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On the stigma of meme exposure...

Last posted May 11, 2010 at 02:52PM EDT. Added Apr 22, 2010 at 12:43PM EDT
16 posts from 12 users

This is a long one, inspired by a conversation Yatta and I had a couple of days ago.

There is an obvious stigma associated with exposing some memes to a wide audience. Many have expressed the idea that explaining a meme will shorten its lifespan.

First of all, there is this common misconception that a meme is an inside-joke. Some memes start out as inside-jokes, but by the point that it has become a meme, the insider-quality is usually already gone.

This idea that mainstream exposure of a meme shortens the meme’s lifespan is a popular one, even though it’s nearly all-together false. This idea has been called The Family Guy Effect because of the common appearance of different internet memes on the show. But most of the time, the memes referenced on Family Guy are already “old meme” by the time they make their mainstream debut, and end up actually experiencing a resurgence in popularity, even if it is short-lived.

But, even if the exact function of The Family Guy effect isn’t wholly accurate, I understand where this idea comes from. For many, certain lesser-known memes serve not only as a means of entertainment, but as a means of identifying other members of your community.

At one point in time, knowing how to properly respond to “Itty bitty baby” was a way of proving to another Anons that you had been around for a while.

So then, by explaining a meme in accessible language, the “insider” quality of a joke is lost. Knowledge of the joke no longer functions as a means of identifying other like-minded individuals.

So is this a threat to anyone’s way of life?

Even though we’ve stated before that there’s really nothing that “underground” about a site like 4chan that serves around 600,000 people each day, there’s still this dynamic where some members still try to claim old-skool cred, and feel threatened when noobs walk in knowing all the old jokes. It becomes even harder to differentiate an “oldfag” from a “newfag.”

So, is this a problem?

The way I see it, that all depends on one’s own individual feelings.

Is 4chan your refuge, where you feel accepted because of your ability to conform to the common chanspeak?

In 1998, I had a small group of friends that were into electronic music. The five of us were some of the only kids in our school that were into that sort of thing. At the time, Daft Punk’s Around the World was this underground hit that my friends and I all knew about, but that the nobody else in this Northern Minnesota town had any clue about.
Because it was a specific niche and it wasn’t mainstream, we appreciated something that was “against the norm” as though it was some kind of privileged information. It was considered “weird” by most other kids we knew. By being into techno, house, trance, etc, we were forming our own exclusive tribe.

Then, by 2003 when the video for “One More Time” started showing up on MTV, I remember thinking, “Whatever, I’m over Daft Punk anyway.”
So then, by the time the “Daft Hands” and “Daft Bodies” video memes set to “Technologic” started appearing on Youtube in 2006, I was kind of amazed and a little bit angry that Daft Punk had become something with mass-appeal.
Why was I angry? At the time, I sort of felt like people who were brand new to Daft Punk couldn’t fully appreciate the band since they weren’t already listening to them when the band debuted like I had. Because I had been aware of them for so long, I felt as though there was something more true or genuine about my appreciation compared to theirs.

I suppose it’s the same thing that anyone who experienced the commercialization of punk music and hip-hop. Both styles of music at one point acted as pieces of cultural identity before being co-opted and assimilated into the larger mainstream cultural landscape. Today, there are watered-down, mass-appeal versions of both punk and hip-hop. But I think it’s important to understand that mainstream exposure didn’t kill either of these genres. There are still fully legitimate forms of punk and hip-hop being produced.

TL;DR “The Family Guy Effect” is dumb, but not unfounded.

Last edited Apr 22, 2010 at 12:44PM EDT
Apr 22, 2010 at 12:43PM EDT
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True, “Family Guy Effect” and so-called “death of meme by mass consumption” are not unfounded, yet I think it only reveals half of the whole story. Family Guy Effect seems to be based on the assumption that value in a piece of information/knowledge diminishes when it gets mass exposure via mainstream, or as Chris said, its authentic cultural identity gets sold out:

By explaining a meme in accessible language, the “insider” quality of a joke is lost. Knowledge of the joke no longer functions as a means of identifying other like-minded individuals.

But if we were to zoom out a bit and think beyond the individuals, I believe this “insider quality” of a joke (or a song, movie, etc) has mostly become an illusion in this day and age.

Using Daft Punk’s Around The World as an example, Chris’ exclusive knowledge of the song (retention) in itself carries little use-value, but becomes useful during the exchange of that knowledge with another person. So if that other dude knows what Chris is talking about, a “cultural identity” is established. If the person has no idea, Chris gains social cred for staying ahead of the curb--PROFIT! Either way, it’s the exchange of information that brings out its usefulness both for individuals and community at large.

It’d be also helpful to consider how convenient it’s become to produce and acquire knowledge. Ever since we came to discover “culture” as a profitable commodity, think it’s safe to say we’re now pretty much consuming info/media, if not hoarding. and with interweb, consuming & reproducing goes hand in hand.

And think the same goes for producing new idea/knowledge in the mass media, those ideas keep on coming because they need to be sold and consumed per demand. More varieties, the same muse.

Yes, this might sound like the same old “blame the corporate mass media”, but I guess that’s why internet memes are so refreshing today, they’re popular ideas far less reliant upon market forces.

Last edited Apr 22, 2010 at 07:11PM EDT
Apr 22, 2010 at 03:42PM EDT
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By documenting teh memes are we killing them? Discuss.

Apr 26, 2010 at 02:35PM EDT
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Well I always wonder why would they moan about newfags, and oldfags?

I mean when you consider it they are anon, and no one knows who who, and anon is constantly evolving, so whats the point, you could act as a newfag, and a old fag at the same time.

