Recent news from the Center for Civic Media | MIT Center for Civic Media

Recent news from the Center for Civic Media

Scams: Jason Scott on The Mysterious Case of Robert Hoquim #ROFLCON

Jason Scott is one of the people on the Internet who I most admire. The man behind, he has done amazing work archiving the history of computing through a series of documentaries like Get Lamp and the BBS Documentary.

Jason tells us that this isn’t going to be one of his funny talks.

He tells about The Mysterious Mister Hoqim, a scam artist who he has been studying for many years. Jason tells us that nobody actually knows the last things that went through Bob’s mind when he passed away. After his death, the authorities linked him to a fugitive named John Paul Aleshe. They were given access to a shipping container which belonged to him. When that happened, a multimillion dollar life of fraud fell apart.

Memes from the Year 2000

It's 2012. Nerds are in and internet memes can actually make you famous IRL. But way back in the Year 2000, things were different. YouTube didn't exist, and a video had to be sent around as an email attachment (remember RealPlayer?). Your mom yelled at you for tying up the phone line and GeoCities plastered banners all over your creations.

The past is well-represented here, by Eric Wu of Eric Conveys an Emotion (founded in 1998), Zblofu of Zombocom, and Jonti Picking of Weebl's Stuff. They were all online in the 90's, but things really exploded in 2000.

Eric shot still photos of himself conveying requested emotions, gradually growing more complicated, from sad to conveying sarcastic respect for an authority figure.

The crowd groans as we revisit and see how commercialized the once-pure GIF-overloaded page has become. But its spirit lives on at sites like

From Micro-Fame to Nano-Fame: Nyan Cat, Me Gusta, Huh?, and Double Rainbow at #ROFLCON

ROFLCon has talked about microfame before, but the time to complete internet domination is even shorter than before. Memes now come and go at the rate of several per day, and they're also ever tinier and tinier splices of content: moving away from whole blogs to a few seconds of video here or a single image there.

What's it like to be known for a few seconds or pixels of content?

Mike Rugnetta of MemeFactory is moderating. The panelists include:

When Your 0:15 Seconds of Internet Fame is Up

Panelists: Austin Hall (Daft Hands), Leeroy Jenkins (Leeroy Jenkins), Kyle McDonald (One Red Paperclip), Chuck Testa (Ojai Taxidermy), Christian Lander (mod – Stuff White People Like)

For all those who don’t find their way into the drug-filled corridors of mega-fame and mansion-owning fortune, internet celebrity ends up being just another chapter–albeit a chaotic and awesome one.
So, what do people get up to after their time in the internet spotlight is over? This panel brings together folks that have packed up their bags, moved on, or otherwise returned to life as usual after the meme. What we’re aiming to find is: what has returned to normal? Are they relieved? And, in what ways were their lives irreversibly changed?

When Lulzes Go Global

Moderating is Ethan Zuckerman, the director of The MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media and co-founder of the citizen journalist network Global Voices. He is probably best known for the Cute Cat Theory of Digital Activism.

There are all kinds of great internet memes out there that we don’t get to understand just because we don’t speak the languages. Memes require an enormous amount of background contextual knowledge to understand what, exactly, makes them funny. Ethan references his previous ROFLCon appearance, where talked about Makmende and challenged the organizers to bring in a more global outlook. Fortunately, ROFLCon responded in force and provided Ethan with an all-star panel of international internet culture translators.


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