The Internet and Its Memes

Having long been among the ranks of this century’s new household words, the Internet meme has been a long-lasting trend in the digitally connected world around us.

What is a Meme?

The Internet, however, did not birth memes at all. It simply provided a medium for them. The first record of the use of the word “meme” was in 1976, according to Merriam-Webster. The word stems from the Greek “mimema” or “that which is imitated.” Also according to Merriam-Webster, the word can be defined as, “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

This definition of what a meme is gives a clear picture of how the Internet could allow them to flourish. The Internet is arguably the strongest connecting force between all members of humanity at this time, and as such, the content created and propagated through its use allows for one individual to create or record something, and have it be imitated by hundreds, thousands, or millions of people more. If a meme is defined as something that can be imitated by others, then we start to see why Internet memes in particular have thrived in the modern technological world.

Why do memes exist? There are a variety of reasons. Strange or unique occurrences serendipitously recorded on video; coincidences that lined up on film; juxtaposition of something the general public feels passionate about and the reaction to it they’ve all wanted to see; memes come in many forms.

Actually, memes take so many shapes and sizes that it can be difficult, outside of a dictionary at least, to define exactly what they are. There are still-images, videos, and lines of text that all take on the title of “meme,” having come to the point where the general public usually knows about them and imitates them frequently.

Let’s look at some examples:

Lolcats (does anyone not know about these?)

Force Field images

Lolcats began to make their major debut in 2007. The idea is so simple and easy to copy that it quickly caught on: find a quirky cat photo, add poorly-grammared text, and publish. Also, the audience is nearly endless. For every person that gets tired of the same old cat memes, there are two more to fill in the ranks. This has given rise to the quip, “The Internet was made for cat photos.”

Cats aren’t the only one. Courage Wolf, Advice Duck, Confession Bear, and others have since joined the animal lolspeak meme community, and more come to take their place every day.

The Most Interesting Man in the World

Ghosts Netflix

Imaginative ad campaigns often lead to less-imaginative memes. Dos Equis Beer debuted their “The Most Interesting Man in the World” ad campaign in 2007. It was intentionally over the top, and the main character, who goes without name, is shown doing all kinds of adventurous, sophisticated, manly things. The tagline of the ads was always, “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, it’s Dos Equis.” The populations of the Internet decided that was worth their attention, and parodies started to appear almost immediately, taking the same image template and adding different text within the same structure as the original tagline.

This has occurred with many advertising campaigns, more notably Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” campaign, and Billy Mays’ many similar television ads.

Antoine Dodson

antoine_dodson

Kooky behavior, complete with quotable lines and distinct characters, will also often make its way into memedom. Antoine Dodson is an example of this, becoming famous overnight when the local news covered an alleged attempt at rape aimed at his sister.

Dodson became very…articulate…in his description of what had happened. The news chose to air his remarks. Within hours, and the following days, his popularity spread across social media and blog sites dedicated to creating this kind of meme.

Dodson is not the only one who has achieved fame in this way. Videos such as “Double Rainbow” and the “Trololololol” singer have become increasingly common in recent years.

There are too many specific memes to explore every genre of them, but these three provide a very general overview of the different classes of memes circulating in the Internet currently. Most Internet memes are based in humor at this point, although it was not always so.

How Does the Internet Make Memes Possible?

Before the Internet, for a meme to start to be propagated among the general populace, it had to be televised or incredibly common in the advertising of the day. One example of this is Abbot and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” sketch, which remains a meme today.

The Internet hasn’t created memes so much as it has given anyone and everyone the ability to distribute and multiply them over a larger audience. The connection the Internet provides means that a new meme can not only be distributed to and imitated by much of the human race, but it can also be modified on.

Another way the Internet has given rise to meme culture is in the occurrence known as “going viral.” Actually, a meme is defined by Internet For Beginners as “A virally transmitted cultural symbol or social idea. A meme (rhymes with ‘team’) behaves like a flu or a cold virus, traveling from person to person quickly, but transmitting an idea instead of a lifeform.”

