, such as unboxing videos and tutorials that the viewer never does but enjoys watching anyway. I call this "The Age of the Observer." This article would explore why this phenomenon is happening and explore just what kinds of videos people are watching. Some examples of channels creating this content would be Ryan ToysReview, both Jake and Logan Paul (where children vicariously live and envy the brother’s mansions, cars, clothes, etc.), and Jenna Marbles and Julien Solomita (especially with Jenna’s DIY videos and Julien’s cooking videos).

  • This is a really good topic to talk about, especially now that there is a lawsuit against YT from the LGBT community. Perhaps you could talk about the lawsuit and how YT is promoting creators that fit their "algorithim," despite being advertised as a platform for all. – Link 1 year ago
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Social media and the rise of anxiety/depression among age groups

Analyze the relationship between the birth of various social media platforms and the rise in cases of anxiety/depression. Is there a correlation? Or, as mental health continues to be de-stigmatized, has there just been more acknowledgment of the issue? Senior citizens are said to benefit from social media due to a sense of connection. How does this compare to other age groups?

  • I think it is really interesting to consider how the role of social media differs between age groups. Generally looking at the relationship between social media and mental health without considering age would result in a loss of nuance. There is definitely ample research on the topic of mental health and social media, and I would encourage you to read these articles so you can take a new perspective in your article. – natpalumbo 5 months ago
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  • This article could potentially look at the removal of like-counts on certain platforms. Users can’t see how many likes another user gets on a post. Has this had any benefit? – Samantha Leersen 3 months ago
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Taken by RheaRG (PM) 2 weeks ago.
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Issues of Consent, Representation, and Exploitation in the Era of Deepfake Pornography

In the era of rapid advances in artificial intelligence and computer graphics, it is difficult for an untrained observer to be able to avoid, as well as recognise as such, an altered image, and now increasingly also an altered video. Known colloquially as "deepfakes," a portmanteau of "deep learning" artificial intelligences and "faked imagery", these seemingly seamlessly altered videos present challenges for notions of authentic representation, and much has already been written about their potential applications to and influencing of political discourses. Still, several aspects of "deepfakes," potentially made manifest both through high-end editing software and open access mobile applications, remain critically underexamined.
Most evident among these is perhaps the instantiation of "deepfake pornography," which relies on the digital superimposition of real people’s, almost exclusively women’s, faces and voices onto pornographic videos, predominantly for the consumption of male users. Often, the superimposed images and sounds come, or are alleged to come, from images that are considered part of the public domain, have been posted publicly by the individuals depicted or ones in possession of copyright, and in other ways allow for transformative use. The implication is, perhaps, that women’s bodies are to be seen as physical objects that, in an era of the incresing accessibility of image- and video-altering software, may as well be digitally recreated so as to be consumed in a way that circumvents any pesky discussions of consent. It is therefore necessary to take a closer look at deepfake technologies along with the exploitative, often violently mysoginistic as well as cisheteropatriarchal and white supremacist social and legal practices that commonly underlie their predominant uses.

  • I would suggest dropping "pornography" and just focus on three issues associated with "deepfake videos: 1) How extensive an issue is this? 2) How authentic-looking are these videos and can they easily be discredited? and 3) Do they influence public attitudes or voting? – Joseph Cernik 3 months ago
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  • That, too, constitutes an interesting discussion, but one that is already receiving extensive critical and academic attention, hence the idea of expanding it by discussing one of the most prominent yet critically underexplored applications of deepfake technology, deepfake online pornography. – HangedMaiden 3 months ago
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  • Interesting topic – EdwardMcCarroll 3 months ago
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The Phenomenon of "Top 10" entertainment

"Top 10" type videos and articles on the internet are so prolific right now it’s like they fill up any negative space available on the net. Examine why that is and how this type of arguably cheap content has become so popular. Is it because of the platforms they inhabit? i.e, "the medium is the message," or is it simply because of the mindset of the generation? Interested to hear your thoughts!

  • I would not call "Top 10" a new thing, it has been around for decades. Perhaps how it has changed, say, of songs that have been in the top 10 in different years might provide insight into changing tastes. – Joseph Cernik 4 months ago
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The Popularity of 'Reaction' Channels on YouTube

Since the Fine Brothers found YouTube fame with their ‘React’ series (Kids React/Teens React/Elders React/etc.), it seems that channels dedicated to reacting to other media has become prolific on the platform.
By reaction channels, this would entail the channels that merely watch/listen to films/tv/music and react to them as they watch – not offering productive commentary, merely just watching and giving subjective opinions as they watch.

Investigate what makes them so popular, is it because they are found genuinely entertaining? Is it because people enjoy having their opinions on a show/album/movie confirmed by someone else? Is it the charisma of the presenter that matters? Is it merely ‘easy’ content to create so it appears to be everywhere because it is just accessible for many creators?

Perhaps an article on this topic could look into the criticism of this video content – it has often been labelled as bottom-tier YouTube content, unoriginal and uninspired.
Some creators begin their careers with a reaction channel, then use the audience they gain from this to then transition into other content creation. Why is this type of content perceived so negatively despite being so popular amongst viewers?
Another angle to pursue could be what the artists’ response is to their art being used for someone else’s monetary gain through reaction channels. Do they, and the platform they upload to, disapprove of this behaviour, does it breach copyright laws? Do musicians/film makers/video game creators like this kind of publicity for their work, does it boost profit or encourage a new fan base?

