The Internet’s been called a series of tubes, but it is perhaps more accurately a bizarre series of inside jokes. When such a joke becomes widespread and part of the broader Internet culture, it becomes a meme.
See this picture of a focused couple playing chess on a roller coaster? There are hundreds of people who’ve done this and posted pictures of it on the web. Why? Well, back in 2007 the spectacular web-comic XKCD posted a hilarious comic about playing chess on a roller coaster. XKCD readers weren’t content to just laugh at the comic, however: they recreated it. There’s even a collection of fan-photos over at XKCD.com.
How did I figure all that out?
There’s a “Roller Coaster Chess“ page over at KnowYourMeme. This website aims to be a repository of Internet memes, and does a pretty good job at it. It combines a collaborative approach with traditional reporting to construct a database. Unlike other encyclopedia meme sites with the same goal, such as Encyclopedia Dramatica, KnowYourMeme doesn’t use confusing insider-language while explaining things – rather, it attempts to explain memes to anyone who might be interested in plain English.
The bulk of the content at KnowYourMeme is encyclopedic. You can search for a meme you stumble upon, or you can browse. There’s even a “Shuffle” button next to the search bar to point you toward a random meme.
Pull up an article and you’ll typically find information on the origin of the meme, how it spread and its many incarnations. You’ll even find numerous pictures of the meme in action. For example, here’s the technologically inept duck:
You don’t need to be a passive consumer with this site, however; if you have information regarding the origin of a particular meme you can contribute. There’s comments below every article where you can provide feedback and vote on a given meme’s status, or you can offer suggestions on how to improve the article.
If reading articles isn’t your thing, there’s a collection of videos for you to check out as well. New videos are made regularly, and often explore recent memes.
You can subscribe to the videos via RSS, or if you use the best media center on the face of the planet (also known as Kodi), you’ll find a dedicated app for the site’s videos in the App Library.
Conclusion: Epic Beard Man
I’ve heard of Epic Beard man before, but I didn’t really know what it was about. Then I saw the video about the issue (NSFW):
What I thought was just a stupid series of photoshopped documents is actually a fascinating story; one that took place at the intersection of American racial tension, viral video, society’s view of the elderly and 4chan’s tendency to troll for the sake of it. In only two days an global narrative formed around two guys fighting on a bus, and this had implications in the broader culture.
If you find things like this fascinating, but don’t necessarily have the time to spend 24 hours a day on the web keeping track of everything, KnowYourMeme can fill you in quickly. They play much the same role traditional journalists do, but only report on Internet culture.
Do you think KnowYourMeme is a good tool for tracking memes online, or do you think using an encyclopedia meme tool to do so makes someone a newb? Is it merely the inevitable evolution of Internet culture that such trends be analyzed and documented, such as in the case of new terms like mansplaining?