Internet Culture and the Evolution of Human Interaction

February 6, 2009 at 4:08 pm (Percy) (, , , , , , , , , , )

Ah, the Internet. It is, without any doubt, my most favourite thing ever. It is the source of most of my entertainment and education (in the form of news and sweet, sweet wiki) these days. The people who share this attitude are growing by the day. Facebook is slowly redefining the way people organise and execute their social interactions, following on the heels of MySpace. Wikipedia grows exponentially in both scope and quality of content. More and more companies are concentrating on their ‘online presence’. Businesses without webpages are becoming like businesses without listed telephone numbers.

All of this fascinates me, and I hope to blog more about the way the internet is transforming our lives. But today, I’m going to talk about the absurd, the awesome, the funny and the just plain interesting content that the internet tends to generate, specifically in the form of images. Sites such as 4chan and Space Ghetto are (internet) famous for being a place to celebrate and interact with the anarchy of the internet. I’ve explored my 3GB of images saved on my hard drive (a prized collection of mine), and present to you now some of the most illustrative examples of how people interact online through this medium.

First of all, I will turn to the image that was in my placeholder:


I found this on Space Ghetto, and it’s stuck with me for some years now. With the incredible amount of information available to us, it is very hard, almost impossible, to do something original. The pictures, art, video and text that make up the internet are more than enough to allow any human being to express whatever they want in almost any context. Using familiar symbols allows you to communicate faster through a series of convenient shorthands. This will, of course, lead to incredibly complex in-jokes, but what is different here from how the six of us interact? We speak of “the Boat times”, a reference to the Mighty Boosh, and replace Boat with whatever we like. It is not cheaper, or somehow less meaningful, that we do not conjure up and explain a new symbol every time we want to express ourselves, when the old will do just fine.

So what kind of symbols crop up? The most common, and most famous outside of internet land, is the good old fashioned macro. My favourite are when the text highlights the absurdity of the situation depicted, for example:


The image alone sets off a cascade of questions in our mind – who is this guy? Why is he standing like that? Why is there a chair on his head? Who put this on the internet?! The text is ostensibly and answer – it’s a guy who’s looking for his glasses, who has put the chair on by accident due to blindness. This answer plays off all of our unanswered questions and gives ridiculous answers, highlighting that there really isn’t any good explanation for this absurd image.

The macro can also be used to talk to other internet users, whether by imageboard or by forum, and express their views in a humourous way, such that this image:


In a very similar way, the absurdity and aggression of the photograph is harnessed to express your anger at some other user. The hope is to achieve respect from your fellow posters, and even your target – cleverness and witticism carry a lot of weight in this medium. This is especially effective, therefore, when someone posts a rant, trollpost or some other poor content. To celebrate a victory, one might post something like this:


The recutting of the film, along with the text, points out the weakness and therefore ridicules the recipient of a ban. This helps keep trolls at bay, as they are nothing if not driven by ego.

The objective is again humour and social comment in these two:



The first references the ‘superstar’ image of Barack and the media coverage of the Obama’s new dog. The second recalls the days at the beach when some kid kicked over your sandcastle, shocking you with his tiny fury. The macro is a complex art, but wonderful when intelligently executed.

Essentially, imageboards are all about associations between pictures and words. They include macros, but conversation outside of the image is also possible. Here’s an example:


The artful put-down is celebrated on imageboards. The original poster (or OP) has invited criticism by posting on a board renowned for its aggressive and exclusive atmosphere. The reply at once attacks the hat and the wearer, rather than many obvious replies attacking only one. It is doubtful whether the OP is the guy in the photograph. It is even more doubtful that this was not planned, in that the OP replied to his own thread with a pre-prepared answer. Nevertheless, it allows for the aforementioned atmosphere to be preserved, ensuring only the best content gets attention from the membership at large (at least in theory).

The comic is a means of telling a fuller story than a macro. On imageboards, many delve into the tribulations commonly experienced by young boys, which the majority of users can identify with (even the girls, though there are admittedly fewer of them). Here are some examples (the second is a little gory):



Loneliness and jealousy, two very common teenage emotions, are used to execute the art of the punchline. These comics will be saved, like any other content, and posted several times to the busy imageboards. A wide circulation is therefore achieved in the celebration of this comic, as success is determined by your audience’s desire to share your content with others.

