Virulent Word of Mouse

May 7, 2011

Warhol iconography on web time

Filed under: Amusing diversions,Computer and Internet Humor,Short observations — Shane Greenstein @ 10:31 pm

Web-time is faster. That is no secret. More people participate in more sharing of information in more places at a greater speed. Faster, quicker, bigger, wider. More people in more places communicate and share more information.

The type of imaginative satire that would have taken Andy Warhol months or years to develop can now be done in a matter of days. If crowd-sourced, the compilation can easily exceed anything that anybody alone could have imagined. On web time everybody is famous for fifteen nanoseconds.

Which means cultural cycles beat to a faster rhythm. Fads grow quickly among the online hoards, and just as quickly become replaced by new fads.

Sometimes, however, it is astonishing. In a blink an iconic image becomes established.

Even more astonishing is the speed of the next stage. In a blink newly minted iconic images transform into parody.

As illustration, consider this now iconic photograph, taken by the White House photographer, released on Monday, May 1, after the death of Osama Bin-Laden.

It has become known as the “situation room photo.” Over lunch at work my colleagues and I have had conversations about “that photo from the situation room.” Everybody knows it.

It deserves the attention. The photo shows an intense meeting among US leaders in the situation room during the execution of that raid. Obama is hunched over. The VP looks up from his laptop. Hillary Clinton covers her mouth, as if in shock. It is a great photograph, capturing the intensity and tension of the moment.

Such an icon was just asking for a bit of humor. It did not take long.

Look at this parody, which has come out in the last few days. It includes one additional participant, a little girl covering her ears. Where have you seen that little girl?

Talk about iconic photograph. That little girl came from a photograph taken Saturday of the balcony of the royal wedding, where the newlyweds kissed for the crowd. That little girl gained worldwide fame for covering her ears when the crowd roared.

Look, it is funny to have her in the situation room. Give somebody some credit for imagination. I had a great laugh. Didn’t you?

Now, here is my point. Once you get the idea behind the parody, there is no reason to stop with little girls. Within days others have started to paste lots of different people into the situation room. These parodies are all over the Internet.

If you are curious, see a whole list of them here.

Think about this for just a minute. The royal wedding resulted in a bunch of iconic photographs. The kiss on the balcony emerged as one, especially due to the little girl covering her ears. Her actions tell a story about the level of noise.

One image from one newly minted iconic photograph then got merged into another newly minted iconic photograph, resulting in a marvelous piece of Internet humor.

So that is the consequences of living in Web-time. Iconic images emerge with astonishing speed. Iconic images get merged easily. Iconic images descend into parody quickly.

If Warhol were alive, he would have laughed too. On web time everybody is famous for fifteen nanoseconds.

(Thanks to Marty Parker for showing me the parodies).


Late follow-up: Alert readers have sent email. The little girl’s name is Grace Van Cutsem. She is three years old. Little Grace is getting more than her fifteen nanoseconds of fame. She has been put in many pictures, not just the situation room. If you would like to see some, click here.¬†

1 Comment »

  1. Following the raid on Osama bin Laden Hasidic newspaper Der Tzitung ran the iconic White House Situation Room photo with just one teensy change There were no women in it. NEWSER – The Hasidic newspaper that Photoshopped Hillary Clinton and Audrey Tomason out of the iconic Situation Room photo is backpedaling quickly reports the Washington Post.

    Comment by business — May 22, 2011 @ 6:38 am | Reply

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