The people of the Internet took the weekend off to come together in real life at this year's ROFLcon, a conference about web culture and those who've become famous from it.
Take one step into the conference, and you'll see Nyan Cat merchandise, a guy with a boombox blaring Rick Astley, and a lot of people fan-girling over Internet celebrities like Antoine Dodson and Chuck Testa.
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But beyond the advice animals and Cheezburger swag, the conference also features academic conversations on topics like memes and the Syrian Revolution, managing a community on massive sites like Reddit and YouTube, and defending the Internet.
Harvard professor and Internet Society boardmember Jonathan Zittrain opened the conference with a keynote that expressed how Internet meme creators and re-creators can use their power for good when they "look for a pathos in the world and try to capture it."
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Zittrain also believes that the base of every meme is an unguarded authenticity -- something which strikes us to the core. For example, this photo of a girl smiling in front of a burning house. It was one bizarre moment, captured at the right place, at the right time.
On the other hand, the Internet is a force to be reckoned with. That same power which users hold can have the opposite effect on the person who becomes the meme, as we've seen time and time again. Some take what the web has given them and roll with the punches -- for example Scumbag Steve.
But should these people be forced to live at the mercy of web? Zittrain believes that we should have the technology to give the people who don't want to become a meme the respect they deserve.
“I would love to see the technologists among us build an infrastructure native to the web that lets you -- as the subject or creator of an object, a data object (a meme maybe) be able to tag it -- and declare something about your relationship to it,” says Zittrain.
The trio behind MemeFactory wrapped up the first day of ROFLcon with a similar theme, stating that the Internet should uphold its responsibility. The panel brought up Reddit's issue with child porn, and called the often freewheeling community out for not striving to be as conscientious about racial and sexist content.
The panel also talked about memes in mainstream media, and how they are often poorly reported on. In big, bold letters across three projection screens were the words "The Internet isn't funny anymore."
MemeFactory believes that instead of worrying about other social sites "stealing" memes from where they originated, we simply enjoy and let others enjoy.
"Basically, what we're calling for is an Internet armistice," the panel proposed.
What do you think about the ethics of Internet culture? Is it really possible for us to live in peace on the web? Share your thoughts in the comments.
This story originally published on Mashable here.
- Internet & Networking
- Society & Culture
- Jonathan Zittrain