// Viral Aesthetics
This summer I graduated with a bachelor degree in Digital Design at Aarhus University. In my bachelor thesis I argued that a new term was needed to understand the way commercial viral videos today no longer are only commercials, but instead can be seen as a form of relational aesthetics. Instead of just keeping the paper in the drawer I have decided to put it online so it’s possible to read if you want. Unfortunately it’s in Danish so I’ll post an abstract in English here if there should be anyone not understanding Danish. Please enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think.
This paper aims to examine how characteristic and typical digital phenomena changes the ways in which we interact and communicate, and how the implications of these changes bring about a conceptual change in the use of virtual media. Using the Quicksilver promotion-video “Original Thinking” as a case study, the paper seeks to analyze how – and to what extent this video may be said to be an exponent of relational aesthetics. Based on this analysis, the paper discusses whether the concept of relational aesthetic needs to be extended and redefined.
“Original Thinking” exemplifies a typical, virally spread video, however with a visual expression and quality different from that seen in the typical commercial video. “Original Thinking” uses low definition and handheld camera as specific stylistic features, thus signifying spontaneity and intimacy and signalling to be something “homemade”. The message conveyed corresponds with the post-modern search for self and identity, and the video may thus be seen as both a consequence and a cause of this.
The concept of “astroturfing” is introduced to further elaborate on the impact of the stylistic expression, and the digital qualities of the video – including the potential of viral spreading – are analyzed and discussed, using Lev Manovich’s principles of new media. Nicolas Bourriaud’s theories of relational aesthetics launch the discussion about interaction between the video and its audience, and also among the audience. That the patterns of interaction-spaces in common relational aesthetics are also present in “Original Thinking” is substantiated; they are, however, transferred, and to a certain extent redefined, to a virtual environment instead.
Finally, the concept of hyperrealism by Jean Baudrillard is employed to prove how the reality engendered by and in the mass media seems to become more real than real life itself. The final conclusion thus suggests that a new concept or term – such as viral aesthetic – is needed. A concept that comprises, signifies, and explains “Original Thinking” and other videos, recognizing that the viral aspect and relational interaction have merged.