There is a great deal of definitional ”fuzziness” regarding the term viral media. it has become very clear in the world of marketing and media that viral media, is subject to multiple and often conflicting interpretations , with one constant; No one really knows for sure why any given message “turned viral,” and achieves wide adoption and appropriation. Advertising executives really do not understand the idea, perhaps because they are not informed by the sub-culture that is principally involved and act as ”first movers” to these cultural units.
The common conception among the ”Advertising Age” readers is that a message is so powerful that it spreads through the population like a virus. This suggests the properties of viral media lie in the message itself, or to flatter their egos, perhaps in those who crafted the message. The runner-up view implies the message is ”cool enough to send to your friends” . Next time, perhaps they should conduct focus-group interviews on grade two primary school students to refine their central themes.
”Given these limitations, we are proposing an alternative model which we think better accounts for how and why media content circulates at the present time, the idea of spreadable media. A spreadable model emphasizes the activity of consumers — or what Grant McCracken calls “multipliers” — in shaping the circulation of media content, often expanding potential meanings and opening up brands to unanticipated new markets. Rather than emphasizing the direct replication of “memes,” a spreadable model assumes that the repurposing and transformation of media content adds value, allowing media content to be localized to diverse contexts of use. This notion of spreadability is intended as a contrast to older models of stickiness which emphasize centralized control over distribution and attempts to maintain ‘purity’ of message.” ( Henry Jenkins )
Call it the old word of mouth.Something in the air or something that got into the water that made diverse groups of people, converge at the same idea at the same time. ”Talking about memes and viral media places an emphasis on the replication of the original idea, which fails to consider the everyday reality of communication — that ideas get transformed, repurposed, or distorted as they pass from hand to hand, a process which has been accelerated as we move into network culture”. ( Henry Jenkins )
Kwon Soon-Keun. Not exactly a household word in the world of percussion. Not a Keith Moon, Anton Fier,Buddy Rich or John Bonham. However he is a seventy-year-old YouTube sensation and former drummer in ADD-4, which may have been South Korea’s first rock band. His typically animated performances have always been legendary and one clip from 1991 has found its way onto YouTube garnering hundreds of thousands of visits all because almost twenty years later, someone thought it was pretty wild and decided to post it. It defied any organized marketing intention to achieve recognition and build a following. Kwon, who now lives in Toronto can’t even speak English without a translator and is unknown outside the Korean-Canadian community. He claims his basic idea is go wild, get crazy and don’t care about what other people think. But,as if materializing from thin air, he started a thread of crazy drumming which will assume a life of its own, replete with its own variations creating what Alex Leavitt phrased; ”… I would point out that the replication and transformation of ideas are part of a dependent relationship that informs us as to the lifecycle of an idea.”
”If you have the three requisites – variation, selection and heredity, then you must get evolution… This [evolutionary] algorithm depends on something being copied, and Dawkins calls this the replicator. A replicator can therefore be defined as any unit of information which is copied with variations or errors, and whose nature influences its own probability of replication (Dawkins
6).” Quoting Dawkins, Blackmore names the element of transmission shared by genes and memes: they both replicate with variations. Replication with variation is then how Dawkins explains his concept of the evolution of culture, how ideas move, the meme: “The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” ( Susan Blackmore )
So just what is the “meme” at the centre of this Internet meme? What is the idea that is replicated? More than the content of the pictures, the “meme” at the heart of this Internet phenomenon is the structure of the picture itself –the juxtaposition, broken English, and particularly the use of irreverent humor. Given the meme lies in the structure, however — how to throw the pot rather than the pot itself — then the very viability of the meme is dependent on the ability for the idea to be adapted in a variety of different ways. In this sense, then, it is somewhat hard to see how contained within this structure is a “message” waiting to occupy unsuspecting minds.
The re-use, remixing and adaptation of ideas on a digital platform suggests that the spread and replication of this form of cultural production is not due to the especially compelling nature of the idea itself, but the fact it can be used to make meaning. An example can be seen in the case of the “Crank Dat” song by Soulja Boy, which some have described as one of the most succesful Internet memes of a couple years ago. Soulja Boy, originally an obscure amateur performer in Atlanta, produced a music video for his first song “Crank Dat”, which he uploaded to video sharing sites such as YouTube. Soulja Boy then encouraged his fans to appropriate, remix, and reperform the song, spreading it through social networks, YouTube, and the blogosphere, in the hopes of gaining greater visibility for himself and his music.
Along the way, Crank Dat got performed countless times by very different communities — from white suburban kids to black ballet dancers, from football teams to MIT graduate students. The video was used as the basis for “mash up” videos featuring characters as diverse as Winnie the Pooh and Dora the Explorer. People added their own steps, lyrics, themes, and images to the videos they made. As the song circulated, Soulja Boy’s reputation grew — he scored a record contract, and emerged as a top recording artist. — in part as a consequence of his understanding of the mechanisms by which cultural content circulates within a participatory culture.
”Henry argues that spreadability adds value to an idea by allowing the idea to inhabit different contexts. He states: ’Rather than emphasizing the direct replication of “memes,” a spreadable model assumes that the repurposing and transformation of media content adds value, allowing media content to be localized to diverse contexts of use.’ However, I argue that the referential knowledge inherent to the subcultural network behind Internet memes allows for an increased understanding and application in new and different contexts.” ( Alex Leavitt )
Another example are the Hitler Meme videos which represent a convenient entry point for Internet culture to merge with communication and media studies. It showed an online subculture thrives in information appropriation, management, and consumption. It is, basically, a media subculture. And in consuming an infinite amount of media, authenticity in the subculture amounts to recognizing references made to these multiple films, games, music, celebrities, etc.
Whether these drumming videos have a long life-cycle will depend greatly on the participatory value they may hold; their ability to mutate and travel through the culture allowing for multiple appropriations. Needless, the concept of viral distribution is useful for understanding the emergence of a spreadable media landscape. Ultimately, however, viral media is a flawed way to think about distributing content through informal or adhoc networks of consumers.
”Talking about memes and viral media places an emphasis on the replication of the original idea, which fails to consider the everyday reality of communication — that ideas get transformed, repurposed, or distorted as they pass from hand to hand, a process which has been accelerated as we move into network culture. Arguably, those ideas which survive are those which can be most easily appropriated and reworked by a range of different communities. In focusing on the involuntary transmission of ideas by unaware consumers, these models allow advertisers and media producers to hold onto an inflated sense of their own power to shape the communication process, even as unruly behavior by consumers becomes a source of great anxiety within the media industry.” ( Henry Jenkins )