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Eric: noe websnark WELL BE GONE TO THE AMERICANS!!!!!!!


(From Filthy Lies! Click on the thumbnail for full sized kill skuls!)

The word "meme" has been desperately abused in the last couple of years. People announce that they're following the hot new Livejournal Meme, which is inevitably some asstard quiz or some kind of randomizer that shuffles a smattering of your Friends List across different categories, ultimately claiming that WilWheaton is your Pimp, Gaimanblog is your best ho, and CNN_Feed is your best John.

The original intent, however, are ideas, concepts, and (oh yes) catchphrases that spread through the populace without any coordinated campaign shepherding them. They're more about the nature of human interaction than anything else.

What "Enigma" (I never know how to refer to the officially anonymous webcartoonists -- especially those who aren't that anonymous) is doing here says more about the nature of legitimate memes than the somewhat pathetic forum post some person made or the asshole who screws other players. For a brief moment, "Jerk Hacker" and "Kill Skuls" and "GONE TO THE AMERICANS!!!!!" are an argot -- a moment of recognition between people on City of Heroes. It's shared, and so even though it's... well, stupid, we find it funny.

And a month from now we'll roll our eyes and make fun of people who still quote it. Or we'll quote it (here's that word again) ironically. Or we'll compare it to "All your base are belong to us," or whatever.

And that's what Enigma's pulling up here. Not the meme itself, but the ancillary aspects of the meme -- the people who quote the phrases to be part of that shared sense of community even though they don't have the slightest idea what 'skuls' are or why you should Go. Hunt. them. They can see other people think that and "Jerk Hacker" are hysterical and cool, and damn it, they want in.

So, I likes me the second order humor here. Enigma...

Holy crap, has it been this long since I gave one of these out? Damn. These are stale. Well, what the Hell. No one actually eats them anyway.

Enigma gets a biscuit. A tasty, tasty... well, stale, but hey -- they're graham cracker based and that handles staleness well -- biscuit.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at February 10, 2005 10:45 AM

Comments

Comment from: Tangent posted at February 10, 2005 11:26 AM

*giggles at the thought of handing out tasty but stale biscuits*

Cute. I think you need to replenish your stock though. *grin*

Comment from: Joshua posted at February 10, 2005 11:46 AM

Thanks! Now I finally found out what the hell all that Kill Skuls stuff is about. It's been driving me crazy.

Comment from: Zutto posted at February 10, 2005 1:28 PM

Is that really what a meme is, though? Drifting catch-phrases? I thought it had more to do with the persistence of "deeper" cultural traits.

I haven't read anything on meme theory, but I've been told many times it makes a good read. Just wondering if you wanted to share. :P

Comment from: Eric Burns posted at February 10, 2005 1:38 PM

The drifting catch phrase isn't the meme, per se. It's more a symptom of it.

The meme is the shared cultural experience that the catchphrases evoke. Among City of Heroes players, "Go. Hunt. Kill Skuls" triggers a response -- even if they barely know the original story (which was about a subliterate asshole who would form teams to do his mission hunts, then sit out of sight and collect experience and mission completions without doing anything). It is symbolic of the worst aspects of a certain kind of player. So the phrase becomes a touchstone for the understanding of that kind of player and experience.

And that is a meme.

Comment from: gwalla posted at February 10, 2005 7:19 PM

I despise "memetics". Mainly because it's a few geneticists who know absolutely zip about cognitive science and sociology ignoring all work done in that are and promoting a vaguely defined metaphor as if it was an actual theory backed by more than just speculation.

I'm quite happy to see the term get co-opted to mean "silly Internet fad".

Comment from: Zutto posted at February 10, 2005 8:56 PM

*ahem*

I haven't read any meme theory. But for the last several years I've been on a research project that studies cultural development with comparisons to the structure of biological evolution.

You're right, the crude practice of importing one paradigm from one discipline to another, on purely analogical grounds, is bound to fail. And trying to furnish evidence for such a theory beyond speculation is a great challenge. But I don't believe it's impossible to find empirical evidence to support success-by-fitness environments in culture, and it's certainly not impossible to try.

It's called The Genre Evolution Project At the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Comment from: Zutto posted at February 10, 2005 9:00 PM

For some reason, that URL isn't working. It's http://www.umich.edu/~genreevo .

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