Media and Communication Ph.D. Dissertations


YouTubing Difference: Performing Identity in Online Do-It-Yourself Communities

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


Media and Communication

First Advisor

Radhika Gajjala

Second Advisor

Lynda Dixon (Committee Member)

Third Advisor

Lara Lengel (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Mark Earley (Committee Member)


This study examines women’s performance of gender, ethnicity, and race in a “How-to & Style” YouTube community. Studying visual communities like YouTube helps us understand culturally constituted discourses as well as meaning-making practices of everyday life. Today, users actively participate and create content online, such as blogs and YouTube videos. Through textual and visual analysis, I examine a specific community of women who participate in the Beauty tips section under “How-to & Style” category on YouTube. I look at these women’s YouTube profiles, videos, and comments from their subscribers in order to reveal a deeper sense of what meaning users derive through creating videos on YouTube. I ask the following question: How do women in the YouTube Beauty community perform their identity (gender, ethnicity, and race) and ‘difference’ in their videos? In order to textually and visually analyze YouTube, I look at YouTube videos produced by a community of ordinary women. After analyzing the videos and the dialogues, three themes have emerged in this project: a sense of belonging and connectedness, identity performance at the interface, and globalized fashion cultures. Underrepresented women go to YouTube to relate to others who are like them, which gives them a sense of belonging and connects them to millions of others who are craving the same connection. Through video blogs, these women perform their gender, race, and ethnicity. Finally, through creating fashion and makeup tutorials according to their different facial features and differences, I see the formation of a globalized fashion culture.