I was called up on the phone today by a guy from Jyllands-Posten, which is, as some will know, a major Danish newspaper. The guy in the other end told me they’ve just converted to a tabloid format and wanted to sell me and Kaplak a subscription for one year, and he would give me a free laptop too, if I’d take his offer. I thought the offer sounded a bit suspicious but didn’t decline, as I thought a free laptop always might come in handy. So I said I couldn’t decide right now, and went online to search for more information on this offer using Google.
I didn’t find much on the laptop offer. Instead, this turned out to be an interesting case of using search and of what one finds when looking for something else. I stumbled over this article in Jyllands-Posten (now also quoted in this space), which I found sufficiently interesting to spend a few minutes hunting down the object of the article, this video, which was first posted to YouTube, but then taken down by the service :
The story goes like this : Bilka, a large Danish chain of supermarket stores sells computers. One of their customers had an unusual agenda. Unnoticed he used a demo model of a laptop which was showcased in one of their stores (located in Holstebro) to play a porn movie for customers which happened to be passing by. Meanwhile their reactions were captured with the laptop’s built-in webcam. Apparently the plan was put into action using a USB stick to get the movie onto the showcased laptop. Some way the perpetrator managed to get the footage of customers’ reactions edited and uploaded to YouTube, from where it was later removed (by YouTube). It is now an entry in the collection of YouTomb, a MIT study dedicated to takedown patterns on YouTube (and other online services).
Fortunately, someone also uploaded this obvious case of the consumer-producer convergence to other online spaces, from where it may be seen and be redistributed. The days have passed when YouTube could take down a video and then it would cease to exist on the internet.
This story is a good case of PageRank which generates activity for all the wrong reasons. The video didn’t appear in Google’s own video results, for obvious reasons. YouTube took down the video so they wouldn’t include it, and Google’s video search is not (yet) very good at locating video from third party sources. Clearly Bilka doesn’t like to get all this attention from a story like this and have likely been trying to shut it down. And I wasn’t even looking for something about Bilka or for cases like this. So why did I find it?
Thanks to PageRank, it is easy to find these kinds of cases, as they are typically linked to from a number of places. PageRank also makes it difficult to find stuff, because these kind of stories prioritized by PageRank are deeply irrelevant to the information I was seeking : my original search for something on the laptop offer. I didn’t find what I was really looking for. But in this case, this wasn’t important enough for me to not be easily swayed from my way.
To find the story, the only keywords I had to use was “Jyllands-Posten” and “laptop”, originally searching for something on the laptop offer I received. Subsequently, after I found the article from the paper’s website, I tracked down the video in question, mostly out of pure stubbornness and refusal to let YouTube decide what’s good for me. It also seems strange to me to have a news story on the internet about a video, but not display the video. I wanted to see it for myself. In order to find it, I looked for “video” with the other keywords “Bilka”, “porno” (Danish for “porn”) and “Holstebro”, and dug up the title it had on YouTube before the takedown. After the takedown, someone posted the title of the video, “Electronic Harassment #1 – Porno on Laptop” along with the YouTube user name of the user who uploaded it. After that it was easy to locate it somewhere else. I was lucky it still carried the same title.
I can’t help but find this story incredibly funny. In all it’s comical simplicity, pulling this stunt showcases the shift in power, voice and authority, which distributed computing and online media enables – from large respectable companies, channels and filters to every one of us, independent of filters, disrespectfully engaging, limits imposed only by the audacity of our creativity. Let’s continue our work to find and build filters, which are independent of YouTube, Facebook and other such services, which so ridiculously lie flat on their stomachs for yesterday’s norms and masters. Which have so little concern for the individual voice of experimental producers, that it’s just sickening. And let’s spread stuff like this wide and far, to let executives everywhere know, that we know, that their unquestioned power is about to end – if it hasn’t already. “Everybody fucks”.