This dissertation analyzes representations of the social media platform YouTube, as described by its community and the company, in order to understand how the platform fits within American narratives of democratic technology. I argue that throughout different descriptions of YouTube, such as the corporate branding of the platform as democratic and the communal understanding of YouTube as outside of mainstream media, the language of democracy functions as a balancing act. The YouTube company, content creators, and regular viewers use democratic rhetoric to negotiate the ideals of community on the platform and capitalist endeavors, such as advertising and brand deals. I argue that democratic narratives of YouTube rely on and reinforce the appearance of authenticity and collaboration to justify the desire of monetary gain as good for the company and community. The fluidity, vagueness, and even contradictoriness of the concepts of democracy and authenticity allow them to soothe any rhetorical tensions because they can maintain different meanings in different representations of YouTube. I contend that YouTube's façade of democracy reinforces values of American exceptionalism as the foundation of modern technology and perpetuates it to a global audience. Through my analysis of YouTube, I examine how American technology stories rely on the emphasis of community and democracy to soothe concerns about power imbalances and capitalism in general.
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Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
College of Arts and Humanities
Texts and Technology
Length of Campus-only Access
Doctoral Dissertation (Campus-only Access)
Tarvin, Emily, "From Screen to Shining Screen: Representations of YouTube as a Democratic Platform for a Community of Authentic Creators" (2021). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2020-. 771.