Adopt a pet, ca…

Adopt a pet, cat video, dog video, adopt a pet. Please send this to all your friends who love their cats and/or dogs.

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Anonymity in Viral Marketing

Viral marketing is relatively new and there are no hard and fast rules. Companies and people are experimenting trying to find what works and what does not work.

In the iamamiwhoami music videos  Jonna Lee made some interesting decisions in the marketing strategy. Some were brilliant, others possibly detrimental. The first videos were released December 4, 2009; they continued to be released on a more or less monthly basis.

The first marketing strategy we can examine is the name she chose for the series of videos, iamamiwhoami. When we examine the name, it essentially says; I am. Am I? Who am I? We can interpret this as the possibility that she is exploring her identity. I am, meaning I exist. Then the Am I?, questioning her true inner identity and the last part of the name, Who am I?, asking her audience to question her outer and inner identities. The audience may also take the name as a chance to examine their own identities.

Keeping in line with the title of the series of videos, Lee used makeup and props to conceal her face and body in the videos, keeping her identity anonymous. In addition to her anonymity, Lee created high-quality abstract, artistic videos, leaving their interpretation of the symbolism to the audience. The music also is mysterious with an Enya-like quality, using foreboding electronics and synthesized sounds.

Lee named the first six videos with obscurity by using numbers. When these numbers are linked to the alphabet they spell out words such as “educational,” “I am,” “its me,” “mandragora,” “officinarum,” and “welcome home.” It is interesting to note the imagery in the videos and the fact that Mandragora officinarum refers to the mandrake root, which when fresh or dry may cause hallucinations. Her videos could be interpreted as hallucinatory.

Then, the next seven videos were named with letters that eventually spelled out “bounty.” They also began with the corresponding sound of an animal by using onomatopoeia to represent the animals’ calls, which can be made to approximate the pronunciation of the English word “bounty.” By bounty, Lee could mean giving liberally or a reward for capturing something/someone who is wanted. That is left to interpretation by the audience.

When the videos were first released Lee kept her identity a secret from the audience, letting them speculate on who she was. Some of the guesses that the audience had were Christina Aguilera, GoldfrappFever Ray, Lady Gaga and Little Boots. The mystique of not knowing for sure who this artist was added to the viral nature of the videos.  However, Lee may have kept her identity a secret too long by waiting over a year to reveal her identity. This may have not been a great marketing strategy on her part.

In analyzing Lee’s marketing strategy we can compare it to the VW campaign. In the VW campaign there is no mention of the brand until the very end. In that sense the “brand” is anonymous as was Jonna Lee for a period of time.

As the article Viral Marketing for the Real World points out, designing messages to exhibit viral properties is extremely difficult.  Lee’s strategy to create buzz with anonymity was somewhat effective, however as mentioned above, the big reveal of who the woman in the video was took too long. The audience seemed to desire the reveal much sooner than it happened.

There have been other artists who chose to remain anonymous. They include:

Nike7Up who create hypnotic, mesmerizing songs, which are complete reconstructions of modern pop canon. They also create videos that are often grotesque and captivating.

Hype Williams who use the monikers of “Roy Blunt” and “Inga Copland.”

The Weeknd, mysteriously co-signed by (and possibly involving) Drake.

Just A Number 05272011, is this a name? A release date? A complete trick?

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A Participatory Culture

The technological advances that have occurred in the last few years have had a tremendous impact on the Media Ecology of the 21st century. Changes happen so rapidly that it can be difficult to stay current on all the new technology and trends. The “maps” of new technology media ecology probably change constantly unlike the maps created by Snow to study the cholera outbreak in London.

In today’s world practically anyone has the ability to be a “movie producer.” With the convergence of low cost camera equipment and YouTube, people are able to create their own movies, YouTube channels, Internet shows, Vlogging channels, etc.

Since YouTube is a “broadcast yourself” medium, people have the opportunity to “express themselves” for all (or most) of the world to see.  We would like to believe that there is no censorship involved with YouTube, however some countries as well as elementary schools in the United States have banned YouTube.

YouTube has helped encourage a participatory culture.  People watch the videos, can comment on them, make parodies, make sequels, vlog about them, etc. This participatory culture has forced “traditional” entertainment companies to assess their distribution methods.  Some have challenged YouTube’s “support of copyright infringement,” some have developed their own streaming, some see the site as a way to provide exposure.

