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Pentagon will pay you to be an 'Internet meme tracker'

AntiSec via Examiner

It's been three days since the potentially iconic image of alleged LulzSec leader "Topiary" — 18-year-old Jake Davis of the Shetland Islands — hit the news. Yet the Internet continues to suffer a dearth of image macros that this kid's face and sunglasses scream for!

Know Your Meme's Don Caldwell pointed me toward an anemic area on the Memes Research Forum in which one commentor suggested: " 'Deal with it' is written all over his sunglasses … It’s glorious." But at the time of this post, hardly any work's been done beyond a few generated by the "Free Topiary" community.  (C'mon, Interwebs! If that was Keanu Reeves, you'd be all over it!)

Rather than suspecting the crowd-sourced creativity that brought us LOLCats and Princess Beatrice's big dumb Cuthulu hat on pretty much everything, I choose to suspect it's the government stopping the meme flow. The ongoing international LulzSec and Anonymous-related arrests reveal the the government is obviously hanging out in cyberspace. Further, the Pentagon is offering $42 million in funding to researchers to help develop its Social Media in Strategic Communications program, the New York Times reports:

As social media play increasingly large roles in fomenting unrest in countries like Egypt and Iran, the military wants systems to be able to detect and track the spread of ideas both quickly and on a broad scale. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency is soliciting innovative proposals to help build what would be, at its most basic level, an Internet meme tracker.

DARPA, y'all! That's the agency that invents new technology for the military. DARPA also gets most of the credit for inventing the Internet, so you'd think they'd have this Internet culture-thing covered, but no. As the document circulating among potential researchers points out:

Recent research has shown that traditional approaches to understanding social media through static network connectivity models often produce misleading results. It is, therefore, necessary to take into account the dynamics of behavior and SMISC is interested in a wide variety of techniques for doing so.

The Internet — it's a tricky place. And it's increasingly trickier to figure out who's doing the tricking.

via The New York Times

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