Friday, May 1, 2020

What gets immitated online, and what doesn't

But there’s still something that makes a meme distinct from an idea that remains obscure or merely becomes popular without spawning imitations. Often, it’s that memes are weird. Why do memes look like they do? In particular, why do they often involve distinctive and weird linguistic styles?

Limor Shifman provides a tantalizing clue: she did a study of YouTube videos that spawned many imitations compared with videos that had the same number of views but few or no imitations.

Surprisingly, she found that the more professional-looking videos were less likely to be memed. In Shifman’s words: “‘ Bad’ texts make ‘good’ memes.”

Or in other words, since memes are based on active involvement, “The ostensibly unfinished, unpolished, amateur-looking, and even weird video invites people to fill in the gaps, address the puzzles, or mock its creator.”
Source: Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language by Gretchen McCulloch

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