Countries on YouTube: Participation, Influence, and Information Flows


Jin-woo Kim, Yong-tae Hwang and Boram Park


To what extent do internationally accessible social networking sites, such as YouTube, facilitate conversations across the borderlines of nations, cultures, and languages? Some hold that new information technology will contribute to "global public sphere," where people around the globe exchange diverse perspectives and information, thereby making it possible for the global civil society to collectively work on concerns of various parts of the world (Castells, 2007). Yet a number of theoretical concerns can be raised questioning the optimistic view. First, to the extent the digital divide (Norris, 2001) prevails in terms of participation, global exchanges of information on social networking sites are unlikely. Also, barriers of language (Nye, 2004) and cultural differences (Kim, 2005) hinder those from non-Western/non-English speaking parts of the world meaningfully interact with others. Particularly, people may proactively filter out the information or contents that come from other countries or cultures, because they do not find such materials relevant and interesting.

In order to empirically examine the hopes and doubts about new social networking sites, we focus on YouTube. Specifically, drawing on a large, systematically gathered sample of YouTube videos (N=17,538) and comments attached to some of the videos in the sample (N=598,678), we examine (1) the extent to which YouTube induces participations from the different parts of the world, (2) whether and how the "success" or "influence" of videos differ by their origins, and (3) the extent to which flows of information transcend the national or cultural boundaries on YouTube, and the role played by video genres. To do so, we carried out a crawl of YouTube videos, gathering relevant information including nationality of uploaders, video genres, number of views, comments, and so on.

Our finding first suggests that there are substantial gaps in the extent of participation among different regions and differences in the types of videos frequently posted from each region. We also find that generally videos from non-Western regions tent to gain greater viewership whereas Western videos exert greater influence on inducing comments. Finally, it is found that videos from the non-Western world have greater tendency to prompt participants in other regions to respond, compared to videos from the Western regions, especially North America, where most of conversations occur within the regional boundary. Findings are discussed with regard to the potential that new communication platforms such as YouTube hold for global public sphere and cosmopolitan citizenry.


  • YouTube
  • new media technology
  • international communication
  • intercultural, global, information flows

Add comment

Last modified 9 years ago Last modified on Jul 28, 2011, 12:11:46 AM