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Vlogging Careers: Everyday Expertise, Collaboration and Authenticity

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Abstract

The rise in ‘entrepreneurial vlogging’ has attracted widespread attention in the global media, with articles emerging about the superstar vloggers who are earning a lot of money for pursuing their professed passions. The phenomenon of vlogging is positioned as something that ‘anyone’ can do, with YouTube appearing to offer the opportunity to combine freedom of creative expression with the possibility of making a living. The idea that anyone can vlog and make a career out of it is pervasive, yet only a few manage to do so. For those who are successful, there follows hostility from some critics (Bish, 2014) and stories of failure. Some of the most popular vloggers attract a great deal of criticism for attention-seeking when seemingly doing little more than sitting in front of the camera and talking. Critique that focuses on the celebrity however, tends to obscure the additional labour that is involved alongside the creation of video content. The effort in designing, creating, and sharing that goes into these videos is little acknowledged. These complementary activities and the specialist subject knowledge that is often in evidence highlight the expertise required by vloggers. To examine vlogging’s status as part of the ‘new normal’ of cultural work, we show how signalling expertise is a key aspect of vloggers’ online self-presentation as they build their cultural work career. This chapter is organised into two main parts. In part one, we reference a range of media sources to examine the increasing public visibility of vlogging as a cultural work career. Of particular note is the curiosity around vlogging as a commercially viable undertaking and the how-to guidance materials that have emerged to steer would-be YouTube entrepreneurs onto a successful path. The notion of career paths is particularly relevant to our discussion of the ‘new normal’ and the ways in which vlogging can be understood both as a stepping stone towards established careers in media, journalism, fashion and so on, and as a distinctive occupation in its own right. In bringing together a mixture of ‘how-to’ materials and more general journalistic coverage, we consider how ‘starting up’ and ‘sustaining’ oneself as a vlogger are explored. Having considered some of the broader stories of the successes and failures of vlogging and questions of career-building, part two examines the importance of expertise for vlogging careers. In part two, we specifically focus on how expertise is signalled by four prominent vloggers from around the world: UK, Ireland and Korea. The vloggers were involved in gaming, fashion, make-up and comedy. These areas were chosen because they require a degree of knowledge and skill on behalf of the vlogger, and we wanted to analyse how such forms of expertise were presented. We analysed the social media presence of each vlogger to address how signalling-expertise strategies may be tailored to suit multiple platforms and multiple audiences. Our discussion for this chapter focuses on two themes from our analysis. The first is the ways in which associations with other vloggers formed an important part of how they signalled their expertise and helped to attract more fans. The second is the ways in which expertise is signalled in the staging of authentic vlogging identities and locations. Beyond the more obvious work involved in creating and uploading a video, our analysis highlights the extensive range of other activities and undertakings that help to signal expertise as vloggers negotiate their ‘career’.<br/

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... However, more recent research has shown that the reality of making a career out of such forms of online entrepreneurship is far from the dream that is sold. Ashton and Patel (2018) discuss the precarity of vlogging careers and the potential barriers to access such as requiring time, money, and expensive equipment. They suggest that the experiences of vloggers mirror existing issues around inequality and lack of diversity in the wider creative industries. ...
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Social media technologies such as YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook promised a new participatory online culture. Yet, technology insider Alice Marwick contends in this insightful book, "Web 2.0" only encouraged a preoccupation with status and attention. Her original research-which includes conversations with entrepreneurs, Internet celebrities, and Silicon Valley journalists-explores the culture and ideology of San Francisco's tech community in the period between the dot com boom and the App store, when the city was the world's center of social media development.Marwick argues that early revolutionary goals have failed to materialize: while many continue to view social media as democratic, these technologies instead turn users into marketers and self-promoters, and leave technology companies poised to violate privacy and to prioritize profits over participation. Marwick analyzes status-building techniques-such as self-branding, micro-celebrity, and life-streaming-to show that Web 2.0 did not provide a cultural revolution, but only furthered inequality and einforced traditional social stratification, demarcated by race, class, and gender.
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This article discusses the growing UK trend of people working for themselves. Beginning with the example of a media representation, it explores the wider implications of a discursive drift by which discourses of entrepreneurialism and contemporary creative work converge on the new figure of the worker who leaves paid employment for the supposed satisfactions of working from home. The article argues that, in contrast to the heroic masculine figures of the entrepreneur and artist, this is a feminized low-status worker. Its celebration is part of a ‘new mystique’ resembling the ‘housewife trap’ described by Friedan (1963) half a century ago, because for increasing numbers of people, both male and female, working for yourself amounts to exclusion to an almost subsistence level of economic activity on the margins of the neoliberal economy.
