backdorm boys1

This fan video of "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys gained popularity as viral video via the Internet. It was produced by two Chinese students, and was uploded into Google Video im Juli 2005, after it had been discovered on a Chinese portal. (I personally found it via Boing Boing in Oktober 2005)

This short video raises quite a few questions which could be discussed in class, using the Key Concepts and Key Questions.

1. Audience:
How do you read this video? Is this fan video meant to be serious or is it ironic? How do the students see this video? While some find it funny others may find it not funny at all.
The reason for the enourmous popularity of this video might lie in an ironic reading - similar as in some Spike Lee music videos. Do you laugh about the naive enthusiasm of those Chinese music fans, just as some would laugh about Japanese karaoke singers? Or is the video thought to be making fun of the music of the Back Street Boys? Or is it a satire of music videos in general? Then one would be laughing
with those Chinese Students about the music industry.

Different audience readings create the meaning of the text, and there is no definite or single view. Ultimately it remains a question of context, personal preference and taste.

2. Institution:
On the one hand one could argue that some of these fan videos are just like hip hop - mixing and scratching music as new way of reinterpreting media messages. Viral messages can be understood as subversive messages, which spread on the web, in an uncontrolled and unpredicable fashion. Often these videos are created by anonymous producers. Who has not seen such videos yet? What are the implications for culture and society? But viral marketing is also a way of selling goods using a new and apparenty cool way of advertising.

This video clip also raises questions of media ownership. Who owns this product rightfully? Who makes money on it? If you understand this piece of pop music as a product of globalized media buisness, or as a product of cultural imperialism - is the theft of the song by those Chinese student a way of fighting back in this war of cultures? Is this video an illegal product, because it uses the music of a popular band, is it a legitimate creative reinvention, or is it to just be seen as harmless, if illegal fun? This question is also interesting in the light of the fact that many student video productions are music videos to popular soundtracks. But who is making money on it? If it is not the music industry, what about Google, which distributes this video on a global scale?

4. Representation:
In a global media world - what attitudes do we share with those Chinese students and where do we differ? What is the view that these students might have on the west and western culture? What is your view of Chinese culture?

We also have to raise some uncomfortable questions: Do you find the video funny because the students are Chinese? Are they funny because they are dressed in western clothes? Is the popularity of this video a symptom of subtle racism? Or on the contrary - is it a positive symptom of a global youth culture, standing for shared ideas, values and attitudes of young people even from different cultures?

5. Language:
The video is surprisingly effective, deceptively simple, and shows some surprising aesthetic qualties. Filmed in one long continuous shot, is shows the point of view of a webcam. The mise-en-scene reveals a typical student setting, one computer user in the background seemingly oblivious of what is going on, watching some other film, or playing a computer game. The actors are positioned symmetrically, with clothes and colours matching. The choreography, miming and lip synched singing must have been well rehearsed - as ironic, suversive or naive counter text to the soundtrack.

Video Two Chinese Students

Case Study Viral Video

The music video "I Want It That Way" by the Backstreet Boys gained enourmous popularity via Google Video. The two Chinese students gained fame lip synching the song in a video captured on a webcam in their college dorm room, and have since become known as the 'Back Dorm Boys', even with their own entry in wikipedia.

Viral Video

The term viral video refers to video clip content which gains widespread popularity through the process of Internet sharing, typically through email messages, weblogs and other media sharing websites. Viral videos are often humorous in nature and may range from televised comedy sketches to unintentionally released amateur video clips. While the viral video phenomenon has occurred in a largely unstructured manner, a number of organizations are attempting to find marketing strategies that rely on the distribution of viral video, often with mixed results.

The proliferation of camera phones, camcorders and webcams means that many video shot these days is shot by consumers on these devices. The easy availability of cheap video editing and publishing tools, allows video to be edited and distributed virally both on the web by email and between phones. Consumer shot videos are typically non-commercial videos intended for viewing by friends or family. Corporations have begun to market products and services using amateur-like viral videos.

adapted from wikipedia

Viral Marketing

Viral marketing and viral advertising refer to marketing techniques that seek to exploit pre-existing social networks to produce exponential increases in brand awareness, through viral processes similar to the spread of an epidemic. It is word-of-mouth delivered and enhanced online; it harnesses the network effect of the Internet and can be very useful in reaching a large number of people rapidly.

Viral marketing is sometimes used to describe some sorts of Internet-based stealth marketing campaigns, including the use of blogs, seemingly amateur web sites, and other forms of astroturfing to create word of mouth for a new product or service. Often the ultimate goal of viral marketing campaigns is to generate media coverage via "offbeat" stories worth many times more than the campaigning company's advertising budget.

Viral marketing is a technique that avoids the annoyance of spam mail; it encourages users of a specific product or service to tell a friend. This would be a positive word-of-mouth recommendation.

adapted from wikipedia

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