Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Twitter and May '68

Not really sure why - possibly hot weather making me a bit lethargic and unfocussed - but I've started to mess around with some old May '68 posters.

tweet this

I guess I'm remixing them for a digital era of cameraphones, Flips and social media. Iran and Twitter is still in the news (just) but I guess I'm still thinking about the G20 demonstrations in London. The violence of the policing was remarkable as was the initial mainstream media reporting that uncritically adopted the line fed them by the Metropolitan Police.


It took media outlets like The Guardian who picked up on user-generated content - especially the assault on Ian Tomlinson - to call into question official accounts.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

The revolution will be twitterized (and forgotten)

This is the headline of an opinion piece in today's Le Monde by Corine Lesnes (La révolution sera twitterisée... et oubliée). It's more of a (sceptical) introduction to a technology that's making the headlines all over the world but which has so far had little impact in France. Not sure why - I've always seen the French as early adopters of this sort of thing (think Minitel in the 1980s).

Don't forget Iran!

Here's a variant (in English) from over a week ago (The Revolution Will Be Twittered)

Anyway, the reworking of Gil Scott-Heron's 'The Revolution will not be televised' ("... the Revolution, brother, will be live") raises an interesting question about the role of a new technology in representing political action and social change.

There are a couple of ways to write about Twitter and the Iranian crisis of legitimacy: 1) a study of the use of Iranian twitterers and, 2) western media reaction to the use of this emerging technology.

BTW, Gil Scott-Heron should really have copyrighted the title 'The Revolution will not be (add technology)ized'.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Memes, de Certeau and la perruque

I think that memes are a manifestation of popular culture as well as about popular culture which they remake and remix.

I love Flickr's Song Chart meme for example.

Memers are having a bit of fun with the pop culture around them as well as spoofing crummy business pitch PowerPoint presentations and their cheesy graphic representations of data.

Here's Meatloaf's 'I would do anything for love (but I won't do that)' (really cheesy song) as a very simple example:

Things I would do for love

I wonder of the memers are working at home or at work? I ask as this sort of meme makes me think of de Certeau's concept of 'la perruque' (the wig). 'La perruque' is the worker's own production performed at the workplace under the disguise of legitimate work for the boss. Nothing is stolen other than time. Here's de Certeau:
It differs from absenteeism in that the worker is officially on the job. 'La perruque' may be as simple a matter as a secretary's writing a love letter on 'company time' or as complex as a cabinetmaker's 'borrowing' a lathe to make a piece of furniture for his living room." (1984: 25)
In this tactic, employees divert time away from producing profit for his/her employer and instead uses it for his/her own enjoyment, for activities that are "free, creative, and precisely not directed toward profit" (de Certeau 1984: 25).

I wonder if it would be worth contacting memers - Flickr-based or not - to find out if this hunch can be substantiated?


De Certeau, M. (1984). The Practice of Everyday Life. Berkeley: University of California Press.

What's behind the popularity of the lolcat meme?

Yeah, what's behind the popularity of the lolcat meme?

With memes, there's an element of play (see my Variations on a meme blog post from December). So what's being played with in lolcats?

In part, I think it's the cheesy, naff, sentimental stream in popular culture (think Hallmark cards, kittens playing with balls of wool on Xmas calenders etc.). Memers are having a bit of a laugh at the expense of these sorts of texts (and their audiences). The language used - and there are web sites on how to write lolspeak (e.g. The Definitive Lolcats Glossary) - is the deliberately grammatically incorrect 'baby-speak' used when talking to, well, babies and pets.

However, I also think it's possible to read the lolcats pictures and texts unironically: look at the fluffy kittens in adorable funny poses! They're cute, adorable and they make us laugh! The baby-talk we use to speak to them is fun and an integral part of the pleasure we experience.

I don't know how to 'read' lolcats: first- (irony-free) or second- (ironic) degree?

They make me think of Roland Barthes' comments on flaubertian irony:

... in wielding an irony fraught with uncertainty, [Flaubert] brings about a salutary uneasiness in the writing: he refuses to halt the play of codes (or does so badly), with the result that (and this is no doubt the true test of writing as writing) one never knows whether he is responsible for what he writes (whether there is an individual subject behind his language); for the essence of writing (the goal and meaning of the activity which makes up writing) is to prevent any reply to the question, who is speaking? (Quoted in Culler 2006: 204)

Who is speaking in lolcats? The ironist or the cat-lover?


Culler, J.(2006 2nd ed.). Flaubert: The Uses of Uncertainty. Aurora CO: The Davies Group.