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Charlie bit my Finger (and so can you?)

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by

Sarah Reif

on 2 June 2014

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Transcript of Charlie bit my Finger (and so can you?)

Youtube, viral videos, and participatory culture
Charlie bit my Finger
(and you can too?)
Not the Beginning (but kind of close)
Moldovian pop group O-Zone released the song “Dragostea din tei” in 2003.
In December of 2004 this song made its way into the home of Gary Brolsma where he spent 15 minutes making a video for his friends.
He uploaded it to the video sharing site Newgrounds where he believed it would be quickly buried.
Something else happened entirely.
Looking Closer
The graph show below represents popularity over time based on google search history for the phrase "numa numa"
The blue star represents the creation of Gary's video.
The red star, representing April 2005 and consequently the peak of "numa numa" search popularity, corresponds with the launch of a website which would revolutionize online video sharing, Youtube.
So what happened?
phenomenon such as this have entered the cultural vernacular as "viral videos"
Brolsma's original video on Newgrounds is recorded as having nearly 16 million views
its counterpart on Youtube, uploaded by a different user, has over 50 million views
But First: Some Terminology
Viral (video)
: Video clips that become highly popular through rapid user-led distribution
Meme (internet)
: a joke or practice that becomes widely imitated
I will postulate that viral videos (specifically memetic viral videos) such as this are more than just one-off sources of entertainment, and are instead mechanisms through which cultural practices unique to Web 2.0 form.
Web 2.0
: The term used to describe the shift in internet use from passive content viewing towards user generated content and community formation
Both "Viral" and "Meme" have their roots in the biological.
Memetics is a concept proposed by Richard Dawkins drawn from attempts to develop a science of cultural transmission akin to evolutionary theory (Dawkins, 1976)
A meme is the corresponding cultural unit to the biological gene.
Varying Viruses
Basic Viral
: videos which spread to the masses via word of mouth and achieve large viewership yet do not undergo significant change
Memetic Viral:
videos that reach mass audience and inspire user engagement in the form of parody, replication, or remixing.
Shifman notes that these videos are "
used mainly in marketing, the viral metaphor tends to focus on the mechanism of delivery and scale of audience, often overlooking cultural and social aspects
"

(Shifman, 2011).
These repeatable videos often have "
textual hooks or key signifiers
" which enable them to "
become recognizable after repetition and then can be plugged into other forms
" solidifying them in the cultural vernacular (Burgess, 2008)
.
Participation
Prior to 2005, uploading videos online was actually fairly difficult
Youtube therefore marked a major change because now virtually anyone with a webcam could make themselves seen online
beyond even that, Youtube is uniquely formed as a social networking site where "
videos are the primary medium of social connection between participants
" (Burgess, 2008).

What does this mean for Numa?
recall the search spike from google graph
in what Michael Wesch poetically refers to as a "
celebration of new community
" these new 'Youtubers' came together around the Numa Numa dance and similar virals (Wesch, 2006).

"
They’re following a ritual that’s meaningful if not yet venerable: learning the dance, lip-synching the song, documenting their performance just so, making it available for the world to see. And they probably have no idea what the words mean, as if that mattered. “Dragostea din Tei,” not even the words but the sound of the recording, is now part of the fabric of the internet.
"
(Wolk 2006)
these tributes and recreations indicate the memetic value of Brolsma's 2004 video
Entering the cultural vernacular
free hugs
where the hell is matt?
frozen grand central
harlem shake
all your base
/
are belong to us

charlie bit my finger
/
charlie bit me

chocolate rain
soulja boy
Further Watching
Note how all of these videos are user generated content
Furthermore they have all been subject to remixing and replication earning them memetic status.
their popularity has gone down since their genesis but has never been fully diminished

