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Laughter is the Best Netizen

September 20, 2010

Intuitively enough, the power of networks lies in the power to amplify goods that are even better when shared.  When the network is a digital network, the price of sharing approaches zero for each additional unit of cultural information (i.e., per meme, technically speaking) that is shared.  Quite simply, regardless of whether I put up one post per day or one post per hour, there is no change in the costs of accessing the internet to either me or you.  Over a digital network, information is essentially free to everyone once it has been produced, regardless of the motivation behind the creation.  The only limit on sharing is how worthwhile anyone finds the content to share, and the depth of that individual’s social network (i.e., people reached through degrees of separation, to put it in Baconian terms).  Again, the power of digital is that anyone and everyone is potentially only 1 or 2 links away from the original sharer.

Perhaps more importantly for a consumer of media, cleverness that a creator almost always inherently seeks to share need not remain elusive to the vast majority of the world’s population.  Jokers and merry pranksters need not be limited in their reach by timing or geography because a simple digital capture renders their intellectual prowess immortal.  Take the following examples under consideration:

Sometimes a simple act of sharing can point out a much more efficient (if ironic) way of using a given consumer product, like this:

Or maybe, instead of just sharing one’s own cleverness, the act of sharing can help incite and/or affirm the sense of humor in what can be found in the everyday:

That same capacity for sharing doesn’t exclusively serve low brow punnery; it can also point out profound truths about human fallibility and unperceived injustice.  For example,

Sharing can even be downright poetic when the sharer inverts an invasion of privacy and makes the overactive sharer (e.g., spammers) embarrassed for having engaged where they weren’t welcome.  Like this guy’s ingenious method for getting off an email contact list:

What’s more, when the sharing is for a product that can be grown into something more, the sheer fact of freedom in the sharing allows communities to collaborate and fully flesh out any tidbit of cleverness that is worthy of expanding upon.  The Wikipedia entries for the Omnipotence Paradox (e.g., “Could God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it”) or a simple List of Common Misconceptions are delightful and brilliant examples of how open collaboration judged on the basis of quality can produce a better creative product than an individual who may insist on owning their own arguably artistic work.

But then again, whenever a network accommodates people from all walks of life, you’re bound to find humor that serves a lowest common denominator, which means you’re guaranteed to have plenty of sexual innuendo and shocking smut.  But that doesn’t mean that it won’t be really humourous.  After all, laughter is contagious, and all the more so if it hasn’t been scrubbed clean and sterilized.

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