Saturday, May 01, 2010

Mainstreaming the Web


We're now in the final symposium session of ROFLcon. In front of us are:


Tim Hwang opens the panel with "Oh shit! The internet is here!" Christina asks the first question of the panel to describe their favourite meme that's gone mainstream. Kenyatta nominates "Downfall" meme as his favourite meme because it changed take-down notices on YouTube. Jaime Wilkinson likes "All Your Base" because it was one of the first memes to go mainstream. Ben Huh nominates Chat Roulette Keyboard Cat. Greg Rutter loves the 4-panel CSI Miami meme. Moot likes Epic Beard Man.

Jaime argues that internet culture is winning over the mainstream. Kenyatta discusses how the 1990s was a time when people realised that geeks had won; and now the similar realisation is taking place regarding internet culture. Moot talks about how commercialisation of popular meming is inevitable.

Jaime points out how clothing designs cannot be copyrighted which forces creativity--and the commercialisation of clothing design drives it forward. Christina asks whether the traditional captialist model (e.g., of monopolies) still holds for memes. Ken talks about how the prliferation of popular things online means that monopolies simply cannot hold. Know Your Meme is user-content driven, and they have a strict policy on plagiarism. Ken points out that its difficult for them to locate stuff copied from elsewhere and they rely on users pointing this out. Ken talks about reputation and referencing/crediting origins matters among the LOLcat community.

Christina asks about whether these services play an archival role. 4chan isn't archived--moot argues that good content reappears and bad content "goes off the site". The ephemeral nature of 4chan contributes largely to 4chan as a meme generator. 4chan doesn't operate on the reputation model beacuse everyone posts anonymously.

Tim points out how there are people out there who are curating memes for themselves. They're keen to share things because they love the things they're sharing.

Christina asks about big companies and advertising encroaching on meme territory. Greg talks about the Old Spice "I'm on a horse" ad and how well it was done and how this helped it to become popular.Ken talks about how advertisers do poach on internet culture and asks whether these companies have a responsibility to contribute stuff back to the community. Tim poses the question about whether memes will become more and mroe extreme--and which will place them well outside mainstream appropriation. Moot talks about 4chan and how it evolved from a gaming and geeky space to something much more extreme, although it's been like this since always. Kenyatta talks about people wanting to explore ideas and being able to put ideas out behind a wall of extreme. Moot explains how there are no limits/no rules--and someone who doesn't understand the internet won't necessarily understand 4chan's /b/ board.

Greg talks about how for him is what's important is to read what came befrore. He says he owes a personal debt to Textfiles. And contrasts this with someone wearing a punk tshirt simply because it's "cool" and not because they've ever actually listened to punk music.

Ken reminds everyone that there are still millions and millions of people aren't part of internet culture--everyday there's someone discovering it for the first time. Kenyatta makes reference to Ethan's opening keynote about the existence of multiple internets and people are in the process of generating internet culture for themselves. Greg talks about how in compiling his list of important memes he chose things that are easily describle and that appealed to him personally.

Ken asks whether there is anyone who works for Facebook in the audience. No-one is. Ken goes on to describe Facebook as "training wheels for the internet"--it introduces people to the internet in a way that few other sites/services have been able to do to date.


Moot then describes how the 4chan developed a Facebook app for April Fool's day this year so that one's own posts to 4chan would automatically post to one's Facebook profile (the audience absolutely erupts with laughter). But it won't work the other way--with a Facebook Connect link for posters on 4chan. He also points out that everyone on the panel will have a Facebook profile (everyone nods). He talks about Chat Roulette and the attraction of its anonymity.

A question form the floor asks about what the panelists will tell kids about the internet in 25 years time. Jaime is making an archive of videos of things NOT to do. Ken predicts that how kids talk about the world will be so different today--which will be itneresting in and of itself. Moot says if he has a daughter, he won't ever allow her to sue a webcam.

A question from the floor asks about what will happen when internet culture--which is basically youth culture--becomes "adult culture". Jaime says that it's already both youth and adult culture--and that it doesn't matter about age. He does describe the "eldernet"--which is all about "Forward this angel onto 7 friends"... (the idea of multiple internets is a big emerging idea here).

Ken talks about anonymity and it's something that actually needs to be repsected by others because so many things we put online come with a digital footprint that can trace you. Moot points out that registering on a site now is the default mode, rather than anonymity.

A question from the floor asks Ken about where to from here--what happens when his company becomes really large (almost 50 people are supported by his online companies, finds ien talks about a lawsuit he got involved in with someone who tried to create a domain name really similar to the LOLcats URL.They ended up resolving it by Ken calling the bloke and explaining the issue and paying a fair market price for the URL and the blkoke himself posting an apology on the website regarding how he'd been trying to exploit the cheezburger URL.Moot asks whether Ken's LOLcats puts something back--moot sees the who service as exploitative. People create content that other people makes money for them. Ken explains how they don't police how people use the LOLcat images. Ken also explains how LOLcats helps to attract people to the internet and contributes to the mainstream that way. Ken gives the example of a bloke who gathered awkward stock photos and was threatened with law suits from stock photographers--Ken saw what the bloke has done as a fair use case and offered to help out with legal defence etc. He sees this an important contribution to the culture, too.

Kenyatta points out how defending oneself from large companies comes down to legal resources. Ken agrees with how important it is to have a community to back you up in protecting internet culture.

The panel discusses elitism regarding internet culture--Grreg talks about how his website pokes fun at the kind of elitism that casts you as a loser if you haven't seen it/heard of it (whatever "it" is).

The panel closes with moot doing a ROFLcopter in his revolving chair. Ken discusses how ROFLcon I and II is a special time in history and how this might be a sign of being on the forefront of internet culture becoming the dominant culture. Greg talks about key moments in internet culture history--like the time the code for cracking DVDs was launched on Digg and captured so much attention and promtoion--and how these will be the things we'll remember.

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