Women Videobloggers and YouTube: Participatory Informal Digital Learning and Open-Access Web-Based Research

This project has three aims:

1) To create a new web-based methodology that allows for public input on the research process. The researchers will develop interview questions in a YouTube video post and the female videobloggers will respond through their own YouTube channels and videopost responses

2) New research directions regarding women’s online practices and insights on the following topics:

• diverse expressions of gendered identities,
• online audiences and cross-gender dialogue and response,
• women’s under-representation within web-based communities

3) The project’s final aim through a YouTube Research Channel is to enable and invite public comments and response.

Here are some of the vlogs we’ve been following:

Who we spoke to:

tobie2

tobie is an outspoken lesbian vlogger. she is very active in the “vloggerhood” and has been vlogging since 2006.

You know, I don’t know for sure. I think for me I just don’t appeal to the male audience as much as the female audience. I also think that YouTube is not exactly female friendly. If you look at all the big people, you know the big vloggers, at least they started out as vloggers, there are very few women that are successful and even the ones that are successful are nowhere near the numbers of the men. So, I think what I’m implying is that YouTube is kind of a boy’s club which so is the world.

sydtheskeptic

Syd is an educator and is responsible for creating the vlogger “constitution” on vloggerheads. syd has been vlogging since 2008.

You know, there’s this whole thing about the show of it, the presentation, the public persona, I could see myself just sort of emulating what other ppl were doing and it became like this show. You know, fear show, you know Syd’s gonna you know, it became a play thing. The more feedback I got, the more I got to know ppl, personally, even meeting people in person. So, the anonymous Syd was sort of slipping away so that made me less brave, less willing to talk about my fears because I was beginning, the people out there were not strangers I was actually coming to know them and meet them in person.

seleahtv

seleah is a new vlogger who writes, directs and edits her own sketch videos. she has been vlogging since april 2010.

Well vlogging makes me happy. It really does, I would feel like there is a big chunk of me that would miss it. Now that I have started, I don’t really see myself stopping. I am kind of in a way and I don’t want to say obsessed but kind of I am because the first thing I did this morning before I brushed my teeth was I went on YouTube. I am kind of addicted in a way. I love it.

samsarajade

samsarajade has been on various collaborative youtube channels and found love with another vlogger. she has been vlogging since 2006.

It was probably a bit of loneliness really. I did not have much of a social life outside the house. I am a single parent with three children and most, ah, my best friends was really kind of moved away from the area and have their own lives. I talk to them now and then but there is no one I really spend the afternoon with or pop in and out of their house. Basically, the reason I first made a video was to join in on what I saw was going on. So, it’s a way of just communicating with other adults out in the world when my life had become this box of my house and three demanding children and a whole ton of problems. It gave that kind of release.

lacigreen

laci uses her vlogs to address sexual health issues and body image issues. her vlogs are very popular and she is a youtube partner. laci has been vlogging as lacigreen since 2008.

Yeah. I do. But I don’t think it happens in a way that a lot of people think it does. Sometimes it is not necessarily direct. I am going to tell you this idea and you are going to love it and we are both going to support this cause. Sometimes that happens but what I think happens more often is you start talking about an issue in a new way and people start thinking about, people who wouldn’t necessarily agree with you start thinking about this issue in that way and you start the ball rolling. People then become more critical in the ways that they are assessing certain issues. Gay issues, trans issues and reproductive issues and ones that I have I have seen a lot people talk to me about them and started thinking about them in new ways and then they showed their friends and they are talking about it to their friends and it’s making a more conscious public even if it’s just a few people.

atree3

tree is an artist, musician and vlogger. her videos make up a reflective “autovideography” project. she has been vlogging since 2007.

What initially interested me and is still in the back and the mind is something I hate to see go. To exist in cyberspace offers anonymity. Unless you show yourself people you don’t know anything about you. What colour you are. Your age or anything like that. When I was first going to start vlogging. I had all these ideas about how I was going to do, I wasn’t going to show myself. I thought I would change my voice, it would not be clear if this was man or a woman. I wouldn’t show my body so you wouldn’t know my age or my race. To me that was ultimate freedom I could get from this. I suppose a writer gets you don’t necessarily see a writer but then as the time approached where I was getting ready to do my intro vlog on livevideo. I realized that it was kind of cop out. If I was going to do this I ought to jump in and do it, even though it was a little unnerving, it just seemed like I ought to go for it. So I did.

This research project engages female videobloggers (vloggers) to develop three aspects of internet studies presently unexplored in existing literature.

(1) Unique web-based methodology: First, we are developing an innovative and experimental web-based methodology: rather than conducting the traditional confidential interviews, we interview female videobloggers within the very medium they themselves have chosen for public, creative, and political expression: YouTube. We will develop interview questions in a YouTube video post (filmed and posted by Kelly Ladd, under the supervision of the Dr. Megan Boler) and the female videobloggers will respond through their own YouTube channels and videopost responses. Thus the research conversation will be (a) immediately transparent and open to the public; (b) answers will remain under the participants ownership, thereby creating a new model of open access and transparency of research process too often hidden by traditional ethics protocols. Participants will control their own confidentiality concerns by filming their own responses and choosing how and what they wish to publish on YouTube

(2) New research directions regarding women’s online practices. We aim to explore vloggers insights regarding
• diverse expressions of gendered identities,
• online audiences and cross-gender dialogue and response,
• our Open Access Research Design using their platform of choice, YouTube
• women’s under-representation within web-based communities

(3) Making Research Public through Digital Media: Our final aim through our YouTube Research Channel is to enable and invite public comments and response. Though this open and transparent process we aim to engage scholars, students, and wider publics in research that is usually black boxed and not made public until years after the research has been conducted. Our project will demonstrate how innovative social tools such as YouTube can be effectively used for social science and humanities research to engage subjects as collaborative peer experts. Our innovative approach to posting interviews through online YouTube videos and having participants respond via videoposts, in turn commented on by the public, allows for a truly open access, collaborative, and public research process.

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