Memes typically go viral by being published in a public forum, notable examples of which being 4-chan, Tumblr, Imgur, and other image boards for image or text-based memes, and Youtube and Vimeo for video-based memes. These sites have front pages and featured works that are either featured because of their viral nature or featured to help them go viral.

How Do Memes Affect Us?

The effects of these memes on modern society as a whole is surprising. How could pictures of a cat with text influence the way humans communicate? The answer is simple: by causing us to reference the memes frequently.

This is the essence of a meme: we imitate them. Those familiar with memes often quote or act out a meme in the presence of friends who have also seen it. In my own family, first my brother and I, and now my parents as well, can and often do communicate extensively by quoting memes which convey a specific message, nuance, or emotion.

This makes sense when considered in the light that Clay Shirky, an American writer specializing in Internet communication theories, shines on Internet memes, classifying them generally as “communal,” or social creations, meant to build comradery and friendship between individuals or groups through collective humor and entertainment.

In closing, memes are a daily part of life, and often reflect  the general tastes and attitudes of our society. What we want as a society will likely determine the memes of tomorrow, just as with any other trend. Understanding the memes that Internet culture celebrates will be an important part of understanding our society’s culture in the years to come.

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Project 8 – Brochure

Front

P8_StuartMayo_Front

First Flap on Opening

P8_StuartMayo_FirstFlap

Inside

P8_StuartMayo_Inside

Back

P8_StuartMayo_Back

  • Video Showcase – http://youtu.be/F9skSFCcj1c
    This video shows how the brochure fits together, and will demonstrate the decisions I made in the design of it.
  • Description: This project was a brochure for a fictitious audio/video production team, Choice Communications, which I made up. The emphasis here was on the mechanics of brochure design, and on creating an effective design within the shape of a brochure. As this is my first time designing a brochure, I decided to stick to a basic trifold design, focusing instead on other design principles.
  • Process (Programs, Tools, Skills): Adobe InDesign was used to organize all the elements once they were created, and for managing all text within the document, as well as for creating basic shapes (rectangles, circles, etc.). Adobe Illustrator was used for designing the company logo, which was created by simply tracing a specific style of microphone. Adobe Photoshop was used to mask the image of the theater and put the logo onstage. The whole thing went through numerous revisions, the first looking dramatically different from this final version. The logo design was difficult to narrow down, but I finally arrived at a sufficiently minimal and communicative design.
  • Message: The message I intended to portray was that of creativity and professionalism, working together to get the client’s message out.
  • Audience: The audience is the local or national business owner, looking for a way to market his or her product.
  • Top Thing Learned: I learned the value of revision. This product went through more drafts than any other, and I’m grateful it had quote a lot of critique. The final product looks absolutely nothing like the rough drafts.
  • Color scheme and color names: The color scheme is Triadic, using lime, indigo, and brick colors.
  • Title Font Name & Category: The title font is Museo Sans 300pt, a professional Sans Serif font.
  • Copy Font Name & Category: The copy font is also Museo Sans, 100pt, a Sans Serif font.
  • Word Count: The body copy consists of 260 words.
  • Thumbnails of Images used:
     Video Production Recording Video Production Equipment Recording Artist in the Studio Theater Interior

The Changing Work Market

The world is undoubtedly changing it’s shape.

The way people work is different now. Once upon a time it was considered a sign of unreliability or incompetence. Now it’s an indication of moving up and going on to greater things.

There’s a great sense of urgency in the world today. Staying at one job longer than absolutely necessary to gain the skills and acquire the experience from it is considered stagnation. The philosophy seems to be leaning toward the idea that if you’re not moving, you’re falling behind.

What industries are left that still look at stability as a positive asset? Let’s not be extreme; many still do. The situation really depends on the age, field, and achievements of the individual.

A 20-something recent college graduate would not likely be advised to stay at the first major-applicable job he or she encounters. A 40-year-old already working in their chosen field, however, may be counseled, or may make the choice on their own, to remain where they are, for family or even simply career stability.

Is this just a difference in the generations? Is it defined by the timeline of careers in general? Is it a recent development in the career market? The answer is likely a combination of the three. The change in the career market may be what is affecting the generations’ view of how a career’s timeline should go.

