Seems that every time we stake our claim as preeminent academics, we get sucked back in by LOLcats. CMS alum Sam Ford spoke this week with social media blog Mashable on The Million Dollar Question: Why Does the Web Love Cats?:
“Juxtaposing surprising meanings over cat images, a la the LOLcats phenomenon, allows us to engage in an activity humans have long been doing: projecting our thoughts onto the mysterious countenance of felines,” says Sam Ford, director of digital strategy with Peppercom, research affiliate with the MIT Convergence Culture Consortium, and co-author of the forthcoming book Spreadable Media.
The money quote eventually belongs to Jack Shepherd, though followed by more thoughtfulness from Ford:
While dogs have had a few notable successes online, they nowhere near match their feline counterparts for popularity. Jack Shepherd, community manager at BuzzFeed has a theory why.
“Dogs are the equivalent of a creative professional trying to manufacture ‘the next viral sensation’ to advertise a brand – sure, they’ll have a hit now and again, but unless it’s really exceptional work, you’ll just ignore it, because you know they’re doing it to get your attention,” says Shepherd.
“When a dog gets in a box, it’s because he desperately wants you to think he’s cool. When a cat does it, it’s because it suddenly felt like the right thing to do at the time. More often than not, it totally was. I think it’s the very aloofness of cats that makes us want to caption their thoughts, or put them in front of a keyboard and see what happens. The many Keyboard Dogs were a failure not just because they came second, but because they were enjoying themselves far too much.”
Sam Ford, meanwhile, suggests that dogs are just too easy to read: “Throughout the history of civilization, humans have had a deep fascination with cats. While dogs’ forms of communication — and understanding of language — are more closely aligned with humans, cats are particularly fascinating because they are not necessarily as easy to read.”
“Thus, watching a cat’s exploits on YouTube can be all the more surprising, because we all know it’s harder to train cats to do something. Seeing video of The Moscow Cats Theater leads us to marvel, ‘How’d they do that?’” says Ford.