B1 Intermediate US 61 Folder Collection
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Christophe Haubursin: For as long as I've been on the Internet,
I've been obsessed with memes.
I loved demotivational posters, Leroy Jenkins,
Advice Animals, Cereal Guy, Rage Guy,
LOL Guy, and, of course, this guy.
♪ Chocolate rain ♪
But at some point, memes left
the weird corners of the Internet
and became a part of how almost everyone
participated in conversations online.
Now memes define how we experience pop culture,
they're being used in advertising,
and they're defining our political moments.
And all of that made me wonder this...
( laughter )
( music playing )
So, I mean, memes are at their core an inside joke.
They are a reference that an in group gets
and an out group doesn't get.
Do you have a favorite meme?
Right now, I think my favorite meme
is this screenshot from "Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas"...
- Mm-hmm. - ...of the main character walking down an alleyway
and the caption is just, "Oh, ( bleep ), here we go again."
And it-- that's-- it's not funny when you say it out loud and explain it,
but it's, like, the funniest thing in the world.
Yeah, I am way on the out of this.
It does seem like the life cycle of memes has seriously sped up.
'Cause I just remember being on Reddit and seeing the "Futurama" guy,
the "Not Sure If" meme...
- Fry. - ...for, like, years.
And now they don't repeat after, like, a day, or maybe a week at most.
- Mm-hmm. - So it is more work to keep up.
My face is most known for the Blinking White Guy,
which is just me making an expression,
sort of like an incredulous look,
and, for some reason, that gained a lot of traction.
I mean, I certainly don't feel like I have
any ownership over it anymore because-- or that I really ever did.
Which is a little scary in a way,
because it is my face
and I have no control over it.
There's a new phrase creeping into our language
from the Internet, and it goes like this...
Man: What they call a meme, M-E-M-E.
I kind of like that-- Internet word.
Woman: It's become what's called a meme,
an idea reproducing across the web.
Man: The power of that viral idea,
the meme, as it's called,
- has grown exponentially. - Do you know what a meme is?
- Uh, no. - I've never heard of a meme.
I've heard of a mime.
- I thought it was "me-me." - I thought it was "me-mes."
- I thought it was "meh-mays" - I call it "meh-mays," yeah.
This is how politics is waged this day.
These are the meme wars in action.
Christophe: We've clearly come a long way
in how we talk about memes.
But memes have also come a long way
in just how influential they are to us.
But to understand why we use the word "meme,"
you have to go back to 1976
when Richard Dawkins wrote this book, "The Selfish Gene."
He spends the majority of it talking about genetics,
but in one of the last chapters,
he comes up with this new word, "memes,"
and he's been asked to explain it ever since.
The meme is the unit of cultural inheritance.
It's anything that's copied, anything that's imitated,
anything that spreads around like a virus.
So he defines a meme as any unit of cultural information
that passes from one person the next.
Let me show you how that works.
Alex, finish this tune for me.
♪ Ah-ah-ah-ah ♪
♪ Staying alive, staying alive ♪
Okay, Cleo, finish this sentence for me.
- "Live"... - "Long and prosper."
Okay, Rebecca, finish this one for me.
♪ It's Friday, Friday ♪
♪ Gotta get down on Friday ♪
So, any of those things,
like a tune or a catchphrase,
any cultural product that's repeated over time,
for Dawkins, that was considered a meme.
But then in 1994, this "Wired" article called
"Meme, Counter-Meme" by Mike Godwin
becomes the first time that people refer to memes
within the context of the Internet.
It's funny, there's this line that says,
"Most people on the Net, as elsewhere,
had never heard of memes or memetics."
All of that was about to change.
( groans )
Chances are that if you spend much time
on the Internet at all, you know what memes are.
There are "Shrek" memes,
stock image memes, there are Kermit memes.
They've kind of become this very essential part of how we communicate,
and as a result of that, there is a business to be made
out of doing them really well.
That's why we're visiting this company
in midtown Manhattan right now called Brand Fire.
They're essentially this team
of meme-makers turned advertising consultants.
We're talking specifically to a guy whose Instagram page is called sonny5ideup.
He's got a million followers, and he's made a business
out of making really great memes
that resonate with a whole lot of people.
And it turns out being able to do that today
is extremely valuable.
So, my name is Adam. I run Brand Fire,
which is a branding agency in Manhattan.
Sonny comes here and works
and collaborates on a lot of memes
and a lot of content that we create for our clients,
and for ourselves, and for our meme community.
It's sort of a creative safe space, I like to call it.
How do you make money from memes? How does that work?
I'll make memes for, like, a media company and just sell it to them.
And I'll do the same for, like, dating apps.
I would notice people going viral all the time,
and I just saw that, like, that wasn't that hard.
I had nothing else to do, so it was that
or have no job and do nothing.
You know, I like absurdism.
I think repetition creates--
when you create a pattern of absurdity
and it becomes kind of normalized, it's interesting.
