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Make me No. 1

Transmedia Activism

Make me No. 1

Stacey Edmonds, JAN 24, 2010

My mum thinks “Outrageous Christmas number 1”, I think “What a genius use of a platform to mobilise a nation”… how can that knowledge, skill and practice be used in Transmedia Activism?

This story’s an oldie but a goodie, but stick around…

My fancy is still tickled by the genius of Jon Morter, 35, a part-time rock DJ and logistics expert from South Woodham Ferrers who utilised FaceBook and Twitter to usurp the chart domination of the UK’s X-Factor winners. As the Guardian outlines, “Jon decided it would be a bit of a giggle to start a campaign to encourage people to buy a record with pretty much the opposite vibe to the X-Factor winner’s ballad. While the latest X-Factor winner, McElderry, urges listeners to “keep the faith”, the Rage track is best known for its now-ironic refrain: “Fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me.”

He had tried a similar wheeze last year, when he attempted to get Rick Astley’s Never Gonna Give You Up to the top of the Christmas charts. Alexandra Burke, the 2008 X-Factor winner, won that battle, but having succeeded in propelling Astley to “the lower echelons of the chart”, Morter was emboldened to try again. This time, he was helped by the comedian Peter Serafinowicz, who on 15 December urged his 268,000-plus Twitter followers to join in, and it snowballed from there. By the time Paul McCartney and former X-Factor winner Steve Brookstein had pledged their support, poor McElderry seemed doomed.

When the Guardian broke the news to Morter that he had won, he was initially lost for words. “Oh bloody hell,” he said, as the consequences of what he had done became clear. Composing himself, he said: “I think it just shows that in this day and age, if you want to say something, then you can, with the help of the internet and social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. If enough people are with you, you can beat the status quo.”

There have been varied reports on Simon Cowell’s response. NME states that he “slammed the Facebook campaign to get Rage to the top spot, calling it “stupid”, “cynical” and “very Scrooge””

I am in awe by the power of the medium to provide such a specific call to action which thousands of people willingly joined in and spent money on! What a fabulous user generated and controlled story – could Simon’s number 1 be duped?

So next I ask how could this be used in Activism as it seems to fit the bill of a platform that could be used in a transmedia activism strategy. Lina Srivastava coined the term Transmedia Activism and states “the platform ‘Social Media’ is not best designed for long term social media as currently practiced on sites like Facebook and Twitter doesn’t lend itself to cultivate deep observation or patient movement building. (Think about Haiti, post-quake. The social media world has moved on.) Social media, then, is really best for short bursts of awareness-raising, directed actions, soliciting donations arising from particular events, and for creating contacts and building networks”

So simply Lina has given us an insight into her understanding of how these platforms are best Fit for Purpose.

In researching social media campaigns I came across the ‘1 Million Tweetshirts’ campaign. Although it is considered pretty much a failure in delivering t-shirts, what is interesting is the impact of the campaign and the conversations sparked. Christopher Fabian in his blog 1 Million Tweetshirts – how to Fail Fast and with Scrutiny writes…

“Development professionals, charity-minded folks, those interested in social media all responded. There were uniformly negative tweets from everyone with any sense of the “African” context. Mixed comments from those without. The obligatory blog posts followed (at least 7 that I’ve counted) filled with personal experience on the issue, reasons it wouldn’t work, and sources for what had come before. Also not revolutionary.

But look what happened. Within a day a development concept has been aired. It has been discussed. Literature has been created around it. Sources cited. Histories referenced. A community built.”

All I need now is a Transmedia Strategy that requires “short bursts of directed actions’ and I may have found the perfect platform for that moment…