Monday, July 9, 2012

Viral Dynamics and Visibility

Ok, the blog has been neglected for some time now, so it’s time to pick up the pace.
I’ll start off with the most recent project, that being the MA thesis titled „Viral Dynamics and Visibility – How Content Evolves in Network Culture”.

 The paper analyses the viral dynamics nature of the network object in digital culture, by focusing on the case study of the documentary short Kony 2012. The thirty minute video produced by the NGO Invisible Children was part of a larger “Stop Kony” campaign, aimed at bringing into the spotlight Joseph Kony, the head of a Ugandan military guerrilla army and indicted war criminal. The exponential growth in viewership on online video-sharing platforms in a relative short time span since its release makes the media product relevant for study. The study is also helped by the strong nuances and the readily available amount of data.
The text aims to assess the validity of the existing theoretical diffusion models, drawing on such network theories as Albert Barabasi’s free scale model and Tony Sampson’s accidental topology of the network. The essential role in the diffusion process of the highly connected hubs that bridge node clusters is put into question, together with the accuracy of the organic metaphors such as injection, contagion, and viral, that are used to describe the evolution of media content inside the network. Using viewership statistics and natively digital methods for a topological analysis, a comparison is drawn between the actual evolution of the video and the theoretical contagion models.
An analytic framework inspired by Henry Jenkins’ concept of ‘spreadable media’, and the delimitation between ‘viral’ and ‘meme’, as argued by Jean Burgess and Limor Shifman, will also be deployed in order to probe the intrinsic qualities that a media product has to possess in order to achieve its viral status. The atypical formal character of the ;Kony 2012' film, in comparison with other media products, supports the hypothesis that there is a theoretical blind spot in placing the mechanism of diffusion at the intersection of participatory culture and gift economy. Understanding visibility as a process of knowledge production, a new diffusion model is suggested which relies on the visibility of particular content, structured by the multitude of platforms fragmenting the global digital network.

I will be coming back to this, meanwhile a preview of the results: 
 (How a social graph of 72.000+ tweets looks like.)

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