Monday, 30 July 2012

The Attention Economy- More Brian Scalabrine

So far throughout this blog, I've analysed basketball memes in terms of information and social relationships to diverse the types of memes that exist on the internet and how networked digital media has played a role in blurring the traditional distinctions between producer and audience, and also in spreading and reproducing memes very effectively. And to this point, I've emphasised the notion that memes are used as a form of expression by fans, whether it is to exhibit their passion for basketball or their frustrations with various aspects of the sport. The most popular memes mutate from mass spreading, reworking, reaction and attention. Burgess and Green (2009, 68) in their study of YouTube videos found that people tend to respond more to user-created content and such videos tend to dominate the "most responded" and "most discussed" categories of the website. These videos also tend to be the most spread, with their themes becoming templates for replication and imitation. Thus, it can also be argued that the prominence of memes can be partly attributed to the "attention economy". Davenport and Beck (2001, 20) writes, "Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act. In the digital environment, attention is perhaps the most valuable commodity. For instance, attention can be directly linked to mimesis on YouTube- the number of variations spawned by a certain video, image or even just an idea is an example of attention and in turn the videos itself draws attention, in a reciprocal process. While content created by amateurs is not guaranteed attention, in fact some generate no more then a few views, attention however, can be accumulated through mimetic activity (Shifman 2011, 199). 

Consequently, trends are formed and adopted. That is, there are websites associating with reporting on the latest trends with what is considered "cool" (e.g.,,, These spaces provide readers with the latest on what is "cool" from technology to fashion, and are seen as worth following and participating in, either as contributors or readers. The same logic applies to memes in which it is considered cool to create new memes and even cooler if the meme becomes successful (Knobel 2006, 416). Examples of popular memes include the "Hitler meme", "All your base are belong to us" and "Lolcats". For the most part, these memes are often akin to inside jokes between friends and outsiders will likely have difficult in seeing the humour in or point in a lot of memes. However when a particular graphic or a video draws considerable attention either through its high rating, high voting scores or being featured among popular websites, the meme becomes successful and it is then considered cool to spread and imitate. For instance, in the world of basketball, it has become a common trend for fans to create memes featuring basketball player Brian Scalabrine. Unlike superstars Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, Scalabrine, who has spent his entire career as a sparingly used reserve, has become a cult hero among basketball fans. Scalabrine memes epitomises the logic of participatory culture and the attention economy. Memes concerning him begun spawning on popular meme sharing websites and basketball fan communities on discussion forums and social networks, setting a trend that it is in fact "cool" to support the unknown "hero", to the point where individuals not familiar with basketball may mistake him to be one of the game's marquee players through the many memes associated with him. This trend would manifest to YouTube shows dedicated to him and to influence live basketball matches with fan signs and chants showing support for Scalabrine, thus exhibiting the influence of spread through digital media. 

YouTube videos-






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