This week, PBS Arts released the newest episode of Off Book, their excellent video series that focuses on expanding our definition of art. “Off Book: Visual Culture Online,” explores the phenomenon of online memes, collaborative art, and remixes. Watching the short documentary reminded me of when I first came across Rageguy (described in the PBS video by Chris Menning, a viral trends researcher for Buzzfeed). A friend had sent the link over in an IM as a joke: a 4-pane comic crudely drawn in MS Paint depicting a “toilet splashback” experience (exactly what you think it is). The first three panes described the incident; the last pane showed Rageguy screaming with the caption in bright red letters—“FFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUUUU-”—filling up the right half of the pane. I shrugged, not really understanding the joke. However, a quick Google search for “Rageguy” produced dozens of derivates of the original comic. The format in all of them never changed: the first three panes illustrated the rage-inducing situation and the fourth ended with Rageguy screaming. They were goofy and irreverent; however, more importantly, as Menning points out, they were relatable. Without even noticing, an entire collective creation—an internet meme—had occurred.
I found this fact exhilarating, knowing that in the matter of a few hours thousands of people could successfully engage in a creative exchange. For better or worse, the internet has brought the collective masses together, allowing netizens the opportunity to collaborate and build upon one another’s work. Whether it’s a “flash mob”, Paula Deen Riding Things, or the infectious Nyan Cat Youtube remixes, “We’re all living in the same moment,” Dump.FM’s co-creator Ryder Ripps comments in the video. Why not spend that moment collectively watching the Nyan Cat on Youtube?
Watch the PBS video below (or if you prefer Nyan Cat, click here):