Response 9- Viral Videos, Attention Structures, Visual Rhetoric

Every day when you log onto any social media platform you’ll see whats currently in the news, the weather and you’ll also see the current viral sensation. In some cases these are memes in others they’re videos. Take for instance the viral parodies of Drake’s song Hotline Bling over the course of a week these videos have been remixed with all sorts of intent, other dances, pizza making and more. They’re widely known now and every discourse community has had their hand in making a unique one.

So how do these things take off? Why do they take off? In the case of the Drake videos its because they’re funny and people loved to remix them, in other cases like the UC Davis incident of Lt. Pike pepper spraying peacefully protesting students for no reason, the videos go viral out of anger and support for those wronged. Very often on social media we see viral videos of excessive police force, animal abusers and other social justice issues. By sharing the video we show support, solidarity or complete opposition adding our two cents in with the share.

This is the case surrounding the visual component of the Trayvon Martin case. Lisa Lebduska goes through the viral web of images used to play the case out in the media in Racist Visual Rhetoric and Images of Trayvon Martin. “Power and inequality themselves have long been mediated by visual practices across and array of media” (page 1) she introduces the idea that racism, like many other global issues, is amplified and reinforced with the use of social media. When the Martin case hit the media it was met with a firestorm of circulation, prosecution and outrage. Battle lines were drawn and some virally reposted images of Martin as a wholesome family kid who was judged because of what he looked like, while others, including Zimmerman’s defense team, took typical teenage myspace images and blew them out of context in an attempt to make Martin a villain.

One of the most circulated images was the one of Martin and Zimmerman juxtaposed. It shows Martin smiling at the camera, the image of Zimmerman was a 2005 mug shot (page 2). This image was created to push public cry for the indictment of Zimmerman painting Trayvon as cherubic (page 3) and honest, using an image of him in a Hollister brand shirt which is often associated with middle class (page 2). Carefully choosing the image was everything as Lubduska points out it was “a martyred child is easier to convey than the nuanced complexity of a human teen…..” (page 4).

That then ties in to the statement made by Trayvon’s mother Sybrina “People want to make this a black and white issue, but i believe that this is about right and wrong. No one should be shot just because someone else thinks they’e suspicious” (page 3). In the media the story was pitched from as racial standpoint which is why the media in favor of indicting Zimmerman chose images of Martin smiling, with family and doing things like snowboarding over “human teen” behavior photos because doing so would only amplify the stereotypical images also circulating.

Whenever we see an image it is often always accompanied by a story, that story however does not always accurately depict the picture and vice versa. “…Images are not things. They are relationships that we create.” (page 6), this powerful closing is everything. Images are what we propagate them to be, when made viral they can have a lasting and dangerous effect.

Response 6- Social Media

When we think of “culture” today we don’t always think of our ethnic backgrounds or upbringing we think of the fast moving tech savvy world in which we live. Social culture today is predominantly online, our news, weather, banking and even most of our interactions with others are all via a screen of some sort. While in some aspects this is highly praised for its efficiency and speed others question its reliability. Even in the texts we read about Wikipedia one of the main detriments to the site was the fact that so many hands could alter a post making it hard to tell fact from fallacy.

Aside from online accuracy what else has a social media culture done to our values and basic language skills? In chapters 8 and 10 of the Jones and Hafner text they talk about the implications that social media has on our ability to properly communicate. I think about that as i type this and try and count how many times i have had to go back and fix a post on this site because i’ve typed it short hand or in “social media” language. Terms familiar on twitter, Facebook or instagram are not real world terms, they’re not accepted on a resume, in a business email or letter yet we continue to use and incorporate them into our everyday use, even speaking them aloud.

A great example of this is the example of the presidential race in the article “How Social Media is Ruining Politics”, where it states that candidates like Clinton and Bush are having trouble “fitting in”. Social media has become such a norm in our culture not having a large social media following as a public figure head actually works against you, you loose your touch with the world. Which is totally ironic because social media is virtual you can’t actually touch anything. For instance look at Donald Trump’s Twitter Feed and see just how many retweets and favorites he has, his following is huge even if he isn’t the most liked guy on the planet. The point is though he gets an edge for having a mass following, one he maybe didn’t earn but gets because his opponents are being in the times. Even decades ago in the Nixon/ Kennedy presidential race kennedy used the “modern” form of communication to win his election, his opponent Nixon was’t savvy on the new medium of communication thus costing him the race.

The language of the world may have its roots in the same places, may share similar meaning to words and symbols but being online changes all of that. There is a whole new frontier to language with social media and though it may not be wildly professional or grammatically correct it is common place on social networks, and to be successful on these apps to gain a following to reach the people and groups you’re targeting you have to know them because the inability to do so leaves you in the dust, obsolete.