Last night during Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre’s peformance at Coachella a miraculous event took place: the legendary west coast rapper Tupac performed a two song set for an astounded crowd; but it wasn’t due to the myriad of theories that Pac is still alive, it was actually a Tupac hologram. He appeared on stage, gave a shout out to Dre and Snoop, then amazingly shouted out Coachella, and went into a two song set of his signature classics “Hail Mary” and the Snoop duet “Amerikaz Most Wanted”.
This is probably one of the first instances of holographically projected celebrities within an American concert, but it’s actually a concept that‘s been popular in Japan for the last few years. Back in August I wrote about the most popular Japanese virtual pop star Hatsune Miku who was created in 2007 by Yamaha and Sega. Her voice is a combination of synthesizer software and Japanese voice actress Saki Fujita, but her likeness is entirely holographic.
It definitely seems like similar technology was used to bring an incredibly lifelike version of Tupac to the stage, from his distinct vocal inflections to even his west coast dance moves in between sharing verses with Snoop. It’s only a matter of time before entire concerts in America will be performed by holograms, whether they’re entirely synthesized or amalgams of stars that have already passed. It wouldn’t be surprising if instead of a Michael Jackson tribute concert in Las Vegas they’ll just holographically project a compilation of his best performances for a different crowd every night. Holographic stars don’t even need contracts, or extensive tour riders, just a tech crew with an endless fiber optic feed.
Every aspect of our lives have completely merged with Social Media, including the entertainment we take in and how we interact with it. Out of all the mediums television has definitely seen the most seamless integration with a huge a presence on Facebook, Twitter, and tons of different websites that solely focus on fan participation. The viewing experience has taken on a completely new level of interactivity in addition to the benefits of essential marketing and research tools only available on Social Media.
One of the major changes that has come with Social Media integration into television are fully interactive viewing experiences. There are shows that have premiered in the last few months where Social Media has allowed the viewer to actually become another character on the show. One of the best examples is the recent NBC reality show Escape Routes. It’s an Amazing Race style series that pits teams of two against each other in urban locales as they go on scavenger hunts to accomplish different tasks, but the major difference is the viewer at home can help out the teams with their missions in real time, through Social Media as a virtual teammate. The competitors on the show update their whereabouts and specific tasks while getting assistance online from the viewers at home who become virtual team members and if you’re local enough you can go to the city they’re in and help them out with the tasks, which completely breaks down the wall between a passive audience member and actually becoming an part of the show.
Escape Routes is one of the best examples of a fully interactive and immersive television experience, but lots of producers have integrated Social Media into different facets of their shows. Watch What Happens Live, a late night talk show on Bravo hosted by reality show dilettante Andy Cohen, takes questions from Facebook and Twitter followers in real time that alter the show’s content and sometimes get a rise out of otherwise stale guests. Bravo has been one of the early adapters of Social Media presence for their stable of reality show franchises. They encourage their most prominent cast members to maintain weekly blogs that expand on each episodes weekly storylines, and they air what they call “Social” editions of some episodes that have pertinent tweets from the cast members commenting on the storylines as the action unfolds on screen.
Beyond integration with Social Media into a show’s actual storyline, producers and creators have turned to Facebook and Twitter as another gauge for a show’s success. Before the Internet one of the only ways for a network to grasp the popularity of a show was through Nielson boxes, which are doled out to a mix of different demographics to get a numerical gauge of actual viewership. Social Media hasn’t made Nielson numbers irrelevant, (they’re still the main way that advertising revenue is determined for networks), but Social Media has become a different type of barometer that can sometimes even save a low rated show from cancellation. One of the best examples is the cult favorite absurdist NBC sitcom Community. Even though it was shelved midway though it’s third season, the outpouring of support from its dedicated and mostly younger fanbase was enough for the network to let it finish out the last 12 episodes of its season and then make a final decision after that.
Series creator Dan Harmon attributed this turnaround to a new television audience that does most of their viewing online in unmeasured venues outside of the Nielson system. In an interview with The New York Times Mr. Harmon said, “The most coveted demographic, and most coveted of that demographic, these very smart, upwardly mobile, college-age kids just don’t watch TV anymore.” Social Media has become such a huge factor in not only changing the television experience, but also as marketing research for show developers and networks who can get tangible real world opinions from their actual audience instead of the sometimes unrealistic Nielson numbers. The Internet has completely reshaped the entire entertainment industry, and especially television has gone through a complete transformation in every venue, from the couch, to the computer screen, to the boardroom.
