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CHAT ROULETTE AND JUSTIN BIEBER

May 21, 2010

Justin Bieber

What cultural change are you seeing around you right now?

By Barry Lord, May 21 2010

Last year, a 17-year-old high school student in Moscow invented Chatroulette, and is now in California negotiating where it goes from here. He invented a platform in which individuals with camcorders meet each other on line. Millions have already subscribed. It’s the source of a new verb – to “next” someone is to press next when you see their image them on-line,  meaning that you are rejecting them- you want to pass on to the next person in the roulette of millions who await you. Of course major users are men scrolling for women who will show all to their camcorders, often while the men respond visually in front of theirs. But apparently there are lots of other users too.

Canadian youth, Justin Bieber, a huge singing sensation among tweens the world over, started his career when his mom posted video of him singing on You Tube. His popularity grew with each new post and he soon had a following of millions.  An American music executive found him on-line accidentally, tracked him down, and these days Bieber is signed with Usher, producing hit after hit, and has attained international celebrity status.

These two examples put in question the Patron/Artist/Public triangle. Artists like Justin Bieber reach their public first and then patrons react after they see the public response. Similarly, chatroulette goes beyond the definition of pornography, because that definition always assume the patron/publisher/producer was producing porn for a passive audience – but if the women and men are connecting virtually and individually and responding to each other, that’s a whole different thing.

Altogether, it seems to me that we may be seeing an example of McLuhan’s Rear View Mirror effect – patronage in the traditional sense is showing up in the rear view mirror just as it is receding in its ability to control the contact between artist and the public. Of course patronage is still involved – Justin Bieber today has a huge retinue managing his affairs – but the patron is responsive to the public which responds before them, not the other way around.

So do we now have a situation where the public can directly respond over the internet to the work of art presented by the performing artist or the Russian entrepreneur in terms of their pathetic grandeur?? And the patron then catches up with reference to his or hers – or merely responds because they see that Justin Bieber is going big on You-Tube?

If the public is responding directly, in terms of its own pathetic grandeur, the way in which dominant groups (a ruling class) can control the values of the public will have to change. In the book we speak of the transition from Father Knows Best to Archie Bunker to the Simpsons and on to reality TV. Now what?

*Pathetic grandeur is a term coined by Russian filmmaker Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893-1953) when he remarked” After all, each social class seeks in its art the pathetic grandeur of its victory in its historic struggle” .


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Barry Lord

About The Author

Barry Lord is the author of Art & Energy: How Culture Changes (The AAM Press, 2014) and Co-President of Lord Cultural Resources.

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3 Comments

Ngaire Blankenberg / May 22, 2010

We are definitely seeing the rise of a new kind of player- the ‘populartist’- someone driven to create aesthetic or socio-political culture not because of some desire to convey meaning, or to self express, or even for commercial gain- but for the sole purpose of generating a following. Art-for-fame and public affirmation.


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Ozge Sade / May 23, 2010

I am not sure if we can call Chatroulette and Justin Bieber’s video “art”. How do we actually define art? I can see that these two examples are part of contemporary culture – namely popular culture – but its artistic value should be open to discussion. I think the patron-artist-public triangle is a useful formulation to start with. The relationship between these three can be understood as a complex problem. In the chat roulette and justin bieber examples, public plays a dominant role. The fact that millions are interested is not enough to make it art. An investment on this kind of activity should be carefully examined in cultural and sociological terms. I would say, there can be an ethical and balanced view generated by the collaboration of the three (patron, artist and public) in equal basis. I would ask questions like; is the public interest continuous? Does this have the potential to create any meaning in people’s lives (which I think might be possible)? Does this kind of cultural production reflect on the nature and the living things? Does life and nature generate art or vice versa?


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Chiedlode / September 8, 2010

Very Interesting!
Thank You


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The views and opinions expressed by the contributing authors are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Lord Cultural Resources and its affiliates or subsidiary companies. Any reviews or critiques offered on products or services have not been paid for and are the opinion only of their author.