Welcome to a spring break edition of the C3 Weekly
Update. Our team is spread far and wide working on projects for the
week, but we have lined up what we hope you'll find as two interesting
research projects this week. We are leading, in the Opening
Note, with some initial reactions to and background for the YouTube
research the Consortium has been working on this semester from C3
Research Manager Joshua Green, along with colleague Jean Burgess. Green
has been spending significant time in
the past two months looking over the data from the thousands of videos
our team watched and coded from 2007 from the video sharing site. We
are excited to share more details about the project here in the
newsletter this week, and we'll be presenting a thorough
version of the research at the C3 Spring Retreat on May 8-9 and in a
forthcoming white paper, which will be coming out by the end of the
semester. We look forward to any feedback our academic and corporate
partners have to this presentation of some initial research findings.
Meanwhile, the Closing Note this week comes from
one of C3's newest consulting researchers, Dr. Abigail Derecho.
Derecho, who is currently teaching at Columbia College Chicago, is
headed to the University of California-Berkeley in the fall. In this
week and next week's Closing Note, Derecho will present her work on
fair pay systems and copyright issues related to sampling in hip-hop
culture. As I wrote about on the Consortium blog this week, these two
pieces are based on work Derecho presented at the Society for Cinema
and Media Studies earlier this month.
I've spent the past several days in San Francisco,
for the Popular Culture Association and American Culture Association
National Conference, presenting some work based on my thesis project on
the state of the contemporary U.S. soap opera industry. I was the only
C3 academic at the conference, but I had the chance to meet with and
hear about the latest research of a variety of academics. I'm going to
publish several posts from the PCA/ACA event on the blog later this
week, similar to the notes from SCMS I've been publishing this week. I
hope you find these projects and panels of interest and look forward to
any feedback you might have.
As I mentioned last week, the C3 Spring Retreat is
planned here on MIT's campus on Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09.
On Thursday, the C3 team will present many of our research projects
we've been engaged with for this academic year. That evening, from 5
p.m. until 7 p.m., we will be hosting a public colloquium for the
Program in Comparative Media Studies looking at various ways to
research online video through platforms such as YouTube. In addition to
this more general public
discussion of the video sharing site, we will be sharing many of our
specific research findings in the internal Consortium event during the
conference as well. On Friday, C3 Director Henry Jenkins and C3
Principal Investigator William Uricchio will provide
some opening comments, followed by a panel featuring some special
guests from the industry, Matt Wolfe of Double Twenty Productions and
Keith Clarkson from Xenophile Media, joined by C3 Consulting
Researchers discussing transmedia. We will also be hosting a panel on
audiences as communities that will include both industry and academic
voices. The schedule also includes a session with about four or five
breakout groups for attendees to discuss a variety of relevant issues
around our partners' work and our academic research interests.
Also, as mentioned last week, MIT Futures of
Entertainment 3 is confirmed for Nov. 21-22 here at the Wong Auditorium
in the Tang Center here at MIT. We hope you all will block it off on
your calendars now.
If you have any questions or comments or would
like to request prior issues of the Update, direct them to Sam Ford,
editor of the C3 Weekly Update, at email@example.com.
In This Issue
Opening Note: Joshua Green on C3's YouTube Research
Glancing at the C3
Closing Note: Abigail Derecho on Creative
Copyright and Fair Pay
Thursday, April 10, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Our World Digitized: The
Good, the Bad, the Ugly
Featuring Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein: Bartos Theater, Wiesner
Building, MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media
Thursday, April 24, 5-7 p.m.
MIT Communications Forum: Youth and Civic
Featuring Lance Bennett, Ian V. Rowe: Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building,
MIT Media Lab
Co-sponsored by the MIT Center for Future Civic Media
Friday, April 25
Passions 2008 Conference
C3 Project Manager Sam Ford presents "Outside the Target Demographic"
as part of the Gendered Fan Labor in New Media and Old panel.
