10.12.08

YouTube meme family tree

Posted in internet subcultures at 10:27 pm by rachel

Interested in seeing exactly how video memes spawn their progeny on YouTube? Look no further: 

TimeTube showing search results for “don’t tase me”.

It runs pretty slowly, but it’s interesting enough to be worth it: TimeTube

10.09.08

The most important internet of all

Posted in internet subcultures at 11:06 pm by rachel

I had some other ideas for a post for tonight, but then I checked my email and saw that Youth Guardian Services (an organization that I have been a part of since I was 15, and that I now have the honor of leading) received a generous and completely unsolicited donation today.

The note included was very short: “I fondly remember my time on the Youth lists and how much they helped me. Thanks for saving my life.”

I read it, and read it again. It’s not that this is news – we actually get this kind of feedback pretty often at YGS – but repetition doesn’t lessen the impact of this kind of thing.

I wrote a few days ago that I am “from USENET, and from some early web BBs, but mostly I’m from LiveJournal.”

That was true, but let me be more specific: where I’m from on the internet is caring communities that are in the business of saving lives, every night, just by being safe and being there. I’m from BrainTalk, which was a wonderful community before the project got abandoned by MGH and Harvard, and from ssyglb, whose tireless moderators carved out and defended a safe(ish – it is USENET, after all) space on USENET for GLBTQ teens. Finally, I’m from the YOUTH lists, a project of YGS that has helped nearly 10,000 GLBTQ young people reach out safely and anonymously and get the support they need to survive.

So that’s where I’m from. And that’s why I’m so interested in the ways that technology connects people, why staying involved in the life of the internet has been so important to me over the years.

Anyway. Internet saves lives – that was my point. And if you want to get involved, well, YGS is looking for a web designer to revamp our website, which is starting to show its age. Please contact me if you or anyone you know is interested in helping us with this.

10.04.08

Anonymity and the interblags

Posted in internet subcultures at 11:14 pm by rachel

I’m from the internet: from USENET, and from some early web BBs, but mostly I’m from LiveJournal.

For the past 7 years, I’ve written on LJ more-or-less under my real identity, and it has involved carefully adjusting what kind of content is viewable to readers on a per-person basis. That fine-grained control was great for me as a (nerdy, awkward) teenager. I could control how much to let each friend into my inner world. I could seek advice on high school drama only from friends outside the state. Because of this feature, LJ was a social diary: a means of recording my life as well as getting support and staying in touch.

I’ve experimented with other modes of blogging, too. For a few years I maintained a very personal blog with all content public – but it was under an identity that was very difficult to trace back to me. That blog quickly took on the character of postsecret or confess.cc - interesting and honest, but very dramatic. Eventually I abandoned it.

I also used to write for a group blog. All content was public and I publically associated myself with the blog, but most people didn’t know which of the pseudonymous bloggers I was. The content I posted was fairly personal, but I found myself writing more forcefully (angrily?) than I did on LJ or on my anonymous blog. On the group blog, everything felt mischievous and daring, but at the end of the day I didn’t really believe that what I wrote could come back to haunt me.

In each of these three blog experiences, my blogging behavior was shaped by the amount of anonymity (and the amount of control over privacy) I had. On this blog, though, it was all new territory. And once again, the amount of anonymity I had shaped my blogging behavior.

Unfortunately, my skittishness about having ZERO anonymity resulted in, well, zero posts for 5 months. I don’t know what I can do about that skittishness besides power through, though, so powering through I am. I think a post a day ought to do it.

05.23.08

Weezer and internet culture

Posted in internet subcultures, materialism at 5:06 pm by rachel

Just last week I talked about the specific kind of nerdy community vibe that formed at ROFLCon. Today, Weezer – a pop band with a nerdy ex-Harvard frontman, whom we nerdy current Harvardians feel obligated to pay attention to – released the video for their single “Pork and Beans” on YouTube.

The song’s about staying true to yourself even though you’re not cool at school. This is pretty much the quintessential challenge of young nerds everywhere… but guys, check out their video:

And yes, they’ve co-opted a bunch of heroes of internet culture to sell their upcoming CD. And they’re definitely not the first commercial entity to try to harness internet culture to make some bucks.

But when I watch this video, I feel like I personally just got a big shoutout from some other nerds who happen to have made it big. From the comments I’ve been reading around the internet, that’s what the dominant reaction has been. It feels like a big in-joke we’re all pulling on mainstream pop culture: like “hey, look who’s setting the trends now, assholes!”