So this all really concludes to one real result, that the internet is communism! (jk)

Last edited Apr 26, 2010 at 02:50PM EDT
Apr 26, 2010 at 02:49PM EDT

@ Yatta
I cant speak for everyone but i feel by documenting them we are preserving them for future generations to find and then make popular again. Its the whole “what comes around goes around” theory.

Apr 26, 2010 at 11:21PM EDT
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I agree “insider quality” on the internet is basically an illusion. On the web an “inside joke” would have 100x more exposure to a bigger audience than your typical high-school clique.

4chan has about 600,000 hits of daily traffic. That means about 600,000 people can read a single thread joke unfold and contribute in one day. Not really an “inside joke” anymore.

Does this make sense? O_o

Last edited Apr 27, 2010 at 02:19AM EDT
Apr 27, 2010 at 02:19AM EDT
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I was wondering somethingalong these lines the other day. I thought, “What if the popularity of this site is making people record memes before they can spread naturally? What if we’re deadpooling things that would have become successful memes if left to theis own devices? What if we’re nipping new memes in the bud, clipping their memetic wings, and Chinese foot-binding their little meme feet so that they can never truly live up to their potential?!?”

Then I was like, “…Nah. We’re good.”

Apr 27, 2010 at 12:14PM EDT
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i don’t think so, but some of the meme that required huge amount of effort usually die first.

Apr 28, 2010 at 05:04AM EDT
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4chan is not inside like it used to be, when it was inside I bet this whole inside stuff started and than carried on to today.

Apr 28, 2010 at 01:06PM EDT

This was the subject of the final panel--“Mainstreaming the Web”--at ROFLCon last weekend, on which Yatta and Jamie Dubs appeared alongside moot, Ben Huh and Greg Rutter. Cue the abstract:

As web culture increasingly flows into the mainstream, it becomes enmeshed in a crowded world of businesses and commentators. In turn, it becomes more easily digestible and accessible to broad audiences. What are the ethics of being a part of that space? As this process continues, what is gained? What is left behind?

They addressed a good number of these in substantive detail, and it didn’t hurt to have moot and Ben Huh within Rutter’s reach of each other to hash out this conflict of elitism v. mainstream accessibility and commercialization. moot had his share of money quotes:

moot (to Ben Huh): "I feel like to take something from the Internet you should put something back. We’re like Native Americans like that. I don’t think you put anything back.”
BH“Mainstreaming is the best thing we can do to give back.”

and later:

moot: “I create it, Kenyatta and Jamie study it, Greg collects it, and Ben profits off of it.”

So toward those ends, a few questions were posed that might as well have been in this thread:

1) is it that more people are into it or just the wrong people are into it?

The “my grandma sent me a photo of longcat from her AOL account, and now I’m so over that whole meme” effect, illustrated neatly here.

2) Is there a hipster indie rock attitude for internet memes?

Jamie Dubs responded to this in another question about the core traits of internet culture, saying that part of what we’re doing here at KYM is “remembering those who come before us,” which he took as something other than underground hipster elitism. So, in Brad’s example above, if Chris and another guy start in on Daft Punk but Chris has been listening to them for 5 years longer than him, they both have a level of cultural awareness; however, Chris’ added value in the conversation is as one who “remembers those who came before us,” which in this case is himself and the techno/electronica fans that grew up listening to Around the World when it was first released and not after watching “Daft Hands” for the 13th time.

3) what parts of internet meme culture do we want to keep as our own and what do we want to expose to a broader audience?

Are there memes that exist for us in the innermost circles that only we can appreciate? Here I think it’s important to remember something Jonah Peretti mentioned in his talk about how/why media goes viral. He argued that, among other factors, the required amount of context is a significant determinant for mainstream spread (a sentiment echoed by Mike and Patrick from the MemeFactory). So, a lolcat requires less context for “civilian” web users to appreciate, while Gentlemen requires you know more about the backstory.

tl;dr Watch the recorded panel from ROFLCon when it’s made available online next week.

May 07, 2010 at 09:16PM EDT
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Meh, I disagree with moot on that, main stream often gives us stuff to laugh at, but we decide when its funny.

“moot: “I create it, Kenyatta and Jamie study it, Greg collects it, and Ben profits off of it.””

Bet ED is having a hay day.

Last edited May 07, 2010 at 11:11PM EDT
May 07, 2010 at 10:36PM EDT
Bet ED is having a hay day.

Why so ?

May 08, 2010 at 02:43AM EDT
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most of your are not even . Like brushie, when the are you supposed to post brushie? Brushie is only relevant in a Brushie thread.

Pedobear is a good meme because it is lulzy and it has a purpose. Whn you have a pic of a little kid or you think someone is a pedo, etc….. you post pedobear because the meme would have relevance and can create lulz.

Most of this is

Last edited May 08, 2010 at 02:34PM EDT
May 08, 2010 at 01:59PM EDT

Meme’s relevant if you make them relevant, If meme’s are going to be exposed they are going to get that way no matter what, Is a meme not a meme because an idea became exposed in the first place. So if a meme’s become exposed I don’t think that will sway anyone’s judgment of whether or not they are or are not meme’s.

May 08, 2010 at 10:55PM EDT
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Thats a good point.

Also for the question above, you should already know, if you don’t, don’t ask.

Last edited May 09, 2010 at 01:55AM EDT
May 09, 2010 at 01:54AM EDT

Nailing this to the door of all relevant threads, when I happened upon this. Would you like to know how Anonymous ACTUALLY feels about this?

EDIT: LOLZ

Last edited May 11, 2010 at 02:58PM EDT
May 11, 2010 at 02:52PM EDT
Skeletor-sm

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