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Frenemies and fans: The emergence of different YouTube communities

Exploring the language of YouTube user communities

With more than one billion unique users a month, YouTube is home to many different online communities. In this presentation, I will discuss how two very different forms of community emerge and are sustained on the site: user communities and fan communities.

User communities are the original form of YouTube community, with users engaging each other around particular topics of interest. These communities form without a central figure and are therefore more dependent on the individual contributions of users, as well as user-generated topics of discussion and argument, to sustain interaction. I will discuss how ‘drama’ — ongoing antagonistic debate — can serve as a way to generate content in these communities and serve a cohesive function.

By contrast, fan communities have become increasingly important to success on YouTube, as YouTubers (YouTube video content creators) rely on communities to spread content and generate revenue through viewing videos and purchasing merchandise promoted by the YouTuber. I will discuss how YouTubers engage communities through second person address in the production of videos and how this address, combined with video content from the day-to-day life of the YouTuber, creates a sense of involvement in ongoing video narrative.

In comparing these two communities, I will reflect on how YouTube, and social media more generally, affords engagement in ongoing, episodic narratives, with varying levels of engagement and agency, and how YouTube communities shift and develop over time, as the online environment changes.


Dr. Stephen Pihlaja | talks | www


Date and Time:

7 April 2014 at 5:00 pm


1 hour



English, Middlesex University
The Burroughs
+44 20 84 11 65 55

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Additional Information:

All welcome. This talk takes place in Room CG82, College Building, Directions to campus here:


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