Essential resources for internet culture

Last night we had some visitors (hooray! visitors!), both sociology professors (this happens when you move in certain social circles, it seems.)  And, as will happen when you put people who study sociology for a living in a room with people who studied sociology – and in my case anthropology – in school, we fell to talking about the various weird and wonderful ways that internet culture develops.

…Okay, sometimes just the weird ways.  But you get the idea.

The point is, eventually we ended up on the subject of cultural memes on the internet, how they develop, and how one can go about keeping pace with them.  We eventually whittled the essential resources down to:

  1. 4chan.

    I won’t link to this here, and I especially will not link to /b/ – let it not be said that I have led anyone down that particular path unawares.  However, it is true that 4chan in general and particularly /b/ serves as a kind of collective id for internet users – a stew of primordial thought-genes constantly colliding and combining with one another until finally one of them becomes strong enough to achieve escape velocity and appear on the internet at large as a meme.  (Hmm.  Some very mangled quasi-scientific metaphors there.  Ah well.  Somehow that seems appropriate in this case.)

    The thing about 4chan is that it is akin to the abyss.  If you gaze long into it, it gazes also into you.  And there is, occasionally, some very, very disturbing stuff on 4chan.   You must be prepared to accidentally encounter it if you brave that wilderness.

    If you’d like to learn more about 4chan without actually taking the plunge and going there, there’s always the convenient entry at That Wiki.

  2. Encyclopedia Dramatica.

    If you’ve just spotted something on Twitter, for example, and aren’t sure why the heck this seems to be so relevant to anyone, you could do worse than look up the mystery thing on Encyclopedia Dramatica.  Odds are good that you will find at least a little about the object of your interest there, along with a heaping helping of satire (and yes, very possibly trolling.)

    Be advised, of course, that ED is a parody of an encyclopedia, and treat information discovered there accordingly – as jumping-off point rather than definitive reference.

    Read more about Encyclopedia Dramatica at That Wiki.

  3. Know Your Meme.

    This meme database/video series is perhaps my personal favorite of the meme resources.  In addition to a spiffy little database of memes with origins and dates, there is also a series of charming little videos explaining selected memes, why some people find them funny, and where they come from.

    What’s especially awesome about these is that you can easily send videos explaining (for example) “Om nom nom” to your parents and they’re very likely to be able to get the idea, even if they don’t spend much time on the internet normally.  Couple that with high-quality video presentation and a friendly browsing environment and you have a winner.  Of course, the high production values mean that Know Your Meme isn’t quite as up to date as we might sometimes like – but it’s a small tradeoff, really, considering.

    Read about Know Your Meme at That Wiki.

  4. And, to a lesser extent, the mighty TV Tropes, of which we have already spoken.

Of course, none of these are Reference Resources in the academic sense, so I wouldn’t recommend using any of these for a research paper (unless of course you are doing so as primary sources!)  But they are good fun, and good ways to keep yourself posted on what the bizarre thing that just landed in your inbox is.  So go forth and explore.  (Just don’t say I didn’t warn you. ;))

On a mostly unrelated note, this smartphone app is genius: it turns your to-do list into a roleplaying game, awarding you points for every task you complete.  I love the idea, but feel it is rather tragic that I didn’t think of it first.

LFG

Recently The Boy and I had one of those discussions.  The sort that begins with “You don’t get out enough.  You should go find some groups to join.”

He is probably right, of course.  I don’t get out enough, as is probably evident from the glee with which I pick up any invitation that comes my way.   And so this week I have promised to begin the long and arduous process of hunting for something to do.

Problem one: I appear to be in one of those phases of ennui where nothing seems particularly exciting.  Perhaps this is the weather, which has been stultifyingly sticky and motivation-crushing.

Or perhaps not.  There is also the part where if one is very bored very consistently for a very long time it becomes difficult to get excited about things.

Problem two: I am naturally a somewhat shy person, and the idea of going someplace all by myself and talking to a bunch of strangers is a front runner for most terrifying evening’s “entertainment” ever.  I am not partial to loud, crowded places, so just wandering down to the pub and schmoozing isn’t really something I’m keen on.  Never mind that I am not dating, just looking to expand my social circle.

Problem three: It’s difficult to justify to myself the notion of taking part in any new activity that does not seem to have some immediate relevance to my job hunt.  Of course, on the other hand, it’s probably not conducive to mental health to spend as much time as I do obsessing about that, either.  Does having more fun make you more likely to get employed?  I wonder.

Still, I have gamely plowed through all thousand-odd meetup groups on meetup.com, and found a couple that might maybe possibly be kinda sorta interesting, except then we get again to problem one.  It’s hard to imagine myself getting brave enough to overcome my shyness without being really interested in whatever is going on out there.

It’s a heck of a first world problem to have, I suppose.  I am not starving or homeless or hiding in a war zone from people who would like to massacre me and my family.  I am just under-stimulated.  The other day I was told “Your brain is like a greyhound cooped up in a tiny apartment; it needs to get out and RUN.”  This seems accurate.

Frustratingly, the thing I feel most like doing is rounding up a friend or two and working on something creative together – writing an adventure or something, perhaps, for fun.   Unfortunately this is impossible, as my social circle is so busy as to make it just this side of impossible to arrange contact, and anyway most of them are going through some Very Bad Things right now and aren’t feeling up to much.  Hence the need to meet more people, and we are back where we started.

How does one go about auditioning for friends?  I always met people through people, before.

And why is there not a more convenient listing of all the social groups there are in a place?  Someone should get on that.

Those of you who prefer it when I just post things: Please enjoy this man’s loathing of Bella Swan, which mirrors in many ways my own. (via The Boy)

Alternately, there is some amusing video game nostalgia here at Kotaku, and the art of cheating has apparently gotten much more high tech than I remember it – or so sayeth Neatorama.  Still not doing it for you?  Try this list of weird things stolen from hotels (via Apartment Therapy).