“Don’t forget to like, subscribe and turn on the bell notifications!” An Ethnography of YouTube Creators’ Labour
Zoë's doctoral research is concerned with understanding the lived experiences of aspiring and professional YouTube content creators within the flourishing online video industry, a topic that has been an enduring interest of hers both academically and personally since 2007. The project aims to paint a picture of the lives of content creators as they navigate this unpredictable and precarious career, thinking particularly about how they are shaped by and navigate technologies (platforms, algorithms), audience interactions and broader industry actors and structures (talent agents, MCNs, influencer marketing, YouTube, etc.). Ultimately, the project is interested in exploring what is new or different about creative labour that is native to the multi-platform environment of the Internet. With a generation of young people growing up with dreams of becoming a successful YouTuber, this cultural and economic phenomenon deserves greater critical scrutiny.
In order to gain a rich and complex understanding of the varied experiences of YouTube content creators, this project takes the form of a 2-year multi-sited online and offline ethnography (2018-2019). In terms of offline research this includes interacting with YouTube creators and industry professionals at events such as VidCon USA and UK, London Small YouTubers Organisation meetings and informal YouTube gatherings, as well as in-depth interviews with 30 content creators. The online fieldwork involves participant observation of YouTube content creators and audiences across various social media platforms (YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook, Tumblr, blogs). She is also carrying out innovative autoethnographic research in the form of becoming a YouTuber herself, in order to access the embodied and affective dimensions of being an online content creator. You can watch these here: www.youtube.com/zedstergal. By the end of this PhD project she aims to have a deeply embedded ethnographic understanding of the lived experiences of aspiring and professional content creators within this burgeoning industry, as well as novel insights about multi-sited and digital ethnographic methods. Her research is fully funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.
If you'd like to learn more about Zoë's research outputs, teaching and press coverage, you can visit her website: www.zoeglatt.com
Supervisors: Professor Sonia Livingstone and Dr Shakuntala Banaji
In addition to her PhD research, since September 2018 Zoë has been the Managing Editor of the ICA journal Communication, Culture and Critique, supporting co-editors Professor Sarah Banet-Weiser and Professor Laurie Ouellette. Additionally, from October 2019-2021 she will sit on the Executive Committee of the Association of Internet Researchers as their Graduate Student Representative. Zoë is regularly interviewed as a YouTube and social media expert and has been featured in Wired, The Guardian, The Washington Post, Vice, The Sun, Esquire and ITV News. You can go here for a comprehensive list of press coverage.
In 2017 Zoë completed an MA Digital Media (Distinction) at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she studied critical theory and ethnographic approaches to digital media. Her dissertation was entitled 'The Commodification of YouTube Vloggers', in which she addressed the increasing commercialisation of the platform and the effects that this has on content creators and audiences. She was awarded a full scholarship from the The Worshipful Company Of Stationers & Newspaper Makers, where she is now a Freeman. Prior to this, in 2013 Zoë graduated with a BA Social Anthropology (First Class Honours) from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. Her dissertation, entitled 'French the Llama, I’m a Nerdfighter! Identity Formation and Collaboration in a YouTube Community' involved ethnographic research with London-based self-appointed 'Nerdfighters'. Between her BA and MA she worked for various television production companies.