Exposing Convergence: YouTube, Fan Labour, and Anxiety of Cultural Production in Lonelygirl15
39 Pages Posted: 23 Nov 2012 Last revised: 12 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 7, 2016
As one of the first social media franchises, Lonelygirl15 (LG15) played a surprisingly important role in transforming YouTube into a legitimate storytelling platform and a site of cultural production worthy of commercial attention. While LG15 has been hailed as one of the first community-based storytelling initiatives that harnessed the power of participatory culture, the anxiety of creating an economically sustainable story led to the careful management of fan efforts and the strict definition of the boundaries of the LG15 canon. In this article I argue that LG15 demonstrates one of the most worrisome aspects of YouTube's monetization strategies, the commodification of labour in which advertisers and media companies exploit users for profit. This exploitation does not necessarily come in the form of loss of monetary value, but through the alienation of fans from their productive labour. As such, the production of LG15 presents a powerful critique of convergence culture. It demonstrates that the movement of fans to the centre of cultural production does not necessarily mean empowerment, but may also suggest exploitation.
Keywords: convergence, YouTube, Lonelygirl15, social media, franchise, vlog, Internet, fan labor, storytelling, industry
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