28 August 2010

What MEUPORG can teach us

Yann Leroux wrote on March 27th a blog article entitled Ce que MEUPORG nous enseigne (what MEUPORG can teach us). It is an account of what happened on the Internet after a French TV journalist tried to explain what MMORPGs were, and somehow failed. Since the article is in French, here is a (rough) translation.

The MEUPORG story is very insightful. There is not only in it about how video games are mistreated in our society. There is also about how gamers are organized today and how a TV channel reacted to a crisis that happened on the Internet. The beginning of the story is quite ordinary:

  1. Journalist Nathanael de Rincquesen has one minute to summarize a topic in Télé Matin. In one single minute, he can but only rush through it.
  2. He relies on a news article from a French newspaper - Libération - and copying-and-pasting does not help thinking.
  3. He stumbles upon an acronym.
  4. William Leymergie, the host of the morning TV program, interrupts him mischievously.
  5. The journalist continues in his error.

Elements of popular imagination have always been attacked by the media. Then, those media become the elite's spokesperson. But the 21st century has something different; opinions are no more confined in pubs or workshops. The Internet is one of the places where they are created, transmitted and spread. We have now entered an era of commentary economics. It can be rejoicing or deplorable, but it is a fact that should be taken into account. Unlike the past century, the Internet offers a place where opinions can sprout nearly immediately. Some people in the audience are next to their laptop or their smart phone. They are looking for interactivity and will look for online places where they can express what they want to say.

The birth of a meme

A first video is posted on Youtube, it is soberly titled France 2 - télématin - MMORPG . Among others, Korben relays it. The video is seen and commented by a considerable number of people. Starting with this first video, the MEUPORG meme is born. Images, websites, tee-shirts or Facebook fan groups, all relay the journalist's error. The first Youtube video is edited and remixed.

The traditional media have not yet seized the strength of this movement. France Télévision stood silent on Twitter. Journalist de Rincquesen has not yet realized his name is now attached to MEUPORG. The program forum thread is burning and the journalist's Facebook page is filled with ironical comments. Certainly, one might bet this buzz is nothing more than another flash in the pan which the Internet is used to. However, the movement is much deeper. It is not a riot, it is a revolution sign. For those who would not take seriously the puerile lol machine, maybe the Union pour un Meuporg Populaire (translates as Union for a Popular Meuporg, a parody of the UMP French political party name) will provide fuel for thoughts. Gamers are not teenagers entrenched in their bedrooms and isolated from the outside world. Most of them are young adults, aware of what happens in their society. And they know how to make themselves heard.

The media side

The TV channel is living what Mc Luhan coined as the medium is the message: the shockwave has hit it so strongly that it is as if it were anesthetized. France 2 strikes one as being unable to take measures and handle the crisis. However, no doubt about it: crises like this one will multiply and grow in intensity. They do not only concern TV channels. Currently, Nestlé is the target of such an attack on Facebook. Online places are places not only to gather a passive audience but also to question and protest. Some end up finding themselves among wolves when they thought they could shear sheep. Internet will be one of the places where our societies' malaise will seep out.

Every morning, 1.4 million people in average watch Télé Matin. That means the first video posted on Youtube has generated 54% (760.000 views as of August 2010) of their audience. Obviously, this video was not watched 760.000 times in one day - but the 1.4 million do watch the program every day. Anyway, such an increase in the awareness of the TV program or channel among Internet inhabitants would be most welcome if it were positively conveyed. Unfortunately, it is more about destroying the image of the journalist, the TV program, the TV channel and mainstream media in general. The community managers of the TV channel would be expected to intervene and help get out of the crisis. Some are missing the opportunity to show how useful they can be in such undesirable times.

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