Having carried out this micro-ethnography on the Schama documentary, I like to suggest that the YouTube environment is a rhizomatic environment, with online expansion located in multiple sites. There is no recognisable structure, a forest that has grown, to some extent uncontrollably, only limited by the YouTube community guidelines.
Each new video upload can be seen as a new fringe, expanding the clusters of entries. For the 7 parts of this documentary there is no real entrance nor natural exit to the discussions. The timeline of the discussion is the only linear structure, although technical errors (duplication of postings) seem to occur. Exploring these individual posts gives information on users, mostly pseudonyms, and on occasion the appearance of (what I am assuming) real names. Each profile listing (real or other) invites the viewer to further investigate additional online viewing habits, creating new ‘line of flights’ (Deleuze), touching other expansions which also have YouTube uploads.
This on-going dialectic of territorialising vs. de-territorialising is a distinct feature of YouTube with its interface encouraging such activity. Discussions are disjunctive, a-synchronous (months, indeed years in-between) creating a time lapse.
Rather than offer a narrow field of discussion characteristic of a select forum, the YouTube ‘frontier’ invites viewers to post comments other than the topic of the uploaded material, in this case the life and work of Mark Rothko. In the 7 sections, comments reflect the production of the video, the music, reactions to the voice-over, the cinematography, the socio-economic context, incidental facts such as the weather, grammar or spelling issues, spam and offensive comments that have been removed, etc.
The contents becomes disembedded from the visual, with more visual dislocation offered within the YouTube interface through the display of videos on the right. The viewer’s online YouTube profile is mixed with enticing further uploads, offering multiplicity. In this context it is difficult to assess whether YouTube integrates or dis-integrates.
It would be exciting to do further research on this topic in the future.
I did not feel tempted to post my own comments. Although I did not experience at any time a sense of a community, strangely I felt best to refrain from posting, in order not to contaminate the environment.