Does ‘David after the Dentist’ tell us anything?

Many of you will have seen the YouTube clip of a seven year old boy, rather spaced out on his way back from the dentist:

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It's amusing, and bound to get a lot of hits as it is the sort of thing that 'goes viral' easily. But what's really interesting is the way it has set off a host of remixes. We have:

Following on from the previous posts, this is just like a virus – it spreads and, more importantly, it mutates. It is this mutatability that is key – simply forwarding or embedding it is one level of interest, but when people take it and adapt it in unpredictable ways, then it becomes interesting at an educational level. I don't believe it's possible to analyse this and isolate the elements that make it prone to this with the hope of recreating it, but here are some contributing factors:

  • Humour
  • Quotable ("Is this real life?")
  • Instant recognition (anyone who has seen it will instantly recognise a parody of someone sitting in the back of a car, which gives you an easy frame of reference)
  • Popularity (it has to go through the more simple, pass it on phase first, as remixers are then 'cashing in' on its popularity)

I'm not sure there is much we can learn for education – maybe the lesson is 'don't fight it', ie if you want media students to learn about remixing then give them whatever is popular.

Oh, okay, it's just funny.

6 Comments

  1. I think you hit on one of the key problems I have with what is happening with the video – people are “cashing in” on David.
    It’s one thing to remix and recontextualize the video, but quite another thing when people then use that to make money off a kid in a vulnerable state.
    Some of the remixes now have embedded video links to other sites, using David as a marketing tool to drive traffic to their sites. Some have Google ad overlay’s and others have simply pulled down the video and re-uploaded it to their account, again in an attempt to make money off the kid.
    What David After Dentist tells me is that YouTube needs to incorporate Creative Commons licensing to let people clearly exert some control over how their videos are used. That would at least give people some sort of legal recourse to prevent commercial exploitation of future David’s.

  2. Hi Clint, yes you’re correct, there is a whole moral dimension to this too, which I deliberatly avoided (not because it isn’t interesting, just because that wasn’t the focus of my post). I used the term ‘cashing in’ in a loose sense, to mean YouTube remixers are getting their views boosted on the back of the popularity of the original, which creates a motivation in itself. But as you point out, there is a more literal cashing in too, with the advent of Google ads and the like.

  3. I’ve seen this video several times and it’s really recognizable ‘coz of the humor it brought to the audience. But I never thought that you could extract a lesson from this video which is amazing, you are an analytical person. Bravo!

  4. Well, in a sense, it tells us how to market something to people. That even a spur of the moment thing can be priceless, and useful to others.
    There is also another factor that isn’t in your list, or I could be wrong; but there is such a thing as the Mock-ability factor, wherein something is so bad that it’s so good. (Rebecca Black anyone?)

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