A New Hope

Dundee has a new Hope, Gary Gowans. A video showcasing the impact of visual effects has gone viral, created by Mr Gowans himself. A graphic design lecturer and part time VFX maestro at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design which is a part of the University of Dundee. The video itself depicts the Millennium Falcon taking off from within the V&A Museum of Design which is currently under construction on Dundee’s reimagined waterfront. Gary posted the video to his Facebook page which he describes as “a bit of fun” to help him recover from a recent illness. This is a nice feel good story right? Lecturer gains unintended fame from a hobby video he created. Indeed he had no intention of so many people seeing his video and was very surprised when it suddenly received so much attention overnight. It was watched 220,000 times on his personal Facebook alone. I don’t know about you, but having 220,000 people view my Facebook profile in one day makes me a bit uncomfortable.

The problem with all of this is that we lose control of our communication when we engage with social media. Mr Gowans original video was posted to his Facebook, as a result of this it was rehosted on sites such as the BBC, The Sun, Scottish Construction and even Hungary Today. It’s likely even hosted on many smaller sites and other places that even Gary himself is not aware of nor has consented to. These publications are free to use his video alongside any message they derive from the content. I didn’t realise it at first but the video is actually a very good advertisement for the V&A’s construction project in Dundee. This was not the message Gary intended the video to have at all. In fact, the video had no real message at all, as he said it was just a bit of fun. Even if Mr Gowans decided that he was not happy with his video being distributed so widely there isn’t much he can do about it. It would take him a very long time to get these websites to remove his content and there’s nothing stopping it from spreading even further than that.

As Social Media as a communication medium continues to develop and gain popularity the potential for the way we communicate to be hijacked and misused will increase. As users we are at the mercy of the social systems that are designed for us to use. Without conscious effort to give us more control over our content this problem will only continue to get worse. I think in general that people are aware that images and text can have radically different meanings based on the context it is presented in. The unfortunate fact is that we have no control over the context that our content is presented in. Something quite innocent on your personal Facebook page can be warped and made to construe something entirely different on the front-page of BBC news being viewed by hundreds of thousands of people before you’re even aware it’s there.

Rationale

I chose to write about Gary’s recent viral success as I enjoy the fact that it is a feel good story that has happened in recent times and in Dundee. Of course it sits firmly in my area of interest. I really enjoy watching content on social media change over time and the sheer distance that it can travel. This story also allowed me to discuss some of my personal concerns about the future of the social media that we all engage so fully with in our day to day lives without a second thought. It also allowed me to perform a small call to action for designers to start brainstorming ideas and tools that will help curb this problem in our future.

Reference List

Gowans, G. (2017) V&A WARS. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVv2NxA8UO4  (Accessed: 17/04/17).

McCool, M. (2017) Scots filmmaker brings Star Wars to Dundee in genius video… and becomes internet hit with first ever post on Facebook. Available at: https://www.thescottishsun.co.uk/news/787903/gary-gowans-star-wars-va-dundee-video (Accessed: 17/04/17).

Ogston, G. (2017) The force is strong with Dundee V&A Star Wars tribute video. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-tayside-central-39405393 (Accessed: 17/04/17).