From the dramatic gopher or Vegeta saying, “It’s over 9,000,” the Internet is full of videos we can’t get enough of. If something is popular on YouTube, chances are it’s going to be remixed several times, which will only inspire more views. What exactly draws us to remixes, though? Why do we enjoy watching things we’ve probably seen a million times already getting reproduced in different ways? These are the questions asked in a fascinating video essay from PBS Digital Studios. Written, edited, and produced by Vanessa Hill, the video explores how remixes hijack our brains and allows us to see something old in a new light.
The video is full of interesting observations! Here are just a few key points.
3. Participatory Creativity
This study largely revolves around “participatory creativity” and “collective intelligence.” Through the Internet, media has become less about the individual and more about social systems. It’s not at all uncommon for YouTubers to take existing work and reinterpret it as something new and creative, be it as remix, a supercut, or a meme. In due course, audiences may pick up on certain tropes and connections we never noticed before.
2. Cognitive Fluency
Since the brain can only digest so much new information at once, we’re often drawn to the familiar, whether it’s a popular song, movie, or viral video. This ties into the idea of “cognitive fluency,” the measure of how easy it is to think about something. Perhaps that’s why nostalgia gives us such a warm, fuzzy feeling inside.
1. Incongruity Theory
Humor largely derives from surprise, which ties into the basis of “incongruity theory.” By starting off with something we’re familiar with, like Batman, we go in expecting to get one thing. By throwing Shia LaBeouf into the equation, however, we’re treated to something else entirely, triggering a laugh.
Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg concerning YouTube’s effect on creativity and culture. For further reading, check out Kevin Allocca’s book, Videocracy.