The Internet Memes phenomenon

The Internet Memes phenomenon

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The “Internet Memes” phenomenon, in the light of “The work of Art in the age of the Mechanical Reproduction”, by Walter Benjamin (1936) The popular phenomenon of the Internet memes, which emerged in the late 90’s via emails, and developed up to today through social sharing websites (such as http://9gag.com/ http://www.4chan.org/), is quite an example of what technical improvements and the democratization of the computer use have done to the means of creation (even if memes are not considered as art, they still require technical skills and creativity, and sometimes talent). They use a pre-existing picture, video, or line from a movie, TV show or an ad, and stage it in totally different contexts and uses (often referring to previous memes or to a specific generational background), in a sort of moral and intellectual hijacking serving a humorous purpose via repetition. From the original medium derive hundreds of parodic versions, some of which becoming viral on social networks and very famous on the Web.

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Publié le 21 mai 2013
Nombre de visites sur la page 65
Langue English

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The
“Internet Memes”
phenomenon, in the light of
“The work
of Art in the age of the Mechanical Reproduction”
, by Walter
Benjamin (1936)
The popular phenomenon of the Internet memes, which emerged in the late
90’s via emails, and developed up to today through social sharing websites
(such as
http://9gag.com/ http://www.4chan.org/
), is quite an example of
what technical improvements and the democratization of the computer use
have done to the means of creation (even if memes are not considered as art,
they still require technical skills and creativity, and sometimes talent). They
use a pre-existing picture, video, or line from a movie, TV show or an ad, and
stage it in totally different contexts and uses (often referring to previous
memes or to a specific generational background), in a sort of moral and
intellectual hijacking serving a humorous purpose via repetition. From the
original medium derive hundreds of parodic versions, some of which
becoming viral on social networks and very famous on the Web.
The interesting fact is that neither the original nor the memes deriving from it
were at any point “Art”, but still, they participate in the creation of a new
common cultural background, that knows no boundaries, citizenship, and
that is totally free of any materialistic or capitalist concerns (unlike what
Benjamin says of cinema): memes belong to the Internet community, they are
meant to be seen and shared freely, they do not need a testimony of
“authenticity” and are not intended for any kind of pursuit of wealth or
immortality through remembrance; and what is even more fascinating with
that phenomenon, is that there is no known creator of memes (there are no
“meme celebrities”, their creators remain forever unknown to the public,
thought their work is seen and shared by millions of people), and there are
multiples sources were memes can be found (and not one established source
or website). Potentially, everyone one of us could become a meme creator,
and have our creation shared by millions of people from around the world.
As Andy Warhol (who could be seen as a kind of fore-father of memes) once
said: “
In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”,
which for
post Cold War generations is becoming a reality
.
The lifetime of a meme is
indeed very short (only a few weeks), and although it will stay forever on the
World Wide Web, it is usually replaced by a newer “funnier” one, as if the
increasing and almost infinite number of potential sources and creators of
memes made them “single-serving amusements”. On the other hand, their
immateriality (we cannot touch or smell a meme, and there is never an
“original” one, and they are not linked to a pre-existing exercise), as well as
their nameless creators, could also explain why we could consider them as
“aura-less” creations accessible only for recreation and only for a very short
period of time.
The original picture
Memes deriving from it
see also:
http://www.topito.com/top-images-sarkozy-trollcadero
Memes have become the symptom of a generation that no longer uses or rely
on traditional or “old” medias, such as television or newspaper, and wishes to
interact as swiftly as possible with an ever increasing audience on any
subjects. The immediacy and the consequences of the reactions produced by
memes is as new to the population of the 21st century as cinema was for
Benjamin, and their long term effect on society is not yet theorised or known,
although traditional medias tend to be outworn by this phenomenon, and
thus worried about the Internet in general (maybe because of the
generational side of it, or maybe in a hidden admission of weakness).
The original: Rebecca Black “Friday”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfVsfOSbJY0
Derived in memes:
http://www.quickmeme.com/Awkward-Rebecca-Black/?upcoming
Taken from “Sponge Bob Square Pants”
Extract from “
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
”:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r21CMDyPuGo
Derived in memes:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/24/world/europe/botched-restoration-of-ecce-homo-fresco-shocks-spain.html?_r=0
Memes also created a new form of expression, with their own codes and
rules, just as cinema did with our perception of the world. They express in a
light, short and funny way everyday problems, secret habits or thoughts,
opinions on the world we live in, in an attempt to reassure oneself of its
membership to a broader yet not recognisable community of friendly
strangers that will never judge you (but will judge your wit through your
memes).
Taken from “
Futurama
It is yet interesting to point that memes are always in English, and tend to be
of Western origins (mainly from the USA), as if they were yet another effect of
the globalization: if they are intended to be universal, they are only
understandable for Western raised people under the age of 35, provided that
they are English speakers who watched a lot of television as kids. Memes
makers (and their readers) form a kind of private and exclusive circle, a
society within the society, where there is no leader or archetypal figure, no
“chosen one” or celebrity, no class distinction, religious issues or taboos, as if
the masses forming this society were now allowed, with the help of the
computer and internet technology, to be their own authority in their own
little circle, away from the “real world”. And it becomes even more interesting
to see that people spending the largest amount of time on computers are
teenagers and young adults, as if they were, for the time being, the only ones
aware of what sociological upheaval this technology has had on our everyday
lives and world, or at least the only ones not afraid to admit it and use it to
their advantage.
As a conclusion, memes, even if their are not works of art, can be used to
prove Benjamin’s theory: the more mechanised (and now computer-based)
our world is, the more our perception of art and creation is changed, the less
our humanness (through senses) and ancient/Judeo-Christian background
are used. Yet, we still manage to get around that, and put some of our
humanity and our upbringing back into cold devices. Just as prints were
supposed to kill writing, photography to kill painting, cinema to kill theatres,
internet will not destroy art as we know it, nor human interactions, it will
only open new doors of perception and possibilities that were until now not
even conceivable, and that still wait to be invented or recognize.