Monday, April 8, 2013

Year of billions for social media

Genre: Music
Origin: South Korea
Medium: Youtube
Viewership: Staggering 1 billion in five months

This is an example of how internet is providing avenues, means and medium for the movement of cultural and media products. Overnight, a little known Korean rapper is a celebrity and his Gangnam style is new sensation in popular culture across the world. More striking is that his relatively unknown culture challenged the dominant English language and pushed teenage heart throb Justien Bieber's music video to second position by a very large margin.

Before that too, we witnessed a few such examples. Kolaveri Di was new sensation at least in the South Asian region which turned an amateur singer from a South corner of India into a celebrity. This video is viewed by over 67 million in youtube.
There was also a recent case of a video originated in Nepal going viral. Hello hunny bunny, a TVC for Indian Idea mobile was already popular in the mass media but its video was made by a team of Nepalis which went viral and is seen by 1.4 million in just two months. Similarly, promos of Nepali films are easily viewed by over a hundred thousands in youtube and a digital poster of new Nepali movie Badhshala reached 295,000 views in just less than five days. That's staggering.

This was not possible only with youtube but because of all social sites and networks collectively contributed to it. Youtube provided platform for uploading and to some extent sharing and actually making it viral is owed to facebook and twitter.

This is in contrast to traditional media which largely promoted conventional uni-directional north to south flow. Social media have prompted studies on whether social media are changing this flow. And the cases mentioned above support that argument, albeit in rudimentary level. Proofs are emerging that new and internet based media are providing these opportunities and social media platforms i.e. facebook and twitter act as a vehicle carrying these content to users across the globe.

I don't claim that these sporadic cases would upset the traditional north-south imbalance in information flow and hegemonic penetration of popular culture. However, internet, unlike any older media, has opened such immense potentials. As the internet penetration and software and hardware proliferation accelerates and becomes more affordable, it is surely going to leave the mark. And we can be sure that as much as the traditional media helped western dominant culture to make impact across the world, the internet's contribution is going to be different -  that of a bit willing to balance that.

And the year 2012 has become markedly the year of billions: social media platform facebook crossed 1b users (Oct 4, 2012) while another information sharing platform twitter crossed half a billion accounts and then came Gangnam Style. Psy's Gangnam Style - a non-English, non-Western music video became the first ever to surpass 1 billion views on the youtube. By now it has proudly recorded over one and a half billion!

This article also appears in Media Newsletter published by Communication Study Centre at Madan Bhandari Memorial College

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