Last week’s episode of South Park took a satirical spin on the history and evolution of memes, and in the process came up with some hilarious and elaborate explanations for why memes exist and evolve over time. According to South Park, the first recorded meme appeared on the hieroglyphics of the pyramids, and from there they’ve been changing and rapidly spreading over time, only to be left with the modern day examples that are rampant all over the Internet. Of course South Park’s take on memes is more satirical in nature, but in all satire there’s some morsel of truth revealed, and they made some interesting and astute comments on the world of memes, and especially how and why they exist on the Internet.
Simply stated a meme is a concept, idea, image, or behavior that spreads quickly through culture, and although they’ve existed for hundreds of years, the term was first coined by biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as a concept within evolution to explain the spreading of cultural phenomenons. Since then memes have become a known and studied concept within the realm of modern culture, but the real evolution of memes took off with the expansion of the Internet. There have even been empirical scientific studies done that aimed to show why certain memes are successful online and others become digital debris.
South Park mocked this scenario by replacing old memes with new ones in increasingly absurd scenarios. First it was “Faith Hilling”, then it became “Taylor Swifting”, then it was “Breading” and “Reporting”, which expanded into a new take on “Oh Long Johnsoning”, and then when those became trite and passé, they started combining the most recent trends together into an all new mega-meme, but what is it about memes that gives them such a short shelf life?
The Internet and Social Media have created such an instantaneous culture that has only added to our collective short attention spans. Everyone is always trying to get more and more done in a shorter amount of time, including frivolous things like entertainment and keeping up with trends. Memes are almost a shorthand for cultural concepts that can encompass a wide range of ideas in a very small and precise way, and when that’s coupled with the infinite diversions and short shelf life of Internet content, it only makes sense that our interest, no matter how large at first, will eventually be waning. The more memes compete with each other for our attention, the less time we have to focus on them, and the easier it is to become bored with their concept.
So why are certain memes more successful while others fall by the wayside? Why does the classic meme prank of Rickrolling have more viral sustenance then say something like breading, which seemed like it arrived almost as quickly as it disappeared? Partially it’s due to the older memes that arrived when Social Media was in its infancy had less competition, so if someone made one that was successful, it definitely stuck around for longer and became more ingrained into Internet culture. It seems like there’s so much competition now that memes have to really cut across all demographics and tastes to really maintain any sort of Internet presence.
There’s also the intangible entertainment value of memes which is sometimes just a random factor. The right timing, the right combination of graphics and slogan make a certain meme a success the same way a television show in the right time slot gets renewed but a higher quality one with more competition and lower ratings will get cancelled. Overall memes have become such a fascinating and integral part of the Internet and they’re definitely one of the best ways to get an accurate grasp of our culture at any given time, from caveman paintings to the virtual web of the future.
Here’s a list of some of the most notable Internet memes of the last 15 years (in no particular order)
There are over 100 million people on Twitter including a countless number of celebrities, from some of the biggest stars and politicians in the world, to the smaller ones from reality shows or the Internet famous. No matter what the size of a star’s fanbase, a lot of celebrities have realized Twitter might actually not be the best platform for interaction or growing their brand.
What makes Twitter unique is that it allows for the most direct access versus any other Social Media platform. There’s definitely celebrities that post on Facebook and will sometimes answer questions, but Twitter has become the go to venue for instantaneous unfiltered access for fans. A lot of celebrities have remarked Twitter allows them to have their own voice outside of a Publicist or a PR sculpted format; it’s almost one of the only authentic forms of expression for people in the public eye and the least censored by the people managing their career.
Some people feel that celebrities should expect to get trolled or at least sarcastically harassed on Twitter, and it’s important to remember that expectations of fans change based on the way you interact with them. If you’re constantly giving your opinion about everything in the news or pop culture, then your fans will react in a similar manner. There’s also the idea that once you’re in the public eye you lose some portion of your privacy, and when that’s combined with a platform like Twitter, it can make even the most amiable celebrity an easy target.