Thursday, May 08, and Friday, May 09
C3's Spring Retreat
Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26
for Social Impact, Conference of the
Interntional Communication Association
C3 Research Manager Joshua Green will make two presentations at this
Montreal event. Details forthcoming.
Thurs., June 19, to Sunday, June 22
Culture Theory Conference 2008
C3 Director Henry Jenkins, C3 Research Manager Joshua Green, and C3
Project Manager Sam Ford are going to be panelists for a plenary
this Suffolk University event here in Boston. More information
Friday, Nov. 21, and Saturday, Nov. 22
MIT Futures of Entertainment 3.
The Consortium's annual public conference is scheduled
for the weekend before Thanksgiving. We look forward to seeing a
variety of our partners at the event and will have more information
forthcoming after our Spring Retreat.
What Is YouTube, Anyway?
As we have mentioned in recent issues of the C3 Weekly
Update, May 8 and 9 we are holding the annual C3 Retreat, which is an
opportunity for all of you to join us in Cambridge to talk about the
work we’ve been completing, about new developments on the Consortium’s
agenda, and where we’re heading in the future. During this time, one of
the projects we’ll be discussing is the work we’ve been doing on
YouTube. I wanted to take a brief moment this week to provide an
introduction to this project, which we’ve talked about informally on
both the blog (for instance, here
and in Editor's Notes in previous Weekly Updates.
We set out to try to gain a better understanding of what
YouTube “is." The site is among the most well-known and widely used
commercial websites built around user-created content to emerge so far,
and it is quickly on its way to becoming a common-sense object. Like
MySpace, Wikipedia and Facebook, YouTube has come to occupy a central
place in our shared understanding of popular uses of the Internet. At
the same time, however, just exactly what is summed up or referred to
when the name “YouTube” is invoked is unclear. As it rapidly approaches
status as a somewhat generic term for ‘online-video,' it remains a
multiplicitous object, defined by particular and individualized uses.
It is positioned as a major player in a new industry; as a disruption
to ‘big media’ hegemony and expertise; as a site of ‘wacky and
wonderful’ vernacular expression and user-led innovation. Truthfully,
YouTube functions as all of these things - YouTube's functions as both
a 'top-down' platform for the distribution of commercial popular
culture and a 'bottom-up' platform for vernacular and 'amateur'
This tension is especially productive for understanding
the role YouTube plays in the shifting landscape of popular culture. It
is understood as a site that can make the products of commercial media
widely popular, challenging the promotional reach the mass media are
accustomed to monopolising, while also a site where “challenges” to
commercial popular culture might emerge (be they user-created news
services or generic forms such as vlogging, appropriated and exploited
by the LonelyGirl15 team). Understanding YouTube’s status as a platform
for popular culture therefore requires an analytical understanding of
the interplay between these two roles - as both distributor and
originator of popular culture.
Our ambition to contribute, however tentatively, to a
more comprehensive and complex understanding of how YouTube works as a
site of popular culture at a particular historical conjuncture presents
epistemological and methodological challenges to media and cultural
studies. Such an approach requires dealing with both (local) complexity
and (global) scale, within the reality of constant change and growth.
The methods of cultural and media studies are particularly adept at
dealing in the former, but at least in an empirical sense, we are
frequently confounded by the latter. Scale at the level which YouTube
represents seriously tests the limits of the explanatory power of even
our best grounded or particularist accounts, especially if we want to
intervene in or influence debates outside our own disciplines. Working
from a media studies perspective, if we determined at the outset that
we were interested in exploring 'remix culture,' or music fandom, or
DIY cooking shows, or any number of other niche uses of YouTube, we
would be sure to find sufficient examples among the more than 75
million videos (and counting) that are currently available in the
YouTube archive. But doing so would not tell us nearly so much about
how YouTube works as it would about how that particular niche genre or
subculture works. Therefore, it is not enough for our purposes identify
in advance a small, localised sample of texts or groups of users on the
basis of an existing set of scholarly or subcultural enthusiasms, or a
predetermined political stance.
