Thursday, February 7, 2008

why numa?

Towards the end of “You Say You Want a Revolution?” Moulthrop describes the potential for hypertext, and hypermedia more generally, to yank the power to create, produce, and publicize media away from “editors, publishers, managers of conglomerates” and deliver it to “a broadly conceived population of culture workers: writers, artists, critics, 'independent scholars,' autodidacts, 'generalists,' fans, punks, cranks, hacks, hackers, and other non- or quasi-professionals.” Writing in 1991, years before the Internet became easily accessible by the masses, Moulthrop got it right. Indeed, today, anyone with a connection to the Web can produce media – whether it be in blogs, on Youtube, or a photo sharing service - and make it accessible to millions.

Obviously, just because millions of people can access this huge body of raw media doesn't mean they do. There is simply too much stuff out there. The Dancing Baby, JibJab, Maddox, Homestar Runner, Wonkette, Numa Numa, etc. have been viewed by tens of millions, while the hypermedia masterpiece I created at age 11 (a page showing off my various pets) is viewed by very few. So what is it about some pieces of hypermedia that attract the attention of the world? How can hypermedia “authors” succeed in their quests to share their media creations with everyone? Reputation and advertisements are surprisingly irrelevant. Is it possibly the content? If so, what was it about, say, Numa Numa, that rocketed it to a level no other grainy webcam song/dance recording could dream of reaching? At the end of the day, is gaining fame amidst the chaos of the hypermedia universe merely a game of chance?

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