Sunday, 10 August 2014

Stars of YouTube and the limits of the digital world

Yesterday, Channel 4 news covered a convention at Alexandra Palace for fans of YouTube bloggers and musicians. Cue predictable comments about how incomprehensible this must be to anyone above their teenage years or not of the YouTube generation, with supporting clips of accompanying parents deeply grateful for the Adult Crèche where they could wait while their children queued to get a selfie with their internet idols.

But what occurred to me was how completely the success of this event contradicts the utopianism of the techno-evangelists, who have been prophesying for some years now the total domination of the digital world. Yes, its digital technology which has given these YouTube celebrities their global following. But what do their digital fans want and are willing to queue for hours to get? To be in the same physical location as them, to see them with their own eyes, to be able to speak to them in person. They're wanting something which the digital world cannot provide.

It's like David Edgerton says, in The Shock of the Old (and in his Guardian interview): new technologies hardly ever displace old.

YouTube's biggest stars in person - Channel 4 news items

"They're global celebrities: but not as you know them. Young people turned massive social media stars - who've been mobbed by thousands of fans at Britain's biggest YouTube convention."

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