- That's just memes, though. - Yeah, exactly.
And we do this every day, so it's just like,
"I have to post today."
Christophe: Right now they're making memes
for their own Instagram pages,
but their resulting social media clout
is how Brand Fire attracts new clients.
And they're not alone.
In the last decade, it's become standard
for brands to capitalize on meme culture to sell things.
You know what I was thinking? We should make--
I was thinking about even making a concept for a whole account
where it's, like, a fake CBD account.
But what's the real joke? Like, you have CBD and you mellow out.
So, like, what would be a good thing to--
what would CBD go in that wouldn't make much sense?
What about, like, a energy drink with CBD?
Yeah, like, you'd get a guy relaxing in a chair
that looks like a Kyle kind of guy
and with a Monster drink in the foreground.
That's not a bad idea. This guy looks chill.
"Now with CBD, for when you want to just chill."
You could maybe fade him in like one of those--
- like an '80s yearbook photo. - Yeah, totally.
- Sonny: There you go. - Adam: Chill, Kyle.
Yeah. It doesn't get more bold than that.
I think this is probably pretty good, right?
That looks great, honestly.
That looks like an ad in a skateboard magazine.
The whole joke is just this kid, he looks so thoughtful, yeah.
He's just so thoughtful.
You got to take a break from punching walls sometimes,
you know, and think about it.
Think about all the walls you've punched.
Most of memes are just things
that a lot of people are thinking that they don't say out loud.
So they can just post it and feel like they're saying it
without being, like, personally attached to it.
Adam: Now we're already starting to come up with, like, the caption.
- Right? - Because the caption activates it.
The caption's the hardest part because
you can make a great image and take hours and hours.
The guy's gonna start adding shadows and ( bleep ).
You're not gonna catch someone's eye
with a news article, like, "Oh, this, that."
But you'll catch someone's eye with a popular meme format.
And then they'll read it and then they'll--
whether they think it's a joke or not, they're still taking it in.
- Yeah. - So, I think it says that we're all alike
in ways that we don't realize.
Like, if a lot of people can relate to something that you said,
then it's like you hit the sweet spot, you know?
I mean, what do you feel like it takes to make something
that does relate and resonate with people?
I noticed the stuff that I work harder on goes less viral
than the stuff that I'll make in two minutes.
- When you stop and reflect? - Maybe-- yeah, or maybe
when you want to reflect.
All right, I'm gonna share it.
I beat you, bro.
( indistinct chatter )
Thank you so much. This was awesome.
Great to meet you, too.
Christophe: So, let's talk about the format.
Seeing that entire behind the scenes process
of a meme being made
made me wonder, you know,
is there a reason that memes look the way they do?
Is there something behind this whole
Internet ugly aesthetic?
To figure that out, I talked to Whitney Phillips.
She was really one of the first people
to research trolling and memes.
4chan and 4chan's site architecture
played an unknown but really significant role
in the rise of what we now refer to as meme culture.
And the reason that that happened was because
it was not a very robust website.
It didn't have a lot of server space.
I'm gonna need some help to explain this,
so I'm going to text Joss.
Can you help me make some art?
To show how 4chan works,
Joss is gonna make something artsy
and I'm gonna make something scrappy.
In the early 2000s, when Internet memes
were first becoming a thing,
all of these different formats start on 4chan.
- Ah, so, this is 4chan. - This is 4chan.
Now, 4chan was and still is a very fringe website.
But to start a conversation on an image board,
you have to post a picture.
That's a rule that's designed to prevent spamming.
- For example, this picture you made. - My picture. Yay.
- Can I post it? - You can.
Here you go, 4chan. What do you think of my art?
Christophe: But 4chan had really limited server space,
so it had to constantly delete old pictures
to make space for new ones.
My picture looks kind of out of place on this board.
It does, and it would.
If a thread had a lot of engagement, it would stay up,
but if not, it was deleted.
So, anyone who spent a long time
working on a piece of content...
- Like me. - ...like you,
on 4chan, got really frustrated
when their stuff was deleted very quickly.
- Such as this. - No!
A 2011 study found that the threads
on 4chan's random board /b/
had an average lifespan of just about 9.1 minutes.
If you were spending a long time on photoshopping
some clever response to something that someone said to you,
by the time you get back to the conversation, that thread might be over.
It might be permanently gone.
I had no idea that you had to be that fast
- in order to engage in these conversations. - Right.
The memes that emerged out of 4chan were often deeply problematic,
to undersell what that site was like.
The aesthetic often contained profound dehumanizations
because that was part of the joke on 4chan
is that trolls troll trolls who troll trolls.
You know, and one of the classic examples is Advice Animals.
You know, most of them were about sexual violence, racist violence,
all kinds of violent dehumanization.
But everyday people who spread the fun
and funny versions of that content
also have helped spread that same pollution.
The difference is that they don't realize
that they are holding a weapon in their hands.
- Interesting, right? - Super interesting.
