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Catception is a YouTube video fad that consists of videos depicting a cat watching the Nyan Cat video. As response videos are created, the process is repeated resulting in a recursive chain of videos of cats watching videos of cats watching the original Nyan Cat video.
A portmanteau of cat and the title of the film Inception, the term “Catception” has been previously used with other Inception-inspired viral media, including a video titled “Catception – The Original Dramatic Inception Cat” uploaded on July 19th, 2010 and a photograph of a cat bearing a fur pattern that resembles the silhouette of a cat. The original instance of a cat watching the Nyan Cat video was uploaded by YouTuber alwayshungrycat on September 5th, 2011. The video has accrued more than 606,000 views as of August 2013.
Prior to the Nyan Cat videos, there had been a number of earlier precedents of recursive voyeurism on YouTube. In February 2009, Rocketboom shared serial videos of people watching painter Andy Warhol eating a hamburger (shown below, left). The same month, a response video of a kitten watching the Kittens Inspired by Kittens video was uploaded. In 2010, a music video for “Pardon Me” by Maxine Swaby was parodied by YouTubers (shown below, right) in a similar manner.
The paradoxical phenomenon of infinite regression has been encapsulated in the humorous expression “Turtles all the way down,” most famously iterated in the introduction of Stephen Hawking’s 1988 book A Brief History of Time:
A well-known scientist once gave a public lecture on astronomy. He described how the earth orbits around the sun and how the sun, in turn, orbits around the center of a vast collection of stars called our galaxy. At the end of the lecture, a little old lady at the back of the room got up and said: “What you have told us is rubbish. The world is really a flat plate supported on the back of a giant tortoise.” The scientist gave a superior smile before replying, “What is the tortoise standing on?” “You’re very clever, young man, very clever,” said the old lady. “But it’s turtles all the way down!”
The initial response video to “Kitten Watching Nyan Cat” was posted by YouTuber Ledenes on September 7th, 2011, triggering a chain of response videos that continued throughout the following week. On September 8th, Redditor walrus0 posted a link to the video in a request thread titled “Can someone with a cat please make and upload a video of a cat watching a cat watching a cat watching Nyan cat?” but didn’t generate any comments.
The phenomenon was reported by the internet culture blogs The Daily What and SayOMG on September 10th. A number of additional instances were posted on Reddit throughout September 2011 and the video series was soon compiled into a screenshot collage and animated GIF images, which were picked up by various internet humor sites including SenorGIF, DamnLOL and FunnyJunk among others. Several internet culture blogs including Uproxx, the Huffington Post and Jezebel reported on the videos in September 2011. The video series was later turned into a playlist titled “Catception” by YouTuber NJBZXWhatsUp.
Huffington Post – Cat Watches Cat Watching Nyan Cat, We Are Unimpressed (VIDEO)