October 17th, 2008

Memes the breaks

I was pointed to an incredible site that displays internet memes in a very unique fashion. Essentially, a meme comes from the Greek word “mimeme” which means “something imitated” (it is also literally translated from the French word for “same”). We’ve all seen them, either on our favorite blog (or our own blogs) or in an e-mail. A very simple form is someone sends you a list that asks you to list five thoughts no one knows that you had when you were a kid. This person has filled out the list with their own five thoughts, and has essentially tagged you to do the same thing, and pass it along to your contacts. And then they perpetuate this cultural game of digital “telephone”.

The term meme was coined back in 1976 by Richard Dawkins, who referred to things such as jingles, melodies, catch-phrases, rumors, etc. What Dawkins wasn’t referring to (because they really hadn’t yet emerged) are viral videos and other viral digital media. That’s where the Internet Memes site comes in. It displays the release and the phenomenon of each big viral video/song/site in four very innovative ways. I always enjoy seeing new refreshing and engaging ways of displaying information, this site is definitely that.

You can see the history of Internet memes as a timeline, that stretches all the way back to August of 1970, where the term “Internet” was developed to refer to the connections that existed with the early web prototype, ARPANET, maintained by the Department of Defense. You can also view each meme as a pushpin in a map, showing you where in the world these came from. I invite you to check it out. It’s likely you’ll find out something new. I did:

In 1982, the first emoticon was created. It was the beginning of a new way of expressing ourselves, some would even say a new language. And to think, our children have never known a world where they didn’t use their characters to make facial expressions.

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