A quantitative exploration of a platformed media system
Keywords:youtube, platformed media system, crawling, digital methods
Over the past 15 years, YouTube has emerged as a large and dominant social media service, giving rise to a ‘platformed media system’ within its technical and regulatory infrastructures. This paper relies on a large-scale sample of channels (n=36M+) to explore this media system along three main lines. First, we investigate stratification and hierarchization in broadly quantitative terms, connecting to well-known tropes on structural hierarchies emerging in networked systems, where a small number of elite actors often dominate visibility. Second, we inquire into YouTube’s channel categories, their relationships, and their proportions as a means to better understand the topics on offer and their relative importance. Third, we analyze channels according to country affiliation to gain insights into the dynamics and fault lines that align with country and language. Throughout the paper, we emphasize the inductive character of this research, by highlighting the many follow-up questions that emerge from our findings.
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