I Can Has Degree? Academia Takes On Internet Memes

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Sure, we all like to laugh (and laugh and laugh some more) at the various Internet memes that we come across in our time online. But we usually don’t like to admit how much we have invested in them out loud, to other people. Yet there are some who are not only willing to talk about it, they’re also willing (and able) to get a degree focused on it.

The Independent reports that studying memes and their cultural impact has now become a legitimate area of research for some institutions of higher learning. For example, Kate Miltner, a 29-year-old grad student, took her love of LOLcats to the London School of Economics, where she’s working on a Masters of Science in Media and Communications with a focus on memes. There’s also Patrick Davison, who is a PhD candidate focusing on memes at the NYU Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

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But why would someone want to acquire a degree in cat videos, auto-tuning and hipster Ariel? “The short answer [to why meme research is important] is because these are the kind of cultural interactions that people participate in these days,” Davison told the Independent.

However, as Gawker‘s Adrian Chen points out, Internet memes have been taken seriously by advertisers, if not professors, for quite some time now. For example, think way back and try to recall the Dancing Baby which went viral before advertisers tried to capitalize on its popularity by putting the creepy animation into commercials.  The attempts to make the most from goofy little clips and images has only increased, as Chen notes that, “[m]emes make tons of money, and money is taken very seriously.” Notably, the people behind the 4chan and Cheezburger sites — both of which specialize in and spawn memes, pretty much continuously — have raked in millions of dollars in funding. Internet memes have even had an entire convention dedicated to them, called ROFLCon, started in 2008 by a group of Harvard students.

However you want to cut it, we’re pretty sure this means that NewsFeed’s collection of meme-coverage (which is extensive) has now been validated from an advertising and academic point of view.

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