March 18th, 2009

Fun “research” in between quarters

The end of the quarter is no reason to give up on research, right? That’s why I’m devoting this post to something that is fun, informative, and very 21st century: the internet meme.

What is a meme? If you look it up in the library’s Credo Reference database, you’ll see the following definition:

A contagious unit of information (such as an idea, slogan, or fashion) that replicates through communication networks; a successful meme has bait (it promises something) and a hook (it urges people to pass it on to others).

meme. (2003). In Webster’s New World™ Computer Dictionary. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. Retrieved March 18, 2009, from

Memes are widespread on the internet. You’ve probably seen several of them without realizing that’s what they are. Someone posts a video to YouTube and within a few weeks, everyone you know has seen (and probably laughed at or been terrified) it. But have you ever wondered how they got started? How they evolved?

Or, have you ever seen something on the internet that seems like it’s an inside joke that you just aren’t a party to? Then it could be a meme. And memes are showing up everywhere – they simultaneously make people laugh AND show others how “hip” you are. One recent example is from Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, who altered a common internet meme to be the title of a blog post on the economy: All Your Downside Are Belong To Us.

So how would you find out what that title actually means? One easy way is to let Rocketboom do it for you. They are an internet culture blog that creates “know your meme” videos to help the clueless among us become more internet savvy. It’s a one stop shop for finding out the history behind:

  • LolCats
  • The Rick Roll
  • Fail
  • Boom goes the Dynamite
  • Disaster Girl
  • many others

So, if reading scholarly literature isn’t exactly upping your street cred with the under 20 crowd, perhaps boning up on a few internet memes is just what you need to recuperate from your quarter and look cool at parties.

It may not be an academic endeavor, but this librarian is labeling it information literacy. (Knowing how information travels in the 21st century is central to being an information literate person . . . ) And we librarians are certainly not above a few internet memes ourselves!


– Erin

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