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“That was so last week.”

Yet another interesting week on Spark. Nora Young posted her interview with Bill Wasik, senior editor at Harper’s magazine and author of And Then There’s This: How Stories Live and Die in Viral Culture. Wasik is also the creator of the ‘flash mob’ and he has a lot say about the media culture we’re living in. In case you’re not hip with the lingo, according to Wikipedia, a flash mob is a large group of people who assemble suddenly in a public place, perform an unusual action for a brief time, and then quickly disperse. A good example is the T-Mobile video we watched last week in class.

Wasik has been studying what he calls “nano stories” and the internet phenomenon of the micro-celebrity. Everything on the internet is delivered faster and information is boiled down to these little provocative stories. Susan Boyle, who skyrocketed to fame after an amazing performance on Britain’s Got Talent is a prime example of a micro-celebrity. As Wasik says, “move over big celebrities because here come the amateurs”. In order to make your big break, all you need is a comfy chair, a computer and a high speed internet connection. Our society is becoming so accustomed to the rapid speed of the internet that our thirst for novelty is growing insatiable. Susan Boyle sang one song and became an instant celebrity, primarily through the viral market of YouTube. A week and a half later, the excitement was dimming and viewers might have looked back and wondered where it came from and where it’s going to go.

For Susan Boyle, she rode high on the wings of fame for about a month and then came in second place on Britain’s Got Talent. The Star reports that after some makeover backlash, a few meltdowns and being admitted to the hospital for exhaustion, Boyle has begun to sing again. And how many people are watching now? Probably only a fraction of the 200 million who viewed her first performance on YouTube. “Swept up, forgotten, and we’re on to the next thing.” We built her up, and we can easily knock her down.

Now this can’t all be a bad thing. I doubt that Susan Boyle intended to become and remain the greatest celebrity in the world. Maybe these 15 minutes of fame have brought her a great deal of happiness. What I find really interesting is our speed-dating approach to information and entertainment.

Wasik makes a few more interesting points:
-Discourse has migrated to the internet. This is shown in the phenomenon of the micro-celebrity. Something or someone is the talk of the world wide town for awhile; but, soon it’s onto the new idea or new band.
-Internet forces people to market themselves in the same way corporations do. “We use the tricks we’ve been taught, but on the other hand, we know the tricks well enough that we’re not entirely fooled by them. We’re way more aware of them than we used to be.”

After listening to this interview, I was asking the same question as Wasik: is it a good thing for our culture that we’re so aware and that these cycles are turning over and over?

I’m still sitting on the fence. The fast pace of the internet world can be exciting and refreshing, yet also frustrating and overwhelming. It’s changing the way we create and process information, and I think our culture is taking the fast lane when it may be wise to enjoy the scenery for a little while. Okay, so maybe I’m not completely on the fence. In the words of Simon and Garfunkel, “Slow down, you move too fast!”

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June 21, 2009 - Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Interesting ideas about our culture speeding up with our internet connections and taking the A.D.D. approach to culture. I found even there were times in our social media class that the rate the social media experts moved at in regards to knowing the next cool thing was crazy. Are they really humans?

    However, the speed of curiousity regarding celebrities and gossip seems to move quite fast in real life as well. Perhaps not as fast as with social media tools, but the fast to lose interest aspect of gossip is definately not a new topic.

    Think back to high school… the gossip changed from week to week if not day to day. People won’t talk about the same thing over and over as it will get boring. People want variety and now social media lets them have their gossip, just a little faster.

    Comment by jenniferspicer01 | June 21, 2009 | Reply


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