YouTube's modulatory apparatus : young children's participation in YouTube's political economy : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in Media Studies, Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

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Massey University
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YouTube is a favoured digital destination for young children between five and six years old. In contrast to accounts that celebrate YouTube as an empowering and democratising platform, this research project examines young children’s interactions with YouTube using political economic and biopolitical approaches which situate children’s participation in the platform as unpaid and exploited labour. The thesis employs thematic analysis drawing on 47 interviews with young children, their parents, and teachers, alongside observations of young children’s usage of YouTube. The key findings are organised around the themes of happiness, attention, popularity and control, which unpack and question notions of digital labour, biopower and the attention economy in relation to the functioning of YouTube and its impact on young children’s lives. Within this analysis I develop the concept of the YouTube’s Modulatory Apparatus (YTMA), a strategic formation composed of the interplay of YouTube’s technical components and the platform’s commercial rationales. My findings suggest children’s feelings, behaviour and subjectivities are influenced by a trustful, intimate and emotional rapport established between young children and the YTMA. The analysis of participants’ accounts of YouTube highlights narratives that can suggest YouTube’s commercial strategies or justify practices of and through its platform.
YouTube (Electronic resource), Mass media and children, Internet and children, Online social networks, Internet videos, Social aspects, political economy, biopolitics, attention, digital labour, control