But, perhaps unsurprisingly, approaches to YouTube that
attempt to comprehend it as a 'system' have, so far, been restricted to
the 'hard' end of social science - usually, from computer science and
informatics, employing methodological tools like network analysis. See,
for instance, Meeyoung Cha, Haewoon Kwak, Pablo Rodriguez, Yong-Yeol
Ahn, and Sue Moon's "I Tube, YouTube, Everybody Tubes: Analyzing the
World's Largest User Generated Content Video System, as part of the IMC'07
proceedings October 24-26, 2007, in San Diego. Also see, Phillipa Gill,
Martin Arlitt, Zongpeng Li, and Anirban Mahanti's 2007 piece "YouTube
Traffic Characterization: A View from the Edge," from the Proceedings
of the 7th ACM SIGCOMM Conference on Internet Measurement in San
Diego, pp. 15-28, and Martin Halvey and Keane T. Mark's 2007 piece
"Exploring Social Dynamics in Online Media Sharing," from the
Proceedings of WWW 2007 May 8-12, Baniff: Alberta, Canada, pp.
These studies are used, for instance, to reveal content
patterns, explore the popularity “life-cycles” of videos across the
site, and certain behavioral patterns of viewing. This approach draws
heavily on the architecture of the site itself, however, resulting in
maps of the system that tend to reproduce the ontologies imposed by the
design of the website, and therefore allowing less obvious, more hybrid
and context-specific findings that are the object of critical cultural
analysis to fall between the cracks.
Such studies tend to rely, for instance, on the
categorization and tagging systems YouTube provides, which enable
uploaders to describe and sort their videos by content, theme and
style. Both of these strategies pose particular challenges for
categorizing or analysing the content and popularity across the site.
The categories YouTube provides categories, with titles such as “Pets
& Animals” and “Cars & Vehicles," at best offer a (very)
general framework for organizing content across the site. They suffer
from some of the limits second-order ordering stratgies (see pp. 18-19
of David Weinberger's 2007 book Everything Is Miscellaneous: The
Power of the New Digital Disorder). They’re necessarily broad and
unable to contain much information about the videos themselves - they
tell us little that is useful about genres, aesthetics, or the modes of
communication that are associated with them. Videos on the site are
further organized through a user-defined tagging system, which provides
findability and a greater degree of categorization. This system is not
only used descriptively but often strategically by uploaders. As the
business model of the service continues to reward page views, applying
‘popular’ tags to content, marking videos as a response to popular but
unrelated content, and other methods of ‘gaming’ the YouTube system
have emerged. As such, these tags should not be treated as a matter of
fact system for describing content within the system.
We set out, then, to find a middle ground between the
specialized reading approach of cultural studies and the broad sweep of
the ‘hard’ sciences. Searching for this middle ground, we adapted the
methods of content analysis to examine YouTube in a manner approaching
the breadth of quantitative methods as developed for communication
studies and throughout the social sciences while providing the capacity
to engage in the critical-interpretive analysis afforded by media and
cultural studies. Our methods are explained in more detail below, but
in short, we undertook a survey of more than 4,000 of the 'most
popular' videos from a period of several months, using methdological
tools derived broadly from content analysis. As humanities-oriented
researchers, this activity gave us a way to order a relatively large
body of raw material in a way that would allow us to identify patterns
across the sample, as well as to interrogate clusters of individual
texts using our much more familiar qualitative methods - textual
analysis, ethnography, forensic analysis; but, again, without selecting
these smaller sub-sets of data in advance. This strategy has been
useful for identifying controversies and mapping aesthetic
characteristics across particular cultural forms.
Accounting for Popularity
Investigating how the site accounts for “popularity”
requires assessing more than just the videos which are “most watched."
