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The Drama of Metrics: Status and Hierarchies Among Youtube Drama Creators
Dr. Angèle Christin(Department of Communication)
Abstract: How does it feel to have one’s individual worth and status depend almost exclusively on metrics? We examine this question through a study of a specific subset of YouTube creators: the “drama” community. Drama channels (also called “tea” or commentary channels) cover conflicts and scandals taking place among YouTube influencers; drama is a popular type of content and a lucrative activity for creators affiliated with the YouTube Partner Program. Based on interviews with drama creators, we analyze the role of traffic metrics in structuring status claims and meaning-making activities in the YouTube community. We report three main findings. First, in the absence of other institutionalized status signals, drama creators overwhelmingly rely on metrics to decipher and perform status claims. Second, the centrality of metrics allows them to adopt flexible interpretative frameworks with respect to how “real” or “fake” the drama they cover can be. Third, even in this context in which metrics are central, we identify several patterns of resistance and distancing strategies with respect to traffic concerns. We conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for the study of metrics, within and beyond social media platforms.