- Yeah. - It makes me wonder if I was sharing memes,
you know, back in 2012, when these really simplistic,
very wholesome, actually, memes were coming around--
I had no idea when I saw them on Reddit,
they actually had a much longer history on 4chan.
- Yeah. I definitely was. - So, yeah.
Like, is Business Cat racist?
Is Bad Luck Brian a Nazi?
I have no idea.
I think he's not a Nazi.
Yeah, definitely not.
I've been a part of
a McDonald's commercial,
a Volkswagen commercial,
have had t-shirts with my face on it
in Wal-Mart and Hot Topic.
So, it's actually been pretty awesome so far.
Christophe: Memes are by nature
constantly repurposed and recontextualized.
The consequences of that can be very personal,
and I don't think there's anyone who knows
what that looks like better
than the person behind one of the oldest
memetic videos on the Internet.
"Chocolate Rain."
♪ Chocolate rain ♪
♪ Build a tent and say the world is dry ♪
♪ Chocolate rain ♪
♪ Chocolate cake ♪
♪ The teacher yells when I get answers right ♪
♪ I'm insane ♪
♪ Wickstrom is the one I'm going to train ♪
♪ Chocolate rain ♪
It's really important to know where memes come from,
because the intention behind how they were created
might not always be what you think,
and that's especially true with political memes.
In this Senate commissioned report,
the authors write that memes
are the propaganda of the digital age.
Here's what they mean by that.
This is a meme comparing CNN
to North Korean state media.
It was made by a Russian trolling propaganda page.
And this is a very, very similar meme
posted by a conservative website.
It's basically a rip-off.
And that rip-off of a Russian meme
was later shared on Facebook
by Republican Congressman Steve King.
He has two Facebook pages,
and one is really just for posting memes.
And the reason that that's so impactful
is that the meme page is followed by a lot of people.
In the last three months alone,
his meme page had around 46 times more page interactions
than his normal Facebook page.
That's 600,000 interactions for the meme page
versus about 14,000 for the regular Facebook page.
So, by translating political messages into memes,
you can actually help them travel a lot further.
But how they're digested and perceived, that's a different story.
There's one organization
that tries to make sense of all of this.
They are a website that I have been reading forever-- Know Your Meme.
They've been the encyclopedia of memes since 2008.
I really want to hear what they have to say,
and there is one night when I have to be there.
And welcome tonight to the first Democratic debate
in the 2020 race for president.
The first Democratic debates are about to begin.
We are at the offices of Know Your Meme in Williamsburg.
And they've kind of created this war room
where they're watching the debate
and they're watching all of the memes
that are coming out of the debate
at the very same time.
We'll hopefully, yeah,
use these to mark tallies of gaffes,
any moments, expressions, everything.
- This guy. - That guy.
This team has watch parties like this for a lot of big events.
They're here to track everything that's being said
so that they can document how the memeosphere responds.
This is kind of the first chance for a lot of these candidates
to really show the world who they are on this big stage.
But it's also this chance for everything they say
to be kind of infinitely remixed.
Everything is fair game here, so let's see what happens.
Brad: All of us are logged in to our research account,
and we're going to basically start
- bookmarking tweets. - Oh, interesting.
Brad: So, Sophie will be tracking Trump's tweets in reaction,
and Brianna and Peter are going to be
making some memes live
as we feed information, basically.
It's fascinating to see this whole system they've got right now.
- ( echoing chatter ) - They've got an entire wall
of basically every buzzword big moment
that could be turned into something in the coming days.
It's an organized operation, I will say that.
- ( chatter continues ) - Somewhat organized.
Very interesting.
If you had to say what the biggest meme-ifiable
moment of tonight was...
- Uh, probably-- - ...what do you think it was?
And that gets back into not just the health-- the big pharma, not just--
So good!
She's somehow, like, attempting to be
the craziest person in the room, and you gotta respect it.
Sophie: I think it's just, like, the placement of seeing,
like, five men right next to a woman--
- I mean, It's a strong visual. - Yeah, for sure.
That might be the most enduring image meme.
Christophe: Marianne Williamson's performance on that debate stage
made her Internet famous, and even got her a page
on Know Your Meme the very next day.
And if you look at her Instagram page,
you can tell that she's absolutely embracing that.
Before the debate, she really never posted memes,
and now she posts them all the time,
which is probably why after the next debate,
she said this...
Woman: Did this night go the way you had hoped it would?
I don't know yet. I mean, I'll tell you when,
you know, later, when I see the memes!
Memes have become a new language
that lets people say things and get attention
that they wouldn't be able to any other way.
And the world is just getting meme-ier,
for better or for worse.
I don't think there's anything wrong with memes
or being a meme or anything like that.
I'm doing all right, and I know that many are, too.
But I think as long as, like,
the humanity isn't lost in it, then...
...it should be okay.
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Why Do Memes Matter? - Glad You Asked S1

61 Folder Collection
呂嘉濠 published on January 19, 2020
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