Smithsonian Institute Tracking Internet Memes

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Is the Smithsonian Institute in the process of making themselves into a brick-and-mortar version of Internet Archive, or are they simply trying to produce an article that gets good pageviews? Considering their "Most Popular" articles section is nestled inside these articles, it's unknown whether or not these posts will equate to live exhibits, but they are succeeding in the pageviews department.

The current most popular article concerns the archiving of famous Internet memes. The idea behind memes are really pretty simple. Think of viral marketing -- that is, word of mouth passing word on from person to person -- but instead of a product, the idea being forwarded is a humorous image, video, or other digital medium that becomes apart of our day-to-day usage. While the Smithsonian's post was nowhere near as thorough as Know Your Meme's database, it did do a good job of capturing some of the Internet's more famous humor-related trends.

Presented in an 11-image slideshow, the Smithsonian's article contains all the memes you know and love, like Keyboard Cat, Rick Astley and Chuck Norris, to name a few. I will say, however, the appearance of the dancing baby was a little odd. I, for one, still blame Ally McBeal for that dark period of Internet humor, because, let's face it, the dancing baby is far more frightening than it is humorous.

Without McBeal's bandwagon hop, perhaps the dancing baby doesn't make it as far as it did, and yes, there's actually some solace in that idea.

Other inclusions for the Smithsonian's meme celebration include:

Jumping the Shark

Fail images

Flash mobs


Chuck Norris

Three-wolf T-shirt

"Boom Goes the Dynamite" (which, thankfully, was short-lived)

Keyboard Cat

And, of course, getting Rick-rolled.

In fact, over at Know Your Meme, there's a little celebration going on for Rick Astley and the impact his song had on the culture of the Internet. Here's an explanation of how the phenomenon started:

Rickrolling is a bait-and-switch practice that involves providing a web link supposedly relevant to the topic at hand, but actually re-directs the viewer to Rick Astley’s 1987 hit single “Never Gonna Give You Up.” The URL is often masked or obfuscated as a randomly-generated shortlink to conceal its true source from the experienced users. Whenever someone clicks the link and unintentionally summons Rick Astley’s song, he or she is said to have been rickrolled.

As for the Smithsonian's article, their examples are only the tip of the iceberg in relation to Internet memes. Simply put, there are almost too many to keep track of. From the current (over?)use of the troll face -- the apparent current champion of Internet memes -- to the "heel it down the drain" story that shows up every so often in Fark threads, it's as if each "corner" of the Internet has preferred memes they adhere to.

In fact, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to equate trending Twitter hashtags with Internet memes. Granted, these trends don't anywhere near the shelf life an actual Internet meme does, but while they are popular, the Twitterverse certainly uses them like memes.

So, which one of your favorites did the Smithsonian's article miss? Not enough "Afro Ninja?" Needs more dramatic chipmunk? No love for the hamster dance? Let us know what you think in the comments.