When thinking about how a big company can react to content being parodied or worshipped, George Lucas seems to be making an effort to allow fans to re-purpose Star Wars content, yet also trying to contain the copyright infringement issue. By creating a site where fans can use Star Wars content, he is able to somewhat control the content while appeasing fans.

When he tried this before with the caveat that he would own the fans’ creations, there were campaigns started encouraging Star War fans to not participate. It seems the fans may have won that fight. The Star War fans are very protective of the franchise.

Even I use the tagline “May the Mediaforce be with you.”

It may seem that all of YouTube is amateur video, people trying for their “fifteen-minutes of fame,” however there is professional video content on the site. Some companies have their own channels within YouTube. There are big media companies, web-TV companies and ordinary user videos all on YouTube.

The most active group is the users. These are the people who make their own videos and upload them. Some of these users become famous within their YouTube audience and/or in the world. Vlogging is one way people get followers on YouTube and become very popular.

I think that it is great that people have a way to express themselves creatively, share funny moments and become stars of their own universe with a site like YouTube. However I also have concerns.

As a professional video producer, my first concern is the difference between a professionally produced video and an amateur one. Not all the amateur videos on YouTube are horrible; actually some of them are produced very well.

But when it comes to producing a video for a corporation (a TV commercial, training video, marketing video, promotional piece, etc.) I believe that hiring a professional is going to produce a much better outcome for the hiring company than if they hire “a kid with a video camera.”

For one thing there is the difference in consumer vs. professional equipment.  We all throw the words high definition around, however there are different qualities of HD.  A consumer camera is going to compress the video, usually only has one chip, does not have some of the manual features one may need for certain looks, does not offer choices of frames per second, does not have the quality of lens that a professional camera comes with (this reflects on the ability to choose depth of field) and just does not have the quality look of a professional camera.

Another reason to hire a professional video production company is experience and training.  The more videos one produces the more experienced the person becomes and can advise the client what may or may not work for their end purpose. Someone who just makes movies for themselves does not have that experience. They also are not used to dealing with a client and making content that the client wants.

The producer needs to know what the distribution method will be for the final product to be sure that any required specs are met. Even though we are in the HD era of video production, TV stations each have their own requirements for video and audio specs.  These are different at the local, regional or national level as well as for each station. If the final product will be televised, the producer needs to know if it will be a local, regional or national airing and what station it will be on. As a professional producer I know to consult with the TV station before I produce the video. An amateur may not realize this and not know to check ahead of time to be sure the video meets the requirements to be aired.

The list can go on and on of why, even if it may cost more, hiring a professional video production company can save the client money in the long run.

The “kid with the video camera” is a big problem within the video community. Just because someone can purchase a video camera does not make them an expert producer. Some companies today are surprised when they are quoted a professional rate for their product. They expect to be able to get a 30-second commercial videotaped and edited with special effects for a few hundred dollars.  When they are quoted thousands of dollars they are surprised. I try to explain all the differences and sometimes they hear me and sometimes they don’t.  Example – just because I have a medical bag does not mean that I have the expertise to treat a medical condition.

If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur. — Red Adair

Another concern I have with YouTube is the unrealistic expectations that some have when they upload a video. Some people see it as their way to fame. It surprises me that these somewhat seemingly intellectual people don’t seem to realize that those who have reached famed through YouTube are few and far between. I do believe in dreaming big (I want to win an Academy Award) but there also has to be a sense of realism involved.

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“The single biggest threat to man’s continued dominance on the planet is a virus.” – Joshua Lederberg, Nobel laureate 

Thinking about the above quote, it seems ironic that humans are the most intellectual beings on Earth, yet one microscopic virus can wipe out the existence of this intelligent species. This was the driving force in the movie, Outbreak. The movie shows the viewer what the consequence of an uncontainable virus could become. On the one side you have the noble scientists trying to stop the virus and on the other hand you have the personal agendas of the “people in charge.” In thinking about this, one of the themes of the movie is about control. Some examples are:

