Cinema and Media Studies YouTube
Jean Burgess
  • LAST REVIEWED: 13 May 2016
  • LAST MODIFIED: 28 October 2011
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199791286-0066


Originally launched in 2005 with a focus on user-generated content, YouTube has become the dominant platform for online video worldwide, and an important location for some of the most significant trends and controversies in the contemporary new-media environment. Throughout its very short history, it has also intersected with and been the focus of scholarly debates related to the politics, economics, and cultures of the new media—in particular, the “participatory turn” associated with “Web 2.0” business models’ partial reliance on amateur content and social networking. Given the slow pace of traditional scholarly publishing, the body of media and cultural studies literature substantively dedicated to describing and critically understanding YouTube’s texts, practices, and politics is still small, but it is growing steadily. At the same time, since its inception scholars from a wide range of disciplines and critical perspectives have found YouTube useful as a source of examples and case studies, some of which are included here; others have experimented directly with the scholarly and educational potential of the platform itself. For these reasons, although primarily based around the traditional publishing outlets for media, Internet, and cultural studies, this bibliography draws eclectically on a wide range of sources—including sources very closely associated with the web business literature and with the YouTube community itself.

Dedicated Books

There are very few book-length works solely dedicated to comprehensively exploring YouTube (or even online video more broadly) as an object of study, as opposed to using it as an example, or source of examples, in the discussion of other topics. The first monograph to be published on YouTube was Burgess and Green 2009, followed by Strangelove 2010; joining the wide-ranging international collection was Snickars and Vonderau 2009. The Video Vortex readers of Lovink and Nieder 2008 and Lovink and Miles 2011 provide a useful counterpoint to YouTube-centric scholarship.

  • Burgess, Jean, and Joshua Green. YouTube: Online Video and Participatory Culture. Digital Media and Society series. Cambridge, MA: Polity, 2009.

    Covers the history and evolution of YouTube as a platform for “amateur” cultural participation and commercial activity, explores its uses as a popular archive and a social network, and critically examines the future implications of its position in the new media economy. Also published in Italian as YouTube (Milan: Editora Egea Collana, 2009); and in Portuguese as YouTube ea revolução digital (São Paulo, Brazil: Editora Aleph, 2009).

  • Lovink, Geert, and Sabine Nieder, eds. Video Vortex Reader: Responses to YouTube. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2008.

    This highly international reader contains more than thirty short commissioned essays and other contributions derived from the annual Video Vortex conference, which brings together academics, artists, and activists interested in online video. The first of two such collections (see below), the volume includes a wide range of critical perspectives on online video focused on the rise of YouTube as a dominant platform. Full text accessible at website cited above.

  • Lovink, Geert, and Rachel Somers Miles, eds. Video Vortex Reader II: Moving Images beyond YouTube. INC Reader 6. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures, 2011.

    The second of the two readers, as before, contains a large number of essays from scholars, artists, and activists. While a small number of essays critique or analyze aspects of YouTube directly, others take YouTube’s now-established commercial dominance for granted and suggest critical or creative alternatives and oppositional possibilities for online video. Full text accessible at website cited above.

  • Snickars, Pelle, and Patrick Vonderau, eds. The YouTube Reader. Mediehistoriskt Arkiv 12. Stockholm: National Library of Sweden, 2009.

    An extensive edited collection bringing together work from established media-studies scholars and newer YouTube scholars on a range of YouTube-related topics; contains some particularly valuable articles on issues of archiving and political economy.

  • Strangelove, Michael. Watching YouTube: Extraordinary Videos by Ordinary People. Digital Futures series. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010.

    Based on screen and cultural studies, this monograph focuses on YouTube’s implications for the post-television, participatory media age and engages closely with some of the most emblematic forms and practices associated with YouTube’s vast archive of user-created content.

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