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Harlem Shake

One of the things that makes social media so fascinating is the speed with which trends appear, morph and then disappear. February 2013 was the month of the Harlem Shake. It seemed to appear at the start of the month, proliferate madly and then by the end of the second week it was already becoming passe … as evidenced by the very first one I saw, which was this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C4ZxszoeCiU Since then we’ve seen record attempts (like the one at Warwick) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S6mvfhGkyNI , The Norwegian Army doing it, some of the cast of Twin Peaks did it. There have been TV newsrooms, Lego Avengers (probably about the funniest) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kwAKxED4uTs, it’s been done in World of Warcraft and Minecraft at the Welsh Open snooker, and now even the Simpsons have had a go. I even know someone who’s done one, or at least the people in his company have https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R33Bvyv-dCo  (though I’m pretty sure that’s him at the start with the box on his head). The syntagm is a simple one, first 15s someone (usually masked) dances to the Harlem Shake while everyone else does routine stuff, then the baseline drops and then there’s a jump cut to lots of people jumping around on the screen. The appeal is that they actually seem like a lot of fun to do, not so much to watch, after a while though. Full story is here http://knowyourmeme.com/memes/harlem-shake

What’s also great about social media is the speed with which it can clash with authorities. An early seemed to arouse the ire of a couple of NYPD officers, then when it was attempted on a larger scale there was a bigger backlash http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9LH1CdbSkw  However now it seems to becoming a mechanism for opposing oppression in Tunisia http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2013/02/27/tunisia-does-the-harlem-shake/ The first seem to have unintentionally wound up the authorities, but now there are hundreds of copycat activities going on.

It still seems that the powers that be (or is that the powers that were) in a lot of countries haven’t really come to grips with the power that the Internet can provide. It’s not just about posting videos or images, (or blogs), it’s how when you bring together and connect a mass of different people then doing anything, sometimes funny, sometimes insightful, sometimes just plain stupid, can occasionally just trigger a wave of activity, often without any discernable root (i.e. a stand alone complex). It’s still surprising that that this growing wave of self-expression and/or fun still comes into conflict with the authorities though. You’d have hoped by now that these regimes would have learnt their place. Yes they have their allegiance to the status quo, but with us all connected together to this extent, and able to act together and share ideas, then ultimately, they should probably be shaking too.


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