First, a moment of silence (as it were) for the amazing layout/design in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine:
Damn that’s good. Speaking of Instagram, I’m toying with the idea of adding a new component to this blog called “Instagrammar” in which I (surprise!) capture grammatical errors in ads around the city using Instagram. I think it’s a winner. Updates will be completely unpredictable (just like me). Also, speaking of the Times, one of my friends just posted this article on facebook, so I just thought I’d share it here as a friendly reminder that girls run this motha.
Okay, now for something that isn’t news… or something that is old news. However you want to look at it.
Over the past year and some, the Internet has birthed a number of tumblogs that are relevant to my life and interests, among them: #whatshouldwecallme, How Do I Put This Gently, When in New York City, Admissions Problems, My Life as a Black Squirrel, and What Should Brearley Call Me. This is so much more than just a meme; it’s a way to create instant anonymous affinity groups for anyone anywhere with any kind of problem. The Internet cannot spawn enough of these little beauties.
Although I’ll admit that the term “affinity group” might be a bit strong for this type of website, separately, these two words help define the success of these kinds of tumblogs. Each one has to appeal to a specific demographic or group of people, however broad or specific. These blogs pull people in by speaking their language, whether it be the jargon of a school, profession, or location. They also hold on to readers because of the affinity they create through commiseration. Whether explicit or not, the purpose of many posts is to complain or critique – albeit in a self-effacing way, most of the time.
Humor, though, is the most important element to the success of any of these tumblogs. Anything too serious or too real becomes a prime candidate for another favorite tumblr of mine. SO HOW DO THEY DO IT?! The basic formula is pretty simple: (1) think of a problem and/or encounter said problem in your life, (2) find a gif that expresses said problem or your reaction. Or is it the other way around? Regardless, a lot of the time the gif is the punchline, but the joke is the juxtaposition between the title and the gif.
In a Conceptual Art class I took my senior year of college, we often considered the relationship of a work to its title (or was it the other way around?) as a way to create meaning from the pieces we saw/heard/watched/experienced. Some work depends on its title to make sense. Forgive me for going there, but Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain does happen to provide a perfect example. Duchamp didn’t make the urinal himself, but he made the title; he constructed the irony; and he, perhaps, elicited a laugh from his public.
#whatshouldwecallme and progeny rely on the same conceptual framework to be funny. The authors do not create the content of the gifs or the problems; both the situations and the cultural references must already be familiar to us. The authors create the juxtaposition and the wording. The digital nature of this work, though, also requires Internet age brevity. As for any good joke, the setup has to be perfect: timing is everything! If the title-build-up is too long, the gif punchline usually falls flat. You know, it’s that thing of when you have to explain a joke to someone and it still isn’t funny.
And next week… hyperlinks as hypertext. (Lol not really… but maybe.)