As an intern at Sound and Vision I was tasked with exploring approaches to collecting YouTube comments. This can be done using the YouTube API to generate a bulk download of comments for a video or a channel. Details of how to do this are covered in the internship report. But other questions raised by the project were more difficult to answer such as why archive YouTube comments, for what purpose, and for which users?
These questions are not helped by the fact that the comments section on YouTube is notorious for low-quality discussion, arguments, offensive remarks. Making a case for collecting all of this as valuable “media heritage” is difficult.
That being said here are some potentially useful reasons for collecting comments. Ideas came from other research projects and interviews with various stakeholders within the institute.
Users of YouTube and comments
Comments can potentially be useful, but for who? Sound and Vision serves a range of users from media professionals, researchers, educational users and a general audience. Most of the uses that we can see today are for researchers, that could approach a collection of comments with various questions in mind.
Perhaps there are new potential users of a media archive emerging in relation to platforms like YouTube. For example, Sound and vision serves ‘media professionals’ as a primary user group, meaning those working in broadcast production, but YouTubers are media professionals too.
YouTubers are the primary users of comments after all with many even finding inventive ways to re-use negative comments on their videos, such as the format used by many vloggers in which they read and respond to their mean comments. Taking this one step further are comment reconstructions, such as this video in which comments about One Direction are made into high drama.
For more information about the use cases mentioned and technical aspects of archiving comments see the full report.