One of the striking characteristics of the new mass media—radio, television, and the movies—is that they give the illusion of face-to-face relationship with the performer. The conditions of response to the performer are analogous to those in a primary group. The most remote and illustrious men are met as if they were in the circle of one’s peers; the same is true of a character in a story who comes to life in these media in an especially vivid and arresting way. We propose to call this seeming face-to-face relationship between spectator and performer a parasocial relationship.
…Radio and television, however—and in what follows we shall speak primarily of television—are hospitable to both these worlds in continuous interplay. extending the para-social relationship now to leading people of the world of affairs, now to fictional characters, sometimes even to puppets anthropomorphically transformed into “personalities”, and, finally, to theatrical stars who appear in their capacities as real celebrities. But of particular interest is the creation by these media of a new type of performer: quizmasters, announcers, “interviewers” in a new “show-business” world—in brief, a special category of “personalities” whose existence is a function of the media themselves. These “personalities”, usually, are not prominent in any of the social spheres beyond the media1 They exist for their audiences only in the para-social relation. Lacking an appropriate name for these performers, we shall call them personae.
…The persona offers, above all, a continuing relationship. His appearance is a regular and dependable event, to be counted on, planned for, and integrated into the routines of daily life. His devotees ‘live with him’ and share the small episodes of his public life—and to some extent even of his private life away from the show. Indeed, their continued association with him acquires a history, and the accumulation of shared past experiences gives additional meaning to the present performance. This bond is symbolized by allusions that lack meaning for the casual observer and appear occult to the outsider. In time, the devotee—the “fan”—comes to believe that he “knows” the persona more intimately and profoundly than others do; that he “understands” his character and appreciates his values and motives.2 Such an accumulation of knowledge and intensification of loyalty, however, appears to be a kind of growth without development, for the one-sided nature of the connection precludes a progressive and mutual reformulation of its values and aims.3
“A Deep Dive into K-pop”, (2020-09-06):
Prior to last month, I knew next to nothing about K-pop (Korean popular music) besides having heard a few songs in passing and the rumors of the industry’s infamous elements, most notably a string of high profile suicides over the last few years. As an American with no connection to music or South Korean culture, I wondered if I was getting an accurate picture of the industry or if I was being misled by the most lurid and morbid elements eagerly conveyed by the media.
- “K-pop” is both a genre of music and an entire industry which “manufacturers” performers and their performance output (music, dance routines, shows, merchandise, etc.) in a highly systematized top-down manner
- The global popularity of K-pop is extraordinary considering the relatively small population of South Korea, and the relatively small size of K-pop production companies
- K-pop’s industrial/corporate structure represents a Korean (and East-Asian) cultural alternative to Western pop and broader music production
- K-pop stars and bands are manufactured and controlled by production companies in the same manner Western athletes are trained and traded by sports teams.
- K-pop stars are crafted into idealized portrays of individuals by East Asian cultural standards
- K-pop fandom is both more intense on average than Western fandom, and has a larger percentage of unhealthily obsessive fans
- K-pop fandom is based on a parasocial relationship between fans and stars
- K-pop stars are forced to abide by extremely restrictive behavioral norms to appease production companies and fans
- Trying to become a K-pop star is a terrible idea by any rational cost-benefit analysis
- The process by which production companies train K-pop stars is abusive and depends on the ignorance of children/teenagers and clueless and/or malicious parents
- Even after making it through the extraordinarily difficult audition and training process, the vast majority of K-pop stars will have short careers and earn little or possibly no money
- K-pop is an extremely centralized, hierarchical industry, where structural, business, and creative decisions are almost entirely made by corporate management, rather than the performers
- Raw creativity in the music production process is largely outsourced to Westerners who write, produce, and choreograph the music
- The K-pop industry is subsidized and supported by the South Korean government, if not implicitly or explicitly directed, as a conscious form of soft power projection and social control.
As you can tell, I came away from my research with a negative view of K-pop. I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world, but I find its fandom to be unhealthy and its production process to be exploitative. That being said, there are undoubtedly many tremendous talents in the K-pop world and the cultural power of K-pop is remarkable.
2017-chung.pdf: “Fostering Parasocial Relationships with Celebrities on Social Media: Implications for Celebrity Endorsement”, (2017-03-09; ):
The purpose of this study was to explore the underlying mechanisms through which the use of social media affects endorser effectiveness. Based on theories related to parasocial relationships, self-disclosure, and celebrity endorsement, this study proposed a theoretical research model and empirically tested the model using online survey data collected from 400 Korean Wave fans in Singapore.
The results showed that consumers’ parasocial interactions with celebrities though social media have a positive impact on celebrity endorsement. Specifically, we found that:
- parasocial relationships mediated the relationships between social media interactions and source trustworthiness,
- social media interactions influenced parasocial relationships via self-disclosure; and
- source trustworthiness had a positive effect on brand credibility, which, in turn, led to purchase intention.
Implications for research and practice are discussed.
“Who Buried Paul?”, (1999-03-17):
The theory began as a rumor, and spread through early Beatlemania forums among young obsessive students, who began analyzing songs (playing them backwards as necessary) to discover hidden messages and developing an elaborate symbolic mythology where it is held that the lookalike & Beatles themselves are covertly alluding to their coverup through coded messages (possibly out of guilt), where the positioning of stars, garbled lyrics, which hand a cigarette is held in, hands held up as benedictions/wardings, interpreting scenes as funeral processions, and so on. No amount of denials or interviews with Paul McCartney could kill the theory. Most of these ‘clues’ can be debunked, given the wealth of documentation about the most minute details of the production of Beatles albums. A few oddities remain, but Moriarty suggests they are covert messages or allusions for other things, like the ‘walrus’ references, and may even have been the Beatles playing along with the theorists! What is the point of discussing this? See QAnon:]
This silly event, which happened way back when I was a kid, made a really big impression on me. It was so eerie, so deliciously creepy. And so… consuming! Clue hunting occupied me and my friends constantly for nearly six weeks! It was all we ever talked about! We spent every school night and entire weekends going over every square millimeter of these five records. We destroyed every copy we had, spinning them backwards on our cheap record players. It drove our parents nuts! “Turn me on, dead man! Turn me on, dead man!” And they hated it even more when they heard it again on the evening news!
