Tag: idiot

3 of 4 What Makes a Video Viral go Viral?

The Phantom-Event

cloud-mountain
cloud-mountain

The problem however with Le Bon is that he never really explains how his mechanism of hallucination produces such idiots. Rather than figuring out how these subjects are made, he simply describes what he sees. Here again though, like Goriunova, I find Deleuze useful. His notion of the phantom event in The Logic of Sense provides something more to add to the idea that idiots are volatile to Trojans. Like this, in the phantom events of both Belle Poule and Lonelygirl15 a relation is established between social corporeality (bodies) and the incorporeal event (the imitative encounter or passing on of the event). This hallucination is not a hypnotic paralysis resolved solely in the depths of a repressed mental unity (as Le Bon’s proto-psychoanalysis would have it), or for that matter is it the hardwiring of an evolutionary meme code. It is rather an event that affects the crowd on the surface. As Deleuze puts it, “[the phantom-event’s] topological property is to bring ‘its’ internal and external sides into contact, in order for them to unfold onto a single side.” At the surface, the hallucinatory event disengages from its source and spreads itself. Like this, phantom-events are surface effects that can appear as spontaneously intersecting simulacra like the figure of a giant or a mountain range that materializes in the ephemeral formations of clouds in the sky.

horse-cloud
horse-cloud

Similar to the floating branches and leaves of Le Berceau, a religious apparition, or the sudden appearance of a pouting teenage blogger on YouTube, these surface effects can, albeit briefly, become detached from direct experience and autonomously spread their affective charge. Indeed, it is the hypnotized subject’s distance from the phantom-event that makes him evermore prone to variable appearances of the real and the imagined.

This is the logic of sense apparent in the spreading of Trojan viruses, chain letters, and contagious false rumors. These are not simply preprogrammed units of imitation but emergent forces of contagion in the social field that function according to an action-at-a-distance. The phantom-event is a surplus, or excess, of the nonconscious. It contaminates those who are caught somewhere in the loop between the imaginary and the real events encountered and believed in.

1 of 4 What Makes a Video Viral go Viral?

Idiocy and Contagion

In the Guardian last week there was an interesting piece on the documentary filmmaker Jon Ronson who was seemingly duped into appearing in a video viral by Patrice Wilson, the music producer behind the Rebecca Black music video Friday (see Jon Ronson’s viral video: Thank God it’s Tuesday). As Ronson soon realizes, the producer’s intention is to take revenge on him following an uncomfortable interview by making him look like a complete idiot. It suddenly dawns on him that “almost everything that goes viral, goes viral because someone looks like an idiot in it.” Like The Star Wars Kid, Leave Britney Alone and Gingers Do Have Souls, idiocy on the net is more popular than art, culture, and even disasters. 

This news story reminded me of a paper Olga Goriunova presented at the Thinking Network Politics conference in Cambridge a couple of years back. In a very amusing and perceptive presentation Goriunova provided some nice examples of truly idiotic and infectious internet virals, including the Russian singing sensation Mr. Trololo, in order to forward a novel conceptualization of what she called “digital media idiocy.”

trololololo
trololololo

This rich concept drew on a number of sources, but I mostly recall the references Goriunova made to Deleuze’s notion of idiocy in What is Philosophy? Whereas the “old idiot” looked for truth, Deleuze tells us, the “new idiot,” surfacing in the work of Dostoyevsky, “wants to turn the absurd into the highest power of thought – in other words, to create’ (p. 62). Likewise, Goriunova’s work pointed to the creative role of the idiot on the net.

I didn’t see Jon Ronson at the Thinking Network Politics conference, but perhaps he needed to be there to hear Goriunova’s paper. He looks very stupid indeed. But the question of the creative powers of the idiot, and moreover, how idiots are themselves made, is, I think, very interesting.