The term “twitter beef” has also become a common concept where instead of being trolled by snarky fans, a celebrity will engage in a war of words with other celebrities. It takes place across all avenues of entertainment, but especially in the hip hop community, where brash comments and bravado go hand in hand on a platform like Twitter. One of the most interesting and comical Twitter beefs occurred last year between Fabolous and Ray J, which escalated from the Internet to a wildly comical and surreal radio interview, which was then perfectly referenced in a classic Rick Ross couplet on his track “You the Boss”.
There’s also a handful of instances where celebrities will get caught up in how free and open Twitter is and they’ll either decide to completely close their account or hand it over to their handlers for strictly promotional purposes. John Mayer, Alec Baldwin, and others have quit Twitter after their tweets led to subsequent scandals. It’s so instantaneous and such a direct form of expression it’s easy to forget that one snafu could become a worldwide trending topic by the next afternoon.
Another aspect of celebrities quitting Twitter is due to abuse from their followers. Sometimes amassing a huge number of followers comes with the requisite Internet trolls who are merely on there just to get a rise out of you or cause backlash. English comedy star Matt Lucas recently deleted his Twitter account after one of his followers tweeted an insensitive joke about the death of his co-star Kevin McGee. With the open and direct interaction also comes the negative aspect of too much access. Sometimes people get overly comfortable with celebrities because they’re so familiar with them, and when you throw in the anonymity of Internet, it can potentially lead to these situations.
Our culture has created an incessant need for celebrity gossip and Twitter is an up to the minute feed of the backstage minutia that enhances or detracts from the public’s perception of a celebrity. Instead of waiting for the weekly tabloid magazines you can find out what’s going on every hour, and sometimes even as it’s actually happening. As with all Social Media there are definitely pros and cons that come with each platform, but because of its unfiltered and direct nature, Twitter is a platform that doesn’t always benefit every celebrity.
A new meme that’s been exploding over the Web in the last week or so has given a solid foundation to the intersection between Social Media and foodie culture. Food Writer Marilyn Hagerty, a 30-year veteran with the Grand Forks, North Dakota Hearld, has seen her recent review of the newly opened Grand Forks Olive Garden become a viral hit seemingly overnight. The review eventually garnered over million page views, and a combination of 55,000 shares between Facebook and Twitter, which compelled her son James Hagerty, a writer for the Wall Street Journal to tell her about the overnight success, to which she responded: “Could you tell me what viral means?”
From there her instant fame kept growing larger by the hour. A few days after her review was posted she was invited by The New York Times for a whirlwind food tour that included sampling her first taste of a NY style street dog, and decidedly more elevated fare at the Michelin star restaurants Dovetail NYC and Le Bernadin, which she adoringly detailed in her weekly “The Eatbeat” food blog, even calling her meal at Dovetail “probably the best meal I’ve ever had”.
There are so many interesting components of this story that you almost couldn’t have made up if you wanted to. One day she was sending in a rather glowing review of the newly opened Olive Garden praising that their “…Chicken Alfredo ($10.95) was warm and comforting on a cold day“, and a week later she was being whisked away on a big city tour getting to eat at and socialize with some of the world’s most renowned chefs (including Eric Ripert of the New York French haute cuisine institution Le Bernadin).
Food Bloggers immediately caught on to the review both for its simple and folksy prose, and in an ironic, self-detached way that poked fun at the very concept of even reviewing an Olive Garden in the first place. For the most part though, her meme experience has been overwhelmingly positive. She even received praise from the self-declared “snarkologist” himself Anthony Bourdain on his twitter feed. The only real detractors she’s encountered are from the hyper-sarcastic corners of the web that view every single meme with an air of haughty condescension.
She’s really become an endearing and successful example that shows Social Media isn’t all bullying and one-upmanship. Hagerty has been reviewing her hometown restaurants for over thirty years, and as she stated in an interview with the Village Voice, there just aren’t enough fine dining restaurants in her locale, and she wanted to review places that everyone would go to and enjoy.