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The popular photo-sharing app Instagram has created a new breed of celebrities: the Instafamous. This essay examines the phenomenon—from Singaporean socialites showing off shoe collections to high school sophomores with ten thousand followers—and its relationship to celebrity and tabloid culture.
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This article explores the stakes of digital transformation through a consideration of digital expertise. Expertise is investigated as it operates in everyday situations - drawing on empirical research undertaken in Brighton, UK, as part of the Communities and Cultures Network+ project. It is also deployed as a heuristic for inquiry into questions of use and the policy of use and investigated in relation to questions of automation that provoke reconsideration of the role of humans and machines in circuits of expertise. This latter necessitates reconsideration of how expertise can be theorized, and this is developed through an account that insists on the importance of both the material and the circulating imaginary for understanding the operations of digital expertise. Drawing these together to develop a new understanding of the economy of digital expertise, inspiration is finally drawn from earlier attempts to develop new models of technological expertise in the context of public science, undertaken with the specific intent of contributing to furthering the democratization of knowledge. In this article too, expertise is invoked albeit in a rather different way as constituting the grounds for the development of a political demand. The article closes with a question concerning the stakes of a demand for digital expertise.
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In the digital age, it seems that participation has been conflated with literacy, content with engagement, novelty with innovation and ubiquity with meaning (e.g. see Thornham and McFarlane, 2014; Gillespie, 2010; Dean, 2008; Livingstone, 2009; van Dijck, 2013) and encapsulated in terms such as ‘digital native’, ‘digital divide’ or ‘born digital’. In turn, these conflations have done something to technology, which is constructed as malleable, a supportive facilitator, and the user, who is constructed as active agent. Neither of these account for mediations nor for - crucial for us - the notion of the imaginary, which emerges in our research as so central to expertise. Drawing on ethnographic work carried out in Studio12, a media production facility for young people with disadvantaged backgrounds in Leeds, United Kingdom, we propose that the concept of expertise emerges through a bigger array of social capital as well as traditional structures of power such as class, gender and race. Expertise is claimed, evidenced and generated. For us, however, expertise emerged not only as elusive but also because it was premised on a disjuncture between lived and everyday youth and the promises of becoming in a future orientated (technological, imaginary and creative) landscape.
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This article examines the position of the “runner” as an entry-level route into film and television production. Through the analysis of publicly available industry guidance materials, desirable characteristics and dispositions associated with working as a runner are identified. A recurring understanding emerges in these materials that the “rite of passage” of working as a runner is a necessary step for those seeking to break into film and TV production. In turn, tensions are revealed with perspectives from higher education students who question the value of mundane entry-level work and stress their degree experiences as a means to negotiate and challenge seemingly established career pathways.
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Screenwriting has been the subject of extensive literature in the past three decades in relation to both the techniques of the trade and the pursuit of profit and fame. This article demonstrates that how-to screenwriting manuals both feed into and exemplify the new cultural economy and the position(s) of creative labor within that economy by offering the opportunity to dream up and invent one's own career and providing blueprints for doing so. The article draws on a critical discourse analysis study of a selection of the most popular manuals and analyzes the discursive strategies the texts deploy to concretize aspects of screenwriting labor, from story structure and formatting to pitching and rewriting. The manuals are discussed as a type of psy-technology and as a sophisticated form of professional self-help, and they are also analyzed as precarious governmental tools that shape industries, practices, and subjects but in ambiguous and chaotic ways.
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This article examines the career opportunities, challenges and trajectories of creative work. As part of the Creative Trident approach to creative workforce measurements, the embedded mode draws attention to creative work as it is undertaken outside of the creative industries. This article further considers and conceptualises the complex careers pathways of creative workers. Firstly, creative workers in non-creative occupations in other industries are discussed to highlight the challenges and barriers to securing creative employment and the balance creative workers establish with other forms of employment. Secondly, students from creative courses going into non-creative occupations in other industries is discussed to highlight challenges students face in making the transition from higher education to creative employment in terms of workforce expectations and the competition amongst graduates. This article critically evaluates assumptions about transitions from education into creative work employment and associated career trajectories.
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Social media are popular stages for self-expression, communication and self-promotion. Rather than facilitating online identity formation, they are sites of struggle between users, employers and platform owners to control online identities – a struggle played out at the level of the interface. This article offers a comparative interface analysis between Facebook and LinkedIn. While Facebook is particularly focused on facilitating personal self-presentation, LinkedIn’s interface caters towards the need for professional self-promotion. And yet, both platforms deploy similar principles of connectivity and narrative – strategies that can be succinctly revealed in recent interface changes. These changing digital architectures form the necessary backdrop for asking critical questions about online self-presentation: How are public identities shaped through platform interfaces? How do these features enable and constrain the sculpting of personal and professional persona? And what are the consequences of imposed connectivity and narrative uniformity on people’s online identities?
