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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

iTube, WeTube, we all scream for YouTube

Digital Ethnography @ Kansas State University has yet to update their blog, so I went back in time, to my birth month and found another YouTube related blog post from one of Prof. Wesch’s students, Becky.

Becky posted a blog titled “The Internet has a Face”. The blog post discussed her interest in vlogging as “meaningful interaction (with others) beyond the limits of text”. She produced a video compiled of some vlog videos that were posted to YouTube. She says her video was “created to explore the content and purpose of vlogs, as well as the networking and interconnectivity as users respond and reach out to each other within and beyond the YouTube website.”

Once upon a time people wrote in a diary, kept a journal, wrote a letter or phoned a friend. Today people are text messaging, video calling, blogging, tweeting , poking, writing on walls, nudging and emoticoning.

 Oh, and vlogging.

People are vlogging about very personal and private things and posting it to the Internet for the world to see. This at first might seem odd, but it’s working for them.

In class we regularly discuss the pros and cons of social media vs. face to face communication; a very worthy discussion. Becky takes our conversation a bit further; beyond the boardroom and rows of cubicles we will all eventually come to despise and focuses on the “YouTubers” themselves. She argues that the Internet is “no longer just text to text, the Internet has a face. The Internet has a heart. The internet has humanity. …with YouTube.”

The video is actually quite moving. I think that YouTube allows people to connect more than any other social media tool. It allows people to be real and express whatever it is they want, whether it’s humility, honesty, humor, compassion or love. And people are connecting. People are just being themselves, telling a story and other people are coming to support them and share with them. It’s actually quite powerful.

Becky says “if there was a fear that the internet was making society antisocial, vlogging would seek to prove otherwise.”

And I think she’s right.

June 9, 2009 Posted by | Review of Monitored Site | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments