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robertogreco : virality   5

How 'The Dress' exposes viral media's shaky future | Fusion
"Sometimes when I’m feeling numbed by the cascading viral trends and hot takes in my feeds, I’ll load up a random number generator and use it to search YouTube for videos without names, ones nobody has ever watched before. The sensation is like flipping through broadcasts of alien surveillance footage of humanity. I click indiscriminately from one shot to the next: A man explains how he traded his bicycle for a used video camera—click. A child dances in front of the TV as EDM plays—click. A girl stands in her kitchen alone and growls: “That’s how you make BROWNIES”—click.

There’s something pleasingly candid about the videos. They hearken back to an older era of the internet, when nobody knew what the hell they were doing. When unsettling weirdness and danger lurked just a few clicks away. Before a combination of centralized services created a predictable, sanitized web. In my day, kids had to walk uphill both ways to get their content.

That old, strange internet never really went away. It’s just hidden in plain sight, on our social media platforms.

Most content on the web is accessed through a handful of platforms. Those companies make money off the information users post, and so they encourage everyone to post as much as possible, free of charge.

Yet this presents a problem: There’s too much stuff. Even the most avid user, eyes glazed over from scrolling past thousands of baby photos and clickbait articles and ads, can’t possibly see everything that gets posted.

This puts these companies in a bind. They can’t tell people to post less frequently ($$$) but they also can’t let their sites be overwhelmed by screeching noise because users will get frustrated and jump ship ($$$). So they filter content, each in their own ways. Facebook’s newsfeed, for example, uses an algorithm that boosts content based on a series of mysterious factors—are people engaging with the post? Saying “congrats”? Did they give us any $$$? Google offers search results tailored to what it deems relevant to the user. Twitter is experimenting with alternatives to chronological order. It all works pretty well. Our feeds are relatively bearable, if not boring.

And yet, beneath the controlled epidural layer, that filtered-out stuff still exists.

This is the Lonely Web. It lives in the murky space between the mainstream and the deep webs. The content is public and indexed by search engines, but broadcast to a tiny audience, algorithmically filtered out, and/or difficult to find using traditional search techniques.

How large is the Lonely Web? Based on one study from 2009 that shows that 53% of videos on YouTube haven’t even passed the 500-view mark, it’s safe to estimate: It is very, very large.

It includes but is not limited to: videos on YouTube that have never been viewed; Twitter accounts with hundreds of tweets and no followers; spam bots; blurry concert videos with blasted-out sound; petitions for lost causes; apps that nobody will ever download; and anonymous posts on 4chan that suddenly disappear, extinguishing like distant stars made of burning trash.

There are even brands on the Lonely Web. A Kazakstan outpost of fast food chain Hardee’s, for example, has only 160 Twitter followers. For a while the account was just tweeting random, inexplicable codes, like a fast food numbers station.

The content feels more honest than much of the formulaic, prepackaged mainstream web. It seems to be the result of platforms aggressively telling people their voices matter and deserve to be heard, without making apparent the extent to which their broadcast signals are diminished. The Lonely Web is littered with desperate messages in bottles, washed far ashore in a riptide of irrelevant content.

There are tools for exploring the Lonely Web, if one is especially lazy: Sites like 0views and Petit YouTube collect unwatched, “uninteresting” videos; Sad Tweets finds tweets that were ignored; Forgotify digs through Spotify to find songs that have never been listened to; Hapax Phaenomena searches for “historically unique images” on Google Image Search; and /r/deepintoyoutube, which was created by a 15-year-old high school student named Dustin (favorite video: motivational lizard) curates obscure, bizarre videos.

One of my favorite techniques comes from /r/imgxxxx and involves searching the default file formats for digital cameras plus four random numbers. This dredges up videos so unwanted that they were never named. In some cases, not even the person who filmed the videos seems to have watched them.

Can such a massive amount of unrelated content have a unified aesthetic? Kind of, sort of. It’s best described by what it isn’t. Most sites have “best practices”—encouraged or implied—and most of what’s on the Lonely Web violates them. It is weird and of shoddy quality, amateurish, with impossible-to-search titles. Some of it is charming and candid and unpolished. A lot of it is incomprehensible garbage. It varies in length—either too short or too long—and eschews cohesive narratives.

I get the nagging impression that some of it wasn’t meant to be seen. Since they end up being unnervingly candid windows into people’s lives, browsing through too much of it at once can feel invasive and emotionally exhausting.

But for precisely all these reasons, unlike a lot of mainstream content, the Lonely Web feels, well, human.


Despite its apparent worthlessness, some content on the Lonely Web winds up being incredibly lucrative. A company called Ditto, for example, searches through people’s public photos looking for references to brands, selling that information to corporations as valuable demographic data."
viral  virality  audience  video  anthropology  content  joeveix  youtube  lonelyweb  web  online  internet  deepweb  hapaxphaenomena  obscurity  forgotify  spotify  deepintoyoutube  images  search  onlinetoolkit  0views  audiencesofnone 
january 2016 by robertogreco
The Triumphant Rise of the Shitpic - The Awl
"Let’s call them Shitpics. Because they look like shit.

Shitpics happen when an image is put through some diabolical combination of uploading, screencapping, filtering, cropping, and reuploading. They are particularly popular on Instagram.

For instance, consider this post by the very famous celebrity Ludacris.


There’s a lot going on here. Let’s try and figure out how this image ended up in its current state.

The image was probably created by the joke account @blackgirlproblems_official, where it looked like this:


There are a few clues that this is probably the original. The text is centered and sharper, and the emoji is more than a smudge of dirty yellow gibberish. The picture of the monkey is clear (and cute!!!). All of the text in the watermark is legible.

Then this meme went through hell.

It was saved and cropped numerous times. There are a few signifiers of this: The text is cut off on the left side and there are slight black bars at the top and bottom of the frame. The greenish cloud around the text also indicates an absurd amount of (re)compression.

Maybe the most baffling part of this is the appearance of the rule-of-thirds grid, which likely came from Instagram’s upload screen. Which means that someone screencapped their upload process and then uploaded that? And the grid somehow doesn’t even reach the top and bottom edges.

The version of this image from @msrjstlf indicates that it was probably not run through a filter at any point, since the whitespace seems to have stayed mostly that. The lower left corner of the picture does show, however, just how many times it has been reconfigured: the “black” in “blackgirlproblems_official” has been absorbed by section of blanket that has been widening and darkening as the macro travels through the wringer.


Then Ludacris puts the cherry on top: a translucent gray regram banner crediting the account that he got it from (though not, of course, the original photographer or even macro author).

The Shitpic aesthetic has arisen from two separate though equally influential factors, both of which necessitate screencapping instead of direct downloading. The first is that Instagram, which has no built-in reposting function, doesn’t let users save images directly. This means that the quickest way to save an image on a phone is to screencap it, technically creating a new image.

The second, more important shift is the new macro format that divorces text from image. Classic memes (jfc “classic memes” what are we doing) had text directly on the image, written in Impact font in a particular style—white with a black border. That changed with the rise of the text setup/image punchline format on Tumblr, particularly on the blog What Should We Call Me, which spawned and continues to spawn imitators. Twitter began to imitate this when it changed tweet formatting to hide image URLs ( from tweets, easing the transition from text to image, from setup to punchline.

It’s difficult to send someone a technically exact copy of these types of jokes, because they can’t be bundled into a single file such an image. Sending the URL where the joke is hosted requires someone to load an entire webpage, which is relatively laborious on mobile, and so they necessitate being screencapped.

In general, directly saving images on mobile is a function that, even when available, most people don’t bother to use or even learn (saving files locally—in any kind of file system—is generally discouraged in smartphone operating systems). Screencapping is just easier—it’s the quickest way to get something from the internet to your camera roll. That’s why even classic-format memes have fallen victim to the Shitpic process.


When you pair the format’s inherent need to be screencapped in order to attain virality with Instagram’s prevention of downloading images, you get an endless cycle of screencapping and compression through uploading. Throw in the occasional filter, or watermark, or regram tag, and let the process carry itself out for a while, and eventually you get a Shitpic. The layers pile up, burying and distorting the original.

The rise of the Shitpic demonstrates just how little ownership there is on the internet: Shoddy workarounds and subpar image quality are a small sacrifice to make, so long as your version of a joke goes viral instead of someone else’s. That the image is a muddled cacophony of compression artifacts and blurry emoji matters little, so long as your screenname is above it.


Perhaps most importantly, the Shitpic aesthetic could very well be the first non-numeric indicator of viral dissemination. Metrics such as pageviews, impressions, Facebook referrals, YouTube view counts, and BuzzFeed viral lift all attempt to quantify virality in some way. To the layman (and, let’s be frank, some industry experts too) all of this is gibberish.


But if you look at a Shitpic, you can instantly tell the level of virality by how worn it looks, how legible its text is, how many watermarks adorn it. You can count them much like you would rings on a tree. A pristine-looking meme engenders skepticism—“This can’t be that funny, it hasn’t been imperfectly replicated enough.” But when you see that blurry text, partially cut off by the top of the frame, and a heavily compressed picture of Kermit below… that’s when you know:

This is gonna be a good-ass meme."
instagram  photography  internet  culture  degradation  compression  cropping  2014  brianfeldman  digital  shitpics  mobile  phones  screencapping  screenshots  distortion  virality 
october 2015 by robertogreco
PICTURES - marclafia
"With these new works I want to re-imagine, reinvent time, to see it as a physical dimension, to create an object of the image, that doesn't obliterate it, but teases out its trajectories and brings it back from its overexposure in its continual transmission. Of course the image will never exhaust itself in its repetition but become so domesticated that all its initial charge is gone. How then to see these familiar pictures but to rework them and make them new again with other pictures.

With the use of perspective and lenses long before photography, western picture making, not unlike genres of movies were pretty stable. There were the genres of History, Landscape, Portraiture and Still Life. Picture and picture making was regulated by the church then academies and the discourse around them narrow. It was this controlled discourse, this decorum of the picture and its reception that artists worked against that created occasional shocks and outrage.

My first interest was in History paintings but over time it became the history of painting and with that the history of photography, and I suppose a history of image. I had always been taken by Manet's Execution of Maximilian and only learned at the outset of my project that what Manet had created and abandoned as a painting was also an event that was photographed. Manet's cool and dispassionate take on the event contrasted with Goya's painting Third of May and Goya was in conversation with Rubens and Rubens, Leonardo.

Pictures have often, if not always, been about and in conversation with other pictures. This led me to think of pictures in their many modes and many genres across time and to want to create conversations amongst and between them. I began to imagine new images, to see new things, new thoughts often times by simply placing one image on another, or layering images and cutting them out. These new pictures pointed to things sometimes difficult to discern but there was always a something.

Images in their traces, in their histories, carry forward their techniques, their textures, their surfaces and armatures, their politics. They enfold the world they come from and in conversation I imagined they could present new worlds.

Where images once were the preserve of national archives, ubiquitous digital transmission today is global and each of us has become our own archivists. As to what is, and is not in the archives, and there are a host of them, from a wide variety of transnational corporate search engines and social network services, that is something to discuss elsewhere.

To see these images, to sense their thoughts, we have to look at them with other images. we have to engage them in conversation, in the conversation of images.

All images and sounds are code. As code, they are fluid, viral, infectious, malleable, erasable, moving easily in and out of a wide variety of indifferent contexts.

My interest lies less in photographing reality, and instead focuses on portraying the realities of photography and imaging in the regime of the network, as the world is a network of relations and the network is both a camera and archive, an apparatus of image exchange and circulation.

I want to be clear that when I say picture it may be a mathematical formula, a musical score, a line of code, each of them is a picture. Our capacity to produce Pictures is our capacity to think outside and beyond the present, to go backwards and forwards in time."

[via: ]
marclafia  networks  internet  archives  cameras  pictures  images  imagery  2015  present  past  atemporality  history  conversation  web  online  time  memory  transmission  paintings  code  fluidity  virality  flexibility  erasability  context  exchange  communication  remixing  remixculture  socialmedia  socialnetworking  socialnetworks  arthistory 
april 2015 by robertogreco
[this is aaronland] personal brand as the non-state actor of influence
[audio version: ]

"Access and access at the time of your own choosing is a subtle but important distinction and if we are talking about the opportunity of the Network itself, it is this.

Imagine a world in which access to an exchange of culture required we all have to gather around our computers at the same time in order to read Maciej's latest blog post. Some of us can and if you asked I would tell you it sucked.

When television was the only opporunity we had to gather together outside of and to imagine a world larger than our immediate surroundings we managed to craft genuinely meaningful experiences from it. It would be wrong to suggest otherwise but it would equally wrong to ignore how quickly we opted for the alternative modes – opportunities – that the web provided.

I think that should tell us something and that it is perhaps a quality of the Network being overlooked and perhaps being lost entirely as we devote more and more time and infrastructure in an effort to going viral.

Because we are not all, or will not always be, the kinds of people seeking an audience of many. What the web made possible – at a scale never seen before – was the ability for a individual to discover their so-called community of five. In time. It was the ability for one person to project their voice and for it to echo out across the Network long enough for someone else to find it. It gave us the ability to warm up to an idea, to return to it.

That access to recall is what makes the Network special to me. That is the opporunity which has been granted to us which we would be wrong to confuse with success or even discoverability. We all suffer from degrees of not-in-my-lifetime-itis but that is a kind of deviant behaviour we have already perfected so maybe we should not apply its metrics to the Network, for everyone's benefit.

As has been mentioned I work at a museum. As part of the museum's re-opening in December we are building, from scratch, a custom NFC-enabled stylus which we will give to every vistor upon entry. The stylus (or pen) will allow you to manipulate objects on interactive tables as well as to sketch and design your own creations. That is, literally, what the pointy end of the stylus is for.

The other end is used to touch an object label and record the ID of the object associated with it. That's it. Objects are stored on the pen as you wander around the museum and are then transferred back to the museum during or at the end of your visit and are available for retrieval via a unique shortcode assigned to every visit.

If you buy a ticket online and we know who you are then all the items you've collected or created should already be accessible via your museum account waiting for you by the time you get home or even by the time you get your phone out on the way to the subway. (If you don't already have an account then the visit is considered anonymous and that's just fine, too.)

The use of the pen to collect objects has a couple of objectives:

1. To simply do what people have always wanted to be able to in museums and been forced to accomplish themselves: To remember what you saw during your visit. People take pictures of wall labels, I think, not because they really want to but because there is no other mechanism for recall.

2. To get out of the way; to be intensely quiet and polite. The pen will likely enjoy a certain amount of time in the spotlight but my hope is that it will be successful enough that, when that attention fades, it might simply be taken for granted. To be a necessary technology in the service of memory, that dissolves in to normalcy, rather than being something you need to pay attention to or have an experience with.

3. To give people the confidence to believe that they don't necessarily need to do anything with the things they collect in the moment. To have the confidence to believe that we will keep the things they collect during their visit safe for a time when they will once again be relevant to them. For a person to see the history of one visit in association with all their other visits.

The pen itself is a fairly sophisticated piece of technology because it turns out that taking the conceptually simple act of bookmarking objects in real-life and making it simple in hardware and software is still actually hard. We are not doing this simply for the sake of the challenge but because it provides a way for the museum itself to live with the Network. In these ways we are trying to assert patience. We are, after all, a museum and our only purpose is to play the long game.

