Internet Phenomenon

Internet Phenomenon

Lars Konzack (University of Copenhagen, Denmark)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7598-6.ch129
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Internet phenomenon is a new field of research. An internet phenomenon is an occurrence on the internet about somebody, a website, or a picture that for some reason captures the attention of numerous internet users and develops a craze that quickly spreads throughout the internet. The most common internet phenomenon is an internet meme, but also internet celebrities, political campaigns, or simply something out of the ordinary. Internet phenomenona have often been compared to folklore and urban legends; however, there is one significant difference in that folklore was passed on in an oral culture of illiterates. Internet sharing are mostly done among literates and often stored on servers for other people to see. In this sense, sharing internet phenomenona are closer to chain letters except the internet technology makes the process a lot easier and faster and may spread globally within minutes.
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Internet Memes

The most common internet phenomenon is an internet meme. The idea of memes takes it root in the memetics of Richard Dawkins but the concept of internet memes have evolved since then. Internet memes has become part of everyday life on the internet. Research has been done to understand this internet phenomenon as regards the development of internet memes, categorization of memes, and how they work.

An Internet meme is defined as a motif that is virally disseminated through the Internet. The motif often undergoes lots of variations (mash-ups) and may consist of sound, picture, movie clip, game and written text, or as is mostly the case, a combination by two or more modalities. Moreover the motif can be connected to only one of these modalities but need not be and in such case may enter different kinds of modalities.

It is difficult to pinpoint the first internet meme. One could argue that the emoticon introduced as the smiley in September 19th 1982 with all the variations of the theme is in fact the first internet meme (Rosenträger, 2008).

The term meme stems from Richard Dawkins controversial work The Selfish Gene referring partly to gene and partly to mimeme, which means to imitate. In his use of the term it is considered as any cultural idea or behavior such as fashion, language, religion, science and sports – cultural DNA reproducing itself (Dawkins, 1976). It is unclear whether Richard Dawkins comprehends the meme as an objective structure, or a metaphor for cultural practices. However, recent use of the term of internet meme has outgrown Richard Dawkins and has become a phenomenon in its own right (Stryker, 2011). According to Mole Empire the ten most famous internet memes as of 2011 are as follows Keyboard Cat, Three Wolf Moon, Om Nom Nom, Auto Tune, The David After Dentist, Penaut Butter Jelly Time, Christian Bale Rant, Fail, O RLY, and Numa Numa (Smith, 2011). While this of course is by no means based on real academic research, it still gives a clue as to what these internet memes are.

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