Burgess and Green argue that: ordinary people who become celebrities through their own creative efforts ‘remain within the system of celebrity native to, and controlled by, the mass media’ (Reader, page 269)
Discuss, giving an example of a YouTube video (embed it into post).
‘Yes we live for the fame, doin’ it for the fame, ‘cause we want to live the life of the rich and famous.’
Lady Gaga The Fame (2008)
Burgess and Green’s conclusion frames YouTube as isolated from other media apparatuses, and this is extremely limiting in a discussion of new media. In recent years, Burgess and Green’s definition of ‘mass media’ has been rendered obsolete by the fact that the ‘masses’ are consuming new media technologies. YouTube, facebook, twitter, tumblr and Google, to name a few, are all aspects of our mass media. What Burgess and Green mean when the say the ‘mass media’ is traditional corporate media (2009: 23). When it comes to ‘ordinary celebrities’ Burgess and Green (2009: 23) claim that,
‘the marker of success for these new forms, paradoxically, is measured not only by their online popularity but by their subsequent ability to pass through the gate-keeping mechanisms of old media – the recording contract, the film festival, the television pilot, the advertising deal’ (2009: 24).
This statement fails to recognize that current, and future, celebrities have no choice but to engage with new media technologies if they want to maintain their success. Burgess and Green underestimate the worth of an online presence following the achievement of fame. For example, Lady Gaga has been named the most powerful entertainer in the world in 2011, pushing Oprah into second position for the first time in four years. Why? Forbes Magazine deemed Gaga to be more powerful than any other celebrity because of her online following (Herald Sun Online). Lady Gaga has not simply neglected new media because she has a recording contract.
I would argue that ordinary people who become celebrities through amateur creativity do indeed function in a traditionally corporate media world. However, they are not controlled by the mass media. When Burgess and Green state, ‘…there is no necessary transfer of media power…’, they neglect the power that lies with the consumer (2009: 23). Twitter followers, YouTube viewers, facebook ‘likers’ and iTunes downloaders hold considerable power in the new media landscape. To take the example of Lady Gaga again, her Gaga Vision transmissions on YouTube function as a way for Gaga to communicate with her fans. They meet all the criteria of an amateur, home movie-style five-minute clip. Furthermore, Gaga has uploaded the audio of her entire album on her YouTube channel. This is a celebrity straddling both the old and the new worlds of fame.
It is not my intention to discredit Burgess and Green’s entire thesis. However, a new paradigm is needed in this field of net communications. Rather than dividing the discourse into a discussion of new media, such as YouTube, versus mainstream media, such as analogue or digital television, there must be an acknowledgement that the new forms of technology have become mainstream. The idea of what constitutes mass media has changed. Burgess and Green (2009:37) are helpful when they centre the spotlight on a need for an ‘audience-centered perspective’, however their argument is undermined by a series of generalizations that divide the debate into a new media-old media dichotomy. The reality is that the two worlds are rapidly being fused by amateur YouTubers and celebrities such as Lady Gaga.
Herald Sun Online, viewed June 5, <http://www.heraldsun.com.au/entertainment/music/lady-gaga-tops-forbes-celebrity-100-list-beats-oprah-winfrey/story-e6frf9hf-1226058876592>
Jean Burgess and Joshua Green, ‘YouTube and The Mainstream Media’, in YouTube: Online and Participatory Culture, Cambridge: Polity Press, 2009, pp. 15-37.
YouTube, viewed June 5, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=umr-UHw6ReE>