The Creators for Change panel took place on Saturday at Summer in the City 2017. It featured Myles Dyer, Nadir Nahdi, and Taha Khan, and was chaired by Sirma Doga.
YouTube’s Creators for Change programme is an initiative focused on social change by providing resources to creators who are combating issues such as hate, xenophobia, and extremism.
The panellists were asked to introduce themselves and their projects. Myles‘s project is about critical thinking and ensuring that “people are better educated when dealing with bigger issues” so that they can engage with people who think differently from them. He noted that on the internet, people are willing to talk but not always willing to listen. Nadir explained how he comes from a mixed cultural background and he had struggled with identity and belonging as he grew up. With his work, he “meets people going through a similar cultural crisis and makes videos about those stories”. Taha creates comedy videos and discusses social issues. His project deals with homelessness and increasing empathy.
Sirma asked the panellists about their backstory, and when they started uploading videos. Myles said he had been creating videos for 11 years after seeing a YouTuber featured on BBC News. He was intrigued when he saw there were video responses and that there was a community. Myles believes in giving voice to the voiceless and being on a “quest for global empathy”. Nadir said he began three years ago – after a terrorist attack, he found his community was receiving a lot of backlash, so he created his first ever video and received 1.4m views overnight. He cited that video as his “lightbulb moment” – that was his opportunity to connect with others via video. Taha explaned that he used to do gaming videos, then started doing dance. In 2013, he was inspired by Ryan Higa and his focus on making people laugh.
When asked about their upload schedules, Taha replied that he uploads when he has free time and feels he has “something funny and creative to put out into the world”, and recognises that he’s “roasted by my audience daily for not uploading”. Nadir explained that he has no day-to-day routine as his life is “hectic and quite nomadic”, having lived in 11 different countries over the past few years. Myles used to work for The Guardian as a video marketing manager, before deciding he wanted to be an educator. He now works part-time for a company that funds documentaries on social issues and spends the rest of the week filming and editing, going to rallies, doing radio shows, and writing for morning papers. He explains he’s “sick to death of the narrative in traditional media” and is trying to change that.
The panel were asked what they would change about YouTube, and Myles replied that he misses video responses as that was why he joined. Nadir quoted Spider-Man – “with great power comes great responsibilities” – and said he feels that more people need to be more engaged with wider issues. He acknowledged that “it’s liberating to talk about nonsense, but down the line you have to be connected to some sort of ethos”. Quoting his parents, he said it’s important to “leave someone better than you found them”, earning a round of applause. Taha wanted more creator content curation, something to allow people to organise their subscriptions into categories, like fun or philosophy or social good, so that “when you feel like it, you can go to the things that matter to you, and you can also chill out”, because “if you’re not in the mood for it, you can’t have a constructive dialogue”.
When questions were opened to the audience, the panel were asked about YouTubers who most wouldn’t call a role model, and whether it was YouTube’s responsibility to regulate them. Nadir felt that it was not YouTube’s role to police content, and the others agreed. He said it was “important that you take it as a creative challenge. They’re getting the views, but how can we get that with better content?” However, he said he believed that hate speech is the line, and that YouTube has a responsibility then. Nadir felt that YouTube is “chasing the numbers and not the moral endgame”. Taha felt that it’s “up to audiences. You’re giving them the views – if you don’t want them to exist, don’t watch them.” Myles said he feels that there is going to be a big shift in how the idea of celebrity is approached: “Traditionally there’s a pyramid structure, but over the next decade that’ll be disintegrated – there’ll be a whole range of pyramids of different niches and interests.” Regarding policing content, he gave the metaphor that every opinion is a dot, and the internet joins those dots and forms clouds. When those clouds grow and collide, it will create storms and volatility. Taha agreed, and felt that YouTube has the responsibility to give creators the tools to regulate and manage their audience: “Don’t flip switches for me, give me the switches to flip.”
A member of the audience then asked, “What social issue isn’t talked about enough?” Taha felt that class isn’t discussed as much due to the difficulty of the topic, whilst “racism is easy to get your head around because it’s visual”. Myles stressed the importance of discussing digital surveillance as we’re “at risk of losing our civil liberties”. Nadir felt it was difficult when talking to the same echo chambers: “for example, having a creator talking about diversity to their audience who are predominantly ethnic minorities”. He stated that it was important for creators to engage with others, push themselves, and make themselves uncomfortable. Sirma agreed, adding that “just starting the conversation is important”.
The final question from the audience was, “How can traditional media be more engaged?” Myles felt there was systemic censorship in traditional media, “especially as most of the heads of the big media companies are old white men and that’s not reflective of society as a whole”. He hoped that grassroots movements like Creators for Change will force the hand of traditional media institutions. Nadir said he feels that for his work, he’s needed to “meet where the audience is, and that’s something the media needs to learn”. Taha felt that smaller creators have more creative licence, are able to challenge ideas with comedy, and can push boundaries. He said that “mainstream doesn’t have that liberty because they’re so big and there’s so much money in it. But, now they have competitors, they need to be taking those risks again.”
Photos by Anna Holling.
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