However, we can dip back into the absurd:



The first is again in the punchline, but the second is a good example of a two step descent into further absurdity. The first and second panels are odd, and the third ensures our utter confusion.

Funny images from the real world are also widely circulated through replication. From inanimate objects seemingly expressing emotions:


… to news, where the subject and writers are mocked:


… and through to the reminders that witty people exist in the real world too, and are using the signs and messages designed to reach the masses to make us laugh with the unexpected:



The surprising variations on old and tired themes (such as those usually found on posters and signs) is being shared with a much wider audience than those in the local area. The artful humour is recognised and immortalised on the internet and in hard drives everywhere. It is, as far as internet users are concerned, the highest flattery.

Hilarious observations are enhanced with photoshop, such as this comparison:


Emma Watson is a well loved actress amongst many imageboards, and Richard Dawkins, the father of memetics, is also (but not similarly) admired. Cognitive dissonance and confrontation is therefore achieved in the audience – how could I not have noticed this before? Does this make me gay? And so on. As I mentioned, it is a photoshop, but the figures remain recognisable.

Sometimes, a photoshop is bizarre enough to stand alone, without any connection with famous persons:


The artist is skilled, and has struck on (or borrowed from) a very adaptable idea. Others may perpetuate the meme by switching faces in other photographs, or making all the faces in one photograph the same, forcing you to hunt for the ‘actual owner’. The original serves as an exemplar of a developing meta-meme, a small but well understood means to achieve surprise and humour.

This same idea can be seen in the use of the Bayeux Tapestry generator:





300, MC Hammer, Team Fortress 2, even other memes anything can be given an old-fashioned twist with this adaptable meta-meme. It is now a sign of achievement to have a meme well circulated in Bayeax form, as with any other well recognised meta-meme.

Here’s an attempt to ridicule US foreign policy, the subject of many heated internet debates:


This image reminds me of graffiti, but instead of it being executed in the real world before being photographed, uploaded and then downloaded, the idea has cut out the middle man and is speaking directly to the audience.

There are a lot of intelligent people on the internet, and even if they only have one fantastic idea, it’s enough to fuel the fires of internet culture simply in celebrating these images. The ideas are appreciated, played with, and eventually immortalised in the participants’ desire to save and repost the images.

This is internet culture and content at its best, and that’s why I post it, perpetuating its circulation and therefore ability to amuse, delight and inspire. In the style of many boards (particularly Space Ghetto), I will submit these final images without comment.









The art of confronting users with images like these, possibly combined with text to enhance the intended meaning, is so successful due to its “lightweight” nature – they are quick to appreciate, don’t hurt your download limit and are easy to circulate through email, forums and other boards – even blogs. As humanity becomes more connected, the critical, intelligent and artful ideas communicated through this medium are disseminated in an increasingly irrepressible expression of consensus, and I forecast much more to come.

Also, happy birthday to Tabitha! We had a great night of Japanese food, milkshakes and a trip to the Sydney Observatory.



  1. juliadactyl said,

    I hope you guys have fun tonight!

  2. chromefist said,

    Quickly! I must throw the first stone!

  3. juliadactyl said,

    Percy, I freaking love this post. The internet is so very awesome.

    I’d be interested to read sociological and anthropological papers about internet phenomena, because I think that with the internet, we’ve created new forms of interaction and new sociological concepts, which is awesome.

  4. Danoot said,


    (failmacro is fail but WHATEVER GUY)

  5. chromefist said,

    Pffft; what’s the point of art without resale value?
    Making people think about stuff through arresting imagery?
    I’m glad there’s none of this nonsense in the real Art world.

  6. chromefist said,

    Also: ooooh, stars.

  7. misterfinn said,

    First, percy posted that relationship comic that fills my heart with emo. Then Tom reminded me about how art has become mass marketed and soulless.

    Now I want to an hero.

  8. Danoot said,

    Superman will save you, Finn!

  9. misterfinn said,

    Man, that would be awesome. Then I could become Steel or something.

  10. andrewcrisp said,


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