Hybridize That

The project called “Citizen Poet” was conceived of in Moscow by a poet, an actor, and a producer slightly over a year ago. The idea looked brilliant to me: the form is a theatre, the tool is Russian classic poetry, the content is acerbic political satire of the Russian “duet” (Putin-Medvedev), and—attention—the medium is the Internet. The actor reads poems that rhyme like widely recognizable and beloved pieces of Russian poetry, but the meaning is aimed at criticizing and ridiculing Russian political leadership; the performances are videotaped and uploaded on the Internet.

At first the authors thought that these videos would be seen only by a few thousand intellectuals, but the viewership of their first clip was 250,000, with 14 million clicks now, a year later. It is important to mention that the Russian government, to put it mildly, does not welcome the opposition (just like almost any government). Most of the intellectuals are either apathetic about the current political situation, or have been co-opted by the government through membership in the official party, United Russia, or by being repeatedly invited for tea and “cordial” conversation with Prime Minister Putin.

The success of this project is obvious—it was noticed immediately and the poet (who actually happens to be my favorite journalist, Dmitriy Bykov) was invited to the “tea party” with the Prime Minister. Bykov declined on the premise that he was busy. The real motivation, as he admitted in an interview, was that he does not want to lose credibility with his audience as an independent opinion maker.

What is interesting, I think, is the form the creators of the project have selected. Both of them, the poet and the actor, belong to a generation which prefers traditional artistic media to Internet-specific ones. However, by uploading their theatrical recitations on the Internet, they have increased the project’s outreach and popularity, and created, from my point of view, a truly powerful satirical weapon and a truly hybrid product, which could only be possible with new technology.

As a native speaker, I can attest that the whole thing is VERY stinging.

Here is the NYT article about the project:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/19/world/europe/mocking-vladimir-putin-with-poetic-flair-in-russia.html?emc=eta1

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One thought on “Hybridize That

  1. csmith111989 says:

    I’d like to compliment this post by bringing up another example of network authority and circumvention. In this case, we see that the Russian government is flexing its muscles against the content being put online. I feel like this isn’t surprising to us. Russia is not the biggest advocate of Internet freedom, or other freedoms of expression for that matter.

    However, what if something right along the lines of this is happening in the United States, where freedoms are supposed to be paramount? I read today about a girl in Kansas who tweeted that her governor “sucked” and was quickly scolded by her high school principal after being contacted by the governor’s campaign communications director. The comm director was monitoring negative tweets about the governor, who had a 52 percent disapproval rating. Since when is political speech a reason to scold?

    I know the circumstances are a little different from country to country, but looking at both situations it seems like the same thing is happening all over the world where authorities are attempting to use network power to suppress the same innovations that allow them to access networks. I think this is an interesting struggle, and wanted to bring up that even though it seems like something that couldn’t happen here in the US, it actually is all the time.

    The link for the article is here: http://www.cnn.com/2011/11/28/opinion/obeidallah-brownback-tweet-apology/?hpt=hp_c1

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