IT’S ALL ABOUT meme FINDS OUT WHAT ALL THE BUZZ ABOUT IN­TER­NET MEMES IS, JUST WHAT THEY ARE AND WHY THE ON­LINE WORLD CAN’T GET ENOUGH OF THEM

NAOMI HOCK­INS

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Feature -

AS any­one who knows their stuff on­line th­ese days would tell you, “one does not sim­ply cre­ate a meme”. And when that mes­sage is ex­pressed via a pop­u­lar fea­tur­ing Lord of the Rings char­ac­ter Boromir ( pic­tured), the di­vide be­tween those “in the know” with so­cial me­dia and those who are not be­comes all the more ob­vi­ous.

For the unini­ti­ated, “one does not sim­ply get it” if they’ve never heard of in­ter­net memes, but sim­ply put, they’re a vis­ual medium used to share ideas and re­late to sit­u­a­tions in a hu­mor­ous way. And there’s a meme for ev­ery oc­ca­sion. Been em­bar­rassed in a so­cial sit­u­a­tion? You’ll ap­pre­ci­ate “So­cially Awkward Pen­guin” ( pic­tured far right). Get a kick out of a vic­tory, no mat­ter how mi­nor? “Suc­cess Kid” ( pic­tured far right) is your meme. Or per­haps you’ve be­come overly up­set about a lost re­mote, at bat­tery or not hav­ing the lat­est mo­bile phone? First World Prob­lems ( pic­tured far right) are sure to bring you back down to Earth.

Memes also pro­vide so­cial com­men­tary via fa­mil­iar sit­u­a­tions. Take, for ex­am­ple, the re­cent Bos­ton bomb­ings. So­cial me­dia users rapidly em­ployed memes dur­ing this event to ex­press their shock, dis­may and com­men­tary.

“( Memes) are a very pow­er­ful, and per­sua­sive, tool. They give power to a sin­gle per­son to greatly am­plify their own ‘ wordof- mouth’,” says James Cook Univer­sity IT aca­demic Dr Ja­son Holdsworth, who lec­tures on sub­jects in com­puter pro­gram­ming and mo­bile tech­nol­ogy and re­searches mo­bile- learn­ing and e- learn­ing.

He says check­ing out and gen­er­at­ing memes “are not so much pop­u­lar, but ubiq­ui­tous”.

“Just look at Face­book – from what I can see, the aver­age Face­book user ends up “lik­ing” hun­dreds of memes a month.

“Each time some­one likes a meme it in­stantly shows up in all of their friends’ Face­book feeds. This is an in­cred­i­bly fast way for in­ter­net memes to travel.”

So­cial me­dia user and an­i­ma­tor Cur­tis Smith names First World Prob­lems as his favourite meme to “par­tic­i­pate with or re­cre­ate”.

“The best meme to me is the one that in­te­grates so eas­ily into what­ever you’re do­ing,” he says.

“And who hasn’t felt psy­cho­log­i­cally torn be­tween op­tions such as eat­ing and get­ting out of a com­fort­able seat? Agony.

“I don’t cre­ate memes. It would be wrong to say memes cre­ate them­selves, but the man­ner in which they spread is pretty vi­ral, hence the ori­gin of the term ‘ vi­ral meme’.”

The con­cept of a meme was rst pub­lished in bi­ol­o­gist Richard Dawkins’ 1976 book, The Sel sh Gene, where he de­scribes it as the the­ory of a “unit of cul­tural trans­mis­sion be­hav­ing in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to DNA, which is repli­cat­ing ge­netic in­for­ma­tion”.

The the­ory of the evo­lu­tion of ideas had been brew­ing with philoso­phers and the like for years pre­vi­ous, but it is his work of­ten at­trib­uted to memes.

“Memes prop­a­gate them­selves in the meme pool by leap­ing from brain to brain via a process which, in the broad sense, can be called im­i­ta­tion.

“They com­pete with one an­other for limited re­sources: brain time or band­width. They com­pete most of all for at­ten­tion,” he wrote.

It may have been long be­fore the in­ter­net, but his “meme the­ory” per­fectly sum­marises the life of memes in the on­line world to­day, where in­for­ma­tion can be­have like hu­man genes and ideas can repli­cate, mu­tate and evolve.

To­day, an in­ter­net meme is de ned in the Ox­ford Dic­tionary as: “an im­age, video, piece of text, etc, typ­i­cally hu­mor­ous in na­ture, that is copied and spread rapidly by in­ter­net users, of­ten with slight vari­a­tions”.

Be­fore the 1990s, when the in­ter­net and email were rst widely used, the meme the­ory could be ap­plied to pop­u­lar jin­gles and slo­gans ( eg how Vegemite “puts a rose in ev­ery cheek” and the drink of choice was “Al­ways Coca Cola”), and phrases from pop­u­lar TV shows and lms ( eg Homer’s “D’oh” in The Simp­sons and Arnie’s “I’ll be back” in The Ter­mi­na­tor).

How­ever, th­ese early memes were oneway mes­sages from ad­ver­tis­ing agen­cies and lm stu­dios to con­sumers, while to­day’s so­cial me­dia memes are of­ten user­gen­er­ated and shared be­tween sites such as Red­dit, 4chan, quick­meme, Face­book and Tum­blr.

To­day, any aver­age Joe on a com­puter

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