Harlem Shake, gangnam & planking

Field notes, DanceTag test at St Matthias Campus, UWE Bristol 19th Nov 2013

Following a lecture I gave introducing the project to third year Media & Cultural Studies students on a module called Games, Simulation & Media, and overlapping with introduction to video micro-ethnography of gameplay. Seven students in the workshop, one of whom had the app (the other two who registered didn’t come in). Luckily I borrowed my son’s phone and updated it with the new build. One group tried the game in the seminar room and filmed a student (Terry) dancing. The other group tried to video Patrick (their lecturer) but the older version of the app wouldn’t save the video. I encouraged other students to document the process, and one had a DSLR and tripod. The successful video took over 5 minutes to upload (the students thought this was due to the wifi coverage, but it could have been the ageing iPhone – a 3GS). While we waited we discussed games (particularly repurposing of old console games for phones – e.g. Sonic the Hedgehog. One student began playing Street Fighter on her phone (‘I always play as the girl’). The owner of the DSLR filmed the uploading video, I filmed the whole group. Video in Dropbox.

I texted to try to get a new build for the iPhone-owning student but we didn’t manage it. The app could log in and find the videos that the other group were uploading around the campus – lecture theatre, etc. It was entertaining to see videos pop up on the phone in the seminar room and remotely track the dancing students around the campus.

Discussion: none of them felt it was their sort of game (none were dancers). They thought it might work well at a party, but the app music would be inaudible in such a noisy environment. It was easy to use they felt, and the appeal of it was very much its locative elements: walking around, finding places to challenge.

Some technical questions: does the app compress the video, or youtube once uploaded (in relation to slow uploads).

Problem: recorded video, then went to menu or other page before uploading and lost it.

Some thought 15 seconds was too long, and preferred a Vine-like 7 seconds. They felt a bit awkward after 5 or 6 seconds as they’re not dancers, and felt the music didn’t really carry or inspire them to move. Volume too low and ‘not enough oomph’.

They all felt having familiar songs would be very popular. They referred to Robot Unicorn which allows purchase of original music [though I may have noted this down incorrectly as Robot Unicorn is a Flash games site]. Or themed / generic music as a template for familiar / parodic moves. Even a waltz – say at a party with a friend, as people already do. This would also be cool in weird locations – waltzing on a traffic island. Dance version of planking.

This triggered a lively discussion on all sorts of user-generated video and viral / social crazes involving phones, video, music, dance, interruptions in public space, from Harlem Shake and gangnam style to planking in Lidl freezer, the dropping milk and falling over game, literal picking up of women (flash mobs not mentioned), nyancat.