Secrets of a viral superstar – Evan Roth

Concerned with the intersection between art and viral media, Evan Roth gave the audience a tour of the projects he has been involved in recently. Also teaching in Paris, Roth is interested in a demographic that we often forget about – the BAW (bored at work) network. He suggested that this is the group that drives viral marketing, and the ability to get people to interact at their work is what drives viral success.


  He harnesses the power of crowd collaboration to produce the Michael Jackson hand video where a group of people plotted the co-ordinates of every frame of Michael Jackson’s glove in the first moonwalk video.

The results are (predictably) interesting and fun. Crowd sourcing by asking people online to undertake a small task to achieve a greater goal.



Music plays a role in Roth’s work, and he showed a video that took 3 days to produce for Jay-Z – Brooklyn Go Hard.

The last few frames of the video show the source code to the Flash animation, this was due to a rush to publication and it remained in the video.

The code has since been used in a multitude of ways by many different people. The viral effect of the code’s popularity going beyond the immediate attraction of fans of Jay-Z and the music.


Gaining a lot of traction in user experience is the design to delight point of view. Roth told how recently he was paired with Matt Mullenweg (creator of WordPress) at the 7 on 7 event. Here they worked on a few elements inside the WordPress blogging dashboard – elements they say that are now live and ready to use. Putting their collaboration in the admin section, the fun mode allows a user to publish with a difference.



Photo courtesy of Julia de Boer 
  Roth stated that often the publish button is such an anti climax, the culmination of hours of carefully crafting a post, seemed to them to be launched without fanfare. By adding a library of video clips they have changed this sacred moment, so when the publish button is pushed, a full screen video is played of motivational video moments. They also looked at the stats component and compared visits to populations of real towns in the US, and symbolised the size of traffic by photographs of the town. This humanised the data, and provided more visual interest.


Roth is particularly interested in how little effort one can put towards the maximum amount of impact. Roth says;

…if you are in viral – swing the bat as many times as you can

The tip he gives is to create viral that gives spikes in traffic through enjoyable and non-political content.


  His most visually impressive project is Graffiti Analysis, where a marker pen is tracked and it’s motion path redraws in code and renders on the screen. Roth believes graffiti is free speech and not dissimilar to the web. The web have the same peer systems working together for common goals. In this work the digital system is where the interface is the marker, the thinner the line the faster the speed all rendered in the 3d space. The effect is something unseen before and this project has resulted in GML (Grafitti Markup Language) which is available for download.



  Eye writer was the last project he showed, that took the code from GML and paired it with eye tracking software to create a drawing application that worked from movement of the iris. This enabled those artists who could no longer paint or tag, the ability to draw again. To draw using only their eyes gave something meaningful and satisfying back to those who have lost so much through paralysis and provided a fitting end to this interesting talk.


Roth was humble when going through his projects and seemed nonchalant about the impact of his work. He is a true artist, prolific and determined, irreverent and seemingly mistrustful of those organisations (Google) who have so much of our data. Or those governments (China) who censor the access to freely available information. Roth’s work has meaning and he stated that you should not strive for a following but rather ‘surf the waves of memedom’ to produce the best work. But as far as an artist who stands in the intersection of viral media and art, you would have to argue he is one of the best.

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