If Youtube Existed 200 Years Ago
October 12, 2017
If YouTube Existed 200 Years Ago
The internet has become a worldwide necessity to almost everyone currently living on earth. Nowadays, it’s rare to find someone that doesn’t have access to the internet at almost all times inside the United States. I believe Karl Marx would view the internet as beneficial in some ways, but in other ways he would see it as harmful to the proletariat. In a general overview, the internet gives the worker some technological advances, such as if they produce videos that go on YouTube for free. But, it alienates the worker when they plan on putting the videos on YouTube for money and increases the division of labour. We are reliant on the internet, but I’m not sure if Marx would want to keep YouTube around it is still alienating the working class that chooses to use it.
YouTube, which is one of the most visited websites on the internet, has both positive and negative effects for the worker that chooses to use it to make a profit. For the worker that doesn’t chose to use YouTube for profit, but just as a place to post videos for their enjoyment and fun, YouTube is completely harmless and completely de-alienating. Those that post videos on YouTube, not for profit, there are no adds placed on their videos and they are free to remove them at any time. In this sense, YouTube has not taken any control over their video and separated them from it. They are free to post what they want, and they are free to do with it what they want. They are the private owner of that video and control the means to the labor that produced it.
YouTube would completely change views in Marx’s eyes as soon as a person said they were producing videos to put on YouTube as a means to an end for themselves. A worker produces the video that goes on YouTube, and in order to make a profit, they give the right to YouTube to place an advertisement in their video. So even though the worker made a product to be placed on YouTube, the real product would really be seen as the advertisement because that is what generates the money for YouTube which then gets shared with the worker. “The pre-roll ads you skip after five seconds and the banners you reflexively close are what keep the lights on. Advertisers pay for your attention; as the saying goes, “when the product is free, you are the product.” This money is split between YouTube and the creators – I get 55% of the ad revenue my videos generate” (Lennard, 2016). This is what makes the worker that produced the video their money, as well as the bourgeoisie, which in this case is YouTube.
Where Marx, would see this as a bad thing is when the worker has to split their profits with YouTube which in the end, YouTube makes much more money the worker. “The workers exchange their commodity, labour, for the commodity of the capitalist, for money, and this exchange takes place in a definite ratio. So much money for so much labour” (Marx, 1887; 182). In this case, the worker exchanges his video with YouTube, for them to place an advertisement of their choice, on it, which then the worker receives 55% of the profit for the advertisement revenue, that was placed the video they gave to YouTube generated.