What do you think is responsible for this change in the corporate job market?

Check out this video, and see what you think.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YmwwrGV_aiE

Media Observations – Netflix and Streaming TV

We often hear the lament of a student who has not yet completed a heavy assignment because, “Netflix had the whole season and I marathoned through the whole thing.” The same is true of those who stay up late (or don’t sleep at all) because the show they were watching has four seasons out and they’ve only seen two.

I’ve seen this happen a considerable amount, especially in my own apartment. I’ve previously mentioned that it’s hard to go without watching a large of amount of TV in my living space, and one of the reasons for that is that one roommate or another is usually streaming their way through an entire season of one show or another featured on Netflix. Glee, Psych, Game of Thrones, Arrow; all of these and more are temporary tenants in the apartment, usually staying for a week or two until roommate X gets through all the seasons of it and picks a different one.

It’s great to have all this televised media at our disposal, and on a slow, recharging sort of day it can be enjoyable and even useful to catch up on a story one may have missed, but at the same time it can have some unpleasant consequences: There’s no limiter; nothing stops the viewer from just letting the site keep playing the next show. Without a week-by-week limitation, viewers can just press play one time and Netflix won’t stop until every episode is played or the viewer says “Enough.”

This damages sleep schedules, sociality and even mental health, to some degree.

Sleep schedules, when disturbed, can interfere with many other parts of a human being. Overall energy, drive for living, and health can all deteriorate very rapidly. In fact, a psychologist named Matthew Walker, of UC Berkeley, says that “almost all psychiatric disorders show some problems with sleep.”  Nikhil Swaminathan cited this in a 2007 article for Scientific American, and later said that new research from Walker’s lab is starting to give the idea that sleep deprivation actually is actually the root cause for many psychological illnesses and mental unwellness.

Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming television services can be useful tools, but it’s important to take all things in moderation.

How often or how much do you watch seasons of your favorite shows online? Is there some way that it helps you?

 

Media Observations – Sidewalk Chalk

I kid you not. Check it out:

IMG_0113[1] IMG_0114[1]

I find these things all over my university campus, and on the surrounding sidewalks between housing complexes.

When I saw it, one of the first things that I thought of was, “Wow, a new mass medium!” And then I remembered that children and artists have been playing with sidewalk chalk for decades.

Of all the mass media, I’m not sure where to categorize this, but the closest group it seems to match up to is general print advertising media. It’s not the most effective way to advertise, but it certainly is resourceful for college students who can’t afford real ads.

Let’s look at the cons first. That way we’ll end positively.

The cons are also clear: sidewalk chalk feels a little silly. It’s not very professional. While it makes an emotional impact by being easily understood and relatable to any new adults, it may not necessarily be the right impact to make for some companies.

It lends an amateur, cheap feel to whatever is being advertised. Sometimes that is OK, as with parties and other one-time events that advertise themselves this way (and even get somewhat artistic with their chalk design), but I cringe a little for Instate Angels sake. I’m not sure a financial company should be doing that.

Alternatively, it is extremely temporary. Any of the elements will eventually insure that it is washed away or brushed around to the point of unrecognizability. Snow, rain, and even sun and wind that frequent the Rexburg area insure that, in this town at least, the ad is going to have to be replaced by some small group of students very repeatedly.

The pros are probably obvious to the casual observer: university students walk with their heads down almost all the time, so burdened with the cares of the world as they are. They would readily see the advertisement.

Another pro is that this is something we can easily understand and remember. There aren’t many ads on the sidewalk, and by necessity they are simple and straightforward to the point that it’s just a name and contact information, which the mind can simply catalogue and remember.

Sidewalk chalk is a mass medium of communication? It certainly qualifies. Hundreds of students could see it repeatedly as they walk to and from classes and from home to school. It’s placed where they usually look. It’s simple and easy to understand.

It’s just a little silly, and somewhat archaic.

But in the right climate, and with a skilled artist, imagine what you could do for quality pull advertising with the lowest production cost imaginable.

Do you think this is valid advertising? Why or why not?

Tablet Newspapers – Why Isn’t This a Thing Yet?