I can’t remember the last time I had so much fun.
And, although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, something wonderful happened as we scoured these records, backwards and forwards, line by line. We memorized them. “Who Buried Paul?” is one of the best games I ever played. This ridiculous rumor sucked my entire generation into a massively multiplayer adventure. A morbid treasure hunt in which accomplices were connected by word-of-mouth, college newspapers, the alternative press and underground radio. We can only wonder what would happen if something like this were to happen today, in the age of the World Wide Web. Imagine how such a thing might get started, by accident…
…put something like this in front of people, and all kinds of evocative coincidences become likely. Why is this useful for us as entertainers? Because that moment when you peer into the mirror of chaos and discover yourself is satisfying in a uniquely personal sense. You get a little oomph when you make a connection that way. Those little oomphs are what make good stories and puzzles and movies so compelling. And those little oomphs are what made the Paul-is-dead rumor so much fun…Let your players employ their own imaginative intelligence to fill in the gaps in your worlds you can’t afford to close. Chances are, they’ll paint the chaos in exactly the colors they want to see. What’s more, they’ll enjoy themselves doing it. But the credit will be yours.
“Violence and the Sacred: College as an incubator of Girardian terror”, (2017-06-25; ):
…competition is fiercer the more that competitors resemble each other. When we’re not so different from people around us, it’s irresistible to become obsessed about beating others.
It’s hard to construct a more perfect incubator for mimetic contagion than the American college campus. Most 18-year-olds are not super differentiated from each other. By construction, whatever distinctions any does have are usually earned through brutal, zero-sum competitions. These tournament-type distinctions include: SAT scores at or near perfection; being a top player on a sports team; gaining master status from chess matches; playing first instrument in state orchestra; earning high rankings in Math Olympiad; and so on, culminating in gaining admission to a particular college. Once people enter college, they get socialized into group environments that usually continue to operate in zero-sum competitive dynamics. These include orchestras and sport teams; fraternities and sororities; and many types of clubs. The biggest source of mimetic pressures are the classes. Everyone starts out by taking the same intro classes; those seeking distinction throw themselves into the hardest classes, or seek tutelage from star professors, and try to earn the highest grades.
There’s very little external intermediation, instead all competitive dynamics are internally mediated…Once internal rivalries are sorted out, people coalesce into groups united against something foreign. These tendencies help explain why events on campus so often make the news—it seems like every other week we see some campus activity being labeled a “witch hunt”, “riot”, or something else that involves violence, implied or explicit. I don’t care to link to these events, they’re so easy to find. It’s interesting to see that academics are increasingly becoming the target of student activities. The Girardian terror devours its children first, who have tolerated or fanned mimetic contagion for so long.
…I’ll end with a quote from I See Satan Fall Like Lightning: “Mimetic desire enables us to escape from the animal realm. It is responsible for the best and the worst in us, for what lowers us below the animal level as well as what elevates us above it. Our unending discords are the ransom of our freedom.”
“Status as a Service (StaaS)”, (2019-02-19):
[Meditation on what drives social networks like Instagram: status and signaling. A social network provides a way for monkeys to create and ascend status hierarchies, and a new social network can bootstrap and succeed by offering a new way to do that.]
Let’s begin with two principles:
- People are status-seeking monkeys
- People seek out the most efficient path to maximizing social capital
…we can start to demystify social networks if we also think of them as SaaS businesses, but instead of software, they provide status.
Almost every social network of note had an early signature proof of work hurdle. For Facebook it was posting some witty text-based status update. For Instagram, it was posting an interesting square photo. For Vine, an entertaining 6-second video. For Twitter, it was writing an amusing bit of text of 140 characters or fewer. Pinterest? Pinning a compelling photo. You can likely derive the proof of work for other networks like Quora and Reddit and Twitch and so on. Successful social networks don’t pose trick questions at the start, it’s usually clear what they want from you.
…Thirst for status is potential energy. It is the lifeblood of a Status as a Service business. To succeed at carving out unique space in the market, social networks offer their own unique form of status token, earned through some distinctive proof of work.
…Most of these near clones have and will fail. The reason that matching the basic proof of work hurdle of an Status as a Service incumbent fails is that it generally duplicates the status game that already exists. By definition, if the proof of work is the same, you’re not really creating a new status ladder game, and so there isn’t a real compelling reason to switch when the new network really has no one in it.
…Why do social network effects reverse? Utility, the other axis by which I judge social networks, tends to be uncapped in value. It’s rare to describe a product or service as having become too useful. That is, it’s hard to over-serve on utility. The more people that accept a form of payment, the more useful it is, like Visa or Mastercard or Alipay. People don’t stop using a service because it’s too useful.
…Social network effects are different. If you’ve lived in New York City, you’ve likely seen, over and over, night clubs which are so hot for months suddenly go out of business just a short while later. Many types of social capital have qualities which render them fragile. Status relies on coordinated consensus to define the scarcity that determines its value. Consensus can shift in an instant. Recall the friend in Swingers, who, at every crowded LA party, quips, “This place is dead anyway.” Or recall the wise words of noted sociologist Groucho Marx: “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”