Content is organized across the site according to a range of different
measures, from those which have been viewed the most times to those
which have been uploaded most recently. To balance depth of analysis
with the ability to cover a broad sample of the content, we set out to
assess YouTube’s ‘common culture’, looking at the videos which appeared
at the top of a range of YouTube’s popularity measures.
Between March and December 2007, we capture an image
each day of the "Most Viewed," "Most Responded," "Most Discussed," and
"Most Favorited" pages on YouTube, recording details such as the name
of the uploader and how many times the video had been viewed,
favorited, commented upon or responded to. We captured this content at
11pm US Eastern Standard Time each day. The regionalization of YouTube
in June 2007 divided the service into 19 different geographical
regions. Each of these maintains its own lists of content relative to
the region and the respective time zone. There is no region for the US,
however; the US is included as the “Global” region. While this might
suggest content drawn from across the globe, content from North America
predominates the sample. Comparative analysis between material
collected in each of the regional categories and some sense of the
differing numbers of videos uploaded within each region would be
incredibly fruitful to understand the international status of YouTube.
Each of these four categories represents a different
measure of popularity. Whereas Most Viewed most closely resembles the
aggregate measures of attention utilized by mainstream media industries
as a way of counting “eyeballs in front of the screen.” The category
counts only full views and counts views from external embeds once per
IP address according to tests run in 2007 by a video analytics company (TubeMogul,
2007). Each of the other three measures provide some account of
popularity based on activities that signal a degree of participation in
the YouTube community -- if nothing else, all of them require the user
to have an account. The Most Favorited cateogory measures the videos
popular enough to be added to a user’s profile and Most Discussed the
videos that generate the most comments, whereas Most Responded records
the video viewers were prompted to post a video response to, either by
filming their own material or laying a trace to another video in the
system. So while the Most Viewed category relies on basic quantitative
measurements of 'eyeballs,' the categories Most Responded, Most
Commented, and Most Favorited move our assessment of popularity beyond
the quantitative assessments of attention over time that have
predominated notions of success in the broadcast era.
To get a richer understanding of the types of content on
YouTube, we selected three months out of this sample (August, October,
and November) and developed a coding system to categorize the videos
according to textual and extratextual features. Sampling six days over
two weeks in each of these months, we examined 4,320 videos, coding for
things such as the most likely origin of the content (whether it was
produced inside or outside of the traditional media system, for
instance), the nature of the uploader, and the type or genre of the
videos (whether scripted television footage, say, or a personal vlog; a
fan mash-up, or promotional content of some kind). The C3 team working
in conjunction with Dr. Jean Burgess (who some of you met at the
retreat last year) and Eli Koger at the Queensland University of
Technology coded these videos over December 2007 and January 2008.
In the time since, we’ve been analyzing this data,
looking at which sorts of content, uploaded by whom, were popular where
within YouTube, in turn developing a picture of YouTube as much
sensitive to the range of content available on the service as it is the
particularities of specific types of material. The results of this
analysis we’ll present at the Partner’s Retreat in May. We hope to see
is the research
manager for the Convergence Culture Consortium and a Postdoctoral
Associate at the Comparative
Media Studies program
Glancing at the C3 Blog
on LiveJournal Activism Through Strike/Boycott. C3 Graduate
Research Assistant Xiaochang Li continues her series of posts
looking at tensions between the management and users of LiveJournal,
particularly discussion of a strike or boycott
from members of the LJ community and the implications of each term.
Jason Mittell, Jon Gray, and Paratexts. Sam Ford continues his
notes from the SCMS conference in Philadelphia earlier this month by
looking at a session which included two of the Consortium's consulting
researchers discussing content outside the main narrative of television
shows, in a session inspired by last year's Gender and Fan
discussion on Henry Jenkins' blog and in LiveJournal.
Kevin Sandler on Production Studies and Censorship. C3 Consulting
Researcher Kevin Sandler presented his latest
research on standards and practices and self-censorship at television
networks, with a case study on Fox and Family Guy, at the SCMS
conference in Philadelphia earlier this month.
