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Forced meme or real meme?

Last posted Aug 30, 2009 at 12:10AM EDT. Added Jul 13, 2009 at 11:59AM EDT
35 posts from 16 users

In most cases, declaring something a meme is just pure BS. A meme usually has to be an idea that masses of people find worthy of continuing to propel and create derivatives of over a long period of time. It must establish a history of user-interest. That kind of thing doesn’t usually come automatically just by calling something a meme. But there are those cases of spam-flooding that results in a bandwagon effect that just doesn’t seem to go away. I believe that’s what’s implied by the saying, “sometimes a fail is so epic that it turns into a win.”

isn’t a meme like a “hip” trend. where the more you announce what your doing his “hip” the less “hip” it becomes?

I always think meme’s happen because of a natural understanding that “yes, that is indeed epic….because memes…they go whooo whooo”

Seriously though: I don’t think it’s actually possible to “create” a meme. One merely presents content… other people make it a meme. A piece of content is not a meme -- the meme exists around the content

And if you declare that it’s a meme…? =>


So-- hold on. Back up. So then a “forced meme” is better defined as content forced into the tubes with the intention of creating a meme; only when said content gains momentum of its own does it go from being forced content to being a forced meme?

I think almost all content wants to be a meme -- that is to say, popular. Marketing is an entire professional practice built around making things that are catchy, remixable, easy to share with your friends -- memes!

“Forced memes” are when the content is SO BAD that people have to actually tell you that “it’s a meme”

Thus, if you say it’s a meme… it probably isn’t.

Hmmm… or are internet memes the anti-marketing? Marketing is the practice of shaping public attitudes with media and information to the benefit of the marketer. Memes are postmodern entertainment for entertainment’s sake, usually without attitude shaping intention.

Are there any really good examples of a marketing or advertising campaign being appropriated and becoming a meme that actually damaged the original marketer/advertiser?

Yes, trolling can be an exception. There are exceptions. But how many LOLcats have you seen that are created with the shaping of markets in mind? I don’t think that the majority of memes are meant to persuade. Thoughts?

AKA: the scourge of my mornings. AKA: reading emails saying “check out this new site. it’s becoming a meme!” and it’s all geared toward one agenda or another whether it’s to sell reusable water bottles or to build up hype about someone’s upcoming novel, or to help further the PR clout of any particular individual. The viral web is full of people trying to influence not only the financial landscape online but also the philisophical, moral, and intellectual landscapes.

Usually once it’s discovered that there is someone orchestrating the PR around something, trying to “make a meme” we stop calling it a meme and refer to it as astroturf.

So if a marketing campaign legitimately went viral, it could gain meme status? And what happens when it is eventually exposed (take your own SPARTA example)-- would it survive based on the strength of content alone, despite being bogus?

Can you think of a marketing campaign that gained as much momentum as the dancing baby (without intervention from an outside source, like that Aqua Teen stunt where the guys got arrested because the police thought they had a bomb).

Typically when an audience discovers that their beloved viral content was actually a marketing campaign, there is something of a backlash.
At first everyone thought Lonelgirl15 on Youtube was a real person, but her videos were later revealed to be a fictional production and many fans were quite upset. The show continued onward, but with everyone now aware of the fiction, the show was able to expand out more, incorporating more characters and action sequences.

When I think of a meme, I think of something that spreads among many people in a grassroots manner; a direct person-to-person spread. Online, this happens in forums, on message boards, etc. This way, with each new instance of the meme, it gets mutated a bit by whoever has created the new instance. If a meme jumps from SomethingAwful to 4Chan, there are observable cultural influences on the meme.

But if your job is to promote and advertise something and you craft your marketing to appear as though it was just any old user generated content, and you create a mass of fake accounts that build up fake hype about that content, then what you’re doing is astroturfing.

Now here’s the real kicker: If you’re successful in your astroturfing, you will actually inspire people to carry on your idea, and create their own derivatives. At that point, you have successfully created a meme. Something very close to this occurred with the Christian Bale Rant.

As for my example of SPARTA:
I never said that the memetic instances of “This is SPARTA” were incited by MGM, but I was throwing the concept out their for conjecture. I’m curious to know how people would feel if hypothetically, MGM execs had decided to craft the THIS IS SPARTA meme on their own, posing as random forum members? Would people stop liking the THIS IS SPARTA meme? Or would they continue to embrace it like they do?

Astroturf as a term for false grassroots isn’t just limited to internet memes, but comes from politics.

Ideally, yes a meme should be a legit grassroots phenomenon. Otherwise there’s no point in analyzing the meme. Memetics tries to examine why an idea becomes popular. If the answer to that is “because it had a huge PR budget” then you’re not really talking about memetics, you’re talking advertising.

See, when a meme happens organically, it is an idea that spreads its influence based on its own qualities. How “likeable” is it? How “attention grabbing” is it? What made people decide to create more of it? If it chaged form in new instances, what factors influcenced those changes?
This is the approach one takes when analyzing a meme.

A viral ad campaign tends to lack mutation. The owners of the source material tend to like if their property doesn’t change; as often happens with huge memes.

I agree with you wholeheartedly. Virility hinges on the ability to adapt and mutate, and by virtue of that, the folks who are trying to create “viral” marketing campaigns that stay on-message are undertaking the impossible.

I feel like my brain turned to mashed potatoes a while ago on this. I think before I make too many more assumptions about how memes behave, and what’s possible through marketing I’m going to have to just do more research. Good thread though, so far.

It would be fun if someone had the psychological knowledge of memetics to actually design a meme that succeeded according to prediction. But we’re not there yet (although I haven’t caught up on research). Rather, some forced memes will turn into actual memes just because there are so many who makes them and someone is bound to succeed sooner or later purely by chance. As of now, I’d say that the intention of the creator doesn’t matter, they’d just be lucky intentional or not.

Btw, I believe Dawkins has some good ideas about what makes memes successful in “The God Delusion”, esp. “continuous” vs. “discrete” memes and action vs. intent. Also, it’s worth thinking about whether a meme contains both the content and the instructions to copy them, or if instructions alone are a meme in itself (like how to link to YT). I don’t know if analogy with genes and enzymes are a help or an obstacle here.

I think this helps.

The main reason that Advice Dog and the Bauex Tapestry are so prolific is because they have generators. Any time a person comes into contact with a macro generator, there is a good chance that the meme will spread to some small degree.
This is relevent because it differentiates that type of meme from a photoshopping meme.
Photoshop skills do not come automatically. And while the overall skill needed to produce most memetic instances is absolutely entry level, the skill is easily acquired, but it limits the meme to a semi-skilled demographic. Your mom/grandma will never forward you something she shooped. But she may FWD:>FWD:>FWD:> you some virtual roses that have been floating around the tubes for a decade plus. And on Facebook, you will be forwarded every damn survey meme out there if you have extended family on your friends list.
Nice one bringing up whether or not they contain replicating instructions. That is going to be one to consider more often.
I’m gonna take some time here to mull over the rest of those ideas.

@ epic win
I didn’t know Pedobear was forced.

@ Chris
Hey, could you ask redspear75 to not click “Submit”, “Send”, “Post” or whatever button is there more than once to get pages to load faster? I know it works, but it flooded my inbox and one of my meme entries, so I showed him what it does, but he did it again with a discussion thread. I don’t want to look at my entries and see duplicates of his comments EVERY TIME.


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