PR's Blog

March 16, 2010

Macros

Filed under: Classics, Cute, Memes — perryrobbin @ 4:58 pm

An image macro is simply text, usually impact, colored white with a black border, on top of a picture, often of a cat. Making macros is a very simple process and has a very low bar of entry because there is already an infrastructure that supports this meme. Aspiring macro-makers don’t even need photo-editing software or their own sites, as Web sites like www.icanhascheezburger.com offer online, browser-based tools to create and host macros.

lolcat on FB

The image macro meme started with the “O RLY” owl. The owl in the photo was panting when the picture was taken, producing the facial expression that matches so well with the “O RLY” statement attributed to it. This is the backbone of the image macro, that the text always relates, in some way, to the picture.

OH, REALLY?

YA RLY... NO WAIIIIIII

Other keys are that the picture almost always has an animal in it and the text is written in an imperfect style, the way one might assume a cat or other creature would talk. Beyond that, the community on sites like icanhascheezburger and www.failblog.org make the decisions about which macros thrive and which die off.

The openness of this meme is really the most interesting part, because anyone, anywhere, with the right picture of their cat rolled up in a newspaper, can get “internet famous,” even if only for a short while.

Oh, really?

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February 19, 2010

Shamrock Shakes

Filed under: Classics, Cute, Memes, Uncategorized — Tags: , , — perryrobbin @ 4:14 am
Can food be a meme? Certain foods, like apple pie for Americans, or marmite for Kiwis, have cultural significance that transcends the physical existence of the food and make it a symbol of a nation. Certainly “mom, baseball and apple pie” is an enduring, if well-used, meme. Foods that are unique to a state or area or country often serve as a stand-in or a symbol, they carry information about the country they come from. Say poutine and I immediately think La Belle Province (the restaurant and the actual province).

But what about a food that is mass-produced by a multi-national corporation on giant economies of scale? What about shamrock shakes?

Shamrock Shake

it's GREEN

These beauties come around once a year, from mid-February through St. Patrick’s Day, and have inspired a kind of love and devotion far and beyond what is normally extended to most fast food products. A plethora of fan tributes exist online, including fan recipes. One of the most impressive is a user-generated list of where shamrock shakes are available, so know where to get your fix.

Shamrock shakes also have a fictitious history and seasonal availability that feeds into the unique cult around them. Uncle O’Grimacey came to McDonaldland from Ireland to spread the love. The character has not been used recently, but is rumored to be making a comeback, possibly similar to the Burger King‘s re-emergence as a distinct character. Not being able to get shamrock shakes 11 months out of the year makes them that much more desirable.

Uncle O'Grimacey, purveyor of shamrock shakes


These examples provide convincing evidence that shamrock shakes, or the love of shamrock shakes, more specifically, are a meme– they represent a packet of information (the sensory experience of drinking one), this information is shared with others through various means and some of this information (not the actual recipe, but surely the memories associated with shamrock shakes and information about where to find them) mutates.

Parting Advice: Don’t mix peppermint schnapps and shamrock shakes. It sounds like a good time, but the sugary liquor just won’t blend with the milkshake and make a mess.

February 16, 2010

A Little Meme

Filed under: Memes, Mutated, New — Tags: , , , — perryrobbin @ 3:17 pm

Common experiences are a good starting point for creating a meme. Among the top trends on twitter today is #OHjustlikeme (along with #pancakeday, which seems delicious if not particularly suited to this post). The twitter page for OhJustLikeMe encourages twitter users to “tweet what makes us realize that we’re not the only one who does that.”

The two most-repeated tweets when I search #OHjustlikeme are “RT if you hate it when you eat alot and only your belly that gets bigger,” and “I wish loosing weight is as easy as gaining weight.” These two phrases have been repeated by thousands of retweets and people copying, pasting and reposting. Since memes often function like a mental, cultural cut and paste, it seems appropriate to discuss these reused tweets.

I especially like the tweet about losing weight. It has “losing” misspelled, as in making your weight looser instead of tighter, and it uses the wrong verb (is instead of were). Similarly, the “belly” tweet has a disconnect between the first and second part of the statement, either using an extraneous “that” or missing an “it’s” before the word only. Surely, hopefully, some people who are retweeting have at least noticed the errors. But often it is the quirks of memes that make them memorable, or makes them a meme in the first place.

Additionally, losing weight is a common struggle for people who are affluent enough to have a computer and internet access. This helps spread the meme, in this case just a 10-word tweet, because it is about something that people care about and can empathize with.

Two internet memes that draw strongly on quirky language are “how do I shot web,” based off of a poorly-spelled question on a video game FAQ and “Nod Flenders,” a poorly-drawn Ned Flanders (from the Simpsons) that has inspired a number of crudely-rendered portraits of other characters, both cartoon and real, and this illuminating quote from 4chan’s /b/ board: “After looking at that picture of Ned Flanders, it doesn’t even seem right anymore. All I know is Nod Flenders. Matt Groening should re-do all however many episodes of the Simpsons and rename it the Sompsurns.”

