An alloy is a mixture of chemical elements, which forms an impure substance that has the characteristics of a metal. Alloys are made by mixing two or more elements; at least one of which being a metal. This is usually called the primary metal or the base metal, and the name of this metal may also be the name of the alloy. The other constituents may or may not be metals but, when mixed with the molten base, they will be soluble, dissolving into the mixture.
A metaphor that came to mind whilst doing the YouTube micro-ethnography is that of an alloy.
One could consider YouTube a mixture of elements that form an impure substance, mixing at least two or more elements. The YouTube video upload could be considered the primary or base, other elements are: the comments, the video responses, the likes and dislikes, the YouTube data (analytics etc) which are all dissolving into the mixture, the mash.
Here the notion of impure does not have a negative connotation (seen in a Western religious tradition) but in the context of ‘not having a homogeneous or uniform composition.’
This metaphor would also align with the quote:
Some online communities may be too task-orientated (and therefore not 'social' enough) or might not stimulate sufficient interaction to develop 'group-specific'meanings, or they might be too divided and divisive to coalesce' (Baym 1998)
For some YouTube postings, the mixing does encourage a bonding (albeit temporal) but overall, at least for this series, there is no community (Gemeinschaft) whilst the notion of a ‘Gesellschaft’ (Ferdinand Tonner) would be very loosely based around ‘an interest in art’. Correll’s suggests that the underlying element of how central an activity [in this case, viewing Schama’s documentary uploaded as a YouTube object] relates to a person’s sense of identity. ‘ (..) the more they believe the pursuit and development of the skill or activity is central to their self-image and core self-concept then the more likely this person [in this case the poster/commentator] is to pursue and value membership in a community, be it online or otherwise.’ (pp 21) (1)
Since the BBC did not post this video, but it was posted by an individual (Naughtycopycats, based in Sweden who has uploaded a total of 22 videos] I would like to assume it was a leisurely ‘consumption’ (Correll) and, similarly, viewers (and commentators) may access the YouTube material casually: it is clear that there is a discrepancy between the amount of viewings and the amount of postings, indicating that most abstain from commenting. The Schama documentary has been uploaded multiple times (in full put also edited parts of it) and in this context the alloying can be considered as a ‘molten base’, the mixing of elements dissolving into a new chemical substance.
It would be interesting to research different YouTube uploads, for which the focus was less TV-based (documentary) but more art-based and investigate the ‘alloy-effect’. Examples could be art videos such as the ones listed below.
(1) Kozinets, Robert V., (2010) "Understanding Culture Online" from Kozinets, Robert V., Netnography : doing ethnographic research online pp.21-40, London: Sage