The monsters of the internet; a critical bestiary?

The internet, as my colleague Whitney Phillips likes to say, is nothing but dicks and kittens. One cartoon has pointed out that “on the internet nobody knows you’re a dog.” And, just the other day, the I CAN HAS BUCKET walrus held me at gun point shouting, “BUCKET MUTHAFUCKA! DO YOU HAS IT”

The question is, what are all of these animals doing on the internet talking to me?! Or more academically (and possibly more stable sounding), what is the deal with all of the anthropomorphism on the internet?

I CAN HAZ ANSWERS?! Nope. I don’t have any, just some questions this week…

As Claude Levi-Strauss, and more recently Slavoj Zizek, might ask: in what ways are animal memes a symptom of the emptying of religious signifiers? How might we think of the absence of (explicitly) civil religion as the motivation for a new form of animism and totemism?

Speaking of totems, and thinking about Whit’s categorization of the internet, how might Durkheim think about animal memes? As sacred? Remember, for Durky, sacred and divine are not the same thing. What makes something sacred is not that it is somehow connected to the divine, but that it is the subject of a prohibition that sets it radically apart from something else, which is thereby made profane. And this, in turn, structures our world into…well… structures! In what ways do internet memes, as totems of various pop culture flows, allow us to create an understanding of the internet as both information and entertainment, both medium and message, both technology and medium? (this question comes with the understanding that these beliefs are contradictory, and that the internet is not its own medium, but an anti-medium; its medium-ness is only defined by the medium that it is displaying- i.e. Hulu=tv, Pandora=radio, etc. See first post on INTERNET).

Leave a Reply