October 30th, 2012
The stranger than fiction rise and fall of the Kony 2012 Viral Campaign was one of the most fascinating in media history.
The 30 minute video that first began its circulation in the early stages of March this year, now rests at a whopping 93 million views.
On the other hand, the 30 second video of its creator Jason Russell looking for the mind he lost- naked in the streets of LA, scrapes a comparatively minor 1.8 million.
Despite a few shades of grey, opinions towards the video and the campaign became quickly polarised. A huge number of people remained all aboard the Kony express, and rode that train into the sunset of April 20th, when the supporters were encouraged to go out after dark and clad their respective cities in Kony promotional material. Others, arguably the majority, became cynical. They questioned Invisible Children’s financial workings, and indeed, it’s leadership. Urging people to take a closer peek at the organisation that they have chosen to support.
If you wish to find more information on these perspectives, enlightenment is, as always, a Google search away.
I want to do something slightly different and take a deeper look at KONY 2012, not at Invisible Children and not at Jason Russell but rather at us, the people who have consumed it. I want to look at what the video appealed to within us.
Almost every campaign that’s gone viral in the past has centered on the driving force of humour. People see something that they find funny and pass it on. Those that receive it enjoy it and give social kudos to those that sent it. The process continues and the video spreads like wildfire. Social kudos is the driving factor behind virality. But Kony has appealed to a force far stronger than humour.
Being socially conscious gets you some social kudos. Just ask Patrick Bateman.
Being perceived by others as a good person is a pretty darn stylish thing, and we would all like to be perceived as having a social conscience. Kony 2012 has given us the cheapest way to achieve that feeling, circulate the video. Get likes; achieve the image of a socially minded individual. Granted, it sounds spiteful but it’s not intended as such.
It also feels good to help people, this is why we drop fifty cents into the guitar case of the busker, it’s why we volunteer to give blood and it’s why we buy the Big Issue (journalistic value aside). For many people, the good feeling one received by sharing the video was a strong motivator. This shouldn’t be shunned for its superficiality. Regardless of whether or not one wishes to appear socially minded, feel good for their actions or both as long as these motivators prompt legitimately socially conscious action, then it can be argued they are each still positive motivators.
But I do not believe that it was either of these components, these motivators within the Kony 2012 campaign that became the driving factor of its virality.
I believe it’s the grander idea of being a part of something, throwing in your lot to a quest that’s romantic and uplifting- that sense of purpose. Kony 2012 appeals directly to the stories that we were told as children of good ultimately overcoming evil. Not the morality of it, but the dream of wanting to be a part of the band of heroic knights that slay the dragon. We all want to be heroes.
To quote Hunter Thompson
“A fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…”
The Kony video is successful for exactly the same reason that this scene from Lord Of The Rings is amazing. It fills us with contempt, then inspires us.
Feel the despair at the screams and hopelessness of the Gondor civilians!
Feel the anger as you see them desperately struggle against the evil oppressors!
Feel disgust as their evil leader- the witch king- does his evil thing!
The feel the hope as the third party forces of good arrive!
Feel the excitement as the heroic king Theoden calls his men to arms!
Feel the surge of power as they charge down hillside to glory, saving the Ugandan childre- I mean Gondor civilians!
Kony 2012 invites us to join the Riders of Rohan, It paints a polarized picture of good versus evil and quite literally calls us to arms. For those with limited understanding of how messaging is constructed within the media, this is an incredibly potent idea.
It’s terrifying to think that this emotion is so universally powerful within us. Not to mention so easily tapped. That so many people can be prompted to simply switch off that higher judgement and become carried away by a beautiful energy. Of course- channel this for good and it’s fantastic. But it’s also just as terrifying to think how easily that emotion could be manipulated and harnessed to achieve anything. Sending our military to occupy another country for instance. But hey our democratically elected officials would never dream of something like that.
So where are those WMD’s again?
October 16th, 2012
An online debate has erupted over the last few days about online privacy, in the light of the outing of ‘the biggest troll on the web’.
On Friday, online news organisation Gawker published the real name, location and photograph of all-round creepy bad guy Violentacrez.
Violentacrez (pronounced Violent Acres) is notorious in online forum Reddit for posting and moderating thousands of morally ambiguous and offensive images, including but not limited to, photos of dead children, sexualised images of children and teens, bestiality, racist memes and images that glorify violence against women. Read more
September 26th, 2012
Like a phoenix from the ashes, Myspace is set to rise again… Maybe.
The platform has previewed the visuals for what will essentially be a complete website overhaul in an effort to bring the people back.
It’s not too surprising. When Justin Timberlake purchased the crumbling platform in June 2011, everyone suspected a revamp. The question is, will the audience actually bite?
The site looks to be remaining true to what became its accidental major selling point; giving music artists a place to build their own profiles and share their sounds. The new visual optimisation seeks to build on this, allowing people to share playlists and show people what they have been listening to.
Artists can also promote other artists and even their fans, a feature that is essentially the “top friends” component from the Myspace of old.
The artists were the last one off the boat when the Myspace titanic begun it’s steady descent into the waters of irrelevance years ago. Now that music and musicians have become MySpace’s key selling point, it’s going to need those same artists to return if it is to draw in the masses once again.
User experience is difficult to gauge at this point, although one can only hope it will be improved. Harrowing recollections of loading a Myspace profile, only to have the not-so-sultry sounds of a pop song involuntarily blare through your speaker system, still linger.
It could take off. There is certainly scope to develop something unique for music. Additionally, now that Myspace has firmly identified its target audience, it can take steps to cater to their specific needs. How well it manages to do this, and how effectively it can take steps to compete against platforms like Soundcloud and Spotify, will ultimately determine whether or not the renewed platform actually develops any traction.
Another thing to consider is that Myspace has undergone severe layoffs since the beginning of its decline back in 2009, slowly trimming the organisation’s 1600 person strong workforce to a group of around 200. The question then not only becomes will it get traction, but whether or not it can respond to that traction rapidly enough.
Whilst certainly the largest, it’s certainly not the first attempt Myspace has made at winning back the crowd, and every previous attempt has failed to prevent the snowballing decline in users.
This is a last ditch effort of a Platform that have been falling into obscurity for sometime now, that said, it is a very flashy effort. The preview video shows a platform that has a much better idea of what it wants to be (even if it does look a lot like Pinterest).
Will it pay off? Judgement will be reserved until the beta release.