The idea of anonymity is a very powerful thing…With complete anonymity, the 4Chan online community boasts 700,000 daily users that work to “create, remix and and popularize” memes and imagery within, maintaining “a language, ethics and set of activities that would be incomprehensible to the unfamiliar viewer.” 4Chan is all about promotion and production within the group,called raids, to influence and manipulate an idea or piece of information. It is very much the most volatile component of the information age.
The website, 4chan.org represents a significant side of our relationship with contemporary media culture; 4chan is a digital wild west where users can gather on a collection of scrolling discussion boards focusing on everything from health and fitness to the pornographic. The most notorious of these boards is /b/, a low-brow depository of subversive irreverence and outrageously offensive content,and, at the same time, a fertile hatching ground for the next trendy meme that will soon be obsolete. /b/ is also the sometime haunt of anonymous. Most people go to the boards on 4chan to keep in touch with the bleeding, often angst-ridden edge of a particularly potent no-name brand of media culture. Wherever that may /b/.
“It’s clear that he’s relevant to the HN community, given that 4chan is a startup begun from his mom’s basement when he was just 15 years old. Despite misinformation about 4chan being run for a loss, he does make money and can afford to run the site without ads from time to time. He took some available code (2chan’s), which was initially very simple, and grew it into a profitable site that is ranked in the Top 1000 on Alexa and that has an outsized influence on internet culture. That’s an extremely rare phenomenon, and one that most people here would ostensibly like to repeat….The thing people don’t really want to repeat is that he has essentially created the [I want to say Vegas] of the web, where everything is great in short bursts etc but if you end up staying you realize how scummy the place really is. This is why his site has a hard time gaining revenue even though being in the top 1000 on Alexa, no reputable business is going to advertise where porn and violence are the norm.( Hacker News)
It is becoming a story, and a mainstream one at that. It is a story which has raised fascinating issues about fantasy and play, about the shifting borders between pro-social and anti-social behavior, about rights and responsibilities, and about the governance of virtual worlds . Indeed, it epitomizes the valid argument that what something actually says is less important than what it does.
Academic Whitney Phillips has been doing research on transgressive humor on the internet with particular focus on the group 4Chan.One of the most analyzed pieces have been the recurring images of Obama, making their rounds online and have been deployed on both the left and the right in response to current debates about health care, taxes, government intervention and so on. There have been many different different ways in which these images have been deployed as they have circulated across the web. It’s a compelling case study of the politics of spreadable media.
…The Scientology campaign didn’t change the (sometimes satirical) celebration of racism, porn, fascism, child porn, misogyny, and so on–all that pre-existed the influx of new people interested in fighting Scientology. If anything, the new people watered down the sociopathic culture of /b/….To me, the main metric of acceptability at 4can is whether something gets a lot of positive feedback, which will only happen if it’s funny in the temporary context in which it exists (and everything is potentially funny in the right context; yes, everything). The second point of failure is not recognizing the significance of anonymous posting. In one sense it allows vandals and the irresponsible to shelter behind the 4chan Guy Fawkes mask, but in another it means that there is no particular gain for posting – whether it’s outrageous, intelligent, or funny….
The answer to the riddle of social media as a collective is to be found on 4chan, an enormously popular–and much maligned–image board home to gamers and trolls. And, most significantly, to Anonymous, a loosely-organized Internet hive-mind responsible for, among other things, the hacking of Sarah Palin’s personal email account and myriad attacks against the Church of Scientology. Intimate knowledge of this group is not necessary to feeling its influence; generally speaking, whenever an internet meme reaches critical mass, it is safe to assume that Anonymous had something to do with it.
Still, the question remains–what are we to make of the Obama controversy? What does the image really mean? What were the author’s intentions? So far, all evidence points to Anonymous; Anonymous is less concerned with politics than with controversy; more likely than not, the original artist wasn’t trying to do anything, meaning there’s a very real chance that the Obama/Joker image is in itself meaningless, or meme-ingless. This is not to say, however, that the context is meaningless, or that the image is worthless. Quite the contrary, in fact–just because we can’t affix objective meaning to a given cultural artifact doesn’t mean there is nothing to learn.
In short, despite the fact that both camps have harnessed the Obama/Joker image for their own purposes, and despite the fact that no one, has provided an airtight,not to mention fully coherent, account of what the Obama/Joker image is trying to express, each group has used the image to prove something nefarious about their political opponents. Whether or not the image was intended to take on any of the aforementioned meanings, it has–and good luck trying to wrench either set from those who need them to be true. Why so serious, indeed.
4chan survived out of his sheer stubbornness to run the site at a loss for a long period of time and refusing to sell it to some porn network (possibly on multiple occasions?) It’s impressive he was willing to spend the past 6 years running; 4chan clearly means a lot to him, god knows why…..There’s something in the 4chan’s community. For some reason 4chan survives, even if admins decide that for a week the whole site will be pink text on pink background (or was it some other colour) and will have an annoying song playing in the background — exactly with the intent of driving some people away. Maybe it just crossed the critical mass and luck or inconvenience doesn’t matter anymore?…It’s interesting, all up, the money making idea. Even though /b/ contains the best and worst of the net, the other boards are quite reasonable (as long a /b/ stays up to keep the trolls from wandering). Is the sites image so bad that advertisers can overlook such an opportunity for targeted ads? (ie. its unlikely anyone would be in the anime board if they weren’t quite interested in anime)…( Hacker News)
“While a surf club may screen capture and edit material in Photoshop to post to their board, /b/’s raids are concerned with bringing on an evolving change in the source itself, not a visualized hypothetical. Surf-clubs have a Relational structure of communication among members, but they still maintain the individual creation of static art within a designated space. In contrast, raids are a breach of boundaries—a way of altering the work’s ‘real life’.”