4chan & Chaos Theory & Postgraduate Musings

I was tasked to write an article about 4chan for PSFK today. I was initially hesitant because, to be honest, I regard any topical commentary on internet culture superfluous and none more so than with meme culture which moves so rapidly that the meme is already dead by the time anyone has time to gather a thoughtful insight on it.
Perhaps not so with this one. I was delighted by the story, I have a sick sense of humour that is well tickled by a lot of the bile that secretes out of /b/ board. But the gag pulled by moot (which I’ve described over at PSFK) is just plain, honest, funny. In fact check out /b/ now, it has much greater impact when witnessed.

<UPDATE: speed of internet has already stopped the puddi video running on the /b/ board, check it out here though, definitely worth a giggle when reading the posts on /b/ at present> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B10BxYZqa1Q&feature=player_embedded


Taking off my slapstick appreciation hat and donning my pretentious MA in Interactive Media hat I was really struck by what a media intervention this was. Apparently some posters have regarded moots move as ‘curing the cancer’ caused by the “newfags” that have been dragging down /b/ lately. It’s difficult to know the validity of such complaints, considering that some posters assert that newfags have been ruining /b/ since time immemorial.
The issue of time is an interesting one, content moves like quicksilver across /b/. Thanks to the schooling of Luciana Parisi I can’t help but consider the maelstrom of interaction going on within those deviant tubes as a pure chaotic system. Hence perhaps why so many contagious and successful memes reach escape velocity out of the /b/ confines. And considering it as a chaotic system is especially interesting given how Moot turned the whole thing on its head via a simple hack: all text entered translated to PUDDIPUDDIPUDDI, forcing a return to the image sharing basis upon which 4chan was founded. There is little doubt that Moot’s move was done entirely for the lulz, but it had amazingly productive consequences. It reminds me of the tipping or threshold point that is associated with dynamical or chaotic systems, and the exact term eludes me (anyone help me) because I left Gleick’s Chaos back in Crackney.
But the point I’m getting at is how a simple, but stark, intervention into a volatile system sparked off ridiculously productive outcomes. And that feels like 4chan could be a microcosm for other systems if we can just take the right angle on it, and find the appropriate scaling mechanism…

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~ by Stephen Fortune on December 1, 2010.

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