I totally didn't say that last paragraph on stage. I should have, though. Instead I talked a little bit about oh yeah, that which is a photo-sharing website which lets you upload a photo and then doesn't let you see it for a year. I talked about it as an experiment in a kind of enforced patience with the Network. I also talked about it an exercise in trying to build a tool that could operate without the adult supervision of my time or money (or much of it, anyway) such that it not be subject to the anxieties of being immediately successful. This, it seems to me, is the work ahead of us. It is not about oh yeah, that or any particular class of applications but about understanding why we are doing this at all and building things to those ends."

If you haven't read Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century I would recommend you do. One of the things that makes the book so powerful is that Piketty has been able to shape an argument through the rigorous use of historical data across a number of countries. The data is incomplete in historical terms: The data for the UK is only available from about the 1840s onwards, for the US data becomes available in the 1920s and so on. The one country where the data is available in a comprehensive manner is France. Because they went to the trouble of collecting it. One of the first acts of the state following the French Revolution was to perform an audit of and to continue collecting reliable estimations of wealth and property.

It is that diligence in record-keeping which made it possible for Piketty to illustrate his point in fact rather than intuition. On the web we have been given a similar opportunity to project our stories outwards in the future; to demonstrate a richer past to the present that will follow this one. It is unlikely that it will or even should yield the same fact-based analysis as Piketty's book. That is not the point. The point is that if we subscribe to a point world view that values a multiplicity of stories and understands that history is nuanced across experience and which recognizes that the ability to look backwards as much as forwards is where opportunity lies then we would do well to remember that many of those aspirations are afforded by the Network and in particular the web.

Those qualities are not inherent in the Network no more than access to opportunity guarantees success. They require care and consideration and if it seems like the Network has turned a bit poison we might do well to recognize that maybe we have also been negligent in our expectations, both of the Network and of ourselves.

Damn... you can almost see me exploding in to a TED-sized supernova of emotive jazz-hands at this point. As above, I did not in fact say this while on stage. I tried to say something like it, though, because I think it's true.

One refrain I hear a lot these days is that it's all gotten too hard. That the effort required to create something on the Network and effort to ensure its longevity has morphed in to something far beyonds the means of the individual. I am always struck by these comments not because I think we ought to be leveraging-the-fuck out of the latest, greatest advances in application framework or hosting solutions but for the simple reason that:

We managed to build a lot of cool shit on the back of 56Kb modems. We built a lot of cool shit – including entire communities – on top of a technical infrastructure that is a pale shadow of what we have available to us today. We know how to do this.

It is important to remember that the strength of the web is in its simplicity but in that simplicity – a Network of patient documents – is the opportunity far fewer of us enjoyed before it existed. The opportunity to project one's voice and to posit an argument which might have even a little more weight, or permanance, in the universe than shouting in the wind which is all most people have ever enjoyed. The opportunity to be part of an historical dialog because having an opinion is not de-facto over-sharing.

It is important to remember that the Network has given us the opportunity of a different measure of success."
networks  aaronstraupcope  2014  dconstruct  dconstruct2014  museums  archives  memory  memories  digital  internet  web  history  object  socialobjects  social  proxyobjects  socialnetworks  thomaspiketty  collections  simplicity  williamgibson  technology  cooper-hewitt  maps  mapping  osm  sopenstreetmap  clickbait  coolhunting  anabjain  efficiency  economics  opportunities  maciejceglowski  power  time  cynthiasmith  efficiencies  virality  scalehigh-speedtrading  access  accessibility  recall  nfc  attention  quietness  quiet  normalcy  everyday  maciejcegłowski 
september 2014 by robertogreco
Why Audio Never Goes Viral
"With a community of creators uncomfortable with the value of virality, an audience content to watch grainy dashcam videos, and platforms that discourage sharing, is a hit-machine for audio possible? And is it something anyone even wants?"
via:tealtan  audio  viral  culture  virality  stanalcorn  internet  web  radio  2014 
january 2014 by robertogreco

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