The other night I watched the 1999 rave-culture flick Go, featuring Sarah Polley and Katie Holmes. In it, a group of 90’s slackers and their crazy Christmas Eve party. There’s car chases, drug deals gone bad, angry strippers, and a lot of dated fashion (modrobes anyone?).
What really fascinated me, though, was not the penchant for goggles but the lack of cell phones and texting. People go missing for hours and their friends just have to wait around or do something else if they don’t show up. In fact, the crew has a back up plan to meet at a diner at dawn in case they get separated during the day. This is unfathomable to me. Why don’t you just text them? How can you make plans and keep them 12 hours in advance? I understand that cellphones were new and stuff, but I also constantly forget that fact when watching movies made a decade ago. It's not just the frosted tips and Goo Goo Dolls soundtrack that feels dated, it's the general pre-digital habitus of the cast that make mid-90s movies seem so...off to me. Film quality wise, they look almost identical to movies produced in high-definition, but their cataloging of twenty-something socializing seems so close yet so far away from my own life that it's hard for my movie-going mind to reconcile the 90's as a pre-digital era the same way I can with The Breakfast Club. When watching Go I'm always thinking: Why are they making things so complicated? Just call the fucker, googlemap the address, save the girl, and let's go.
So many of us spend our time immersed in digital culture, it's become second nature. We rarely stop to think that social life organized itself very differently just ten years ago. Though the internet existed in the 90's, it certainly looked different from the internet we know and love today (Remember GeoCities?). iPhones, with their promise of constant connectivity, only launched in 2007. It only took six years for the iPhone to seep it's way into almost every crevice of our personal lives; from bedroom to boardroom. I remember fall 2007 when a rich friend of mine Orange County showed me one in a dark bar in Montreal. "It can only be scratched by diamonds" she cooed, lovingly touching its glowing screen. Though that fact is debatable, I remember thinking that the only people who could afford one were the types who would actually have to worry about scratching it up with their diamonds. Now, it's almost inconceivable for a friend not to be tapping on their touchscreen. Digital life changes so rapidly, we barely have time to wade through all the new information being thrown at us from the various far-flung corners of the cyberspacemuch less create archives of dead social networks thrown aside by our fast-paced digital world.
Which is where MemeFactory comes in. MemeFactory is a live multi-media performance about internet culture. Featuring five laptops, three projectors, and the live commentary of three internet nerds, memefactory gives funny guided tours of the one, the only, the internet. True to its muse, the performances are constantly changing; with the goal of the evening being to “produce an audience generated entry of every internet phenomenon as possible, including but not limited to: LOLCats, Bouncing GIFs, Me Singing [blank], Reaction Videos, Folk Covers of Hip Hop Classics, FAILs, Redubbed music videos, and more.”
The live performances cover a wide breadth of internet culture, but doesn’t really have the time or the space to go into depth about the various ideas and questions the performance prompts about digital culture. The dudes at memefactory want to go deeper – which is why they’ve decided to write a book about the internet.
Of course, it’s not going to be a simple print book. While a physical copy of the book will be available for sale at their live shows, pdf versions will be available for free under a digital creative commons license on the web. Also, the book is a kick-off point for the launch of their MemeFactory Research Database – a virtual vault of all the media they’ve collected over the years. The database will be constantly updated and ever mutating; just like the internet.