Is This Forever?

One of the videos I showed last night during my Media Literacy presentation was the recent “David After Dentist” video. The scene is of a seven year old boy who just left the Dentist’s office and was still feeling the effects of sedation. I’ve posted the video to Twitter, and while most people report it to be quite funny, others were more critical of this scene being posted to Youtube for all to see. The original video (posted below) was posted January 30, 2009, and has already been viewed over 7 million times.

Boing Boing, a highly influential group blog, posted the video on September 3. At that time, there had already been a few remixes. Since the Boing Boing mention, the number of remixes has exploded. Two of my favourite are found below:

Remix:

Chad (Vader) After Dentist

There are dozens more!

How does this relate to media literacy? During his state of sedation, the boy asks “is this forever?” While the dad reassures him that it isn’t, in the (digital) media sense, it is forever. Whether the boy likes it or not, he is now an Internet star. The scene will likely follow him into classrooms, into careers, into relationships; it will forever be part of his identity. Whether he accepts his fame as mostly positive (see Gary Brolsma) or especially negative (see Ghyslain Raza) is yet to be seen. What is certain is that the distribution of this video, a piece of David’s identity, is no longer in anyone’s full control.

  • I remember sitting in at a “talent show” in church one time where some teen age boys, who were supposed to have their act screened, proceeded to perform in drag a Spice Girls act in a very sexy, almost uncomfortably sexy manner. Nearly everyone was laughing and the guy sitting in front of me turned around and said, “It’s always funnier when it’s not your kids”.

    That’s how most people would react to this. I think, while this is an obvious example of material that can be used in nefarious ways, anytime we put ourselves out there, we are subject to this. If you write something controversial, post a picture or video, the potential for someone else to interpret it or use in in unintended ways exists.

    I think it should, as you suggest, make us consider the long term effects. I always appreciate you pointing to two examples of how this phenomenon can be viewed. Does it matter the father’s obvious intent here is not to embarrass his son but to share a very funny moment? Is that only something to be shared in private? Obviously these are highly personal choices and should be left as that, rather than a move to mandate everyone to close down their worlds for fear someone might misinterpret and use it for “evil”.

    As always, leaning towards openness. Thanks for this great insightful post.

  • I’ve been going on about this video for a few days…not as an educator, but through the lens of a parent (http://dadventure.ca/2009/02/09/the-problem-i-have-with-david-after-dentist/)

    The biggest problem I have with the video is how people are making money off David. So many of the remixes are exploitative, with embedded ad’s, links to other sites and so on. David has been reduced to a marketing gimmick to drive traffic to other websites. To me, that is wrong.

  • Without knowing David or his parents, or how they feel about it, I feel sad by what has happened to him. A private, family moment has exploded into instant celebrity and we all get to laugh at the expense of a child in a vulnerable moment of despair. Did David get a say in this? Will he ever have the opportunity to make it go away? Watching something on the screen has the disturbing effect of objectifying people, stripping them of their human-ness and the respect due them.

    Are we not contributing to the exploitation each time we view the video? (or post/link/remix)

  • I saw the video for the first early this week and while it was amusing I was also put off by it. The first thing I thought about was similar to your observation — this is forever. I think what it does is gives us reason to pause and think before we just throw something online. Each moment, line of text, image, or video that is dropped into the social web becomes a last part of one’s meta identity. The web is now a very public piece to the “permanent record” we all heard about as kids in school.

  • It’s ironic I read this after watching in my Psychology 20 class “The Truman Show”. I use this film in class to end the first mini-unit I teach on research methodologies and ethics. I find it an interesting way for students to reflect upon both topics in a non-research way, challenging them to think outside the box. The crux of our discussions always end up being was what they did with Truman ethically right? Putting him on TV (for his entire life) without his say? Most students agree wholeheartedly that what was done [to Truman] was wrong. However this is a point that many of them missed the first time through when they watched the film before.

    Is David’s case any different? Ethically and morally is this right? I agree with many that then father’s intention is not to exploit his child, but to simply show a light amusing moment in life. However should a little more care have been used in posting this? This will be forever. Especially with the many parodies that have been done. What will David think about this? Will he see the humour in it? Will he be angry with his dad due to a fleeting momentary collapse in dad’s thinking?

    Perhaps [as educators] we should be educating people changing our thinking about what goes online and the lasting effects of it. This is mirrored out in many legal systems with “Johns” sent to “John Schools” to re-evaluate what their effects of purchasing sex has on women and society. Is this video that far out?

  • I agree that a cute family moment has turned into a strangers using this video for their own entertainment and gain. I have been thinking recently (As a parent and teacher) about putting children’s images up on the Internet. With Facebook’s privacy policy that gives them ownership over all Facebook images and the ease of copying and editing a video, what will the implications be for children when they become adults? I can’t help but think about the Star Wars Kid…a sad story.

    How many people use their child’s photo as their profile picture? I know I do. How would my children feel if their pictures were taken, edited and used for the entertainment of others? I know my students pictures are posted on our class blog and wiki (with their parents permission of course), but is this still right?

    I admit I am confused. I agree with the open share of information…it allows for learning and growth. But, I do not want to do something that my children or students regret later in life.

    Just my thoughts…

  • If you see the official blog http://davidafterdentist.com/blog/ is obvious that his father wants to make money (commercial of the camera!) using his 7 year son! I think that the politicians should (if it doesn’t exist yet) make a bill such as “Parents must not use in any way children under age in order to make money”. Dadid’s father, instead of pretecting him, violated his privacy!