moments before the wind.

April 30, 2006

EMP Pop Conference #7

Filed under: authenticity, digital, live shows, music, writing — alimarcus @ 4:44 pm

Douglas Wolk is one of my favorites.  (read his blog: His memorable paper at last year's conference investigated the instances of major artists in the 60's and 70's who recorded entire songs as advertisements for Coca-Cola.  It was a fantastic and interesting topic, and his wealth of examples spoke even louder than the words that accompanied them.

This year, he achieved a similar effect with a history of "The Numa-Numa Dance."  Google it if you want to see for yourself.  The highlight of his presentation was a video collage made from YouTube clips of people making imitation videos of the original.  Wolk's point is that there is a powerful urge among geeky adolescents and people of all ages, to be part of an accepted community, and this dorky guy doing this dance somehow gave them an outlet to broadcast their own outsider-ness in a way that, by nature of the act, bestows and displays a sought-after sense of security.  That someone would "understand their pride and their geekdom, and love them for it."  And he really made this obvious in a simple, feel-good kind of way that also invites larger ideas about the overarching issues: the purpose/benefits of the internet, of media in general, of pop music, etc etc.

Wolk used the word "beautiful" to describe the effect of the Numa Numa dance, as shown in his well-made collage.  He compared the Numa Numa phenomenon to the Macarena and the Electric Slide.  There are major differences though, between Numa Numa and previous fad dances.  The visual makes it the most obvious; on the one hand, there are groups of people in close physical proximity dancing together, and on the other, there are (in most cases) solitary internet junkies with a webcam, alone in their half-lit bedroom.  The ideas about outcasts and social desires are similar, but for all the strengths of the internet, I can't help but wonder if it makes the weaknesses more insidious.  Sure, a widespread increase in the usage of the internet makes it easier to "connect" with people, but it also forces much more of the individual's attention to a screen (in place of a person) than previously so.  I think in a lot of ways it's much more anti-social than even TV watching.  In Wolk's collage, there was a poetic tragedy that came through just as much as the beauty.


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