Stuck in the web: the year online
From ‘Gangnam Style’ to a supersonic leap, and from the arrival of Spotify to outrage at Instagram, it was a busy year online
This is a world in which our experiences, connections, consumption and commentary are increasingly blurred between online and off.
The games we play are no longer inserted into consoles. Our communication is faster, more multifaceted and less private, and it reaches more people. We discover and share culture not just through mainstream outlets but also through online word of mouth, which has alerted us to things we previously would have missed. It’s now one of the reasons we might go to a play, film or exhibition.
The forms our humour takes are changing from standard jokes to ever-morphing memes or distracting hashtags. The growth of digital art means the internet is no longer just the channel; now it is the medium itself.
How a film, exhibition, play or event exists beyond its “real life” setting has been transformed by trailers for theatre and interactive marketing. We are consuming media through more and more websites, Tumblrs, aggregating apps and filters. And the funding models for arts and culture are in many cases shifting to the online crowd.
What did 2012 mean for web culture?
Zynga’s disastrous year fired a warning flare for the social-gaming-app bubble. With a falling share price, an unstable reliance on Facebook (and vice versa), the drop in popularity of the Farmville franchise and a badly judged purchase of OMGPOP – the developer of Draw Something – for a remarkable $180 million in March, the company’s chief executive, Mark Pincus, was named the fourth-worst CEO of the year in the annual list compiled by the management professor Sydney Finkelstein, author of Why Smart Executives Fail.
Online and social gaming, while yielding huge revenue for some, is still a rapidly changing market, with trends coming out of nowhere, successes rocketing at an astronomical pace and dominant forces weakening all the time. Will we still be obsessed with Jetpack Joyride this time next year? Will CSR Racing still rake in the cash? Will companies still need big bucks to attract huge numbers of users? Will pay-for-play streak ahead of free gaming? Perhaps the main realisation this year is that someone with a smartphone or a Facebook account can’t play everything at once. The mass popularity of one game means others will be squeezed out unless, as with Angry Birds, they continue to flip over new editions faster than ever.
That’s my jam
The slow-burning success of the year in music online was This Is My Jam, a website that lets you pick your favourite song of the moment and connect with your friends to share it. It’s simple, noninvasive and fulfils the key requirement of a social network: it allows people to shout about what they like.
Spotify also landed here, finally, after years of Irish users trying to circumnavigate geographical restrictions to get accounts. And even with MySpace’s renaissance, Soundcloud remains the go-to point for checking out new songs and remixes.
As for music videos, the absence of a large TV outlet for Irish ones means the audience for them has gone almost exclusively online. Stevie Russell’s video for Kodaline’s All I Want – like Beauty and the Beast meets The Office – is probably the best of the year – although Mmoths’ Heart, We Cut Corners’ Yet and This Club’s Up compete in the innovation and watchability stakes.