Contagious Media


This survey of recent media-based online projects—some anonymous, the rest developed by Jonah Peretti—shows just how infectious the Internet’s word-of-mouth culture has become. BlackPeopleLoveUs, the most controversial work on view, is a parodic take on white racism. The website features faux testimonials by black people who enthuse about their fictional white friends Sally and Johnny on what appears to be the latters’ personal homepage: “Sally’s always saying: ‘You go girl!’ . . . That’s fun! I can relate to that.” Alongside angry and supportive letters sent by those who took the site literally, a TV monitor shows the mainstream media attention it actually engendered. The Rejection Line, a collaboration by Peretti and his sister Chelsea, may not be as socially provocative, but the deadpan project nevertheless became wildly popular. The work consists of a real phone number people can give out to unwanted pursuers; the message at the other end tells the unsuspecting caller to buzz off. The most compelling effort here is Jonah’s Nike project, which documents his ongoing e-mail exchange with the company’s customer service reps, who refuse to customize a pair of sneakers with the word
sweatshop. Exposing a major corporation’s attempt to both hide and defend its labor practices, it’s a riveting dialogue that also includes responses from some of the 2 million people the scandal eventually reached.