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Internet History:
Proto-meme Culture

(Content Warning, there’s some coarse “internet speak” in the Whang videos)

Ocassionally, we’ll discuss internet history. In the recent past, people have started to act in a more archival way with this kind of content, but it is important to discuss this stuff, its influences and the technological and cultural influences on it. 

Today we’ll look at some “proto-memes” or things before what we officially consider memes (ie picture of a cat with white Impact font and black outline)

What is a meme?

“S Thing”︎

(This image is from a typeface based on the “s thing”)
Everyone seems to know this. I’ve asked middle school-aged nephews and they know about it. However no one really knows where it came from, who started in and the like. This pervasive spread is part of the proximity to memes.

Kilroy was here

This is a graffiti that was proliferated throughout Europe by American soldiers during WWII. Besides the spread into popular culture (i.e. the eponymous Styx album), the graffiti component creates a kind of public forum not present in the hushed an magical sharing of the “S Thing”

Dancing Baby

This is closer to a meme proper, but the point being that this and the subsequent “protomemes” spread in a more decentralized way; without the help of a platform like instagram, twitter or facebook. That being said, it still pierced through into popular culture and was featured on Ally McBeal: 

Hello my future girlfriend

The computing power needed to create the dancing baby in the 1990’s was impractical for most users. Hello my future girlfriend represents the more user-centric potential of the intenet. This image and audio are from Mike Blount’s Geocities page, which he created during a particularly lonely summer. 


“You’re the man now dog” is the closest to the “energy” of a meme that I remember from internet’s past. In high school, when “new” YTMND’s appeared, the vocational computer class I took would gather around to critique it. There was an energy there because of the decentralization, that prefigures the “have you seen the one where....[x]” meme sharing of today. YTMND also concretizes the word and image relationship that memes came to possess.

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