  • Control of the virus – both in 1967 and 1994 – in 1967 the military thought they had controlled the virus by bombing the infected area. In 1994 the virus came back to haunt the military because a monkey had escaped the 1967 bombing and survived. This time the virus made it to the United States and began spreading.
  • Control of information – keeping the secret of the stored original virus and anti-serum, how much information about the spreading virus to give to the public and the media as well as to health professionals.
  • Control of people – within the military hierarchy itself, among civilians.
  • Control between Sam and Robby  – who will take the pictures from the marriage, who gets the dogs.
  • Control of emotions – Robby and Sam, the public fear of the disease, resentment of orders given by General McClintock.
  • Control of the government – the government decides whether 2600 lives have any value or not.
  • The Lassa license plate in the bookcase in the office of General Ford – the virus is invincible, so is General Ford, or so he thinks in his own mind.
  • The spinning of the camera when Jimbo falls in the airport – signifying the loss of control and power of the virus.
  • The spinning of the blood in the lab container – events are spinning out of control.
  • The biohazard suits / oxygen masks – only the people working on the virus or the people in the military were given devices to keep from catching the virus. Civilians were given no protection, other than facemasks.

Another theme in the movie is “for the greater good.” Sam is trying to find the host to cure the virus for the greater good. If the host is found then a vaccine can be made and people will be saved. On the other hand General McClintock and General Ford believe they are fighting for the greater good by keeping the stored original virus and anti-serum a secret and by wiping out the town to keep the virus from spreading. They believe that the military needs access to a virus in case of biological warfare. The movie brings forward the moral issue of asking, “when does the greater good become a reasonable excuse to hurt others?” Who has the authority to make this decision?   Environmental issues also raise a concern about the “for the greater good” ideal. For example, the witch doctor’s belief that the virus was a punishment from the gods for cutting trees begs the question of, “when does encroaching into untouched land hurt the greater good?”

The movie also had quite a bit of symbolism throughout.

The way a virus moves through the air:

  • The sweeping camera movement throughout the film – the camera moves effortlessly though the labs, tents, hospitals, environment, just as the virus moves through the air once it becomes airborne.
  • The blood droplets spraying Henry’s face when the lab equipment malfunctions – the blood spews through the air hitting his face, just like the virus spreads though a cough in the theater.
  • The man coughing in the movie theater and the camera following the droplets until they fall in another person’s mouth – showing how germs spread.
  • The faster paced editing – as the virus spreads, making the viewer feel the sense of urgency.
  • The round lights from all the military vehicles at night coming into Cedar Creek – the lights are round coming toward the town like the microscopic virus is round and coming toward the people.

Some Signifiers of Color:

  • Yellow biohazard suits – yellow fever virus – the scientists wear yellow suits when they are in the field where the virus is uncontained.
  • Blue biohazard suits – are worn in contained areas.
  • Green military uniforms / green forests  – signifies sickly, mucus.
  • Red lights – blood, warning.
  • Monkey’s white face fades into, JuJu, the witch doctor’s face with white paint around eyes – foretelling of disease spreading from monkey to man.

  Some Signifiers of Sound:

  • Sound becoming chaotic and louder as the situation escalates out of control.
  • Breathing through biohazard suit and moans of sick people at same time – sounds of the protected people breathing virus-free air vs those already sick.
  • Monkey shrieking as helicopters pull away as the African village burns – signifies the horror of what has been done to contain the virus.
  • Instrumental orchestra music with African vocals – builds the tension of what is happening in the village as well as setting the stage for the audience to believe they are seeing Africa.
  • African percussion before firebomb of village – builds to the climax of the bombing and sets the tension for the audience to feel.
  • No theme for the virus, only sound effects, sound does not get more ominous as virus spreads – this helps to create the feeling that the virus is uncontainable, there is no rhyme or reason to it, the audience feels disjointed.
  • Frantic sound when Casey rips his biohazard suit followed with perilous music – helps the audience to feel the horror and fear that Casey experiences at that moment.
  • Jimbo spinning in the airport – sound resembles frantic monkeys – the moment when the virus spins out of control.

Dialogue Signifiers: People use words like killing in reference other than the taking of life:

  • Casey Schuler: How many brain cells did I kill?
  • Sam Daniels: How many? About a billion.
  • Casey Schuler: Oh, now I’m only as smart as you.
  • Sam Daniels: What can we give him to kill his sense of humor?   At one point Sam tells General Ford that he is “killing” him by not letting him work on the virus.

