Blogging is not inherently collaborative. Even with the use of platforms like Youtube, “sharing of content alone does not directly lead to collaboration” (Hyde et al., 2012, p. 53). Beyond the use of aggregate filtering in the form of page ‘views,’ Youtube does not presuppose audience participation. Many blogs and video channels represent the traditional mass media approach of a one-to-many transmission with little interaction with the viewers.
However, many video bloggers (vloggers) on Youtube have developed patterns for audience participation. By performing challenges, conducting ‘ask’ sessions, and even opening audience mail in front of the camera, vloggers respond to direct audience inputs . These learned activities are a great example of internet meme cultures, and the vloggers themselves often site the vlogging community or public at large as their inspiration.
The Cinnamon Challenge
The Cinnamon Challenge is an internet meme where participants record themselves eating a spoonful of cinnamon. What sounds like an innocuous dare usually causes fits of gagging, spitting, and choking due to the strong power of the spice. The results are often hilarious (if not masochistic).
Let’s check this phenomena against Davison’s (2012) components for internet memes.
Manifestation – The manifestation of the cinnamon challenge is the videos posted by participants. A search returns about 40,600 instances of these available on Youtube. The actual videos are not replicated, instead each vlogger creates their own.
Behavior – The behavior of this meme involves recording oneself attempting the challenge and then uploading onto the internet.
Ideal – The ideal is the challenge itself – the act of pouring the cinnamon into your mouth. The underlying concept here is that “people choking are hilarious.”
While a number of news outlets have warned of the dangers of these challenges, many vloggers seem to look at it as a form of initiation. Beyond internet meme, the Cinnamon Challenge may also serve as an example of social norms developed by the Youtube community. The popularity of the Cinnamon Challenge has encouraged some vloggers to also attempt other challenges suggested by their viewers.
Ask Sessions and Mail Time
In ‘ask’ sessions, vloggers respond to questions posed by their audience. The audience will post comments or directly message the vloggers in hopes of having their question answered in the next video. This type of call-and-response highlights the benefits of the social community of Youtube. This sort of collaboration leads to increased intimacy with the vlogger (from the audience perspective). ‘Ask’ sessions have also developed into an internet meme where vloggers try to answer a large number of questions in a limited amount of time.
Some vloggers will also open fan mail received from viewers on camera. This action has its own sort of culture where viewers will purposely mail in humorously strange objects or the vlogger’s favorite candy.
Collaboration and Vlogging
While this sort of audience participation is not a “strong” example of collaboration when matched to Hyde et al.’s (2012) criteria, there are a number of positive traits. The audience and vloggers alike strive toward the goal of engaging Youtube videos. Intention is assumed when audience members go out of their way to suggest a challenge, ask a question, or mail in items. The participation is accessible to any audience member that wants to take part. Vlogging falls short in areas of network topography, equality, and property as the creator ultimately retains most of the power in deciding what is released and what is excluded in the process.