The culture clash aspect of this story is really interesting in how it’s being interpreted across the Web. Social Media has an uncanny ability to break down cultural and economic barriers to create an even playing field that illustrates the most captivating stories will rise to the top of the heap. It’s almost too easy to just denounce her praise of what most consider at best a sub-standard homogenized franchise; in the context of her article it’s probably completely accurate.
As she explained after being interviewed by her son following the success of her review “I’m working on my Sunday column and I’m going to play bridge this afternoon, so I don’t have time to read all this crap”, referencing the thousands of comments she received on Facebook and Twitter after the article went viral. She seems like she’s already accustomed to the immediate snark that encounters most viral sensations, and she’s ready to fight back with a salad fork in one hand and a breadstick in the other.
For the last few weeks I’ve been working on a project in Asia and during my travels I’ve learned a few interesting things about the Social Media landscape in Asia. For starters, the Social Media consumption in Asia is greater in some markets than it is in the US. Countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Taiwan, Thailand and the Philippines widely use Facebook, and the mobile internet market share is also much larger in these countries than the global average.
Countries like China, Japan and Vietnam use different but similar platforms such as Weibo and Renren (in China), Mixi (in Japan) and Zing (in Vietnam), and Google+ is also slowly gaining popularity. It doesn’t have as much penetration as the larger more established platforms, but brands like Cathay Pacific and Uniqlo are among the first to create their own Google+ pages.
Overall, the Social Media behaviors vary in these countries because of their inherent cultural differences. One of the main reasons is because Asian culture is more shy and reserved, and it’s usually considered rude to promote yourself directly. Some of the main ways Social Media in Asia is utilized is through pop culture re-mashing, sharing photos of yourself out socializing with friends, learning about products online, and sharing tips instead of self-promotion and touting how great you are, which is definitely more common with Social Media in the US.
Even though there are some similarities, each country has its own specific behavior and Internet content usage patterns; here are some of the highlights of the Asian Social Media market:
Photo sharing – Photo sharing is HUGE in Asia; literally any occasion deserves photo sharing. The general audience doesn’t use tools like Instagram as much we do in the US, but instead they directly upload them into their Facebook pages. Although Instagram is slowly making strides in the Asian market. A great example is Candy Mafia, a Thai pop group, who avidly use Instagram, and pop groups in general have a huge Social Media presence. Beauty and Fashion sharing is also extremely popular online; I’ve seen users taking pictures of their new possessions from Louis Vuitton to their North Face collection. There are also entire Tumblr sites dedicated to sharing picture collages of pop stars and TV shows, along with a variety of different gifs.
Social Media Games – Social media games are used as stimuli to drive new users and gain reach within existing users, while actual content sharing is more popular among the more experienced users.
Bulletin board systems underpin popular Social Media behavior in China; more than 80% of their Social Media content is based on bulletin board systems.
Product Reviews – Online product reviews are increasing their influence on purchases in India, particularly for consumer electronics. 55% of Indians that read online product reviews have purchased products based on feedback. Consumer durables / electronics are the most common products that are purchased based on reviews (64% of purchases).
Tweeting: Among theAsian market, Japanese Internet users are the most avid bloggers globally, posting more than one million blogs per month, which is significantly more than any other country in the region. Japan’s adoption of Twitter also continues to grow, with unique visitor numbers increasing in the last year from less than 200,000 to more than 10 million. 16% of Japanese Internet users now use Twitter, compared to only 10% in the U.S.
Google Plus is now welcoming an entirely new teen audience with its recent lowering of its age restriction from 18 to 13. When it initially launched in June of 2010 it was an only 18 and over service during the initial beta stage until they were able to tailor a new teen-centric version of the defaults and content sharing functions. It’s basically the same exact service that’s available for adults, with just a few minor changes to the default settings for sharing and privacy options.
The defaults for teens protect more of their privacy online and give them more options as far as controlling who they share content with. The main sharing portion of Google Plus is within its Circles feature, and a teen’s profile is more restrictive on sharing content outside of their Circles. The same goes with a teen’s posts; only people within their circle can comment on their posts, but for adults anyone who can see their posts is able to comment. Another interesting aspect which has proven to be one of the most popular parts of Google Plus is their Hang-Out Video Conferencing feature; the only difference for a teen’s default is when someone from outside their Circle joins the Video Conference, it pauses their feed and asks them if they want to continue the conversation.
