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Viral Communication  

"Viral, in the context of the Internet, is defined as “adj., relating to an online video or feature whose popularity spreads like a virus through links posted on websites and blogs and in forwarded e-mails.

Jim Scott, co-founder of the Minneapolis creative agency Mono, writes that, besides luck, web content needs three things to go viral:

1. simple - It should engage people quickly

2. new - Viewers should not have seen it before.

3. good - High quality is more compelling."

Commentary: An objective of most communication is to reach as many people as possible. On the other hand, the Internet is essentially a vehicle for individual communication. Emails are sent to individual persons or to small groups on a list. “Spamming”, which is the practice of sending emails involuntarily to thousands or millions of people, is seen as an improper practice, even if this happens quite often. “Viral” communication achieves the same objective of communication with many people. Essentially, it is individual communication which spreads by word-of-mouth in a public platform such as MySpace or YouTube.

Randy A. Salas, media reporter for the Star Tribune, has identified “six homegrown (Minneapolis-area) Internet sites that have attracted the attention of a cyber nation.”

 

 
 
Monoface
Tay Zonday’s “Chocolate Rain”
BMW’s “The Hire”
What it is: Minneapolis-based creative agency Mono wanted to sent a New Year’s greeting to its clients, so it created a Web-based application called Monoface. Click on the head, mouth, nose or either ye of the computerized visage and it seamlessly rotates among the features of the firm’s 15 employees. The facial combinations, 759,375 of them, can e truly bizarre and funny - a great time-waster. What it is: He looks like Urkel, but sounds like James Earl Jones, observers say. That’s Tay Zonday. The creation of University of Minnesota Grad student Adam Bahner, the unlikely vocalist scored with a YouTube video for his song “Chocolate Rain, hilariously highlighted by his off-mike gasps for air. He has done other songs, but “Chocolate Rain” has attained a life of its own, Bahner says. What it is: BMW’s online film series, created for the German automaker by Minneapolis ad agency Fallon Worldwide, went viral before that term was even used. “The Hire” ruled online video years before YouTube was created. The eight eight-minutes films, produced in 2001 and 20023, starred Clive Owen at the Driver and featured top stars such as Madonna and Forest Whitaker and high-profile directors such as Ang lee, Jon Woo and Guy Ritchie. The goal was to show BMW cars in action using performance footage that was “too hot for TV”, says John Blackburn, who was part of the Fallon creative team.
First posted: January 1, 2007 First posted: April 22, 2007 First posted: April 26, 2001
Going viral: Words spread quickly by bookmark-sharing sites such as StumbleUpon and delicio.us.
Going viral: The video festered for a few months before taking off in July and becoming the YouTube download of the summer. Going viral: Buzz was strong from the get-go, thanks to the people involved and the online-only aspect of the campaign.
Total views: In Monoface’s first three days online, the surge in traffic to the agency’s website shut down its servers, says Mono co-founder Jim Scott. The website received 1.8 million hits in the first three months of Monoface vs. 2,500 Total views: More than 8.3 million at last count. Total views: By the time BMW retired its site for “The Hire” in 2005, the films had been viewed 93 million times, according to the British trade publication Campaign.
Aftermath: Accolades for Monoface have included a Silver Cyber Lion award at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France, and a Webby nomination - and lots of publicity for the agency. Aftermath: Parodies and remixes of “Chocolate Rain” have featured Darth Vader, McGruff the crime Dog and others. Media appearances by Bahner were capped by his august performance on “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” He will open for Dan Deacon and Girl Talk at Minneapolis’ First Avenue on October 5th. Aftermath: The films brought global acclaim for BMW and Fallon, which eventually parted ways. DVDs of the films became a hot commodity among collectors. Although “The Hire” is officially retired, it continues to circulate online via YouTube and other sites.
www.mono-1.com/monoface   www.youtube.com/tayzonday

 

 
 
“Drunk Squirrel”
Billiam the Snowman
Tim Fort’s Kinetic Art
What it is: Shad and Anna Petosky returned to their home in north Minneapolis last autumn to find a squirrel eating out of the jack-o’-lanterns left on their porch from Halloween. The pumpkins had fermented. The squirrel was plastered. “Instead of fleeing as we approached the stairs, he started trying to climb the house and flipped and rolled around,” Shad Petosky recalls. So he got out his video camera. The resulting two-minute clip shows the clobbered critter trying o climb a tree and staggering around on the pavement.   What it is: Minneapolis brothers Nathan and Greg Hamel wanted to do something different for the July 23 Democratic presidential debate, in which the questions were posed via videos on YouTube. Other clips featured talking heads; theirs appropriated a previously animated creation, Billiam the Snowman, who began by saying, “I’ve been growing concerned that global warming, the single most important issues to snowmen of this country is being neglected.”   What it is: Inver Grove Heights artist Tim Fort sets art in motion with his fascinating displays of falling dominoes and bursting stick bombs - unless he’s getting paid, when the latter care called “xylo-explosive devices,” he jokes. To show his various kinetic-art techniques, he created a six-minute video montage through a grant from the town of New York Mills, Minn., and posted the clip online. Although cleverly edited to look like one giant creation, the video actually shows smaller structures built over the course of two weeks in a 20-by-30-foot room.
First posted: November 18, 2006 First posted: July 19, 2007 First posted: June 23, 2006.
Going viral: Someone pilfered the clip and reposted it on Break.com, where it won a $400 prize. Then it was featured on Digg and spread. Going viral: The clip was hailed as the highlight of a dry debate in story after story, including in the Wall Street Journal and on CNN. Going viral: The video took off about a year ago, when it was featured by Minnesota Stories and Yahoo.
Total views: About 3 million. Total views: About 200,000 for the initial clip and followups - “not bad considering that politics does not play on YouTube,” Nathan Hamel says. Total views: About 2 million via YouTube, Yahoo, the Internet Archive and elsewhere.
Aftermath: TV reports on the clip included Fox News, CNN, and Country Music Television, earning the Petoskys $1,650 in licensing fees. Break.com righted a wrong and gave them their rightful $400 won by the clip. Aftermath: Republican candidate Mitt Romney publicly criticized the media attention received by Billiam, prompting a YouTube reply from the indignant snowman. The Hamels are selling Billiam merchandise on CafePress.com and are in talks to do more clips using Billiam as the spokes-snowman for global warming. Aftermath: Fort has been tapped for many public exhibitions of his work and recently created a kinetic-art display for a Belgian TV commercial.
www.youtube.com/kotasHQ

“Web sensations: The Twin Cities have become a virtual petri dish when it comes to producing videos that ‘go viral’ on the Internet” by Randy A. Salas, Star Tribune, September 11, 1007, p. E1 & E8

Another Viral Sensation

After pop singer Britney Spears put on an embarrassing performance at the MTV Video Music Awards, a passionate fan named Chris Crocker produced an emotional video coming to her defense. “Leave Britney alone,” Crocker pleaded. Crocker’s production was so off-the-wall that it became an instant “camp classic worthy of the most outlandish Joan Crawford impersonation, “ said one reviewer. Posted on September 11, 2007, it had already received more than 4 million hits three days later.

According to the review:

“’All you people care about is readers and making money off of her,’ Crocker screams in the clip as tears make his heavy eyeliner run. She’s a human!’

“In an interview with MSNBC, Crocker insisted that his videotaped tirade was genuine, not a performance - even though he refers to himself as a diva. What happens with Spears is serious business, he insists. ‘For my generation, it’s just as big of a topic as 9/11,’ he told MSNBC.”

Star Tribune, September 14, 2007, p. A2

 

Chris Crocker
Britney Spears

 



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