As of this writing, rumors were swirling that Google would acquire YouTube, probably for about $1.7 triquillion.
Should that occur, nobody will be surprised. YouTube, with its 100 million streams a day, has come as close as anyone to offering a missing link between The Old Model and the new.
YouTube isn't Web 2.0. It's Boob Tube 2.0, and therein its genius.
It is also pretty much ground zero for what MIT Professor Henry Jenkins calls "convergence culture" -- the interaction between content makers and their audience. Once upon a time they were interdependent but utterly separate. In the digital age they increasingly symbiotic -- a symbiosis that's sometimes overwhelming, like opposing mirrors, in its infinity.
Such as the ad for Arnet Broadband from Santo, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
It's about Gary Brolsma, the young New Jersey guy who created an Internet sensation by taping himself as he lip-synched to a mindless but catchy Romanian pop song. Gary is not your classic matinee idol, by at least 125 pounds, and the song is manifestly terrible. Yet the whole package was irresistible -- not merely to watch, but to imitate. Thousands of others have posted imitations, often incorporating video from the original. Thus has the post called "Numa Numa" come to represent the essence of YouTube's appeal and of cultural convergence itself.
Enter Arnet Broadband, which sells access to that culture. The spot opens with the familiar 13 notes of the Romanian earworm: Maya heeeeeeeee, maya hooo, maya ho, maya ha-haaaaa. Then, there's Gary, familiarly goofing on video along to the song. Then, intercut with the action, a title card:
One day Gary posted a video of himself ...
After some more Numa-Numics, another title card:
People saw it and began imitating him ...
Then we see a series of imitators and Gary intercut as the title-card narrative proceeds:
Today there are over 3,000 Numa Numa videos ...
Broadband for everyone.
All in all, it's a pretty fetching appeal. Others are participating in the participatory culture, it argues, you should, too. And we'll rent you our pipes to do so for a low monthly fee.
Sans Gary Brolsma
But there's one very strange thing going on here. The star of the ad is not Gary Brolsma. It's some vaguely similar-looking local fat dude. Now, what's that all about?
We know -- because it was widely reported -- that Brolsma did not enjoy the aftermath of his original post. He shunned publicity, confined himself to his parents' house and expressed regret at having allowed himself to be gaped at worldwide. Although three years later he has decided to cash in with a new song and a NewNuma.com website (download the ringtone for only $2.49! Buy your Gary gear!), he has done no third-party ads.
So what does it say about the Brand New Participatory Culture if you are forced to participate without your consent? The rules of the online universe are one thing -- when you upload to YouTube you acknowledge that your work is fair game to be parodied, mashed up and otherwise appropriated by other participants -- but they don't transfer to the Old Model. The opposing mirrors here reflect opposing ethics.
The ostensible message is to converge with the digital culture. The subtext is: Chaos abounds. Here's a brick. Loot the store.
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Review: one star
Title: "Numa Numa"
Marketer: Arnet Broadband
Location: Buenos Aires, Argentina