History of LOLCats
Oh no….just like some posts I did on aliens (which I did largely to distract myself from fretting over the loss of personal liberties in contemporary society), I amused myself this week by delving into LOLCats. Love those kitties. A total waste of time, but there’s no doubt that LOLCats have created an online subculture. Good news is this subculture is all about cute, furry animals; bad news is LOLCats will most certainly cause an infectious case of bad grammar.
So ThinkingShift reader, Pippy H, has asked me to give a run-down of the history of LOLCats. I started this post by uttering “Oh no” because (as with the posts on aliens), I seem to have attracted a whole host of new readers who are LOLCat obsessed. Oh well, I’ll just add these new readers to all my other readers who are obsessed, like me, about privacy and surveillance issues (along with aliens).
Back to LOLCats: I am no expert on the history of these cute kitties, so I needed to do a spot of research. And I also decided to apply some knowledge management techniques to LOLCats by checking out some of the archetypes. But first to the history and if you know of any further or different historical details – leave a comment. It seems that LOLCats is a surprisingly new phenomenon starting in January 2007. And an out of work software developer from Hawaii, Eric Nakagawa, seems to be the culprit. After reading about how LOLCats reached the proverbial tipping point of popularity, I suddenly became pretty jealous of Mr Nakagawa! He found a photo of a chubby, smiling cat on the Internet. The photo had the caption “I can has cheezburger?”. He thought it pretty funny. I’ve tracked the photo he found and here it is.
And this is why Mr Nakagawa is one clever dude because I would have thought “stupid person can’t spell and cats don’t eat cheeseburgers” and I would have moved on.
Mr One Clever Dude didn’t do that. Nope, he created a website with images of cute cats with silly captions written in baby-style talk, which is now known as kitty pidgin. I guess when you’re out of work, this sort of activity keeps your mind active. He called the site I Can Has Cheezburger (the lawyer in me asks: wouldn’t the dude with the original photo and caption be ready to sue Mr Nakagawa for using the caption and idea???). Anyway, Mr Nakagawa runs the website with his partner, Tofuburger (she refuses to reveal her name), and they found that by May 2007, the site was getting 1.5 million hits during the month (I can only dream of reaching this number of visitors…mmmm where’s that cat photo I took the other day??!).
The idea is pretty simple: you snap a digital image of kitty. Add some excruciatingly bad grammar so it looks like the cat is uttering words of wisdom. Submit to the site where images are screened for originality. And hope that your image gets rated on a scale of one to five cheeseburgers (yep, really). So if like me, you’re concerned about privacy issues, you can have kitty say:
So the time between launching the site to a critical mass of users seems to be pretty quick. And just like a good community of practice, I Can Has Cheezburger is sustained and self-organised by its users who create content and add comments.
Now, if you are in the sorry state of having no cat of your own, don’t despair you can still join in the fun. Mr N has thoughtfully built a tool called LOLCat Builder and you can select a photo of a cute kitty and generate an appallingly bad caption, which is then submitted and approved (at least I think this is how it works).
I decided to apply some serious KM techniques to my study of LOLCats. What are the major archetypes? I believe I can break them down into the following:
- Schrodinger’s Cat – just like the famed kitty of quantum mechanics, there seems to be a Schrodinger’s Cat archetype popping up.
- another feline archetype seems to be fat, grumpy kitty:
- then we have the theatrical archetype:
That last image has me a bit worried about cat abuse – check out the legs and tail!
- and then there seems to be something going on with computers and refrigerators – this could be a variation of the Schrodinger’s Cat archetype:
That last image is a personal favourite!
- We have the alien LOLCat archetype:
- And finally, the Something is Invisible archetype:
But some serious research uncovered a little known video that may suggest that LOLCats have been around for a very long time, perhaps since Egyptian times. Here is the video I discovered in a dusty old library – note the interview with an esteemed Egyptologist.
What I haven’t been able to work out yet is why a lot of LOLCats seem to start their sentences with “Oh Hai” – perhaps they’re Scottish cats. But I’m guessing it’s kitty pidgin for “Oh hi”. Can’t wait for the first PhD analysing kitty pidgin! It could be that Anil Dash might be busy analysing kitty pidgin already – check out his blog.
Now, if I was really technical, I’d load up some images of cats onto a newly created website called: I Can has Knowledgz? And I’d have LOLCats say things like: “I wantz to shez mai knowledgz”. Or: “Buzz awf, hai aint sharin.” Or: “Oh hai. Waz this cynefin framzwork aw about? I’z think I’z stuck in the shadoz of complexity. ” (With apologies to all LOLCat lovers – I think I just mangled kitty pidgin).