As someone who has made his living in non-fiction video, I'm fascinated with the idea of YouTube as a huge, subject-controlled reality program. From the most intellectual vlogs, to the most disconnected teen (or adult, for that matter) stream-of-consciousness montages, I watch lives of all kinds unfold uncensored by an outside visitor.
In some ways, these self-produced videos are a truer portrait of individual lives than any documentarian could capture. Some individuals find the intimacy liberating, and share with the world what they wouldn't dream of sharing with immediate friends and family. The intensity and fun of teen life can't be captured any more honestly than by teens themselves, without adults around to influence behavior.
Of course, not everyone is honest with the camera, or at ease with sharing their lives and thoughts. Many posture and present their interpretation of the person they wish the world to see. Even that deception is fascinating. I find it interesting to look at the sum total of a YouTuber's work to decipher just who they really are. In the documentary world, there's a constant debate about the degree to which the camera influences what the audience sees on the screen. Even when the subject is in control of the camera, and the footage that is actually posted, they are influenced by the nature of the social media world. YouTubers like Renetto provide an ongoing narrative of their lives; but their lives are impacted by the very activity of creating that narrative. [Interesting side note: Renetto now shoots and edits his vlogs entirely using his new iPhone 4]
I would hope that the billions of hours of video being uploaded to YouTube are somehow preserved for future generations - for within all of this content is, perhaps, the most complete portrait in history of a people and a time. But who are those people?
In total, what do all of us on YouTube represent in the story of our time?