These  two tweets, and these two memes, show that perfect use of language is not a prerequisite for spreading memes. To an extent, flaws in their words make them more memorable and unique than an average tweet (the “loosing weight” tweet) or even form the entire backbone of the meme (Nod Flenders).

February 4, 2010

Local Memes

Filed under: Memes, Mutated, New — perryrobbin @ 9:26 am

Memes are constantly changing. The content of an established meme will change drastically as it is interpolated and reproduced, old memes will die, or maybe take on a second life, and new memes will emerge. How they change, die or live again depends on individuals and communities, leaders and tribes.

One of the most exciting things about memes is that they are one of the most equal, organic creations of the Internet– there are no corporations or governments that can create memes any better than you and me. Large groups may have more resources to create them, but the enjoyment, replication and mutation, or rejection, of a meme is usually dependent on tapping into the zeitgeist of the audience, not marketing from a business.

Here is a meme that has successfully accessed the community it is targeted toward, but probably won’t get much further:

The Donald Brown Drinking Game (Facebook). Are there classier memes to discuss? Yes. Are memes usually classy? No.

This Facebook event has 1,136 confirmed guests right now, and 1,603 more were invited. Each day in my Facebook feed, I see another one or two or four friends have signed up. A look at the guest list reveals that it has mostly college students on it, many from UConn, and most of them are from schools in Connecticut. This meme, despite all the geography-erasing powers of the internet, will probably remain in Connecticut, so to speak.

Do Colts fans feel the same way about Donald Brown that UConn students, and to a lesser all extent people from CT, do? Probably not. Will Saints fans (except for the Tyler Lorenzen references in the game’s rules), or Buffalo Bills fans, or West Ham United fans or  Nippon-Ham Fighters fans care at all about this drinking game? Almost definitely not.

Donald Brown was a first-round draft pick for the Colts and, except for the beginning of the season, has had a quiet but promising rookie year. For everybody else, he’s a pretty good back-up running back if you know football, a non-entity if you don’t. For Nutmeggers (although Connecticuters is evidently acceptable as well), he is recognizable name. For UConn students, faculty staff and alums who follow the football team, he is probably the best player the program has had in its history.

Take a minute to look past the references to snorting pills, body hair removal and running around naked and compare the rules in the Facebook version to the original, found on the creator’s blog and see the differences (and notice that this is not a new game, at least for a few people). Now look at the comments on the Facebook wall and see the changes to the meme that newcomers have created, and see which new rules and changes made the “official” list– this is all very public evidence of a meme mutating.

I discussed this meme because it’s targeting the people who will care the most about it. For the most part, it’s not overreaching or pushing itself on people who don’t know who Donald Brown is, who don’t care about UConn or don’t watch football. It’s using Facebook, a very powerful tool, to contact college students, a group that loves using Facebook, to tell them about drinking and the best football player to come out of their school (or state) and how to combine them, two things that a majority of them are interested in.

January 21, 2010

What is a meme?

Filed under: Memes — Tags: , , — perryrobbin @ 1:13 am

Memes are ubiquitous and uniquely hard to describe. Richard Dawkins, the biological theorist who wrote the influential The Selfish Gene on genetics, evolution and other topics far outside my scope of understanding, originally defined the term. He called it the cultural version of a gene, an explanation of how information spreads throughout a society.

This concise definition, from a Web site that hosts and maintains visibly objectionable content as well as a large catalogue of underground Internet memes, is simply, “a packet of cultural information.”  A key part of a meme is that it replicates, similar in a way to how genes replicate through the reproduction of living organisms. Living organisms, mostly humans, also reproduce memes.

A key difference: genes are reproduced sexually; memes are reproduced through thought and expression. A key similarity: memes, like genes, can change, mutate, as they are replicated, creating variations on a theme and sometimes entirely new memes. Additionally, memes, like genes, require more than one organism to spread.

Pants on the Ground” is an example of a recent, widespread and almost mainstream meme. A meme both you and your parents a are probably aware of. It seems like Hot 93.7 plays a remix of it every day.

All Your Base are Belong to Us” is an old and much more underground meme, not referenced often anymore. But, If I said “somebody set up us the bomb” to some of my friends, there would be a look of understanding on their faces. I would probably get a response along the lines of “main screen turn on” or “for great justice, move every zig.”

Social media spreads, replicates and changes memes faster than at any point in history.

If it was 1995 and you didn’t see “Pants on the Ground” on “American Idol” on Fox, on Tuesday, at 8:00 p.m. (and if “American Idol” was on 15 years ago) you likely wouldn’t see it, unless it got popular enough to bear repeating on late-night shows or maybe the nightly news.

Now? Twitter has thousands upon thousands of tweets about it, 22 more in the minute it took me to type this sentence and go back to copy the link. You have to try to not see the video, not try to see it.

Social media is a powerful tool when it comes to inclusion, to sharing information.

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