Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Memes, tropes, and sonnets; or, What we talk about when we talk about shit people say.

Neuroscience and poetry agree: people do better with limited options and structure. So, if you go into a fruit store, you'll probably be happier if you start with some limitation, even an arbitrary one. (Just listen to this Radiolab episode to see anecdotal evidence of that exact situation.)

I'm trying to remember this when I see some meme waves sweep over Facebook:
  1. there was the invasion of the xtranormal "so you want to be an X" videos, where professionals (teachers in various fields/journalists) tried to talk novices out of following their life choices, such as So You Want to Get a PhD in the Humanities;
  2. there was the infestation of "Shit People Say," starting with "Shit Girls Say", moving on to every little niche of people;
  3. and now there's the "What People Think I Do" series, where some profession/category of person goes through a series of misconceptions--I'm a writer, so people think I do blah blah blah, when really I do blah.
So, part of the joy of memes is the same joy as genres and tropes: to see something familiar get a little tweak. In other words, memes are useful structures to engender creativity in certain avenues, much like sonnets: a little structure can be a great thing for developing new material.

That's all I'm going to say about this today but I'll say it again: I like memes in the same way I like tropes and sonnets--as structures of possibility.

And tomorrow I'll tell you why I hate these memes.

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