Put a Little Serotonin in Me
by David Golumbia — University of Virginia
March 16, 2007 – 10:00
I could scarcely be more ambivalent about the internet’s potential to democratize media very much, let alone to aid political democracy. Internet enthusiasts too often act as if the public had no way to respond to, discuss, or interpret media until computers provided tools for users to “roll their own,” while it seems clear to me that the opposite has always been the case. We are people first and media consumers and users second, and we have always had a lot of freedom to use, interpret and respond to media in a very fluid and unsurveilled fashion. Today, we are able to respond in public, under surveillance, clearly remembered, for all the world to see—is that a change at all? A change for the better? It’s hard to say. But here’s what strikes me as at least a plausible argument in favor of the enthusiasts: a popular video parody that is arguably both better than the original song, and more interesting. Gray Kid may be nothing more than one of many Weird Al Yankovics we can view on YouTube—but it is hard to imagine AM radio giving wide airplay to something as odd, amateur, and socially-critical than “Paxilback.” I am by no means convinced that our world is on the verge of becoming radically democratized—but I look forward to more megastars and megapharma (among others) being skewered in public by creative nonprofessionals like Gray Kid.