Skip to content


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is a science fiction novel by Phillip K. Dick that was published in 1968, 38 years before Lonelygirl15’s “video blogs” were posted on YouTube. Is there a connection between these two materials? Did Mr. Dick’s text predict the the Lonelygirl15 phenomenon? I believe so.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep
   First let’s examine the novel. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep takes place in a futuristic world, post World War III radioactive fallout. In this world, humans live alongside “andys,” androids. The androids are designed to be the servants of off-Earth colonies of human immigrants. The protagonist of the novel, Rick Deckard, is a police hitman responsible for “retiring” rogue androids.  Composed of organic materials, the androids are virtually indistinguishable from humans, yet are they not considered people. They are personified machines and certain distinctions exist that isolate them. For instance, when an android is is killed it is referred to as “retirement” rather than “murder.” The old models of androids were easy for men like Deckard to determine whether or not a suspect was indeed a machine. However, the newer models in production during the story require empathy testing because empathy was determined to be the one emotion exclusively humans could experience. The empathy test were  imperfect, as Eldon Rosen, a part of the Rosen Association which produces androids states to Deckard on page 54 “Your police department others as well- may have retired, very probably have retired, authentic humans with underdeveloped empathetic ability.”
   Omnipresent in the story is the idea of real versus unreal, and also the condition in which the unreal becomes real: simulacra. The character Rachel Rosen in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is actually an android but she is so similar to human she functions as a human; she can fake empathy. When Deckard first meets Rachel he suspects she’s an android and is pleasantly surprised when she passes the empathy test. When it is later revealed that she in fact an android, just a very advanced specimen, he is shocked. He looses the inherent respect he has for her as a fellow humans, but replaces it with respect for her because he is impressed with how well she functions. This sequence is mirrored in the account of Lonelygirl15.
Know Your Meme describes
“Lonelygirl15 was a video series uploaded by the eponymous username lonelygirl15,and starring then 19-year-old Jessica Lee Rose as 16-year-old Bree, along with a cast of other supporting characters, most notably Yousef Abu-Taleb as Daniel. The videos follow the life of 16-year-old Bree Avery, an everyday teenage girl struggling with her love interests and religious beliefs. It debuted on June 16, 2006, but was not revealed to be fictional until September 2006 when the intense online investigation about who Lonelygirl15 actually was became an internet phenomenon.”
   The vlogs where incredibly convincing. In the first vlog embedded above she name drops a couple of the most popular YouTubers of the time and even has a realistic MySpace profile. She posted comments and responded to comments on her videos. Her actions seemed genuine but her high production value was suspicious. Internet users were already wary of mischief marketing, transmedia campaigns, such as the hoax that turned into be promotion for the movie The Blain Witch Project. As early as July 2006 viewers began to doubt “Bree’s” validity. An impressive collaborative fan investigation of the who, what and where of Lonelygirl15 determined she lived in California and found suspicious trademark registrations. Then, on September 7th, 2006 “The Creators” (Miles Beckett, Mesh Flinders, Greg Goodfriend and Amanda Goodfried) posted in the LG15 discussion board
“To Our Incredible Fans,
Thank you so much for enjoying our show so far. We are amazed by the overwhelmingly positive response to our videos; it has exceeded our wildest expectations. With your help we believe we are witnessing the birth of a new art form. Our intention from the outset has been to tell a story– A story that could only be told using the medium of video blogs and the distribution power of the internet. A story that is interactive and constantly evolving with the audience.
Right now, the biggest mystery of Lonelygirl15 is “who is she?” We think this is an oversimplification. Lonelygirl15 is a reflection of everyone. She is no more real or fictitious than the portions of our personalities that we choose to show (or hide) when we interact with the people around us…You are the only reason for our success, and we appreciate your devotion. We want you to know that we aren’t a big corporation. We are just like you. A few people who love good stories. We hope that you will join us in the continuing story of Lonelygirl15, and help us usher in an era of interactive storytelling where the line between “fan” and “star” has been removed, and dedicated fans like yourselves are paid for their efforts. This is an incredible time for the creator inside all of us.
Thank you.”
   While news media scrambled to cover the story, the fans reacted by posting responses, parodies and criticisms. Many felt duped, while others continued to follow the story. They accepted that what they had believed was real was in actuality unreal, but allowed the unreal be real, just as the how character Deckard learned authentic-looking Rachel Rosen was ineed an android but she still was a type of valid person. Additionally, following the media interest the Lonelygirl15 series grew in popularity and achieved 110 million cumulative views when the series ended in July 2008. The channel was the number one most subscribed channel for a while and spawned multiple spinoffs. The success of the Lonelygirl15 series supports the implied prediction in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, that a blurred reality between real and unreal will become the norm in our postmodern society. The difference between human and android, between actor and viewer, between professional and amateur is blurred so that now context is less important than content.
   I know it’s difficult to find time to read long form books when we spend all of our time watching media content online, heck, it’s even hard to watch long-form media content such as movies! However, I highly recommend spending the time to read a book like Do Androids of Electric Sheep, you’ll be surprised how fun and interesting it is to think about relating ito online video. Have you read anything recently that connects to Lonelygirl15? Or perhaps another internet phenomenon? Science fiction is a treasure trove of vlogging material if you’re searching for inspiration. One of my goals of this blog is to prove to you that content doesn’t have to be new to be valuable. Please don’t forget about older material. One of the amazing abilities of the human mind is our ability to learn from our society’s history, as well as be an interactive participant in it!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: