We have become accustomed to thinking about 4Chan as the breeding ground for memes as well as shaping the associated cultural reactions to such memes. There are other implications to 4Chan beside the obvious pop culture reading….
Alexis de Toqueville’s Democracy in America was published in the 1830s. A Frenchmen on a working visit to America, he preceptively and correctly outlined the shape of politics in the twentieth century. He predicted a global contest between Russia and America, Russia as a dictatorship, America as a democracy. American conquests, he said, were gained by the plowshare, those of Russia by the sword. Americans gave free scope to the people; Russia centralized all authority. he was the greatest long-range political predictor in history .
He continues to evoke widespread interest and admiration partly because he’s so quotable -“In a revolution, as in a novel, the most difficult part to invent is the end”- but mainly because he seems to have understood the American future better than anyone else of his time and wrote much that still applies to American civilization.In particular his understanding of American identity, and the need an facility of change and reinvention as an ongoing and organic process. With social media, the use of avatars, and the fascinating inerest in the “anonymous” , de Toqueville’s analysis remains as pertinent and relevant as ever….
4chan would have little importance indeed if it was only responsible for the carefree actions of disturbed youths. However, it is much more than this. This is the main difference as to why 4chan succeeds where social networking sites, such as facebook and MySpace, fail to provide a decent example for cultural convergence. Both Facebook and MySpace attempt to use common culture to reach the lowest common denominator and facilitate communication. Both networks become a part of culture in their own right. However, neither creates culture. 4chan, on the other hand, is an imageboard. Every picture that comes through 4chan is a little bit of culture. This is not extraordinary in and of itself. What is impressive is the amount and the insidiousness of the things that do come out of 4chan. While it is nowhere near as large as Facebook (Alexa ranking of 5) or MySpace (Alexa ranking of 7), 4chan (Alexa ranking of 967) can produce so much of significance because it is essentially a medium for cultural convergence.
The internet, if using McLuhan’s “light bulb” analogy, is an empty medium without any context, it has nonetheless created an infinity (theoretically?) amount of space for people to convey, deliver and manipulate the media in thousands of ways.How does 4chan fit into this? First, however, we need an overview of 4chan and what it is. As stated before, 4chan is an imageboard. It is simplistic in design and even more simplistic in nature – a user simply uploads a picture with a comment on the side. More users can reply to the initial post, creating a “thread.” Also notable is the fact that no user is required to post any identifying information. All users who choose to go incognito – which is basically everyone – are labeled as “Anonymous,” a now famous term for the people that frequent 4chan, especially the “Random” imageboard.( Jacob Zeile)
“Random,” more commonly referred by its notation “/b/,” is the most widely used section of 4chan and in many cases defines the entire site for outsiders. The nature of /b/ is anything that is lawful can and will be posted. The only specific rule on content is for child pornography and “anything that violates local or United States law” (4chan.org). This means that /b/ users are free to post graphic images of pornography, dead animals, sandwiches, derogatory statements and pictures of all kinds, and pictures of themselves in revealing positions. It is /b/, however, that is the greatest cultural watershed in 4chan, even to the rest of the world that does not regularly visit and as such as perhaps more cultural significance as an “export” of what America represents than the movie industry; an likely far more cutting-edge as a denominator and shaper of culture.
The Anonymous Effect – 4chan and Cultural Convergence 4chan.org has been heralded as “wretched hive of scum and villainy” by Time magazine . The Wall Street Journal reports that 70,000 bans have been issued to users of the site in the past three years . Despite this,Time cites the imageboard 4chan as possibly the greatest hotspot for internet – and by partial proxy, popular – culture that exists. The question to the large corporation is how can they appropriate it, rip it off and run with the idea as money maker?
The question posed, then, is two-fold: what IS 4chan, and how does it achieves this remarkable duality – on one hand, many of the things that appear on 4chan are not fit for anyone, much less the minors who espouse the culture; however, 4chan indeed does create culture that is becoming widely accepted in internet culture, some of which has found it’s way into real life. The answer is simple
and broad. 4chan is quite possibly the best and truest example of cultural convergence to be found in American society, and it accomplishes this in three steps: the site creates and appeals to the lowest common denominator, users absorb and pool culture, and then they create the new common denominator by spawning new culture.
How is this possible? By this, experts like Henry Jenkins can assert that because there is just so many people with the ability to broadcast any information since the internet has given almost anybody a soapbox to screech from, our way of navigating through the crazy cat lady blogs to the information re
nt to us is through our discussions and other people’s collective opinions. In comparison to McLuhan’s theories, instead of the medium largely dictating the contexts and legitimacy of information, Jenkins debates that now this is dictated by the collective intelligence by all dwellers of the internet. Culture is not seen as top-down and dictated by authoritative channels, but a collective entrerprise,
Started in 2003, 4Chan.org hosts 50 image posting message boards, The site’s 700,000 daily users post and comment in complete anonymity; a bathroom-stall culture generating posts that alternate between comedic brilliance, virulent hate and both combined. Typically, the content featured is a NSFW intertextual gangbang of obscure references and in-jokes where images are created, remixed, popularized and forgotten about in a matter of hours. 4Chan keeps no permanent record of itself, making an in the moment experience the allure of participation. For all of the memes that have leaked into our inbox from it, 4Chan maintains a language, ethics and set of activities that would be incomprehensible to the unfamiliar viewer.
When TIME Magazine offered 4Chan’s founder, m00t, as a candidate for 2009’s 100 Most Influential People of the Year online readership poll, /b/ wasted no time launching an attack to propel him to the top spot. The resulting campaign included likely thousands of participants’ manual labor, the creation and dispersion of sophisticated ballot-stuffing software programs and several strategic changes in online manipulation methods from March to April of 2009. m00t not only took first place, but all of the top 21 people listed in the poll were intentionally ordered in such a way that their first names spelled out a secret message: ‘mARBLE CAKE ALSO THE GAME’. ‘Marble cake’ is alternately described as the name of the chat room where the anti-Scientology raid Project Chanology was born, or as an unsanitary sex act. ‘The game’ is an inside joke that requires you to not utter or think of it to be able to win. You mostly likely just lost the game.
The mARBLE CAKE raid was an impulsive assembly of a group to simultaneously make reflexive commentary while literally revising who the public thought they voted to be the most powerful that year. The ranked influence of the names listed in the top 21 becomes subservient to the order of /b/’s encrypted message. This echoes the commonly launched criticism of TIME’s yearly “Influential” issue that many of the people included are merely entertaining figureheads or patsies who act at the behest of even more powerful, discrete interests. More specifically, the raid is a work of Relational Aesthetics. Just as the empty bottles left over from Rikrit Taravanija’s meals are later used as sculptures in their own right, the resulting alteration of TIME’s poll becomes a digital monument to /b/’s successfully group-orchestrated intervention. /b/’s influence on Time magazine’s website is the Relational given form through their own activity. ( artfagcity.com)
“Despite Bourriaud’s interest in collaborative art making, his theory’s purest realization has been put on hold by institutions that must place emphasis on individual creators to maintain their financial well-being. While inside of a Liam Gillick exhibit, have you ever forgot that you were attending a Liam Gillick exhibit? I haven’t. Ending the viewer/creator dichotomy requires no less than the end of the art-star system and a participation format that makes room for the errors inherent in free will. In his essay Postchronist Manifestation, Dominick Chen states as long as there exists an asymmetry (or distance) between producer and receiver, the modality of cultural production would inevitably lead back to a religious power structure.
An art of Relational Aesthetics “far from the classical mythology of the solitary effort”would be anonymously produced and give all participants the greatest degree of choice possible when determining the course of their own experience.
“In a culture which some have described according to information overload, it is impossible for any one of us to hold all of the relevant pieces of information in our heads at the same time. Because there is more information out there on any given topic than we can store in our heads, there is an added incentive for us to talk amongst ourselves about the media we consume. This conversation creates buzz and accelerates the circulation of media content Consumption has become a collective process and that’s what I mean in this book by collective intelligence.” (Henry Jenkins)