The Sociology of Memes: Auto-Tune Edition

In case you haven’t seen it, the website Know Your Meme is a handy guide to the intricacies of the crazy fads that “the kids these days” are into, from keyboard cat to the Numa Numa dance. In addition to being a potentially useful resource for the internet-savvy, but not too savvy, academic, the site also has a pretty robust understanding of the dynamics of memes. This week’s edition, on the auto-tune phenomenon, is a great example and features an extended cameo by Weird Al to boot! The video tracks the rise of auto-tune from Cher’s “Believe” through T-Payne and onto the web. The video notes that auto-tune has gone through 3 stages of meme-ness – introduction, overexposure, and parody and remix. This third stage is what makes a meme great – everything from T-Payne’s self-parody in the SNL digital short “On a Boat” [Note – Not Safe For Work]*, to the incredibly work of the Auto-Tune the News folks. Now we await the fourth stage of the auto-tune meme: equilibrium.

I don’t know this literature well, but does this analysis of memes track with the Diffusion of Innovation literature? What, if anything, is distinctive about internet memes? Is the parody/remix stage theorized in that literature? Or are memes just a nice example of an old phenomenon?

Here’s my favorite Auto-Tune the News:

* Also, there’s an amazing Anime Music Video of “On a Boat” using the recent Miyazaki movie, Ponyo, available here.

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