Featured Article: “Meet Your Meme Lords” by Steven Kurutz
A small team at the Library of Congress is archiving internet culture as fast as it can. Already the library has amassed more than 2.129 petabytes of data — or put another way, 18 billion digital documents. And that’s just a sliver of the internet.
In this lesson, you will learn about the herculean task to preserve internet culture for future generations. In a Going Further activity, you make the case for a meme to be included in the Library of Congress web archive.
Imagine the internet was shutting down, forever. And you have just minutes to save and archive internet culture for posterity.
What digital material — websites, blogs, digital chat rooms, web comics, tweets, memes, GIFs — would you preserve and why?
Include at least three examples and explain what would be lost to future generations if they were gone forever.
Questions for Writing and Discussion
Read the article, then answer the following questions:
1. Why is the Library of Congress saving internet culture for future generations?
2. Give three examples of internet culture being preserved by the Library of Congress. Which do you find to be most significant? Which is most surprising?
3. Choose one of the four memes created by Library of Congress digital archivists to explain their work and the challenges they face, and describe its meaning in your own words. Would you want to join the web archive team?
4. How has the task of archiving internet culture changed in the project’s twenty years? What criteria does the web archiving team use to select what to save? How does it compare to the criteria you used in the warm-up activity?
5. Who is the web archive intended for? Why is it underutilized by the general public and scholars, according to the article? Do you think you will use the web archive after reading this article?
6. What was most interesting, provocative or memorable in the article? Do you think the Library of Congress web archive is worth the effort? The digital material chosen by the web archivists like the LOLCat Bible Translation Project and popular memes will live alongside the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence, “Moby Dick” and other sacrosanct print holdings. Do you think our current internet culture is as important as these historic artifacts? Why or why not?
Choose one or both of the following activities:
1) Choose a meme and make the case for why it should be included in the Library of Congress web archive.
What is the meaning and significance of the meme? Why should it be included in the Library of Congress web archive? What could future generations learn about humans and internet culture in 2020 from your chosen meme?
2) Create your own meme to express your own insightful or funny take on the meaning or value of internet culture.
What does internet culture mean to you? Is it valuable? Informative? A waste of time? Give us your unique take in an original meme.
You might want to use a free meme generator, rework a well-known meme or just start from scratch to make your commentary.