NewMedia Blog Post
MarkSamsonovich’s “Water the Flowers” images are probably one ofthe cultural artifacts that have gone viral over the social mediaplatforms. Representing the responsibilities of people within acommunity to care for neighbors, the distortion on of the originalimage as it passed through online channels demonstrates the truecharacteristics of spreadable media as theorized by Henry Jenkins.
Samsonovich’sposting of the photo of his work on his website and Instagram pagespread widely through social network platforms like Tweeter, 9gag,and Tumblr attracting more than 7.6 million followers within a periodof few weeks. Notably though, the quality of the image had changedconsiderably with addition of text as compared to the originalposting (Sheffer par 2). The original JPG image was transformed andmutated to include additional information as it circulated online.Watering the flower is a cultural artifact in the sense that itrepresents societal value of a caring society where neighbors helpeach other rather than destroying each other (Thorne 39). The imagepromotes socially responsible behaviour and response to other peoplein the society.
Examiningthis issue from the perspectives of spreadable media, the viralaspect of the artifact cannot be overemphasized. Henry Jenkinsindicate that, the term “viral” in social media has been used todescribe practices such as word-of-mouth marketing and such contentas the video remixes that are posted via YouTube. Another definitionof “viral” points to the exploitation of the social networks inmobilizing consumers. However, Henry Jenkins looks at the concept ofviral as perceived from the above-mentioned perspective as beingflawed and not in accordance with the realities of every daycommunication. According to Jenkins, the concept of viral media andmemes deviate from the fundamental realities of communication wherethe content gets transformed, distorted or repurposed as they aretransferred from one person to another (Jenkins and Ford 13).
Thedistortion of “Water the Flowers” image and the transformation ofthe media content added value to the content in a manner that allowsfor diversification of context of use. This aspect of spreadabilityof media is different from the traditional models such as memes,which are characterized by stickiness and concentrate on control ofthe content over its distribution. In other words, traditionalapproaches emphasize on maintaining the ‘purity’ of the mediacontent (Jenkins and Ford 17).
Accordingto Jerkins, spreadable media is media that is shared across mediaplatforms partly due the fact that, people take the media content astheir own and participate in sharing it with their networks in thesocial media platforms. In the case, “Water the Flowers” peopletook the content within their hands evidenced by the distortions ofthe image and addition of text and shared it across social mediaplatforms such as Tweeter, 9gag, and Tumbrl among others. Thiscontent attracted hundreds of thousands of visits and millions offollowings. This aspect supports Jerkins assertions of spreadablemedia through the phrase “If it doesn’t spread it’s dead”(Jenkins and Ford 28).
Inconclusion, “Water the Flowers” which was an image of a streetpainting by Mark Samsonovich’s meets the conditions ofspreadability of media content as theorized by Henry Jenkins. Thefact that the public took the media content into their hands andparticipated in distorting and transforming it and then sharing it onsocial media platforms qualified this cultural artifact and itstreatment as a clear example of spreadable media.
Jenkins,Henry, and Sam Ford. SpreadableMedia Creating Value and Meaning in a Networked Culture.New York: New York UP, 2013. Print.
Sheffer,Sam. “This is what happens to viral art after it gets filteredthrough the web” The Verge. October 21, 2014. Web 9 March, 2015<http://www.theverge.com/2014/10/21/7023499/mark-samsonovich-art-viral-image-compression-artifact>
Thorne,Steven, “Artifacts and cultures-of-use in interculturalcommunication”. LanguageLearning and Technology.Vol 7. Issue 2 (2003): 39-67. Print.