“This is Fine”: Reading, Making, and Archiving Memes after November 2016 (NCPH Twitter Mini-Con, October 2018)

Title slide for NCPH Twitter Mini-Con talk, featuring the infamous "This is fine" dog from K.C. Green's Gunshow comic
this is fine

On October 18th, 2018, I presented a talk as part of “(Re)Active Public History,” a Twitter Mini-Con put on by the National Council on Public History. Here’s the abstract I submitted for the conference (which you can also find here):

A cartoon dog sits with a cup of coffee in a room that is engulfed in flames. “This is fine,” he says to no one in particular. These images, which originally appeared in K.C. Green’s webcomic Gunshow in 2013, have become a kind of shorthand for the mood in America after the 2016 election, an example of the ways that memes are increasingly relied upon by social media users to document their experiences in uncertain times. Social media encourages and profits from our impulses to document our present moods with image macros, reaction GIFs, screenshots, and other multimodal forms of expression. Memes have been remediated as protest signs at various marches, and it is increasingly common to see memes in political campaigns and in the Tweets of sitting senators. In July 2017, President Trump infamously circulated a meme in which he attacks a professional wrestler whose head has been digitally replaced by the CNN logo, an act of online speech that was interpreted by many as an endorsement of violent reprisals against journalists.

Memes, in other words, are an undeniable part of contemporary American culture. This presentation will consider the roles memes have played in defining and subverting American political discourse in The Age of Trump. More generally, it considers where, how, and why public historians might read, historicize, preserve, and make memes about the American experience.

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Haunted Home Pages #3: Virtual Haunted Houses

Welcome to Haunted Home Pages, a semi-regular series of blog posts in which Jim McGrath spends October 2017 communicating with the internet’s afterlife via The Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine . For all the posts in this series, click here.

I love looking at early twenty-first century Yahoo pages with undergrads and grad students. The decisions to organize information are super interesting and weird! In my search for Halloween-themed content, I discovered that there once was a “Holidays” sub-section under Yahoo’s “Society and Culture” section. Before we go there to look at some Virtual Haunted Houses (from, of course, the “Virtual Haunted Houses” sub-section of the “Halloween” section!), take a look at these categories:

Yahoo's directory of links for "Society and Culture" (June 2002)
Yahoo’s directory of links for “Society and Culture” (June 2002)

In October of 2002 there were eight options to choose from in the category of “Virtual Haunted Houses.” While many of these houses are inaccessible via The Internet Archive due to their reliance on Flash, the descriptions of these sites give you a sense of some of the activities awaiting digital trick or treaters: virtual pumpkin carving, Ozmo the Oracle, table tennis with skeletons (move over, Warren Zevon!), etc.

Virtual Haunted Houses (October 2002)
Virtual Haunted Houses (October 2002)

Of these options, my favorite forgotten haunt is Jan’s Courtyard, in which the aforementioned Jan apparently created (and definitely starred in!) a series of Photoshopped images alongside The Cryptkeeper, Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula, and lots of other ghouls and ghosts. If I had these kinds of Photoshop skills in 2002, this is exactly how I would have spent my time every October.

Jan's Courtyard (October 2002)
Jan’s Courtyard (October 2002)

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