In 1994, there was a tech company called Night Ridder, promoting a fascinating concept: the newspaper, but presented on a tablet computer. For their video, click here: Tablet Newspaper

Unlike a lot of other “envision the future” videos from the 90s, this one is not at all ridiculous. In fact, in my own ponderings on how the newspaper could be saved from extinction as a mass medium, I’ve often thought of how there’s no need to redesign the newspaper for the Internet; just take the pages from the paper, make them digital, and provide a means to download them (such as a mobile app for the advanced tablets we have now). That way the newspapers keep the advertising they need to stay financially afloat (and can potentially provide higher-quality, layered, and therefore more valuable ads), and readers already know how to easily navigate the articles. The articles themselves could lose their limiting page space and word counts, and could become as long or as short as the situation requires. The consumer’s payment for the paper may even become lower or non-existent if the value of the ads rises sufficiently.

This keeps the look and feel of the paper, which people appreciate much more than the poorly-designed, difficult-to-navigate web pages that most news sources currently provide. The digital nature of it would allow for higher quality content to be displayed, avoiding the cheap newsprint and pulp and giving a clean, sharp, powerful appearance.

My biggest question is this: If the technology for this sort of development is already in existence (and it definitely is), then why haven’t even the major national news sources adopted it exclusively for their online content, abandoning or extensively modifying the web-sites they now have? The idea is in limited practice with some papers, and there are a variety of apps available for mobile devices that provide a similar service to this, but why would newspapers continue to then shoot themselves in the foot with free, unprofitable online content?

The answer is likely the competition for money. If one newspaper adapts, then their publication may no longer be free online. If the other newspapers do not adapt at the same time and continue charging nothing for their online publications, the public could decide to go with them instead.

This idea was already fully fleshed-out in 1994. In 1994 I was three. Why isn’t this a thing yet?

What do you think? What causes could be hampering the newspaper’s adaptation to tablet or “digital paper” form?

TED Talk – Clay Shirky, “How Cognitive Surplus Will Change the World”

TED Talk – Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky, an American writer who specializes in Internet communications theories, speaks in this TED Talk of the great capacity the Internet has given us, the consumers, to become creators.

Shirky beforehand makes it clear that, in his opinion, people were not just couch potatoes because they wanted to be; it was just their only option in the day when television was the bulk of the mass media available.

Shirky goes on to talk about a story in which two programmers programmed a website called Ushahidi for use during violent hostilities in Kenya, to keep the public informed of the developments and events that were going on in the various geographical locations, automatically mapping and reporting any event info sent in. The site was effective enough that the programmers turned it into a site format, and now the same event mapping service has been applied to a wide variety of situations, from snow clearing in major cities to disaster statistics and advisories in the Haiti earthquakes.

The next topic of discussion was somewhat unexpected. Lolcats took the screen. Shirky used these two things as examples of how the Internet and electronic media have transformed the way we participate in the world around us, describing the first, more constructive and charitable use of the internet as “civic” creation, and the second, recreational and less-useful application of the Internet’s creative capabilities as “communal” creation.

The gist of what he said was profound, and speaks volumes of our nature as human beings. Whereas in the time of television and radio, we were mostly consumers with limited creative capabilities, the advent of electronic media, the Internet, and advanced digital coding have made it possible for us to be more than only consumers. Now we are sharers and, most intriguing of all, creators.

The technology of the Internet has given every member of humanity with Internet access the potential to become a creator. Our ability to create was previously limited to the physical world around us, but now we can create software that does incredible things to the world around us…or we can make lolcat pictures.

That’s where it gets tricky. Lolcat makers are still creators. They’re just silly ones. Their creation has little to no value to society, and is just a social creation. That’s why Shirky calls them a communal creation, because they are for a specific community and don’t serve any purpose to anyone else. The makers of Ushihida, on the other hand, created something that served their community, but now also serves anyone else in all the world who needs a similar service. Shirky called this civic creation because it now serves as a civil service to all the world.

Communal creation is all well and good, but I agree with Shirky in that when we as a society can motivate and reward civic creation appropriately, giving it the prominence it deserves, then our surplus of cognition, the great and largely untapped creative potential of the mass of the human race, will change our world.

