Sunday, 23 September 2012

Academic Research & Song: The Gangnam Style Effect VS The Numa Numa Effect (Updated 16th Oct 2012)

People posting videos of their reactions watching Gangnam Style MTV
Image from YouTube
When a video spreads rapidly like virus on the internet, we call them "viral videos".

When I was writing my paper YouTubating Teaching –The Techno-Behavioural Cycle & Its Influence on Education, I learnt from Dr.Wesch the power of a very heart-reaching song and that was how I began my interest in Digital Ethnography -- 

"...explores how humans use media, how media uses us, and how we can use new media to reveal our insights in new ways." -- Professor Wesch

Dr. Wesch's work is really intriguing and he got me spending hours and hours watching hundreds of videos on the internet over many weekends. The subject is addictive!

I'm not going to go too deep into the core of the subject, if you are interested, do read the links below. As for now, here's a very brief introduction.

According to Dr.Wesch, it all began with Gary Brolsma's dramatic Numa Numa, the first biggest internet viral video success.

And then it was the world dancing together with Gary,

Image from YouTube
Basically, Gary has triggered the want, the need and the emotion of celebration of humanity, that people are not framed by countries or separated by colours, distance or boundaries, that can be united as one and be free to share joy and other feelings to anyone who are willing to listen and respond, that there is no ranking, no grading in people, and anyone has the freedom to join in as long as someone wishes to.

We can call this The Numa Numa Effect.

And in September 2012, we have The Gangnam Style Effect,  

A hip, beating song with a weird MTV sung and oddly danced by a not-so-attractive South Korean singer, PSY. When I come to think of it, he and Gary Brolsma resemble each other a lot.

The effect is also pretty similar, people put their own version of dance on the internet for sharing.
Image from LA Times
The difference in terms of production style is that Gangnam Style Effect require more dancers, a lot of pre-production planning and rehearsal, a mix of camera angles and post-editing, whereas the Numa Numa Effect drew netizens to simply switch on their webcams and record their own version of dance of freedom.

Talk show host Ellen DeGeneres, center left, joins Korean pop star PSY as he
performs his super hit 'Gangnam Style' during a taping of 'The Ellen DeGeneres
Show' on September 18, 2012. (AP Photo).
Image and Caption from Jakata Globe
Ken Jeong in The Hangover Part I
And many might agree that South Korean rapper PSY, aka Park Jae-sang, has not only made his name on the international scale, but also helped to improve the image of South Korea(n) as a whole! Although there are South Koreans everywhere around the world, and a number of them are also well-known, such as Dr. Ken Jeong M.D. from the movie The Hangover Part I and II, people even in Asia knew little about the South Koreans other than their excellent fast-paced dances, their kimchi, their My Sassy Girl(s), their routine "I have cancer!" tragic dramas, their unbelievably skilful plastic surgery and their earth-shaking mobile electronic businesses. How do people live in South Korea? What is the geography like?

And to explore things deeper than just the music and funny dance, what is the meaning of the song? What is Gangnam really? All these are worth finding out.
My Sassy Girl
Image from lovemeet.tistory

Image from Samsung

The Jakata Globe reported Associated Press's article which includes an interview they did with PSY has the answer to our questions and I highly recommend we all read that to learn the details. But here's my summary of that article for your:

  1. 1% of Seoul's population lives in Gangnam, literally means "the south of the river", and they are the very rich people -- the upper class.
  2. Gangnam is where all the most luxurious, the best, the tip of the top-notch services and infrastructures are.
  3. "Gangnam inspires both envy and distaste...Gangnam residents are South Korea's upper class, but South Koreans consider them self-interested, with no sense of noblesse oblige."  -- Kim Zakka, a Seoul-based pop music critic. 

In the song The Gangnam Style, PSY went against these "norms",

"I'm not handsome, I'm not tall, I'm not muscular, I'm not skinny," PSY recently said on the American "Today" TV show. "But I'm sitting here."