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This conversation started in Prague, the Czech Republic, during a panel moderated by Irena Reifová at the symposium ‘On Empowered and Impassioned Audiences in the Age of Media Convergence’. The event was organized by the Faculty of Social Sciences at Charles University. The text contains a series of discussions. First, there is a conversation about the nature of the participatory democratic utopia and participatory culture and how groups take (or do not take) advantage of the affordances of new and emerging media. It also emphasizes the political nature and potential of popular culture and touches upon its connection to institutionalized politics. Three other key areas are mentioned: the role of different cultures of leadership, the significance of organizations in structuring participatory processes, and the need to enhance civic learning, providing more support for participatory cultures. This is combined with an interlocking discussion about the definition of participation and how it is tied up with power. It covers the differences between participation and interaction, engagement, interpretation, production, curation, and circulation. Finally, there is an underlying strand of discussion about the role of academia, focusing on the relationship between critical theory and cultural studies, the need to deconstruct our own frameworks and the question of which language to use to communicate academic research to the public.
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The place of expertise in modern systems of government continues to be of concern to critical social scientists. Recent years have seen something of a shift away from conceptions of expertise that tended to see it as distant, overly technical and aligned with the needs of the state and capital. Expertise is increasingly recognised as having a more complex relation with the subjects of government than just as a means for shoring up authority, offering them a space for engagement, critique and counter-expertise. This paper argues that focusing on particular experts and their changing roles in governmental assemblages can flesh out one-dimensional conceptions of expertise and provide insights into governmental change. Drawing on a variety of literature, it is argued that expertise can usefully be conceived as; first, a social relation based on one party having access to knowledge which gives them authority over another; second, as distributed across a governmental assemblage in a particular way, with some expert relations being positioned to have more influence, understood here as expert power, across the assemblage; and third, as a matter of strategic engagement on the part of experts located in particular epistemic communities seeking to gain expert power. The potential of this perspective is explored through an analysis of an emergent expert system for the creative industries in the UK where a small community of actors have realigned their practices and cast themselves as creative industries experts. This has allowed then to reshape the governmental assemblage forming around this economic sector in a direction favourable to their own ideas. It is concluded that efforts to convert expertise into greater expert power is a key dynamic transforming governmental assemblages.
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Many democratic thinkers believe that the values of expertise and the values of democracy are incompatible. Since practical realities require democratic governments to depend on experts, theorists focus on how to keep experts on a short leash. In contrast, this essay argues that experts are of greatest value to democracy when they stand up to those in government who hire them or seek their counsel, not when they surrender professional judgment to political masters. Dangers of the “short leash” model are explained. The essay offers proposals on how to think more wisely about the role of expertise in democracy. The role of the politician as a special kind of expert is also discussed.
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In this chapter, we frame YouTube as an example of “co-creative” culture – whatever YouTube is, it is produced dynamically (that is, as an ongoing process, over time) as a result of many interconnected instances of participation, by many different people. In order to understand these co-creative relationships, it is important not to focus exclusively on how the “ordinary consumer” or “amateur producer,” are participating in YouTube; rather, we argue it is necessary to include the activities of “traditional media” companies and media professionals, and more importantly, the new models of media entrepreneurialism that are grounded in YouTube’s “grassroots” culture. Hence, this chapter focuses the role that “YouTube stars” – highly visible and successful “homegrown” performers and producers – play in modelling and negotiating these co-creative relationships within the context of YouTube’s social network; and the new models of entrepreneurship within participatory culture that they represent.
Survey: YouTube stars more popular than mainstream celebs among U.S. teens. Variety
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‘Raw talent in the making’: Imaginary journeys, authorship and the discourses of expertise. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies
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Life as a vlogger: What’s it like? We asked 10 YouTubers
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Why you shouldn’t start a YouTube channel (AW double DNA bomb
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The gendered politics of digital brand labor
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Get rich or die vlogging: The sad economics of internet fame
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Meet the vloggers: Self employed and ‘worth a fortune
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25 vloggers under 25 who are owning the world of YouTube
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Freelancing and the future of creative jobs. Creative and Cultural Skills, Building a Creative Nation blog
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Vain and inane: The rise of Britain’s dickhead vloggers
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Media-intermediation and careers on YouTube: How musicians get empowered in post-industrial media-economies
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How to be a vlogger: A guide for wannabe YouTubers. The Guardian
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