catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 6 :: 2010.03.19 — 2010.04.01


i can has internetz

I belong to a community of people whom I have never met face to face. I don’t know their real names.  I am in contact with them only for Twitter-length expressions of attitude and wit. In fact, members of my community often don’t even use words to make their point. I have not been invited into any of their houses or been served a nice dinner by any one of them. I have not made them a friendship banana bread. Yet we gather every day to make sense of a world that has been taken hostage by grotesque spectacle. Our community disarms the hideous and exposes the wrong with razor sharp wit and side-splitting laughs. All of this is done through the anonymity of the Internet.

The Internet democratizes media. Everyone has ideas and stories to tell.  Some are well done, while most are not. All of them find their way onto the Internet. These narratives are free and inexpensive to make. They are exhaustive. Free to watch at the viewer’s leisure, these expressions are a welcome alternative to uninteresting studio productions that hardly relate to the average discerning individual (Thursday night scheduling aside). When passed through the filter of an active archiving community, we see that entertainment is being put back into the hands of the people.

The Daily What is one of the many blogs that track independent entertainment. It regularly posts engaging images, videos and links that are scattered about the vast warehouse of information. Without The Daily What, I would not have been graced with hilarity in the form of the Wes Anderson’s “Spiderman” or the Pokétrainer with No Name. Pogo’s stunning audio-visual re-imagining of Alice In Wonderland would have never found its way out of the rabbit hole. The Daily What is even tuned in to pop art projects such as Bansky. The Daily What and similar sites cultivate a non-exclusive online community with its own values.

Our cultural identity is being shaped by cultural phenomena created by ordinary people with extraordinary ideas. Memes have reached the mainstream. Stephen Colbert’s dramatic stage dive was played off to Internet celebrity keyboard cat. Jim and Pam’s Chris Brown-inspired dancefest wedding was ripped straight from a Youtube video with over a million hits.

Gabe Delahaye at Videogum takes a very different approach to archiving Internet media. Videogum is anti-hegemonic criticism at its greatest. Delahaye calls out injustices with wicked sharp sarcasm. In features such as the Hunt for the Worst Movie of All Time (this week’s nomination was Wild Hogs) and Duh Aficionado Magazine, he draws out meaning and understanding in the mundane, hilarious, ridiculous and sad. It can’t be easy to write a weekly feature about Topher Grace, of That 70’s Show fame, and make it constantly hilarious and engaging:

Deadwood, of course, describes the mildly horrific, pre-civilized world of the Old West… It’s a glimpse into a life that we can only imagine, surrounded as we are by our modern conveniences and our soft-bellied expectations. For example, I have no idea how people even got their Topher Grace news back then.

Maybe it’s more of an abstract and odd critique on the United States’ fascination with celebrity, but I think Delahaye gets his point across week after week.

Videogum does not restrain itself to Internet culture, but culture at large. Delahaye writes about the entertainment industry because, while it is an overripe and arrogant mess, it is our overripe and arrogant mess. I put the emphasis on our because Videogum’s greatest strength is the community of people who stalk the Videogum comment boards. Delahaye affectionately refers to them as monsters. A popular weekly feature is the “Monster’s Ball,” where readers vote for the best and worst comments. It is a community with its own etiquette and inside jokes. Relax, Techno-Jeremy!

Internet communities are not anything new or exciting. People have been connecting with elementary school friends and clicking through galleries of lolcats for years now. People are spending more time on the Internet. There is more information, quality and otherwise, to absorb than ever before. It can swallow a person up, build up a multiphrenia ala Kenneth Gergen. I should be done writing this article, but instead I keep pressing the refresh button at Boing Boing.

Alas I continue to write, not to attack the Internet for its obvious faults as a proper information relay, but to list its obvious blessings. Videogum and The Daily What are fulfilling new and exciting roles in the entertainment industry. The digital revolution has left most traditional information sources reeling. These unlikely sources could fill the void left by the dropping numbers in traditional print media. Real people can relay the news and information in real time. After all, Twitter broke the aftermath of the elections in Iran.

For Christians, these new communities present new challenges. Christian culture can be weird and nonsensical and the Internet has the uncanny ability to pick up and run with these odd artifacts. Everything is Terrible is amazingly efficient at exposing Christian ridiculousness in The Pokémon Preacher.  Years of religious mishandling and faux culture making have left behind a sizable amount of baggage with which we are entering the online conversation.

And enter the online dialogue we must! We have a unique opportunity to take personal responsibility in these communities. We have the ability to represent ourselves, as opposed to allowing often-misguided Christian culture to lead the way. So let’s get out there! On there? In there? The Internet is a funny thing.

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