Wednesday, December 5, 2012

China Enjoys Its Own Gangnam, the Aircraft Carrier Style


After the widespread of the "Gangnam Style”, Chinese people have welcomed a new wave of the “Aircraft Carrier () Style” (also called “Go-ahead (走你) Style”). On November 25th, 2012, China successfully landed its first aircraft carrier named “Liaoning”. The gesture of two personnel who were directing planes on board was picked up and imitated by many Chinese netizens. (Alia, New Internet meme: Aircraft carrier style, Nov. 26th, 2012. Retrieved from: http://offbeatchina.com/new-internet-meme-aircraft-carrier-style)
The meme was first shared and spread among individual users on Weibo (China’s Twitter), and then adopt by government agencies, the army, businesses and traditional media.
 

Picture1 The arm signal of aircraft-carrier crew was widely imitated by Chinese netizens after it first showed up on CCTV on Nov. 25, 2012
 
Picture2 Chinese students mimick the “Aircraft Carrier Style” in England.
 
Picture3 People share their creative “Aircraft Carrier Style” on Weibo, China's Twitter.
 
Picture4 People use the “Aircraft Carrier Style” to make fun of the stock market.
 
Picture5 The police combine the“Aircraft Carrier Style” with Gangnam.
 
Picture6 The army also adopts the“Aircraft Carrier Style”.
Picture7 The “Aircraft Carrier Style” iPhone case is sold online. 
 
After the "Gangnam Style” went viral on YouTube, people did not believe that China will have its own Gangnam soon, because the government will block contents that deride its society.  (See: Evan Osnos, Why China Lacks Gangnam Style, The New Yorker, Oct.3, 2012. Retrieved from: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/evanosnos/2012/10/why-china-lacks-gangnam-style.html#ixzz2ECv88AM9)
However, the “Aircraft Carrier Style” shows that China is able to create Gangnam with Chinese characteristics- less sarcastic, but still amusing and popular on the Internet.

The meme of the “Aircraft Carrier Style” becomes viral for several reasons. First and the simplest, the pose is so funny that the public cannot help making fun of it. Second, landing of the aircraft is a big event in China and has drawn wide public attention. Thus, after being broadcasted on CCTV (Chinese Central Television), the predominant state television outlet in mainland China, the “directing” gesture is well known to most people in China. Third, the Internet creates easier access for the meme to be spread in front of millions of people. The social media platforms also allow users to share their sense of humor and creativity with all their friends and followers. Fourth, the meme gets endorsement from the government because it indicates positive message about China and its military achievement, so there is little censorship of sharing it.
How can the Chinese government take advantage of the “Aircraft Carrier Style”? Firstly, the government can use it as an opportunity to educate the public about the development of China’s aerospace industry and promote public trust. Secondly, by adopting the style, the agencies can create a friendlier image to the public and it can also be a starting point for them to join the social media and interact more with netizens.

The Chinese government has been long left behind by its people on the Internet and social media. The case of the “Aircraft Carrier Style” shows the possibility for them to gain popularity through the Internet, especially among the young generation. If the government can make their message fun and eye-catching, it will be easier for their voice to be spread (and possibly accepted) to a broader audience online.
The unexpected popularity of the “Aircraft Carrier Style” is a happy accident for the government’s current social media presence, but internet memes cannot be relied on for the government's social media campaign on a regular basis.
First, the internet memes may not serve the mission of the government. With the purpose of serving its people, the government turns to social media to better hear from the people and then to provide better services. Their job should never be entertaining the public. However, the case of the "Aircraft Carrier Style" shows that people enjoy and share internet memes for entertainment, not for education. So the government should not consider the memes as a normal way of social media campaign.
Second, it is hard to track and manage the meme flow. The viral spread of memes may lead to a destructive result for government.
Last, there may also be the intellectual property problem. (Deanne Katz, Esq., Corporate Use of Internet Memes Could Be Costly, Nov. 27, 2012.  Retrieved from: http://blogs.findlaw.com/in_house/2012/11/corporate-use-of-internet-memes-could-be-costly-in-court.html)

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