Moral Economy of Web 2.0 (Part Four). C3 Director Henry Jenkins
published the fourth part of his work with C3 Research
Manager Joshua Green, dealing with prohibitionists and the concept of
"the moral economy."
Moral Economy of Web 2.0 (Part Three). C3 Director Henry Jenkins
presents the third part of an essay with C3 Research Manager Joshua
Green, looking at engagement and participation.
Gail Derecho and License to Remix. Sam Ford provides notes from C3
Consulting Researcher Gail Derecho's presentation at SCMS, in which she
discussed hip-hop remix culture in the late 1980s and early
1990s and the legal precedents this has for digital remixes today.
Joshua Green on Audiences and Users. Sam Ford writes about C3
Research Manager Joshua Green's presentation at the SCMS conference in
Philadelphia earlier this month alongside others studying YouTube,
dealing with the conception of audiences in an online setting and the
status of television and media audiences in a "convergence culture."
Ted Hovet on Framing Motion. Sam Ford writes about C3 Consulting
Researcher Ted Hovet's presentation on early cinema and the conception
of the rectangular frame in the projection of film at the SCMS
conference in Philadelphia earlier this month.
Vast Narratives and Immersive Story Worlds. Sam Ford writes about
his presentation in the opening session of the Society for Cinema and
Media Studies conference in Philadelphia earlier this month on vast
narratives and immersive story worlds.
Moral Economy of Web 2.0 (Part Two). C3 Director Henry Jenkins
provides the second part of his work with C3 Research Manager Joshua
Green, looking at "convergence culture," produsers, and participatory
Communications Forum on Global Television (1 of 2). Sam Ford
provides notes from Lan Le from the latest MIT Communications Forum, on
Global Television. Here, Le's notes are provided from Roberta Pearson's
and Eggo Müller's presentations.
Communications Forum on Global Television (1 of 2). Sam Ford
provides notes from CMS graduate student Lan Le from the MIT
Communications Forum on Global Television. In the first of two posts
from the event, Le provides notes from C3 Principal Investigator
William Uricchio's presentation.
Follow the Blog
Don't forget – you can always post, read, and
online conversations with the C3 team at our blog.
License to Remix, Part I:
Structuring a Creativity-Copyright Balance by Reviving
Proposals for Digital Appropriations
"Everyone knows" that to make money off of digital remix
productions is illegal, that it violates copyright. But how did
"everyone" come to "know" this?
Digital appropriation began in the mid-1980s, when the
first relatively affordable digital samplers hit the consumer market,
and inner-city black DJs began to use these early digital devices to
make new compositions out of the bits of older recordings. When
digitally sampled sounds began to be featured on major music hits, they
were not immediately judged to be copyright infringement. For the first
five years of digital sampling's existence, between 1986 and 1991, many
copyright holders whose works were sampled without permission sued
sampling artists during this five-year period, but none led to a court
ruling being handed down; all lawsuits were settled out-of-court.
Then, in December, 1991, a New York District Court
judge, Kevin Duffy, ruled in the case of Grand Upright vs. Warner
Bros. Records, which concerned the question of rapper Biz Markie
sampling a few bars from Gilbert O'Sullivan's 1970s hit, "Alone Again,
Naturally." Duffy defined unlicensed sampling as uncategorically and
unquestionably equivalent to theft. His ruling stated that: 1) all
unlicensed sampling is stealing, and artists who want to use samples in
their work must obtain a license from the source work's copyright
owners; 2) the right to determine how much to charge for a sample lies
entirely with the copyright holder.
However, for a brief period, before U.S. courts swiftly
decided the law's antagonism to sampling (and, subsequently, all forms
of digital remix), there was a moment when a "Fair Pay" structure for
digital remix was advocated by multiple voices in the legal community.
