The Evolution of the Internet and How It Changes Culture
I think its safe to say that the Internet has effectively altered every aspect of culture that’s conceivable. I would almost go as far to say that a definitive dividing line exists between pre-internet and post-internet culture. Every aspect of all creative mediums has changed and is continuing to evolve due to our use of the Internet. One of the most important aspects of this evolution is the way the internet actually changes culture. The paradigm used to exist that being in a magazine or on television carried a certain cache with it that inferred certain qualities about whatever is featured. Now that the internet has created a level playing field in all creative mediums, the old platforms and models are viewed in a different context. Certain websites might even have more sway then a magazine covering the exact same thing. Especially with people in younger demographics the old print mediums and even to a certain degree television is viewed as old hat or nearly obsolete. The most interesting thing about how culture has evolved since the inception of the internet is that the context that’s created by being “on the internet” actually changes the information and its inferred message / values.
The word meme has existed for literally centuries, but only once the internet became commonplace did the idea of “memes” actually spread as a cultural concept within society. I almost can’t think of memes before the internet existed; of course there were cultural touchstones and specific historic events but a meme takes an inside joke or abstraction and elaborates on it to the point of mass consumption. It’s an idea that’s easily identifiable across such a large cross section of people that they can easily and with little effort apply their own personal stamp or inside joke to it with the initial concept still intact.
Memes are something that almost seem invented by and for the internet. You could take your funny cat photo or embarrassing family portrait and share it in your workplace for a few laughs but the internet creates an even playing field where these personal concepts or ideas become universal messages. Lil B literally has an entire catalogue of memes that surrounds his lifestyle / philosophy / movement known as “Based”. His aesthetic and inside jokes and overall inferred cultural values have been constantly shaped and remolded by internet culture. Without the internet I’m not even sure his movement would have taken off at such astronomical rate, and even if it did, how would a magazine or television show perpetuate a world of inferred memes without a multitude of worldwide platforms to expand upon them?
As the internet changes and shapes our culture, the internet itself is perpetually going through its own transformation. We’ve mentioned in passing the concept of “the second internet” which is rapidly becoming a more tangible and actualized concept. A handful of the most progressive artists, musicians, programmers, cultural dilettantes and numerous undefinable entities are changing the way the internet looks and feels on a daily basis. The Second Internet loosely has to do with reinterpreting the old model and sometimes the aesthetic of the Internet’s mainstream infancy in the early to late 90s. These completely obsolete graphics, programs, and platforms have become heralded by some as the personification of a specific almost idyllic internet aesthetic.
Ryder Ripps created the website Internet Archaeology with the specific intentof preserving the long barren digital world of Geocities. ScannerJammer takes the earliest most gauche internet graphics conceivable and turns them into an almost cyber totem of sorts, where participants can virtually “pray” and give “offerings” to the internet gods of yesteryear through sharing videos, audio, and other visual mediums. Dump.fm, another Ryder Ripps creation, takes the most wretched and trashy aesthetics of internet culture and concentrates them into a pure visceral mush of animated gifs and glitter ensconced CGI renderings.
These are only a small example of the new internet movements that are for the most part bubbling under the surface. One of the most interesting aspects is that the internet is now old enough where cyber nostalgia has become a prevalent concept online. Especially due to sites like YouTube where the entire history of the moving image is literally at everyone’s beck and call 24 hours a day, the rapid rise and early onset nostalgia which seems common in the millennial generation isn’t hard to understand. When talking about internet trends its important to remember that the internet changes culture just as much as it’s a place for culture to exist. The more we take this concept in mind when analyzing internet trends the easier it becomes to predict and gauge exactly where and how culture is evolving. The internet is never really a static platform or medium; it perpetually alters what we add to it based on how we engage with it; it’s really become just as much of its own entity as the very people that have helped to shape and form it.