An “out of the box” thought about Outbreak is to compare it to the Wizard of Oz. This train of thought was derived from when Casey wakes to see Robby and he says “I had such a dream Aunty Em…and you were there, and you were there.”

Then backtracking through the film you can continue the associations: First the colors:

  • A lot of red (ruby slippers) with all the blood, the red warning lights.
  • Green (the Emerald City) with all the Army camouflage, green forests.
  • Yellow (the yellow brick road) with the biohazard suits.
  • The B&W photo of Sam and Robby with children at a refugee camp compares to Dorothy, the good witch and the munchkins.
  • When Robby is leaving to go to Atlanta, Sam has on a red jacket like ruby slippers and Robby is in a yellow cab like the yellow brick road.
  • There is a Toto-type dog emblem on the pet store door.
  • The montage of the virus spinning out of control and the spinning of the centrifuge compares to the spinning tornado behind the Wizard of Oz.
  • The carpet in the airport where Jimbo has landed has red carpet and walls – unusual décor for an airport.
  • The Wicked Witch is green – like a virus


  • Sam (Dorothy), like Dorothy is always trying to find the Wizard, Sam is always trying to find the host.
  • Sam was helped by Salt (the Cowardly Lion) and Casey (the Tin Man).
  • Sam was also helped by General Ford (the Scarecrow) until Ford faced self-preservation. However, he finally stands up to General McClintock like the Scarecrow finally stands up to the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz.
  • General McClintock is the Wicked Witch – out for himself at all costs.
  • Robby (the Good Witch). She believes in the good and despite the divorce she sees the good in Sam.
  • The dogs – Toto, even though they were not an integral part of being seen in the movie they did keep the connection between Sam and Robby alive.
  • The monkey – the Wizard.  In the Wizard of Oz they are always trying to find the Wizard.  In Outbreak they are always trying to find the host.  Both would be able to “provide the answers.”


  • Just like Dorothy has to face all kinds of obstacles to realize there is no place like home, Sam has his own obstacles that he must overcome to follow the path trying to find the cure.  At the end he finds that there is no place like home when he and Robby reconnect.
  • The helicopters that are chasing Sam and Salt can be compared to the flying monkeys chasing Dorothy. That helicopter chase scene is also like the Wicked Witch chasing Dorothy in the woods. Plus it was a monkey that carried the virus in Outbreak.
  • The virus liquefies in the body and melts the internal organs like the Wicked Witch melting when water hits her.
Just as in Outbreak, Wizard of Oz is about control. Some examples are:
  • Control of the ruby slippers.
  • Control of fear.
  • Control of the Wicked Witch.
  • The Wizard gave the illusion of control to Emerald City.
  • Control of Mother Nature.
Even though both movies seem so different at first glance, we can see how they can be related on much deeper levels. It would be interesting to know what the director and writer of Outbreak were thinking when they added the Wizard of Oz line to the movie. I do not have the DVD to see the extras but I wonder if this is discussed on the DVD. I searched for information on this but could not find anything relevant.
 Outbreak was a visual means of understanding how viruses infect and become plagues. It correlates with all the readings because of the theme of viruses and the spread of them.  Other relations are; the second outbreak in Africa was because the water became contaminated just as the water in The Ghost Map became contaminated. The scientists in the movie mapped the incidents of the spread of the virus to find the host, just as Snow did in The Ghost Map. The virus was spread by “accident” as the computer virus is discussed in Digital Contagions.
The video game Centre of the Cell gives the player a very small glimpse into the difficulty and responsibility of making decisions in crises such as an epidemic or plague. What was interesting was that I played the game twice, giving the same answers each time, and the first play I met the challenge and in the second play I failed. Hmmmmm.?

I Love You, but. From the video it seems that hackers see planting viruses as a pastime like golf or playing sports on the weekend. If someone loses data as a result, oh well. However people have rights to privacy and hacking can take that away. Also it is to be taken seriously because it can lead to national security leaks.


The Lovers, we are so dependent on computers for communication in today’s world that should a computer become infected, communication can stop. This installation is a good depiction of how communication can be disrupted once an infection occurs.

