We, the Medium

The audience has mutated.

Consider exhibit A, this video:

It’s been sweeping the viral video nets over here. Over 700,000 hits in a week is pretty damn good. UPDATE: This video has accrued over 6.8 million hits in 11 days. It’s the most shared video on the net right now, according to viralvideochart.

This vid has many of the qualities you’d expect in a good social media meme: simplicity, authenticity,and currency.

It also somehow feels very ‘now’ and relevant. You could argue that it’s captured the spirit of this particular historical moment: the bustle of the station, the hidden cameras, the interpenetration of basic and enhanced reality in the same space. Feels like something new and exciting, right?

But it isn’t new. Flashmobs have been around for ages. And more than that – if you think about it, there was absolutely nothing stopping anyone from making this video in the 1980’s, or even the 1950’s – or even in the 1930’s.

What’s changed?

We have.

The reason that someone thought of doing this now, and not in 1939 or 1959 or 1989, is that the medium has matured.

This is not a TV ad. It’s not spreading through the airwaves, or on sheets of paper, or shouted loudly through the air. It’s a ‘viral’ and it’s spreading through the population. This is a social media ad – it just happens to be in video.

And that means the medium is us.

After fifteen years of internet, ten years of mobile phones, and three years of YouTube, we’re ready to propagate this sort of thing. That’s why it has spread the way it has; people sharing, linking and recommending it to their friends. We are the medium through which this meme, and others like it, are  spreading, each one a particle vibrating when contacted, sometimes imparting that vibration to the people connected to us.

We are the medium.

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