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Explaining the viral power of the Harlem Shake March 11, 2013

Posted by rmshepard in Uncategorized.
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You can’t go anywhere without hearing someone talk about a new version of the viral video, The Harlem Shake. Following the “Call Me Maybe” fad and the popularity of ‘Gangnam Style,” The Harlem Shake has spawned thousands of renditions on YouTube, altogether garnering  possibly over 100 million views. The dance starts in a simple setting almost anywhere with one person wiggling while everyone else ignores the original dancer; once the music comes on, the entire room goes crazy. As one writer for The Washington Post noted, “What’s interesting about this trend is that the videos have been getting better and better. By today’s standards, the earlier versions—and we’re talking from two weeks ago, so they’re positively ancient at this point—look slow and plodding.”

In an attempt to understand why The Harlem Shake – and viral videos like it – become so popular across the world, Al Jazeera English dedicated almost 30 minutes to examining the phenomenon. To see the story produced by AJE, see the following video:

Discussion Questions:

1.  According to the story in AJE, what are some of the factors that make something like The Harlem Shake go viral?

2.  What other viral videos have rivaled The Harlem Shake’s success? How have those videos demonstrated the rules you just described?

3.  Were there viral videos before social media? If so, how did they become viral?

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