Viral Vortex and Slow Media

“What if it goes viral?”

Somewhere between a wish and a hope and a mandate, the terms of viral media campaigns have accelerated in the past year and even more so in the past few weeks. With that increased speed of transmission comes media spin cycles traveling so quickly through the public discourse, a viral vortex of visual meaning results.

The #Kony2012 video broke all overnight video viewing records in a matter of days, exceeding organizational expectations with a subsequent public blow-back causing an incendiary backdraft for the Invisible Children organization. A hoped-for 500,000 views resulted in over 100 million. This viral spin managed to scramble intentions of the non-profit and its campaign, with much snarky commentary amid questions of integrity, resulting in apparent nervous breakdown for one of its founders.

So, what happens when a seemingly Good Virus goes awry?

Social Media networks have evolved to a point where an overnight epidemic of messaging is not only possible but an increasingly frequent occurrence. At a recent event hosted by The New School for the 30th anniversary of  Paper Tiger TV, the concept of “Slow Media” evolved from a conversation and has been percolating ever since. Like the Slow Foods movement, the concept behind “Slow Media” involves the way we consume media. Do we react on a dime without digesting media, without listening, considering and thinking before the comments and the shareware activate?

How do these concepts apply to media? How can we slow down our consumption so we can contemplate messages before we respond and react? Can we light a candle to calm ourselves in the face of so many screaming messages looking to “go viral”? How many can we possibly pass on in a single day and still retain a coherency to our own personal messaging? And what does all of this frenetic contagion do to our appreciation of aesthetics, the visual experience, the transformative power of a message we believe in strongly enough to share?

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