I have a fascination with YouTube, in particular, how young people are using it.

Following the Hyperlink festival at Tate Modern, I clicked on a YouTube video titled ‘Craziness’- A two minute ecstatic response from a girl, talking directly to the camera whilst filming in a kitchen after seeing Lady Leshurr perform in the tanks. ‘Craziness’ was different in comparison to other predominant videos on YouTube.  It seemed spontaneous, raw and unscripted with a desire to be part of something.  It led me to question that ‘something’ that had motivated this young person to upload a video.

Ultimately people are fascinated by people and YouTube is a testament to this notion.  To better understand the influence and potential of YouTube on contemporary culture, I visited Google HQ for a talk at the YouTube London space on the ‘10 fundamentals of building a successful YouTube Channel’.  In short, YouTube provides free editing suites and film studios to YouTubers with 5000+ subscribers. This allows YouTube to engage and incorporate themselves with a core group of content providers. YouTube recognise they are wholly dependent on their contributors, and by providing the tools to mentor and increase the production of content, they in turn support and grow a new generation of providers and audience.

The 10 fundamentals for success were listed as:

  1. Sharability
  2. Conversation (Speaking directly to your audience grows loyalty)
  3. Consistency
  4. Interactivity (Inviting the audience to have a say in the content)
  5. Sustainability
  6. Targeting (Defining who your content is for, knowing your audience.)
  7. Accessibility
  8. Collaboration
  9. Discoverability (Can people find your videos easily)
  10. Inspiration (Showing genuine passion for what you are saying)


At the time of visiting Google, I was reading ‘Just Kids’ by the poet Patti Smith.  A memoir, dedicated to the late photographer Robert Mapplethorpe which recounts their early experiences of growing up as young, unknown artists, making their voices heard in pre-internet 1970’s New York.   The book is inspiring, sensitive and visceral, in contrast to my experience of YouTube which left me feeling gross and deflated at the thought of culture so blatantly being defined and consumed through commerce.

I have chosen the Robert Mapplethorpe portrait ‘Nick Marden’ because I admire the strong sense of  identity it carries in contrast to the more generic front facing YouTube video construct.

Nick Marden 1980 Tate © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation

Nick Marden 1980
Tate © Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation


I am not entirely clear on my opinion on young people’s use of YouTube and how it is impacting a generation’s interaction with the physical world.  It is morphing so rapidly I can only make an observation at this moment and try to seek the potential and relevance it could offer by using its language (immediacy, accessibility and authorship) to engage younger audiences to inspire ownership, agency and authenticity.  

Whilst there could be an undeniable scepticism of YouTube’s intentions, so commercially oriented as they obviously are, it is a substantial conduit for young people to share and vocalise their experiences and opinions.  I recognise this platform could be a positive stepping stone in engaging young people with the gallery and in terms of Circuit’s aims and core values, the YouTube 10 fundamentals could well be moulded by young people to produce content that engages their peers through Circuit. There is much to learn from Hyperlinks impact on young people’s engagement with the gallery and there could be so much more ‘Craziness’ to come.

Considering young people are so prevalent on YouTube, I wanted to share this extract from Patti Smith’s advice to the young from the Louisiana DK YouTube Channel:

“There is no other time in history like right now.  It’s unique because it’s a time of the people, because technology has really democratised self expression, instead of a handful of people making their own records or writing their own songs, everybody can write them, everyone can post a poem on the internet and have people read it.  Everyone has access that they have never had before.  There are possibilities for global striking; there are possibilities for bringing down corporations and governments who think they rule the world, because we can unite as one through technology.  We are all still figuring it out and what power we actually have, but the people still do have the power, more than ever and I think right now, we are going through a painful adolescence – what do we do with this technology, what do we do with our world, who are we? But it also makes it exciting, all the young people right now are pioneers in a new time[1]

YouTube is entwined with the daily lives of thousands of young people and has normalised a whole new level of intimacy, blurring the boundaries between public and private.  Through the subtlety of seeing what a corner of someone’s bedroom looks like, we feel that we know these people and in turn they carry an influence.  This is what makes it totally fascinating; for me; as a platform.   I think that the influence is important to recognise and use to its advantage, whereby a young person can build a following through YouTube and influence another young person to go to an event at a gallery, go to a space where maybe they would never even think to go and experience something collective which might give them a feeling of wanting to come back and experience it again.   The YouTuber has to be genuine to gain trust and build a following, and through time become an ‘ambassador’ who says its ok, shares the experience, gives confidence to come in and inspire curiosity.