It’s definitely commendable of Google to put these few but important safeguards in place to make teens feel like they have more control over their Google Plus content, and of course parents always benefit from any extra online safety measures. The important thing also to remember is these are only differences in the basic defaults of the service, which can be changed at any time to resemble the conventional settings for those who are 18 and over. Defaults exist more as guidelines for how a company thinks a service best works for certain users, and more often then not, people tend to stick with whatever the original settings are. Another interesting aspect of Google Plus is how Google intends it to be utilized by the teen audience. They want it to be more of an extension of their real life, instead of a venue for them to create a persona or misrepresent themselves, which is often what happens with more freeform Social Media like Facebook.
What will be interesting to see in the future is if the proportion of teens embracing Google Plus will rival the enormous market share Facebook currently has in younger demographics. There are definitely features available on Google Plus that Facebook lacks, especially the popular Hang-Out Video Conferencing feature, which Facebook users usually leave the service for to utilize in Tinychat rooms for video socializing and even curated online DJ nights. Google Plus definitely offers a structure and features that teens will find as an interesting contrast to Facebook, and with their specifically tailored defaults and sharing options, it may eventually become a solid competitor for the massive Social Media teen market share.
This is a great article from the Huffington Post that outlines the Google Plus rollout for the teen market.
So why is this happening? Google is getting ready to amp up its data mining to compete with its main rival Facebook, which has become a massive marketing and sociological goldmine for companies interested in exactly how to sell or launch their new product. A major proportion of Google’s income comes from advertising and these new policies will allow them to diversify their portfolio and really go head to head with Facebook in the Web 2.0 data wars.
As soon as the announcement came so did the immediate backlash. The main argument people have against this new policy is that there’s no way they can opt out of it. Although Facebook also utilizes a myriad of confusing jargon concerning user data, there is usually some sort of method or box to be checked that allows you to at least somewhat control your flow of information. Another aspect of Google’s new policies that also left users up in arms was their inclusion of your Google + information within their search results. That would be the equivalent of everything you post on your Facebook wall immediately becoming visible to anyone who happened to know or search your username.
The benefits of Google’s new policies will definitely create a more seamless and integrated experience across their multiple platforms, and for someone who isn’t that concerned with privacy policies, it could actually make their Web experience easier and more streamlined. More importantly, one of the main negative aspects is do you really want your personal and business worlds to collide? You might have a 9-5 corporate job, but do you want your boss to see your Heavy Metal blog? Is it really beneficial for all of your business contacts to see what you were watching till 3 A.M. on YouTube? Once these changes go into effect it’s going to become harder and harder to create an online separation between your personal and your professional life. Not to mention, what about when your personality changes? The online ephemera of your 13-year-old self is completely different and worlds away from whom you are now as a 30-something.
Although Google announced that you can still opt out by logging out from YouTube, etc…but will that really work or will it limit your potential online opportunities? You can use Hotmail instead of Gmail, but then you would lose the networking capabilities of Google +. You could use Vimeo to upload and share videos, but compared to the daily 4 billion video views on YouTube, you would be missing out on the largest video market share on the web.
The Internet and especially new web culture have completely ushered in a new era of cultural reinterpretation and repurposing. A large part of the underground artistic movements that are occurring online are sourced from previously existing culture. The idea of sampling or remixing has become so commonplace for a net artist or a tech savvy Millennial, that sometimes no one stops to think if their reinterpretation is actually accomplishing something new. There are definitely positive and negative attributes to this vantage point of creating new cultural models based on the old culture, but is this movement really benefiting the culture as a whole, or is it simply regurgitating the old principles without expanding on them?
The rapper / singer / former Degrassi maven Drake recently made an interesting statement on his blog about his decidedly negative outlook on the culture perpetuated by Tumblr:
“I’m really scared for my generation, you know. The thing that scares me most is Tumblr. I hate what Tumblr has become. Because it like, it reminds me of those clique-y girls in high school that used to make fun of everyone and define what was cool, but in five years, when you all graduate, that shit doesn’t matter. No one gives a fuck about that shit. Instead of kids going out and making their own moments, they’re just taking these images and living vicariously through other people’s moments. It just kills me. Then you’ll meet them and they’re just the biggest turkey in the world. They don’t actually embody any of those things. They just emulate. It’s scary man, simulation life that we’re living. It scares me.”
