Defining what a job is is a very difficult task. Merriam-Webster defines work as “to perform or carry through a task requiring sustained effort or continuous repeated operations” (Merriam-Webster, 2021). Society though has had a very different definition through the different eras and generations. The industrial era in the United States was focused on manual labor, working in factories and bosses. The dynamic was the people who owned the factories, the managers and supervisors who oversaw the production of goods, then the workers, who physically put together the materials required for a product.
It was a centralized network, where the workers produced the content, the people who owned the factories gathered the feedback and iterated the product to meet the consumer’s needs, as well what was cost effective to increase profits. It was also a time when it was considered that jobs were permanent, and that the workplace was separate from their own home life. Pay wasn’t solid, and the work was often monotonous, dangerous and also included people as young as 4 working.
With the emergence of the computer, the internet and the world wide web, there was a significant change in what defined a job. No longer was the networks centralized, instead people could create their own content, change their content and show plenty of control over their content. YouTube professionals, or Youtubers, fit this mold. They control their content, ask for comments from viewers as to how to improve their content, and make whatever changes are necessary to increase the number of views and generate more income. This level of control over the product is directly opposed to the traditional stance of control over a product, it’s marketing, and the target audience they are trying to reach.
It also apposes the definition of what constitutes as work. For example, the Youtuber VanossGaming is a very popular channel. His videos mainly consist of playing a video game with friends, like GTA V and Among Us, and messing around with each other and playing missions, all the while making jokes and acting like a normal friend group would. He has 25 million subscribers, and is now a professional songwriter too. His career started however from simply editing and creating YouTube videos with his friends as they played popular games. The content he was creating isn’t that much different from anyone playing any video game with their friends and having a good time, a leisure activity considered by many, not a job opportunity and if anything a distraction from an individual for getting a real job.
The emergence of YouTube however, and the large audience that uses the platform each day allows for people to use a leisure activity and to create a job of creating content around it. Creating and editing videos with friends about popular games at the time, developing a certain style and brand of humour, and consistently uploading videos has shown to be a successful way to gain popularity and views on the content. Playing video games may be seen as just a recreational activity for the younger generation, but Youtuber as a platform allows for people who play video games to create a career from their favourite pastime.
The interconnected network of the internet allows for Youtubers to branch out with their income revenue as well. Their own reputation and popularity amongst their target audience can lead to merchandising opportunities. Clothing that features the logo of the Youtuber, bags, hats, and other merchandising options are available to people. Not only that, but they can also branch out onto other platforms such as live-streaming on Twitch where they play games with their own subscribers or special events to fundraise for a charity.
The platform of YouTube also dissolves the barrier between the workplace and the homeplace. Vlogger YouTubers are an example of this, as they broadcast their own lives onto YouTube and for their audience to watch. Their workplace can be any location, but more often than not, it takes place in a home, out in their local area and going about their normal day. There are also vloggers that follows the life of their family, including their fiancee’s, husbands and wives and even their own kids. The dynamic of their public personality compared to their own private personality, as well their relationships, is blurred as the need for creating an income to support their family while also giving themselves private time away from their careers.
YouTube also allows for advertising from major companies. Using the example of video game Youtubers, they may give them early access to a game and can play it, creating a YouTube video about their experience. This shows how interconnected the networks of the video game industry and the social media industry, as video game industries recognize the large audience and the demographics that watch a specific YouTube channel. They then propose the YouTuber plays the game and provides monetary gain for the YouTuber, while the gaming company reach their target audience and collect extra sales from the game they are advertising.
The new economy has led to a debate about what defines a job or not. Analyzing the let’s play gaming style of YouTuber has shown that a leisure activity such as playing video games can be played and edited in such a way and advertised on a platform such as YouTube’s to create a source of revenue and a career path as a YouTuber. It can also led to other ways of gaining monetary funds, such as merchandise to sell to fans, as well video game companies sponsoring videos to let YouTubers play games to their target audience. YouTube has led to a dissolvement of the public life and the workplace and the homeplace, as YouTube vloggers blur the lines between their personal life and their homelife.
References: Merriam-Webster, viewed 4th of September, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/work.