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Practice theory and YouTube

August 24, 2008

Watching YouTube and Broadcasting Yourself: Reappraising Media Consumption from a Practice Theory Perspective

By: Jie Gu

Online video consumption, mainly attributable to the online video sharing sites such as YouTube and Yahoo Video, has grown tremendously in the past few years. From a media consumption studies perspective, people’s engagement with YouTube involves a wide range of practices ranging from watching YouTube as an audience to broadcasting yourself as a consumer. Although, the boundary between these two aspects can not be demarcated clearly, it does offer some new theoretical and empirical insights into reappraising media consumption from a new standpoint. Drawing on the recent theoretical shift in sociology occurring with a theory of practice, this paper will explore the possibility of understanding personal YouTube consumption as a matrix of practices in a particular cultural field (Couldry 2004; Warde 2005). By viewing YouTube both as a media text and cultural artefact, I attempt to divide the overall YouTube consumption into two levels—consuming practices and producing practices. Then, based on the analysis of the interplay between individual YouTube participant’s consuming and producing practice, the paper reviews the key advantages of this approach in moving beyond old debates in the divergence of ‘media as text’ and ‘media as object’ as well as in showing a new insight into understanding media consumption not out of individual preferences or demographic factors but out of the dynamics and organization of practices.


Couldry, Nick. 2004. Theorising media as practice. Social Semiotics 14 (2):115-132.
Patriquin, Alex. 2008. “Online Video: 2007 Year in Review”., accessed July 2008.
Warde, Alan. 2005. Consumption and theories of practice. Journal of Consumer Culture, Spring.

See also my blog post: What is practice theory?

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