Whose medium? Whose message? Ideology on the internet.

This post started off as a simple announcement. It was supposed to be about Memefactory deciding to write a book about the internet. It was supposed to be just to tell you to go support them on Kickstarter. That’s in here, but the more I thought about stuff, the more complicated things got. Stupid brain.

Kind of reminds you of the Anonymous logo, doesnt it?

YAY!  Memefactory is writing a book about the internet!  I’ve been waiting for this day for years(ish)!  Actually, I saw these fit to be tie-d guys about a year ago when they did a show at NYU.  Their presentation about internet memes was both hilarious and thought-provoking.  My mind was so provoked it forced me to ask questions.  I fought off this assault for as long as I could.  But it won, and it has now turned me into it’s slave and forced me to…(partial transcript: No, God no!  Please…don’t!  oh yes yes you’ll do it you know you’ve always wanted to…) start a blog.  That’s right.  I blame them.  And my stupid wonderful mind.

MemeFactory is a group of performance artists who use popular memes to talk about internet culture…or wait, is Memefactory is the performance itself?  Could it be both???  Well, whatever it is, it has helped illustrate some important implications for understanding the protocols and pastimes of people and their internet paraphernalia.  I think they could also do so for you.  FURTHERMORE, they are doing another Memefactory NYU this week, which I’ll be pumped to attend!  Here’s the facebook invite: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=206858332675109  From what I can tell it’s free and open to the public — and yet it’s located at NYU, hmmm…  Memefactory is awesome!  Get a sample of last year’s show!  Come with me on Friday!

Anyway, like I said, they’ve decided to write a book distributing their message about why internet culture is important but also, apparently, “the internet’s message on why it’s important.”  Pause for semantic nerd-out: does the last portion mean “the internet’s message on why [internet culture is] important” or “why [the internet is] important.”  I might agree with the second question because clearly the internet thinks it is hot shit.  It’s got its own lingo.  It’s got its fancy new technology.  It can talk to its own audience.  I mean seriously, if the internet was a Saved by the Bell character, he’d be Zach Morris.

What did he do with that phone when he wasnt using it?

But seriously, there’s a rather difficult aspect of this whole “message” thing.  Let me put this as delicately as a LOLcat might…

can teh internetz has message????

I mean, does the internet or internet culture or even internet users as a whole have any kind of coherent “message”?  Memefactory clearly see themselves as torch-bearers for “internet culture” at large, but it still represents a particular message grasped by a particular group. (Though I would note that, it is the younger, hipper, sexier side to be on — I mean, it’s all about freedom and stuff, right, which generally speaking is cool in my opinion.)

Were so revolutionary, yeah!

To be sure, they believe that this message is ours in the sense of the we who are regular, ordinary, everyday internet users, all us anonymous nobodies out there just trying to capture our own bit of famo in this corporatist, statist, elitist media world.  I suppose the expectation is that, even if we don’t self-identify with this “we,” they are advocating on our behalf anyway, providing their own analysis of the proper forms of communication, the right balance of useful and useless uses for the internet.  But here Memefactory displays the fact that it represents a particular contingent of “internet culture,” an ideology that most definitely has particular goals and ideals, and one that probably does not represent all users everywhere.  But who are the others?  And is it a hard line?

To be clear, I do not doubt their earnestness here in trying to do well for most internet users.  But even the idea of transparency can be an effective message that conceals some underlying ideology (cf. Morgan Spurlock’s “The Greatest TED Talk Ever Sold”) and one that we may not always agree with.

Just think of the election claims of “Transparency and Open Government” made by President Obama.  But remind me…how did they respond to the Wikileaks state cables release?  Eh, not so well.  And remember Google’s motto, “don’t be evil”?  Even that can be subjected to the kind of critique that Siva Vaidhyanathan seems set to perform in “Be Evil: Does Corporate Responsibility Matter?”  (Here’s a taste from the ad: “Is corporate responsibility just a clever trick to gain a slight marketing advantage and defer state regulation?”)

The internet is not in a post-ideological environment where everyone lives in a world of more or less good, and the self-identifying we is much more complex than we really think.  We shouldn’t trick ourselves into believing in a simple Us (masses) v. Them (corporations, governments, evil geniuses, et al.) story about the internet either.  There may be a message in the medium, but whose message is it?  Yes, I have backed this project.  Yes I sympathize with them — I mean, Memefactory…and maybe some other people like “them” — but we can’t let this ideology of openness blind us to the idea that all openness is good, or even that supporting one kind of freedom is supporting all kinds of freedom.

Phew.  This post has been like a 2000 lb. leg-lift in disclosure.  Now, here’s a link to their Kickstarter page.  You should contribute!  For all of “our” sakes:


I am as strong as an internet Pat Robertson.


About Jeremy T. Bold

Librarian (sometimes anArchivist) Intelligent and outgoing (sometimes ridiculous ;) Capable of entertaining faculty, students and the general public. Skills in multimedia print, audio, and video productions. And I like Catz. Yes, the animalz; I've never seen the musical.
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3 Responses to Whose medium? Whose message? Ideology on the internet.

  1. Mike says:

    Jeremy! Thanks so much for all your support. Lots of really great questions in here, stuff we’re tackling and thinking about every day. Would you mind if I posted this on twitter, etc?


    p.s. Be sure to come and say hi on Friday!

  2. Jeremy says:

    Word word: post away. Glad to know you guys are working on this stuff, because otherwise, I might get lonely.

    Friday. I’ll be there.

  3. Stephen says:

    Thanks for the kind words, buddy! Interesting questions you’ve raised. We think of them often.

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