Audience Participation Memes and Vlogging

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.


2 thoughts on “Audience Participation Memes and Vlogging

  1. I enjoyed your thoughts on bogging and how it is not inherently rooted in collaboration. The book also puts bogging on the weaker side of the collaborative spectrum. It’s true that many aspects of blogging seem more self-serving than collaborative. However, what about blogs which are dedicated to collaboration, or created with an effort to increase collaboration in business or project development?

    It’s true that the first blog post of a user is the primary message being discussed and thought about, however people are allowed to comment, add to, argue and redefine what the original post discussed. Many followers can state their opinions and new meanings are created by each new comment. Isn’t this how Wikipedia functions and other sites which are deemed intensely collaborative? Where ideas can be freely exchanged, information is shared and others can add input to it? Some areas in the collaborative criteria are limited, but if a blog is public and any user can comment, then isn’t it an open forum of discussion and sharing? Now I’m not stating that blogging is heavily collaborative, but I think it should get a little more credit for it’s collaborative aspects. “Blogs can be a catalyst for sharing, shaping, and even creating business value, both inside and outside your organization.(Banford)”

    I can give an opposing viewpoint to your statement that blogging is weak in the areas of network topography, equality, and property, and address those areas in particular. Some blogging sites do have a bottle-neck mechanism, however some public blogs can be available to anyone and everyone and still have general themes that appeal to all users. Equality is another issue I already touched on. Yes, the blogger’s post gets the majority of the attention, but you may create another blog post in response and link it to the original post, or leave a comment which will most likely be seen as many times as the original post which can be either agreed with, argue or added to the post. The last issue is a question of property, and I will agree that a lot of the control is in the hands of the blogger but other users are not excluded from the discussion, and if the blog is public anyone and everyone may post a comment.

    “Some products characterized as collaborative are generated simply through peoples, common use of tools, presence, or performance. Others require active coordination and deliberate allocation of resources (Mandiberg 60)” I guess there are just so many definitions of collaboration that meaning becomes arbitrary.

    Banford, Breanna. “Blogging 2.0 – How Blogs Increase Collaboration.” (2012): n. page. Web. 7 Oct. 2012. .

    Mandiberg, Michael. The Social Media Reader. New York, London: New York University Press, 2012. 60. Print.

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