What do you create? Do you feel it’s a communal, or a civic creation?

Media Observations – The Dying Newspaper

Print media in general is in trouble. Books and magazines still hold some kind of value for society, but the one print medium being hit the hardest is the newspaper.
The limitations that cause newspapers to fail as a media outlet are numerous. Here are a few.
Newspapers are limited by physical laws. Whereas other media sources are digital and can be downloaded in seconds, newspapers are a print media, and are therefore limited in time, resources, and cost. While they can be delivered daily, the Internet can do the same thing for (almost) free in seconds.
Newspapers are limited by their content. Reporters have to search ravenously for relevant stories to write about. They have to write immediately, that same day often times, so that the news can stay relatively fresh.
Newspapers are limited by production costs. Once again, a physical media requires physical production. This costs time and money. As efficient as newspapers can ever get, they will simply never compare with the ease of production that the Internet offers. Paper, ink, working with the chemicals to get the right colors, the plates and stripping process, the technical difficulties that can ensue at any point in the operation, the employees necessary to run every phase of the printing process, the wasted prints necessary for calibration; the newspaper is an old dinosaur, wallowing the the tar pits.
Newspapers are limited by their advertising. As the value and viewership of newspapers as a mass medium drops, so does the payment they receive for the ads they run, and most of the profits a newspaper makes are off of its ads. Newspapers have two main sources of profit, namely their consumers/subscribers and their advertisements. People are simply not willing to pay an excessive amount for a newspaper any more (given the free options available), and so with roughly 80% of their profits coming from ads, and the value of those ads dropping like a stone, newspapers no longer have a viable option to remain financially afloat.
Newspapers will continue to be limited in these ways until they unanimously choose to adapt. If the newspapers at any given level of news (international, national, state or province-wide, or local) can bring themselves to move to an online format, finding ways to incorporate their ads as a requirement to get to the news itself, and leaving behind the roaring, rumbling mechanical dinosaur in the warehouse, they could save themselves as news sources to the world. The problem with this is that if one newspaper does it before the others, that paper will fail, as consumers will look to the sources still bereft of online ads before going to the one that requires them to be seen first.
Can the newspaper be saved? Only those who run them can decide that, whether they will unite and save themselves and each other, or continue to compete and gradually become extinct.
Does anyone read the newspaper anymore? Do you?

Media Observations – Magazines

In a time when the printed page is growing less valuable every day, magazines show the most future promise as a print medium. They are flexible, easily tailored to society’s niches, and can provide detailed, interesting, high-quality advertisements to the people who will actually be interested in them.
Their methods of production are also much more conducive to success in our day. They run monthly, quarterly, or bi-annually, allowing for higher quality and variety in the stories presented. They are relevant nearly indefinitely, and one magazine alone can be read by many people.
Their niche group of consumers is unlikely to drop them, as well. They appeal to one group in particular, and their content applies readily to that group, so their danger of becoming obsolete to their customers is low. Thus, their subscribers are usually a faithful bunch.
Of course, not all magazines were created equal. Trade magazines, which appeal to a specific niche market or group of people, are the category of magazines to which these advantages most readily apply. Consumer magazines (ex. Reader’s Digest, National Geographic), which try to be relevant to most of humanity, are in rapid decline. Their problem is similar to that of newspapers: they try to please everyone, and simply cannot do it.
Magazines also have the advantage of more sources for their content. While newspapers need specially trained reporters, well-versed in the writing formats that journalism requires, magazines can take in the work of freelance writers, essentially taking articles from any individual they deem qualified; the articles can reflect the humanity of the writer, and not just the information necessary.
In short, magazines show the most promise because they allow for the most flexible application to any given niche of society. They can appeal to any size of audience, and the more specific the audience, the more dependable and loyal their following of subscribers. Photographer Magazine will always be in demand by photographers, and the Ensign will always be subscribed to by Mormons. Backpacker Magazine will consistently be ordered by those who love the great outdoors, Wired by those in the tech industry, and MacWorld by those who really just want to get stuff done right.
What magazines do you read or subscribe to? Why do you continue to read them?