So unless you’ve been living under a rock for the whole of the past week, you’ve probably been scarred for life by Miley’s ‘twerking’ in her horrific performance at the VMA’s. Most of you probably had a reaction that somewhat resembled this:
It’s one of those things that everyone loves to hate. You regret satisfying your curiosity to look up the video to see it for yourself, but afterwards you can’t stop following all the jokes, memes, and parodies of her performance. Some people have even said they have never loved the internet more than they do right now with all this stuff about Miley. Everywhere you go, people are talking about it. So if it was attention Miley wanted, she definitely has it now, albeit most of it being of the negative type.
I was more than a tad amused when this popped up on my Facebook feed:
That’s right, a whole list of paintings that have been ‘modified’ with the addition of a twerking Miley. It’s amazing what you can find on the internet these days, and the things people come up with. You can see the rest of them here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/jenlewis/miley-cyrus-twerks-on-famous-paintings
10 years ago, the way we would’ve reacted to this would have been very different. Perhaps people would have talked about it in person or online forums, but it definitely would not have received the same sort of response as it did this past week. The internet culture has very much shifted from a read-only culture (more on that later) to a read-write culture where it is considered the norm to respond to things by taking the original and changing it in some way, purely for artistic value or entertainment.
One of my personal favourites from the read-write culture phenomenon, is the “songifying” of news pieces, where a few people on YouTube have used autotune to work news stories into catchy songs. Something about it just brings me so much joy, and makes a news story so much more interesting, although people may argue it does trivialise it a bit. This is the “Bed Intruder Song”, which was a “songification” of the news story on Antoine Dodson, a young hero from Huntsville, AL, who saved his sister from an attack, and now has over 100 million views since it’s upload in 2010.
Lawrence Lessig describes this phenomenon as “Remix Culture”, or “a world in which content is bought, but not simply to be consumed” (2005). In this environment, users respond to culture by using something that is preexisting and repurposing it by changing the aesthetic or the meaning of it. Lessig observes that “blogs, photo journals and sites such as Wikipedia and MySpace signal an extraordinary hunger in our culture for something beyond consumption” and he states that even in 2005, a Pew study had recorded that almost 60 percent of US teenagers had created and shared content on the Internet (2005). Imagine what the numbers would be like now, with the rise of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.
“Read-Only” internet, Lessig states, is “that network in which every bit of culture can be bought in a single click, but bought with the rights to consume only” (2005). Society no longer accepts this model, as it has become a norm, if not a “right” to be able to respond to things in our own way, and give our own two cents on politics, music, or, Miley’s twerking. As corporations are attempting to claim compensations on copyright infringements due to what they believe is an unfair use of their content, it becomes increasingly more difficult to monitor and police this due to some content being altered so much it can be argued that it is almost completely new content.
An example of this is a “mashup” song of the top 25 hits on Billboard, made by DJ Earworm in 2009. The songs and lyrics have been chopped and used in a way that the song now has a completely new meaning, and serves as an entirely different “product” to all the different individual songs it took bits and pieces from. So in this case, how would copyright laws be applied to this?
Personally, I love read-write culture. I love that the audience is now given not only a voice, but the tools to respond in a way that is creative and a lot of the times provocative, and it challenges the traditional cultural norms and opens up space for increased discussion and sharing of ideas.
It also makes the Internet much more exciting and amusing!
LESSIG, L., 2005, Dec 29. Creatives face a closed Net LAWRENCE LESSIG TECHNOLOGY IN 2006. Financial Times, 15