The Internet has been adopted as a video distribution technology by different
categories of amateur video producers who were using other distribution
methods prior to its advent. I conducted a one-year ethnographic study of
amateur producers from three such categories (public access television
producers, video activists, and film and television fans) to understand their
reasons for this adoption, how they used this technology, and the interactions
with their audiences that followed from its use, analysing my findings within a
new materialist framework. I found that the producers had a diverse set of
reasons for going online and that these largely depended on their specific
circumstances, and on how they saw the online environment in relation to their
overall objectives as video makers. These circumstances and objectives also
meant that some producers resisted going online at all, or used the technology
in a restricted way, and that traditional distribution methods continued to exist in some form alongside the Internet-based ones. The producers assembled
together different people and technologies to distribute their videos, which was often a complex and contested process, typically resulting in distribution
assemblages that were precarious and that required on-going maintenance.
These assemblages used a wide variety of technological components, selected
for a broad range of reasons, which also largely reflected the specific
circumstances and objectives of the producers. I also found that the producers
varied considerably in their attitude towards audience engagement, as well as in the methods they used to achieve it, and in the success of those methods.
Some were in fact indifferent to it, while others considered it a critical part of their activities. While some were successful in producing sustained interactions with their audiences, others failed to do so. These findings enrich and
problematize our current understanding of this emergent phenomenon.