RESEARCH PROPOSAL: MEMEOLOGY
In 2003, we witnessed a few notable instances; Finding Nemo opened at the box office to a near one billion dollars, the world lost Johnny Cash and a high school student made a website that would much later be the catalyst to the creation of a world famous decentralised international hacktivist group. Even more so than that, it would go on to serve as a hub for both complete sick depravity and enveloping purity, a community in which you could be actively involved within a massive group of individuals hell bent in bringing justice to an animal abuser, but where you would have to scroll past a few unpleasant images of genitals to get there. While a vast majority of those whom use the internet regularly today may not be familiar with 4chan.org or it’s contents, a large percentage would unwittingly be participants in it’s biggest success. For what it’s worth, this message board of anonymity can be attributed as forming the foundations for the youngest language in which we can recognise today: the modern internet meme.
The term “meme” itself was first recorded by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkings, derived from “mimera“, a Greek word meaning “something to be imitated”. Making its first appearance in “The Selfish Gene”, Dawkings’ 1976 book covering “why some behaviours, from an evolutionary perspective, seemed to make no sense but, somehow or other, were found to be very common in human societies.” While the term itself has been criticised for being arguably unscientific, Dawkins dissects in detail this concept as he considers it important in understanding human evolutionary tactics – how widespread movements within a population equal gene survival. (Jordan 2014) Theoretically, with this observation regarding memeology and in turn, memetics, we can see why modern society has latched onto this concept and integrated it into our culture.
Memes and memeplexes may evolve as alchemy evolved into chemistry or religions change over time. They are subject to outside influences and so they adapt. Memes may also die and be replaced by other memes as did the ether which scientists had always thought existed until the end of the 19th century. Whatever its fate however, its fate is dependent on a whole complex of variables which may or may not include its truth or its positive value to its host. (Jordan 2014)
Although some scholars may deem memetics as unworthy of attention, it cannot be refuted that scrutinizing social movements is crucial to adding to knowledge of how mainstream society and its method of communication will evolve in the future. This information is regarded as valuable to brands and companies that understand that tapping into popular culture can result in a strong online presence and in turn, increase of sales and respect as a name for being self-aware.
Before the writers of Rick and Morty won fans over with a self-deprecating, nihilistic and darker humour, the deeper parts of the web were already thriving in it. Today, through its filtering from the underbelly of the net to widely accessed sites such as Facebook, this taste in comedy is rife throughout our various social medias and has integrated itself into how we communicate online. For my research proposal, I will discuss the origins of the internet message board “4chan.org”, it’s prevalence in online culture and how it has assisted in the comeuppance of the internet meme. Furthermore, I will discuss the current trend toward “memetic marketing”, how brands have previously and currently still benefit from this fresh and exploitable trend and what the future may hold for this unpredictable method of communication. I will also discuss the important philosophy behind the production of memes – how the age of technological reproduction has assisted in their spread across the net.
Through my research, I hope to uncover the above concepts and shed light on what many may not know as a truth; that a single website founded in 2003 was responsible for much of what we see in social media humour and commentary today.
Jordan, M. (2014). What’s in a Meme? | Richard Dawkins Foundation. [online] Richarddawkins.net. Available at: https://www.richarddawkins.net/2014/02/whats-in-a-meme/ [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].
4chan.org. (2003). 4chan. [online] Available at: http://www.4chan.org/ [Accessed 20 Mar. 2018].