Backup mandate Research Council: Broadcasting the Culture War - Audience Engagement in YouTube’s Alternative Community

Project Details


Since 2018, YouTube has become known as a powerful radicalizer.
Scholars alerted that algorithmic recommendations amplify extreme
political content disseminated within a network of alternative influencers. Recently, this radicalization framework was critiqued for being too technology-centric, and a more thorough empirical account of audience engagement was called for. The proposed PhD-project intends to present such an account, covering audience engagement with six popular alternative influencers in three crucial historical periods on YouTube: Alex Jones and The Young Turks (2008-2014), Steven Crowder and Sargon of Akkad (2014-2017), ContraPoints and PhilosophyTube (2017-2020). Their audiences left a vast sum of digital traces via small acts of engagement, e.g., (dis)likes and comments. These traces are planned to be studied employing a netnographic approach, integrating quantitative large-scale computational linguistics and qualitative thick descriptions. The expected result is a theorization on how radical political narratives tie into the everyday practices of YouTube audiences that can serve societal stakeholders in the field of media literacy to build on civic values and radicalization prevention. Moreover, the project methodologically contributes a new YouTube analytic module within the 4CAT Capture and Analysis Toolkit to help future researchers study YouTube empirically in a novel way.
Effective start/end date1/11/2131/10/22


  • Alternative Youtube Audience Radicalization
  • Netnographic approach
  • small acts of engagement

Flemish discipline codes in use since 2023

  • Media audience research
  • Media discourse reception
  • Philosophy of humanities
  • Media and communication theory
  • Media research methodology


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