I have identified eight articles that were published in law journals
between 1989 and 1992 which recommend Fair Pay guidelines for sampling:
one in the High Technology Law Journal (now The Berkeley
Technology Law Journal) in 1989; one in the Loyola of Los
Angeles Entertainment Law Review in 1991; one in the Harvard
Law Review in January 1992 (published just one month after the Grand
Upright decision, and composed before that ruling was handed down);
and a series of four articles that appeared in the New York Law
Journal in 1989. Here are two key themes shared by all of the Fair
Pay proposals have in common:
- A concern for balancing the interests of copyright
holders with the interests of digital sampling artists, which takes for
granted that sampling artists have the right to develop their new art,
which has been made possible by a new technology. The authors
firmly assert that there is a "need to protect [both] the original
works and the value of sampling....Cooperation between samplers and
copyright owners based on mutual respect and financial interest is the
answer" (Gordon and Sanders, New York Law Journal). "At a
policy level, the balance is a struggle between the right of artists to
control their own work and that of unencumbering the creative
opportunities inherent in a new technology" (Mc Graw, High
Technology Law Journal). "Private agreements are unpredictable and
probably unfair in some instances – either to the sampled artist who
obtains less or to the sampling artist who pays more than he might
have....A requirement that sampling artists pay for the use of samples
is fair...because [it] ensures both that new artists are not ‘stealing'
and that artists will not be discouraged from producing new songs" (Harvard
Law Review). "The ad hoc approach within the music industry...has
unnecessarily inhibited the growth of a process of creating music that
has many artistic and economic benefits" (Loyola Entertainment Law
Journal). Let us note that the "ad hoc" system of determining
licensing fees not only was not remedied by the Grand Upright
judgment, it was awarded an infinite lifespan; the current method for
determining how much a remix artist must pay in order to obtain a
license to use a copyrighted work is determined on a case-by-case basis
solely by the copyright-holding individual or corporation.
- A licensing fee scheduling that assigns different
prices for different types of sampling, based on both quantitative and
qualitative measures. The High Technology article calls for
"an appropriate test for establishing substantial similarity between"
between the copied work and the copying work." The Loyola
article states that the "specific qualitative aspect that courts tend
to focus on in determining whether an appropriation constitutes
copyright infringement is the commercial value of the portion
appropriated"; for example, the chorus of a song is often "valuable
because it is distinctive and memorable." The Harvard piece
proposes four criteria for ascertaining the monetary value of a sample:
"the popularity of the prior work as a whole, the importance of the
sampled portion to the prior work, the duration of the sample, and the
importance of the sample to the new work." The maximum statutory
licensing fee, the Harvard article also suggests, should be the
equivalent of the fee required for a cover song (in 1991, this was 6.25
cents per phonorecord distributed).
According to current interpretations of copyright law,
no nuances between types of digital appropriation exist. In the
contemporary legal climate, built on the foundation of the 1991 Grand
Upright decision, all artistic appropriation is piracy,
theft, and infringement, no matter what portions of a prior work are
copied or how those copied portions figure into the new work (in fact,
the 2004 ruling in Bridgeport vs. Dimension Films stated that a
two-second guitar chord, which was lifted from a previously existing
song and altered to be all-but-unrecognizable, constituted copyright
infringement). The only safe "loophole" for remixers is the one of zero
financial gain: "If you remix, it is illegal, but if you don't make any
money, no one will sue you" is now the widespread common understanding
of copyright law.
The conclusion to this piece will appear as the
Closing Note in next week's C3 Weekly Update.
Abigail Derecho is currently
a faculty member of the Program in Cultural Studies at Columbia College
Chicago. In Fall 2008, she will join the faculty of the University of
California-Berkeley as Assistant Professor for The
Berkeley Center for New Media and the Department of Theater, Dance
Performance Studies. She researches intersections of minority discourse
with artistic appropriations, Internet piracy, and narrative
serializations in digital contexts.