Its a love hate relationship. Our willingness to engage with mass media stories- otherwise known as corporate culture spinning- in a subtle, complicated and often critical manner that refuses to simply open wide and swallow whole. There is a healthy, built in desire, burrowed deep in the DNA that is attracted but repulsed to the point of engaging in some form of culture jamming. The love/hate tension; a palpable discomfort with the fawning, groupie style behavior kept in check by a need to be self-conscious, aware of the hypocrisy, and the willingness to deconstruct and identify the layers of tropes, and ultimately in our own small way, As in Voltaire’s novella, “Candide”, you can speak truth to power in any generation.
We are entering a transformative period where our interaction with mass media is increasingly complex with unusual juxtapositions that blends celebrity, social gaming, behavioural economics, motivational science, and – for companies, most promisingly – the alignment of player motivations with business objectives; all in an environment of virtual rewards designed to enhance the consumer’s experience. It is a faux-complicity, a faux-engagement, a one to many loud hailer but its well decorated and fulfills a need for change.
…”a case study of last November’s launch of Jay-Z’s autobiography Decoded, in perhaps the biggest use of game-based marketing ever mounted. In that promotion, developed by the New York-based agency Droga5, large-scale versions of every single page of the hip-hop star’s book were scattered around the United States. Fans were able to log on to a dedicated page on Microsoft’s search site Bing to win an autographed copy of the page by decoding clues online, or via a mobile phone, before anyone else.
The campaign followed a similar effort in London last April by Nike, which engaged runners in a city-wide game that awarded special badges to players who made their way fastest through one of 40 postcode areas. The use of a badge echoes Foursquare, a mobile phone application in the midst of explosive growth: It had fewer than 500,000 users last March and is expected to surpass six million this month. With the app, people “check in” to a location, broadcasting their whereabouts to an invited circle of friends and associates in the hopes of earning a reward or honour. Being the most frequent visitor to a location earns someone the title of mayor, which can win them, say, a free pint of beer from a bar they favour. Encouraging customers to check in helps marketers create stronger emotional ties to their brands, which builds loyalty….”
One has to wonder if this kind of “gamification” is a by-product of the phenomenon of celebrity- as in the Jay-Z promotion- as an extension whereby a post-modern world of freedom and loneliness produces these kinds of marketing developments where they become the primary communal experience, sadly, for many. Celebrities like Jay-Z or Lady Gaga are not appendages of our society anymore; they are the basis of our communal lives. For what its worth, pop culture has long since left the word culture behind to become the primary way we understand the world; it is almost the only culture. and we confront the mysteries and the terrors of life through it. Nonetheless, there is a valid deep rooted suspicion of powerful institutions, structures and the media itself; a critical base that is passionate, and divided which poses a challenge to creating a viable alternative community on-line, among other obstacles:
“All of this, for me, highlights a larger problem surrounding our creative new media culture which is that it is all taking place in private corporate spaces. There are effectively zero public spaces on the Internet. The online public square has been completely privatized from the beginning. This strikes me as especially problematic because the development of the Internet was primarily done with public funds. And then it was just unquestionably handed over to corporate interests.
At the end of the day, it all boils down to corporate power and the pursuit of profits being valued far more than the public good, media literacy or a free and open culture. I see no reason why we can’t begin to create a new and truly public commons with a little good old fashioned imagination and innovation. (As an aside, I haven’t heard anyone articulate an argument for turning YouTube over to the public commons for the public good but I would be interested to hear a call for that.)”
The latest YouTube sensation, Ted Williams, is an interesting case of reality t.v. /celebrity/ and the Henry Jenkins dictum, “If it doesn’t spread its dead.” Normally, the personality of a celebrity is inherently a contradiction. There cannot be genuine intimacy in a direct sense because he or she offers mass intimacy. The basis of our intimacy with celebrity is exactly their retreating when we try to see them. Their very resistance is why we can’t stop looking. “Who are these people really?” is the question that we can’t answer but can’t stop asking. The icon retreats behind the screen. Smoke and mirrors hide the fire and reflection. Film is celebrity, a something-nothing, a cloudy and vague gloss over reality. The experience is both plural and singular, the transmission of an image that spreads everywhere but seems directed at each individual viewer. The illusion of mass intimacy changes celebrities into works of art felt so deeply that they are no longer art— a Greta Garbo or a Ted Williams becomes more interesting than any movie or commercial in which they appears though Williams life cycle risks to be shorter than Garbo’s: Viral videos have given the briefest, most superficial fame to a boy doing light
er tricks, a man attempting to knock down the Oasis frontman, a baby laughing maniacally for a couple of minutes, or on a higher scale, Tay Zonday singing “Chocolate Rain” . Kraft Foods through Williams peddling Macaroni and Cheese as low-income belly filler is an attempt to appropriate that authenticity but is in fact actually almost humiliating:
Jonathan McIntosh ( Rebellious Pixels) :There is no question that powerful corporate and political interests are actively attempting to co-opt the DIY video and remix aesthetic. (I also see this co-optation extending to the re-use of actual viral videos for corporate advertising campaigns like the recent Honda Odyssey ad built around David After Dentist and Kitten Afraid of Remote Control Mouse.)
Powerful institutions understand that they have a serious crisis of legitimacy on their hands resulting from widespread public cynicism about advertising. So as genuine DIY videos become enormously popular online, marketers are desperately trying to capture and bottle that sense of authenticity for their own brands.
This type of co-option has been happening for decades. Marketers have long been coming in and stealing from various DIY subcultures. But, though advertisers may be able to copy the mechanics of DIY video to mimic the look and feel of low/no budget viral videos, it’s obvious to almost everyone (especially DIY video makers) that these poser videos are made for a very different purpose and with very different messages.
“We are living in a culture that increasingly speaks in an audio-visual language. Videos which remix, transform, quote and build-on pieces of our shared popular culture are not only valuable to the larger social discourse but are actually an essential part of full participation in society. I absolutely agree that remix is a basic right of communication – it’s the right to communicate using the language of the new media landscape(s). This right extends to all genres of DIY video that appropriate fragments of mass media pop culture including vids, AMVs, machinima, lip-syncs etc.
As you point out, political remix video in particular should be one of the most protected transformative genres because of the unambiguous political commentary and critique. However, despite what should be fairly obvious fair use and free-speech arguments, these works still tend to be very vulnerable to takedowns filed by irritated copyright holders.
The widespread use of automated content ID bots for removing videos from media sharing sites like YouTube has been catastrophic for remix video makers. This practice has brought about huge increases in the number of fair use works being zapped into the void by baseless copyright claims. When a creator’s remix or entire channel is deleted, not only are all their videos lost, so are all their comment, subscribers and playlists.
These video removals leave gaping holes in the Internet – and I mean that quite literally. Video embeds on blogs, forums and social networks are suddenly missing. Tweets and links to remixes are all abruptly dead or lead to YouTube’s notorious pink line of death. In the past month alone five fair use political remix videos I had planned on posting to my blog politicalremixvideo.com have been removed from YouTube for “infringement”. To make matters worse many DIY video creators I speak with are either not aware of their fair use rights or are afraid to rock the boat by challenging the takedowns. As a result, valuable online conversations and visual discussions are being shut down.( Jonathan McIntosh)