Wednesday, October 15, 2008

LOLcats and Memes

I was reading an article on MSN today about the LOLcats phenomenon, and Internet Memes in general. Here's the full story.
"At this point you may be wondering what memes mean and what purpose they serve the user. After deep consideration and analysis, we’ve arrived at this conclusion: very, very little. At best they provide some fodder for a slack-time surf on the Web when everyone thinks you’re getting some work done. Memes are made by people who have lots of time to kill, for other people who don’t."
I don't think they did very much deep consideration and analysis. The author had gone so far as to define a meme in the article by bringing up how Richard Dawkins coined the word for The Selfish Gene, yet understanding that, they ascribe little or no 'meaning' or 'purpose' (his words) that these memes have to the user.

I'd have to emphatically disagree - Memes make up every bit of cultural information there ever was. They make up business, politics, comedy, religion, and the list goes on.

We're seeing these memes penetrate culture, just as the story of Buddha, or Jesus, or Calvin and Hobbes once did. Rickrolls have inundated the Internet, and from there, real life. I've heard of two friends rickrolling their own weddings, and (I think) it was the Yankees that had their game Rickrolled on a giant screen. Rickroll, or Rickrolling, is now a part of speech, just as "to Google" became a part of speech years ago. I talked in a previous post about how LOLcat speech has started to become a part of language as well, rare as it may be.

These memes may not be physically in print, but they're just as real as the memes that can birth new systems of thought - at the most basic level, what's the difference between linking a LOLcat around and proclaiming to your friends that Scientology is real? Both should get a great laugh, but in the end, the users of the memes decide whether they have meaning and purpose. If you measure in terms of mass propogation, it seems like LOLcats and Rickrolls are quite meaningful.

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