Although Drake the musical artist has definitely had some backlash from the hip hop community for his Woody Allen-esque softly crooned testimonials, he definitely makes an astute point about the possible negative aspects that Tumblr culture creates. A massive part of Tumblr are the Notes and Reblogging features that allow someone to grab content for their Tumblr without having to actually create any of it on their own. It’s similar to someone curating an art show or a compilation where their keen eye is the only lens that creates the overall aesthetic of the package. When a compilation, a mix, or an art show is put together well it really highlights the astute focus and necessary editing that goes hand in hand with a competent curator. Within culture there’s a practical use for the curator, even with online culture, but what Drake mentions, and is definitely commonplace within some social media platforms, are the people who only create their brand through the culture and abstract identities of other brands and entities.
The Internet and especially new web culture creates an atmosphere where the physical origin of this media becomes extremely secondary, and it’s really easy to forget that almost everything that exists online comes from the real world. Besides of course CGI graphics created with computer programs or other forms of entirely computer created content, almost everything else existed in a physical version before it landed online. Every single old press photo of embarrassingly dressed celebrities, magazine advertisements from the 70s, old TV show clips, Z-movies, ironic / un-ironic / post-ironicclothing; it all existed before the Internet and someone had to take the time and effort and their insightful aesthetic lens to actually archive or capture it to be preserved in the digital realm. Besides for user created content, a large amount of the clips on YouTube are from dusty rundown VHS bungalows or someone’s grandma’s attic ensconced treasure chest. It’s not that simply recycling this culture negatively impacts it, but it’s important to remember that the Internet is merely a point in its destination, but very often not the origin.
Another tangent on the concept of repurposing culture are the recent influx of massively popular capsule collections that have popped up at H&M, Target, and other mass retailers. A large portion of the interest for these collections is both the lower price point that allows the mass market to own a brand that might otherwise be out of their price range, and to also resurrect certain aesthetics and cultural motifs that otherwise would have slowly faded into obscurity. One of the most recent collaborations that’s set to go on sale this week is H&M teaming up with Versace. In a recent article on MTV.com both Nicki Minaj, Big Sean (a rapper on fellow fashion provocateur Kanye West’sG.O.O.D. Music record label), and Donatella Versace discussed why right now was the perfect time for a capsule collection at H&M:
Donatella could clearly sense nostalgia was in bloom. “It’s a moment that I felt was the right moment,” she said of launching the mass collection. “It’s a lot of requests for Versace iconic pieces like printed shirts, and everybody is doing homage to Versace so I decided to give them the real thing to H&M, to the kids!” she smiled.
What’s different about this concept is the culture is being repurposed and relaunched by the same person (or at least related to) that originated it. As Nicki and Big Sean discuss in the article, there’s been a long standing love affair between the hip hop community and the Versace sense of gaudiness and absolutely outlandish ornate prints. The Notorious B.I.G, famously referenced the label in the J.U.N.I.O.R. Mafia song “Get Money“ with the lyrics “My Moschino ho, my Versace hottie“ as well as him and P.Diddy garishly dancing around in matching Versace silk shirts in the video for the track “Hypnotize”.
P. Diddy and The Notorious B.I.G rocking Versace in their video for Hyptnotize
The real question though isn’t whether or not there’s an audience for this capsule collection, but is it really beneficial to the brand, the aesthetic, and the Versace legacy? You can still find vintage Versace pieces on Ebay, Etsy, and other high end consignment shops, sometimes at a very similar price point to the new H&M collection, but is there some aspect of authenticity getting cleansed from history by reinterpreting your own landmark prints and aesthetic? There’s a facet of it that’s almost nice of Donatella to dramatically decrease the price points of their staple Italy via Miami via Guido Renaissance prints, but as we’ve seen with similar capsule collections from Missoni, Vera Wang, Stella McCartney, and couture hologram himself Mr. Lagerfeld, the original price points are tripled and sometimes quadrupled in the resell market on Ebay and other sites. Even though aesthetically the collection definitely maintains the original vision of the best Versace garments, doesn’t it make more sense to just buy an original vintage Versace piece instead of waiting all night in line to wail along with the throngs of agitated shoppers grabbing at racks of a derivative take on a classic fashion totem?
