In the taxonomy of memes, there's a whole phylum in which people take pictures of themselves in some stupid pose. First, there was planking. (Look it up, Grandpa.) Then came America's preoccupation with owling, the practice of being photographed in an owl's crouch, which showed just how thoroughly planking had seeped into the general culture. And don't forget about Batmanning or horsemaning or Tebowing.
But each of these memes has a shelf life. Kim compares the point at which the public ceases to find them interesting to an allergic reaction, and he thinks people are increasingly allergic to assuming a single pose in ever more outlandish settings. Instead, he believes the future of photo memes lies in stock photos.
Once the crutch of graphic designers everywhere, the most WTF of stock photos are now curated at awkwardstockphotos.com. But there are also sites collecting inexplicably common genres of stock photo, such as Women Laughing Alone with Salad, Women Struggling to Drink Water, and of course, People Kissing Computers Alone.
>> READ: "Top 20 Memes of 2011" by Eugenia Williamson <<
More recently, contributors to the apply-named stockingisthenewplanking.com have taken it further by combining two memes into one mutant hybrid meme. "Stocking" consists of recreating stock photos — down to the pose, colors and composition — and posting them side-by-side with the original.
Kim says he sees an "interesting evolution" from mocking original stock photos to the current recreation fad. "It's gone from, 'Look at these women holding salad and laughing' to 'Let's pretend to be the women holding salad and laughing,' " he says. "I would hope it would go to another level in 2012."
LOS MEMES INTERNACIONALES
When Hwang and Christina Xu started ROFLcon in 2008, "Internet culture" meant American Internet culture. That's no longer the case, Hwang says. "A single Internet culture is a thing of the past."
Hwang and company started becoming aware of global Internet culture via two memes so omnipresent in their native lands that their fame spread around the world. The first, a Chinese meme known as the Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures, was a clever protest of strict censorship laws. Using Baidu Baike, the Chinese equivalent of Wikipedia, contributors created a series of articles on nonexistent animals whose names were puns on banned phrases (for example: a type of llama known as the "grass mud horse" or cao ni ma, which in Mandarin sounds a lot like "fuck your mother").
Then there was the Brazilian meme known as Cala Boca Galvão, a campaign for fútbol announcer Galvão Bueno to cala su boca ("shut his mouth") dressed up as a crusade to save the Galvão, a fictional species of endangered bird.
More and more, foreign memes are crossing the globe, Hwang says: "As more and more connections occur between various countries, the cultures percolate back and forth." He hopes to fly in those responsible for some of the international memes to this year's ROFLcon, to expose American Internet tastemakers to their foreign counterparts.
"International Internet culture may take over what we're familiar with, which is cat videos," he says.