Can parallels be drawn between reaction channels on YouTube and, say, young adult fiction in literature or reality tv in the television industry? That is, within any industry there exists a hierarchy based on public opinion regarding what is ‘good’ and what is ‘bad’ within that medium. Is reaction YouTube just another example of that? A guilty pleasure genre, perhaps?

I realise this is a lot of ideas thrown into one, so an article on this could be selective in which angles it chooses to pursue, however, ‘reaction’ channels are arguably a cornerstone of YouTube creation, and an article exploring this and its affect on the YouTube community would be an insightful read.

  • I think this is a very interesting idea. Speaking personally, the reason why I like the Fine Brothers' "React" series is the personality/charisma/character of each reactor, especially those who are unafraid to go against the public opinion by, for example, liking/disliking something that is overwhelmingly disliked/liked.Though, I've always wondered about the dilemma of using someone else's art for monetary gain, not only from a legal but also from an ethical standpoint. Even if copyright laws aren't breached under the doctrine of Fair Use, it still seems, in my opinion, morally ambiguous to profit off someone's work. This is especially the case when one is deriving profits from the arguably passive act of "reacting", as opposed to providing constructive criticism like reviews, for example.It might also be interesting to draw comparisons between reaction channels and the realm of YA fiction. At least in my own experience from being a semi-avid reader of YA and regular watcher of "BookTube", I feel as though there is a herd mentality that causes readers to feel guilty and/or ostracised for their reading preferences if they don't align with the general public opinion on which books are "good" or "bad". – Marcus 4 months ago
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The phenomenon of seven-second videos.

Whilst video platform Vine has closed down, its legacy of short Internet videos has remained. Investigate the popularity of these short videos. Why are they so popular? What makes them popular? How can a short video reach success – what needs to be included within the short video to make it successful? Is this medium preferred over longer YouTube videos, for example?

  • A good topic to think about. I think it's worth putting some attention on how the popularity has informed modern humor. – kerrybaps 5 months ago
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  • I agree. I've always wondered why short videos has been popular lately. Not just videos, they have different challenges too. I'd love to explore. – bp2020 5 months ago
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  • Actually, a good topic. With the incredible number of videos out there, why do certain ones go viral? The Andy Warhol, 15 minutes of fame quote can be examined here. I think that by just focusing on the few that have a significant number of views is not the way to approach anyone writing on this topic, the focus also needs to be on videos that receive very few views and how or why they are different. Sometimes, it may have nothing to do with the video but that someone sees a certain video and pushes or recommends it. Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point, addresses this. – Joseph Cernik 4 months ago
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The Role of Social Media in Contemporary Politics

Recently, there has been a boom in social media coverage of political events. Politicians have been using social media to their advantage to build an image for themselves during campaigns. Analyze the role social media plays in influencing audience perception. How is this trope being harnessed by politicians today all over the world? What are the moral/ ethical dilemmas (if any) associated with this free and easily accessible tool for shaping public perception?

  • The essay could take topical examples from various democratic and autocratic regimes to analyse the role even influencers or some people with vested interests can play in ensuring a positive or negative word of mouth about a certain regime. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 4 months ago
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  • The title is very broad and needs a subtitle to give it focus. A great deal has been written on this so the angle taken becomes important. – Joseph Cernik 3 months ago
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The New Frontier of Creativity: What

As social distancing measures have left us stuck in our homes, those that create and share art on YouTube, Instagram or other platforms have never had more time to add more user generated content to the never-ending mix of digital media. Plus, consumers this content have never had more time to scroll through these self-proclaimed artists’ creations. Now more than ever, with more and more people turning to the Internet both to produce and consume art, it is worth figuring out how to interpret, sort, and evaluate this type of art.

I’m not going to suggest that all Instagram or YouTube content should be considered “high” art. One of the trade-offs of total accessibility is that, while it allows anyone with Internet access can create and upload material that they believe is artistic, it is difficult to sort out the good from the bad, and the best from the good. After all, it’s not as though having a broadband connection is a viable substitute for having talent, something meaningful to say, and an original way to say it. For example, a video of someone showing off their dance moves on TikTok can be entertaining, but does it pose a topical question, provoke discussion, or relate to greater issues of society, truth, or beauty? Probably not. But where do we draw the line? When has “art” been achieved?

I believe the entire persona of “Poppy,” as she appears in YouTube videos, albums, and on stage, offers up avant-garde aesthetics and difficult-to-interpret cultural commentary. The videos she posts on her YouTube channel (made in collaboration with director Titanic Sinclair) are, to say the least, difficult to react to. In her debut video, “Poppy Eats Cotton Candy” (2014), she – as you might expect – wordlessly eats cotton candy; and in another, she says the words “I’m Poppy” for ten minutes, in a series of takes to camera. These videos may be perplexing, but they are oddly fascinating: they resist easy interpretation because, unlike most of the content uploaded by YouTube “personalities,” they seem to be more provocative than entertaining. Her work has the same theoretical value as “gallery art” – it contains layers of meaning, aesthetic appeal, and can be unpacked and analyzed to the same degree as any “high art.”

But should it be? Or should there be NEW set of critical practices/criteria that are reserved only for digital media?