So what's the point again?
Memetic viral videos become social hubs which encourage participation in the youtube community.
Through this community participation aspects of these videos (songs, phrases, backgrounds) become a kind of language and can be used as recognizable cues
Knowledge and use of these cues signifies membership in the internet community.
parody songs replicate curtain background set up and the statement "I move away from the mic to breathe"
what started as a hilarious mistranslation turned into a phrase used world wide. It existed before youtube but numerous youtube parodies utilizing the phrasing continue to be made.
The song and dance started as a youtube video and soon videos were popping up everywhere replicating it. Eventually DeAndre Cortez Way or "Soulja Boy" was signed to a record label and the song reached the billboard top 100
The bigger picture
take a look at culture itself
the internet has been accused of many things, one of which is the destruction of culture itself
but lets go
WAY
back and look at Herodotus' definition of culture
Common descent
Commonly intelligible language
Common understandable religious practice
Common customs and world view
or perhaps a more recent view "the shared values, beliefs, and practices that characterize a group" (Merriam-Webster)
memes are often written off as "silly internet jokes" but looking at these definitions, old and new, perhaps culture can be defined as "sharing, understanding, and perpetuating the same inside jokes" and in that case Youtube and the other Web 2.0 sites which foster user involvement are creating a new culture entirely.
Collectively participating in something like one of these memetic videos, especially large public ones like Harlem Shake, Grand Central Freeze, or Gangam Style is reminiscent of the idea of Collective Effervescence
References
Burgess J (2008) All your chocolate rain are belong to us? Viral video, YouTube and the dynamics of
participatory culture. In: Lovink G and Niederer S (eds) Video Vortex Reader: Responses to YouTube. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Institute of Network Cultures, 101–109. http://eprints.qut.edu.au/18431/1/18431.pdf.
Dawkins R (1976) The Selfish Gene. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Wesch, Michael. 2008. An anthropological introduction to youtube. [video recording 55 minutes].
Library of Congress.
Wolk, D. 2006. The syncher, not the song. The Believer Mag. June/July.
Schiffman, L. 2012. An anatomy of a youtube meme. New Media Society 14(2): 187-203.
http://nms.sagepub.com/content/14/2/187.full.pdf+html
Lewis, L. 2012. The participatory meme chronotope. In New Media literacies and participatory popular
culture across borders. Bronwyn T Williams and Amy A Zenger eds. Pp. 106-121. Routledge.
Brolsma, Gary. 2004. Numa numa dance. [Video recording 1 minute 40 seconds]. Newgrounds.
Weezer. 2008. Weezer - pork and beans (official video). [video recording 3 minutes 18 seconds]. Youtube.
matt72986. 2006. Numatube. [video recording 4 minutes] youtube.
O'Reilly, Tim. 2005. What is web 2.0. oreilly.com
http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=1. 2013
Culture. 2013. In Merriam-Webster.com. Retrieved February 28, 2013, from
http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/culture
"
remix potential ensures the life of the video but audience response ensures their agelessnes
"

(Lewis 2012).

By Sarah Reif
BONUS!
"It's half-time at Michigan State, 75,000 people are in the stands and the marching band is on the field. Up to a podium at the front of the stadium steps a round young man. It's Gary Brolsma, there to conduct the band in a rendition of his timeless classic. Partway through, he turns to the crowd, puts down his baton, and with a look of deliberation, leads the band through the same arm-waving dance he captured six years ago.Trumpets and trombones, by the hundreds, wave through the air in sync with him. Sousaphonists hop up and down in rhythm. From the videographer's perch, halfway up the stands, the crowd's pumping arms can be seen following the lead of the guy who was once a laughingstock. As his image is projected on the big screen, the crowd roars with delight. It's a triumph.... I wonder, does society shape the Internet, or does the Internet shape society?" (Tossel, 2010).
Tossel, I. 2010. All that's old is numa numa again. The Globe and Mail. January 4.
A representation of the "home-video" style of Youtube upload. There are many hilarious montages of fully grown people replicating this. The phrase "ouch charlie" has gained its own life.
Full transcript