What We Learned Watching Kids With Homemade Flamethrowers


Kids love fire. Rock bands love fire. Put two-and-two together and it makes sense for the diabolical forces to join in holy union, which is exactly what happens in Family Portrait’s video for “Mega Secrets.” But the video, composed of teenagers scorching the good Earth with homemade flamethrowers, is more an experiment in user-generated content, micro-communities and the current state of online culture than it is a promotional clip for the Underwater People’s house band.

The premise is simple; to showcase kids and their homemade flamethrowers. However, the concept behind the premise isn’t as cut and dry. Not just a music video, the ode to flamethrowers and the kids who make them is also the focal point of a case study being conducted by the Web Ecology Project, Tim Hwang of ROFLCon/Awesome Foundation and Sawyer Carter Jacobs, bassist for Family Portrait. Together the research team, which formed while working together at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, are using the video to highlight the “often overlooked universe of micro-communities flourishing in the nooks and crannies of the web.”

Through examining the tools and motivations that drive the existence of micro-groups, the project, dubbed “What we Learned Watching Kids with Homemade Flamethrowers,” will not only study the tools used by such bizarrely niche groups in order to communicate and build a virtual micro-community, but also the history of such groups, the motivation behind their actions and what said groups teach us about the current state of online culture, and society as a whole. The Internet enthusiasts hope to present their academic findings at SXSW in March. If accepted to the festival, the group will demonstrate how to make a “badass flamethrower,” as well as the proper technique for firing an amateur Flammenwerfer. Guaranteed to be more entertaining than “Four Bloggers Talk About Themselves, Their Blogs, the Music Scene in Columbus, and Why Vinyl Is Superior To All Other Materials in the World for All Purposes.”

Family Portrait “Mega Secrets”