Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
The impressive, almost calculatedly pervasive spread of the Korean pop song “Gangnam Style” by Psy — more than 800 million YouTube views and counting — is enough to confound even the most sophisticated observers of Internet culture. But beyond the silly horse dance and the over-the-topness of it all, the video has within it a message that runs somewhat counter to its overwhelming popularity. The “Gangnam Style” video is actually a subtle satire on gross inequality in Seoul, with the finger pointing directly at its wealthiest neighborhood, Gangnam, and the people who aspire to live there.
Psy’s antics throughout the video lampoon some of the image-conscious materialism that pervades the rich neighborhood, and is meant to criticize those who seek to emulate and celebrate that lifestyle. By juxtaposing the fancy cars and swank spas of the super-rich lifestyle with the farmlands and public transit of the 99%, Psy calls out the vast differences that exist in the city, but also lays some blame on those who place too much value on the excesses of affluence.
Though now likely one of the bigger stars in Korean pop culture, it’s hard to imagine Psy’s lifestyle diverging much from the elitism his video seeks to attack.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.