So good job Weezer. re: your co-option of internet culture, I can honestly say: ur doin it rite.

05.14.08

ROFLCon: a new kind of nerdvana

Posted in internet subcultures, nerds do some crazy stuff at 6:08 pm by rachel

I’ve been meaning to post some thoughts about ROFLCon for a few weeks now. At first I was catching up on sleep, then on homework (it’s cool mom and dad, I’m actually gonna graduate on time), and then I just slacked off. But now Diana Kimball, in her infinite wisdom, has handed the ROFLTeam a hard deadline for posting our postmortems. And that deadline is, um, now. So now I’m on it.

As Diana and many others have mentioned, most attendees probably weren’t sure what they were signing up for. Namely, they weren’t sure if it was going to be “a conference/convention about internet memes and web celebrity” or “a totally unmitigated shitshow ‘planned’ by a bunch of twenty year olds who are totally unprepared to deal with a physical manifestation of the internet.”

Before the keynote: Tim, me, abject terror. photo: kdreke
Before the keynote: Tim, me, abject terror. photo: kdreke

We were pretty sure it was going to be the latter. I spent a lot of time during the event on “security planning,” which mostly meant pouring over MIT floorplans with other ROFLStaff trying to remember everything I’d ever learned from action movies. EPIC (fail? unclear).

The one possibility I never seriously considered was that the first ever ROFLCon would be entirely disaster-free.

And not only was it not a critical fail, it was actually very “edutaining”. I think we succeeded in straddling (and ridin’! sorry nm) that line between academic discourse and omgthatsrandallmunroecanitouchhim. ROFLCon was nerdy in the academic way and nerdy in the fanboy way.

// Warning: I’m going to talk about feelings now, like the mushy psychology major I am. Please bear with me.

Many of the attendees felt a strong sense of community, and felt it almost immediately. I think this was at least partially due to the combo scholarly/funfest vibe. We nerds who love internet culture and also yearn to study it, WE FOUND OUR PEOPLE. All us webtards who spend so much time interfacing with computers actually had a great time interfacing with each other (that’s what she said). And even attendees who are snarky assholes online (and I mean come on, who isn’t?) got OOC and found some kind words. At one point I twittered that I was in nerdvana. I was drunk, but it was true. I’ve been at many gatherings of geeks, and this was the first one where everything just clicked for me. These are my people.

// Ok, feelings are over now. On to Serious Business:

My personal agenda/wishlist for next time (if there is a next time (and I’ll do my best to make sure there is a next time)):

  • Gender in relation to internet culture. People were itching to talk about it, but we weren’t ready. Next time, though, you can bring it. My geeky feminist thoughts, let me show you them.
  • Race and internet culture: this is another thing people wanted to talk about, and that we weren’t ready for. But like the gender thing, this is a topic where it won’t be hard to find us an academic or two to moderate discussion.
  • The word “fag.” Anonymous covered this in their excellent panel about project chanology, but I wasn’t satisfied with how that went down. If I may summarize and paraphrase, they said “it’s part of our culture, we’ve got no problem with queers, and if people can’t adapt to us and our language then they don’t belong on the internet.” Harsh but fair? Fucking dumb? I’d like to hear more.
  • The non-English web: they probably have memes too, guys. Several people pointed out that we could have been more explicit that this was a conference on memes that have taken root in the English-speaking web, and not other areas of interwebs. IMO, this was our bad. Personally, I know jack shit about internet culture that’s not in English. But I would like to learn something about it. Also, the English-speaking web can always use more cracked-out videos in other languages.
  • Moar con. ARG? Costume contest? Meme-imitation talent show? I dunno, but I do know that their will be more con-type events next time, because you can’t desconstruct why we love Japan so much all the damn day.

I wish I had a great pithy sum-up to close with, but my experience of ROFLCon defies that kind of containment… but this is blog post, so I will try: I learned, I lol’d, I partied (kind of hard), and I survived to tell you that I can’t bear the thought that this will never happen again.

01.17.08

House party with all of your favorite 2.0 big players personified as college kids

Posted in internet subcultures, nerds do some crazy stuff at 2:27 pm by rachel

Guests include Facebook, Paypal, Ebay, Wikipedia, Snopes, Digg, Youtube, MySpace, craigslist, and more.

Watch it here: The Internet Party: What Happens When Google’s Parents Leave Town for the Weekend?

(Not to be confused with the party of the internet, which is a part of the all-amazing ROFLCon.)