More then anything there’s positive and negative aspects to cultural reinterpretation and repurposing. A lot of it has to do with the intent and the overall contribution it’s making to the culture. Even if someone curates their Tumblr with content solely created by other people, it’s still possible that their astute lens will positively accomplish a new vantage point or way of considering culture that wasn’t previously articulated. It’s always important to remember that a large portion of Internet culture was harvested from physical artifacts, and someone somewhere had to put the effort and consideration in to archive and purposefully capture these items so they could live on in the digital cloud of perpetuity. It’s not bad to repurpose and reinterpret as long as it’s expanding the culture instead of diluting and diminishing its original impact.
For the majority of teens and the Millennial generation that has grown up online the concept of Internet fame has become such a normal and conventional idea that it’s almost become part of their collective identity. Beyond their intended practical use, social media platforms are now commonly utilized as a means for teens to attain Internet fame while simultaneously expanding and reshaping their own real life identity. Online fame has become such a realistic and achievable idea for teens because they have so much free time to spend online and expand their web presence.
The virtual world of social media and new web culture gives teens an even playing field in a real world where they’re often not given the chance to be seen as equal in an adult dominated landscape. What’s so interesting about this concept is that due to their experimental nature, endless free time, and the rapid expansion of new technology, teens and Millennials have become the real innovators in a world that’s sometimes filled with stodgy, archaic ideas.
Especially with the proliferation of reality show culture and competition shows like American Idol, the ancient American ideal of passion and hard work equals success has been reinterpreted for the Millennial generation who have grown up with new web culture, and this mentality is seamlessly translated to their online presence. Instead of contacting record labels and casting agents teens are posting themselves singing covers on Youtube or self releasing albums through Bandcamp where they can build up a fanbase before deciding to reach out to real world venues. Their fervent online presence and ability to quickly learn new technology has given them an unprecedented advantage in a world where their older counterparts are frequently left in the dust.
Molly Soda has become one of the first breakout stars of Tumblr for her innovative aesthetic, laissez-faire attitude, and an overall decidedly new web mentality. She personifies the modern model of Internet fame and what’s so interesting about her is that exactly what she does or what she’s famous for isn’t always easy to discern. She’s an artist, a filmmaker, and a lot of what she does online (and basically what a lot of Internet famous people do online) is kind of just hanging out while posting media on her Tumblr and videos to her YouTube and Vimeo. For a lot people and especially those who are unfamiliar with Internet culture the distinction of what makes Molly Soda interesting vs. her thousands of similar counterparts is exactly what makes Internet fame so intangible and simultaneously sought after.
What Ms. Soda and tons of other Internet celebs encompasses is a very abstract almost minimalist perspective. It’s not that she posts Rothko or animated Mondrian gifs on her Tumblr, it’s that exactly why she’s famous or what she does is hard to articulate in a concrete sense that equates with real world fame. A vast of amount of the new web culture, especially what’s on Tumblr, is very dada esque in its application of a definitive vantage point. That’s one of the aspects that’s so appealing to Millennial Internet users and what’s simultaneously so confusing for anyone out of the loop; these new web platforms constantly reinterpret and perpetuate tons of different and innovative cultural perspectives, sometimes all at the same time, and with little to no explanation given for their creative origin.
That’s why a conventional ad agency or marketing group would have such a hard time trying to gauge the exact variables that need to be in place for Internet fame to happen. A lot of the output of the new Internet famous elicits an intangible visceral feeling that can’t be quantified or placed into a marketing equation, and the more culture evolves and changes the more this will become a common everyday occurrence. There’s always going to be a discernible level of internet fame within the mainstream that might be easier to quantify, but the real origins of most cultural movements and seismic shifts usually start with the cutting edge and next level artists in their respective fields.
As new web culture evolves so will the standards by which we gauge exactly how Internet fame is defined, but for right now, the most interesting and otherworldly Internet famous are either fly by night memes or carefully calculated creative endeavors that pull from the history of popular culture to mutate and transform everything in their path until the final product becomes unidentifiable and at the same time distinctly familiar.