Abstract

ABSTRACT:

YouTube has been valued as a space for marginalized peoples who have been historically excluded from mainstream media to authorize their self-representation, redress stereotypes, and galvanize political activism. However, critical studies have overlooked the platform’s most seminal institutional formation—the Partner Program, a user-based partnership model that has allowed amateur content creators to monetize their video content since 2007. This article argues that the Partner Program, largely regulated by mainstream advertising and entertainment firms, transformed the landscape of cultural production on YouTube by blurring amateurism and industry professionalism. The Partner Program turned content creators into professional amateurs—an independent ad hoc workforce interpellated into YouTube’s neoliberal corporate growth models. Professional amateurs identify an emergent kind of new media professional whose amateurism, cultural production, and professional opportunities remain regulated by traditional industry gatekeepers. To make this argument, I analyze YouTube’s evolving partnership guidelines alongside content creation from 2006 to 2018 to demonstrate how user-based partnerships directly impacted Asian American video performances, thereby shaping cultural constructions of Asian Americanness and affecting Asian Americans’ capacities to access professional possibilities in the broader media industry. As a critical heuristic for revealing the institutional formations that legislate cultural production in YouTube’s digital economy, professional amateurism scrutinizes the corporate logics that incentivize performativity, enabling new critical possibilities for conceiving race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, authenticity, performance, and labor in the twenty-first century.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1096-8598
Print ISSN
1097-2129
Pages
pp. 387-417
Launched on MUSE
2019-10-31
Open Access
No
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