The Mystique Of Online Viral Imagery [Video]
Anyone who’s ever reblogged anything on Tumblr, made a cat video that spread like wildfire, or (in the most extreme case) woken up to discover that they themselves are the unfortunate subject of a meme (oh, the horror!) can attest to the way memes consume and destroy everything in their path. In their latest episode, PBS’ wonderful new Off Book web series delves into the creation, nature and rampant spread of imagery on the interwebs, taking a look at some of your favorite memes and animated GIFs.
The video includes short interviews with a group of researchers from MemeFactory; Chris Menning, a Viral Trends Researcher at BuzzFeed; Olivia Gulin, Visual Reporter at Know Your Meme; Ryder Ripps, GIF art authority and Co-founder of Dump.fm and John Kelly Ph.D., Founder and Chief Scientist at Morningside Analytics.
The popularity of memes—like Strutting Leo and Nyan Cat (aka Pop Tart Cat)—stems from people’s innate calling to express themselves and reveal emotions, while also providing a fascinating real-time reflection on popular culture. The meme has become a net-based medium in its own right, now painstakingly researched, chronicled and evaluated on sites like Know Your Meme and MemeFactory, acting as one part social experiment, one part social commentary, one part creative exercise, and one part gratifying time-suck.
Ripps, whose own website Dump.fm is an invitation-only GIF gallery of sorts describes the GIF as a “visual soundbite,” allowing someone to take a piece of pop culture and make it one’s own. John Kelly goes even further to describe both memes and GIFs as “pockets of avant-garde cultural creation,” whose power resides in the fact that they can be accessed by anyone.
Watch the installment above for the Nyan Cat’s origin story and for MemeFactory’s tongue-in-cheek Guide To Making A Meme… take off your clothes, caffeinate your offspring and spam Reddit at your own risk.