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Youtube’s Cultural Awareness

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Erik De Anda

Professor Vance

EMAC 2321

December 7 2016

YouTube’s Cultural Awareness

Dating back to the earliest forms of civilization, people have maintained records of their daily lives, practices, beliefs, etc. Evidence of ancient, or even prehistoric, cultures exist. Whether it be cuneiform on stone tablets or stick figures on cave walls, vast riches of knowledge have all been recorded within the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Incan, Aztec, and Mayan civilizations. These records have existed for thousands of years, endless amounts of scripture, text, and symbols describing cultures all over the world.

Throughout the years people have continued to share and document their experiences, leaving traces of their cultures behind. Journals, art pieces, and books left for scholars to decipher every bit of information in order to increase their knowledge of foreign cultures.

However, for the longest time, this information was generally only accessible to scholars. Great knowledge of the world’s cultures was uncommon to the average person. Years of tedious research was required to fully engage an understanding of ancient civilizations or other cultures in general. There were not many other ways to do so other than by traveling to each location, but even then there was no way of going back in time to experience the culture first hand. Thankfully, these records are now accessible to nearly everyone. People can find out what some of the most popular dishes in Mexico are within seconds. All that is required is a device with internet access.

        In today’s age people are a click away from a whole new world. The amount of power held in a single cellular device exceeds any realistic expectations held just a century ago. In addition, the number of internet users is at an all-time highest; rising from 1 billion in 2005 to 3.5 billion in 2016 (Statista). With this technology becoming more accessible every day, people are now connected more than ever. Nevertheless, the internet is a massive place, so what part of it brings people closer together? In truth, an argument can be made for every aspect of the internet, but a great place to start is YouTube. Not only is YouTube the second most visited website (YouTube) but it also generates billions of views daily. Every day people watch hundreds of millions of hours on YouTube. It is undeniable that the site holds an influence over people.

Furthermore, local versions of YouTube are now available in more than 88 countries, as well as a total of 76 different languages, covering 95% of the Internet population (YouTube). The accessibility YouTube provides is only fitting for a platform that has revolutionized the way the younger generations see the world. Nevertheless, these features are not the reason why YouTube has been able to cultivate such a successful environment for cultural diffusion. The real reason lies within the authenticity and intimacy that comes from YouTube videos, coupled with the disconnection between creator and consumer when reading script or text.

Moreover, it can be argued that television has been providing the same product for decades. However, for years, people have been fed the same washed out stereotypes on television and films. America’s egotistical demeanor has poured out through its own media. Misrepresentations of African Americans, Asians, and basically anyone who was not a white man born in America have been common occurrences in the television and film industries, causing a negative impact in the way people of different background interact. Film, television, and media have been a source of division for years in nations a diverse as the United States. However, America is not the only country guilty of misrepresentation. It has become a known fact that other nations also portray foreigners in incorrect ways. Often times Americans, themselves, are victims of this misrepresentation.

In general, the movie and TV industry have been misrepresenting anyone and everyone. In the US, it had not been until recently that efforts and voices from some of the misrepresented communities somewhat reached these industries. Scandals like “Black Face”, “Yellow Face”, and “Oscars So White” are just some of the examples that show the reality of what today is. People are still fighting Hollywood over certain movies like. Although progress has been made, it is most likely due to people’s growing intolerance and competition from places like YouTube. For over a decade now, YouTube has been the home of diverse content, with some of the top creators ranging from places like Sweden to South Africa.

Furthermore, as the platform has grown YouTube has not dealt with many issues of misrepresentation, mainly because of the fact that the content consumed was created by genuine people, not actors. It is also due to YouTube’s platform being based off a system where the consumer can also be the producer.

The system heavily encourages the spread of culture, and, although it is possible that some users may stay within the boundaries of their own culture when using the platform, it is also very likely that at some point they may encounter foreign cultures. This becomes more of a possibility when taking a look at YouTube’s algorithms and set-up. When watching a video, YouTube displays relevant content on the side, but often times it is mixed in with the recommended and trending videos.

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