Hey YouTube! Positioning the Viewer in Vlogs

Stephen Pihlaja*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Published conference outputChapter


With the increased availability of high-quality, low-cost video cameras and mobile phones, the vlog (video blog) has emerged as a dynamic genre in online video. This chapter aims to understand whether audience address by vloggers (video makers) provides evidence of a participatory role for viewers in vlog narratives. To accomplish this, I analyse direct address of the audience, including the multimodal elements of vlogger gaze and camera position, in two vlogs (7 minutes and 20 seconds, and 8 minutes and 33 seconds, respectively) by the popular YouTube film-maker Casey Neistat. Employing Bamberg’s (1997) notion of positioning to describe the interaction between the storyteller and story hearer, the analysis shows how the use of direct address engages viewers as both audience members and characters within the narrative of the vlog. Analysis shows that Neistat uses audience address to position the audience as participating in his life in an intimate way. However, rather than representing a meaningful shift to audience participation and agency, the audience address primarily functions as a stylistic device to structure narrative. The chapter argues that vlogging and distribution of content on YouTube may provide new affordances for presenting content, but they do not necessarily represent fundamental shifts in engagement between audiences and content creators, or a participatory role of the viewer in vlog narratives.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRethinking Language, Text and Context
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Research in Stylistics in Honour of Michael Toolan
EditorsRuth Page, Nina Nørgaard, Beatrix Busse
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781351183215
ISBN (Print)9780815395768
Publication statusPublished - 28 Aug 2018


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