Girls Generation on The Late Show with David Letterman
Image from
Unlike the other South Korean boys such as Super Junior and Boyfriend, or girls such as the Girls Generation who also made their names known in the States,  PSY's success resembles that of Ken Jeong's,   their images are "less-than-polished", said Jae-Ha Kim, a Chicago Tribune pop culture columnist and former music critic.

Park Ji Sung at Man Utd., another South Korean legend
Image from manutdwallpaper
I think the best of the Jakata Globe article goes to this paragraph,

Instead of cavorting in nightclubs, he parties with retirees on a disco-lighted tour bus. Instead of working out in a high-end health club, he lounges in a sauna with two tattooed gangsters. One swaggering rap session is delivered while he sits on a toilet. As he struts along with two beautiful models, they're pelted in the face with massive amounts of wind-blown trash and sticky confetti.

The song explores South Koreans' "love-hate relationship with Gangnam," said Baak Eun-seok, a pop music critic... PSY isn't, he said: good-looking because of plastic surgery, stylish because they can splurge on luxury goods, slim thanks to yoga and personal trainers.

In other words, being "strangely" different are the keys to his success, Ken Jeong's success, My Sassy Girl's success, and Samsung's Galaxy Note's success (i.e. smartphone with large screen with a pen).

These successes are worth every dime, but we must face the fact that deep inside people's heart, they demand these "oddity", these unexpectedness and differences. Making a difference in life does not only make one feels good or become successful, but it is also one of the fundamental survival requirements in the human evolution (Kremer & Schermbrucker, 2006).

(Updated 16th Oct 2012)
《HongKong Style ! 》SFJ 720P HD

Wanna see Hong Kong director Wilson Chin and other Hong Kong stars with their version of Gangnam Style? Check this out!


Digital Ethnography -- (n)[U] explores how humans use media, how media uses us, and how we can use new media to reveal our insights in new ways
intriguing -- (adj) very interesting because of being unusual or mysterious
addictive -- (adj)  describes an activity or food that you cannot stop doing or eating once you have started
rehearsal -- (n) [C or U] a time when all the people involved in a play, dance, etc. practise in order to prepare for a performance
netizen -- (n)[C]informal a person who uses the Internet
sassy -- (adj) mainly US informal rude and showing no respect
noblesse oblige --  (n) [U] formal the idea that someone with power and influence should use their social position to help other people
norm -- [C usually pluralan accepted standard or a way of behaving or doing things that most people agree with
less than... -- describes behaviour which does not have a stated characteristic that is good or attractive
cavort -- (vb)[I] to jump or move around in a playful way, sometimes noisily, and often in a sexual way
strut -- (vb)[I] to walk in a proud way trying to look important
swagger -- (vb)[I] to walk, especially with a swinging movement, in a way that shows that you are very confident and think that you are important, or to act in that way
confetti -- (n)[U] small pieces of coloured paper which you throw at a celebration, especially over two people who have just been married
love-hate relationship -- (n) [C] a relationship in which you have feelings of love and hate for someone or something
splurge -- (vb)  [I or T] informal to spend a lot of money on buying goods, especially expensive goods; splash out
worth every dime -- worth every dollar; worthy
oddity -- (n) [C] someone or something that is strange and unusual


Academic Research (Literature Review): YouTubating Teaching –The Techno-Behavioural Cycle & Its Influence on Education @ Locky's English Playground

Digital Ethnography @ YouTube

Digital Ethnography - @ Kansas State University

Numa Numa @ YouTube

싸이 오빤강남스타일 (남자반응) @ YouTube


What 'Gangnam Style' Means to South Koreans @ Jakata Globe

'Gangnam Style' singer Psy, flash mob expected at The Grove today @ Los Angeles Times

Song & Medical: Stayin' Alive -- Bee Gees & CPR @ Locky's English Playground

People: "Mr Chow, Leslie Chow!" -- Ken Jeong @ Locky's English Playground

The psychology of difference @ Kremer & Schermbrucker (2006)

《HongKong Style ! 》SFJ 720P HD @ YouTube