LOL, OIC, and WTF at ROFLThing 

Meet the latest academic discipline and realm for cultural criticism: Internet culture studies.

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The ultimate problem with such an endeavor is not that these ROFLtalks are intellectual thumb-sucking, or that memes waste our time and herald the death of any semblance of intelligence that civilized people currently possess. The Internet clearly contains copious amounts of information that can be channeled in productive, creativity-enabling ways. The real danger is the insularity of the thing. Like any culture, web culture reeks of cultishness. If you were at ROFLThing and had no idea what Rick-Rolling was (a prank where someone sends you a link, you click on it, and it leads you to a music video of Rick Astley singing "Never Gonna Give You Up"), those jokes, repeated multiple times at ROFLCon and ROFLThing, would seem stupid and unfunny. Although the Internet appears egalitarian, web culture still revolves around a largely well-informed, culturally-attuned, collegiate sensibility — essentially, upper-middle class, white, and nerdy. If ROFLCon hopes to remain the vanguard of Internet culture, perhaps it could take a tip from Buckminster Fuller himself: Use a little comprehensive design to encourage people not to succumb to the mindlessness of LOLing but, instead, to encourage access to anyone who wants to explore the flurry of ideas and information, intellectual or otherwise, on the World Wide Web.


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