“As fandom diversifies, it moves from cult status towards the cultural mainstream, with more Internet users engaged in some form of fan activity. This increased visibility and cultural centrality has been a mixed blessing for a community used to speaking from the margins. The speed and frequency of communication may intensify the social bonds within the fan community. In the past, fans inhabited a ‘week-end only world,’ seeing each other in large numbers only a few times a year – at conventions. Now, fans may interact daily, if not hourly, online….”
Every so often Every so often an idea catches on and goes “spreadable” meaning it has resonance over a variety of platforms. When it does it’s called a meme, and it’s usually a picture or gif, maybe even a short video clip like Keyboard Cat. One of the most popular meme involved Matrix actor Keanu Reeves.
“On June 3rd, 2010, Reddit user rockon4life posted an image of Keanu Reeves looking particularly sullen while eating a sandwich on a park bench, with the phrase “I really enjoy acting…Because when I act, I’m no longer me” in a thread entitled Keanu. More sadness in comments. The thread quickly made it to Reddit’s front page, gathering over 281,000 page views. On June 4th, the sympathy for Keanu spread to other Reddit users, resulting in the creation of other threads, usually with more derivatives of the image posted on the day prior. ( KnowYourMeme)
Following that intense trend in photoshopping pictures, a Facebook event entitled Cheer Up Keanu Day was organized. Planned for the 15th of June, it encouraged any people to send love letters, gifts, phone messages, cancer donations or mails of any kind in order to make a special happy day for the actor.
To keep up that work, a fan-made single-topic blog, named Thank You Keanu was created for people willing to leave sympathetic comments.
June 15th, 2010 – By decree of The Internet, June 15th is now an internationally celebrated holiday dedicated to Keanu Reeves.
That action was also covered by Digg, E! Online, Encyclopedia Dramatica and Time Magazine.
“…Levy contrasts his ideal of ‘collective intelligence’ with the dystopian image of the ‘hive mind,’ where individual voices are suppressed. Far from demanding conformity, the new knowledge culture is enlivened by multiple ways of knowing. This collective exchange of knowledge cannot be fully contained by previous sources of power – ‘bureaucratic hierarchies (based on static forms of writing), media monarchies (surfing the television and media systems), and international economic networks (based on the telephone and real-time technologies’ – which depended on maintaining tight control over the flow of information. The dynamic, collective, and reciprocal nature of these exchanges undermines traditional forms of expertise and destabilizes attempts to establish a scriptural economy in which some meanings are more valuable than others. The old commodity space was defined through various forms of decontextualization, including the alienation of labor, the uprooting of images from larger cultural traditions so that they can circulate as commodities, the demographic fragmentation of the audience, the disciplining of knowledge, and the disconnect between media producers and consumers. The new information space involves multiple and unstable forms of recontextualization. The value of any bit of information increases through social interaction. Commodities are a limited good and their exchange necessarily creates or enacts inequalities. But, meaning is a shared and constantly renewable resource and its circulation can create and revitalize social ties. If old forms of expertise operated through isolated disciplines, the new collective intelligence is a ‘patchwork’ woven together from many sources as members pool what they know creating something much more powerful than the sum of its parts. ( Henry Jenkins)
…So, getting back to Keanu Reeves, what are we to make of this? Making a game out of some one’s sadness seems cruel, but in any event, it does not seem personal. It might just be an attempt to understand the phenomenon by re contextualizing it: putting it in combination after combination after combination in an attempt to gain some feel or insight. It might also be an attempt to deal with our own awkwardness in the presence of that kind of low key “I’d ask ‘what’s the point is I still gave a damn” malaise-Keanu does seem detached in a surreal way in the original photos and the copies seem to emphasize that.