What struck me as interesting when reading the poetry was the dichotomy of the content to the singsong of the rhyming. The poems that fit into this category are:

These poems are referring to death and yet, when read out loud they can seem almost merry or whimsical. Some people do look at death as moving on to a better place so maybe these are written as a celebration rather than as mourning.

In the other poems I could not find a rhythm.  They were written, to me, more in a narrative format.

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Viruses, Plagues and History by Michael Oldstone

Virus Goes Viral

In order to better understand a discussion of viruses and/or anything viral, we need to understand the definitions of the words. Virus means:

vi·rus [vahy-ruhs]  noun, plural -rus·es. 

  1. 1. an ultramicroscopic (20 to 300 nm in diameter), metabolically inert, infectious agent that replicates only within the cells of living hosts, mainly bacteria, plants, and animals: composed of an RNA or DNA core, a protein coat, and, in more complex types, a surrounding envelope.
    2. Informal; a viral  disease.
    3. a corrupting influence on morals or the intellect; poison.
    4. a segment of self-replicating code planted illegally in a computer program, often to damage or shut down a system or network.
 Viral means:

vi·ral    [vahy-ruhl] adjective

1. of, pertaining to, or caused by a virus.
2. pertaining to or involving the spreading of information and opinions about a product or service from person to person, especially on the Internet or in e-mails: a clever viral ad.
3. becoming very popular by circulating quickly from person to person, especially on the Internet: the most memorable viral videos; a book that’s gone viral.
4. pertaining to a computer virus.

The words virus and viral were first used to describe illnesses. As technology has advanced and people now have instant access to information, the words have morphed into technological references.

Since the words have morphed into other meanings it is thought provoking with the entendres they connotate. First, we have the traditional sense of the word:  In the readings, virus is defined by Nobel Prize winner, Peter Medawar as “a piece of nucleic acid surrounded by bad news.” This kind of virus enters the body, may undergo multiple mutations and end up as a disease, potentially very harmful. This is an example of a virus going viral within the body.

Since these diseases are contagious, as people spread the disease it becomes “viral.” Oldstone discusses the concept of disease becoming viral throughout history. Small pox goes back as far as 10,000 B.C.; plagues were in China in 48 A.D and in Japan by 585 A.D. By 1000 A.D. smallpox had spread from Japan to Spain to Africa and to the Mediterranean Sea.  Europe had outbreaks of Smallpox by the 16th century. It went on to Cuba then Mexico. Smallpox reached Hawaii by 1853. In North America the settlers even used the virus as a very early form of biological warfare by giving infected blankets to the Indians to wipe them out.

The first entendre is the use of the word virus for the infection of a computer. The first time the word virus was used in this sense, it was defining a self-producing program in a short story in Galaxy magazine by David Gerrold. He also used the term in his novel, When HARLIE Was One. “In that novel, a sentient computer named HARLIE writes viral software to retrieve damaging personal information from other computers to blackmail the man who wants to turn him off.”

The term virus eventually became the “catch all” phrase to describe all malware.

It is not known when the word viral was first used to mean circulating very quickly. The earliest use of the word was in reference to viral marketing and believed to be attributed to Tim Draper and Jeffrey Rayport from The Harvard School of Business. Rayport popularized the term in an article, The Virus of Marketing in 1996 for Fast Company. Then the term was used by Tim Draper and Steve Jurvetson of Draper Fisher Jurvetson in 1997 to describe Hotmail adding advertising to outgoing mail.

Now the word viral is connected to anything that is spread very quickly, however it is used mostly with videos. An example of a video that has gone “viral” with 88,841,994 hits since May 1, 2011 can be seen at:


The second entendre of the words virus and viral are the words themselves. Over time, since the words were first used to define a corruption in a computer and the rapid spread of information people have clung to the terms, making the words themselves viral.

It is interesting to me that the word virus alludes to something bad, but the word viral, as it is used in the digital world, alludes to something good.

As Oldstone relays in the readings, we still have new diseases that now can be spread very quickly with the rapid travel we have today. We also have the threat of biological warfare with countries housing numerous viruses, some manmade. In today’s world we will continue to have computer viruses and information becoming viral; Unfortunately  the same is true for disease.

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