Meme culture

Imagine trying to explain to your Grandma what a meme is. Where would you begin? I struggled and resorted to showing many examples. I can’t say that really helped though.

The word ‘meme’ was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins used it to describe the way in which information moves within a culture – or how ideas and behaviours spread from person to person. The ‘internet meme’, a format we’re more than familiar with today, is a subset of the concept. In its simplest form, it means ‘to go viral’ (drawn from Dawkins’ initial metaphor of a meme being a virus).

The internet – and through that, social media – has given us a platform to instantly share, rapidly change, grow and shift ideas. Pop culture, current affairs, and stock photos are the inspiration for most memes. From the outside looking in, one might view them as pointless, sarcastic, childish procrastination. But for me, it’s not pointless.

Last year one of my own memes went viral being liked over 40,000 times and very quickly being re-posted/modified by others. As a result, the internet owns it now. It’s not about getting credit. For me, it’s about sharing, relating to others, and often trying to make light of some pretty unpleasant news stories. For example, a gorilla being shot at Cincinnati zoo. Remember, our generation tends to grieve online. (Saying that, Harambe memes are well out of date. You gotta keep up with your current affairs – memes are not just for Christmas.)

But don’t ignore the power of the meme, it can spread like wildfire, especially when there’s a political theme (which is more often than not). Pepe the Frog first appeared online circa 2008 and quickly became a world-famous character. He’s since taken a sinister turn after being associated with the alt-right. That’s not to say that all memes are destined to become hate symbols – but with constant changing, editing and recycling, what starts as something harmless could end up turning sour.

Some of the biggest memes in 2016 were based on the children’s show, LazyTown. They’ve since taken ownership of these memes and have responded by posting original content across their own social media and receiving millions of hits. This is refreshing from the programme’s producers, actively embracing meme culture. I wonder what would happen if a brand/brand symbol ever became a meme? If not embraced, like LazyTown, how would that end? Perhaps with the same fate as Pepe?

 

This time last year…

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January 2016: Waterloo

  • One open-plan office.
  • Twelve Razors.
  • Seventeen humungous desks.
  • Two meeting rooms.
  • Two dodgy printers.
  • One kitchenette.
  • One comfy corner sofa.
  • One roof terrace.
  • LOTS to coordinate.
  • Soooo much clutter.

When Chloë and Steve first talked to me about moving Razor into a new home, I would never in a million years have imagined us ‘living’ where we are today. My original brief was to pretty much take what we had and replicate it on a larger scale (i.e. more meeting rooms). As close to our old office as possible.

I won’t bore you with all the details about the very lengthy and unproductive search. You already know by now that we changed our minds and went for co-working. But why did we?

As time progressed, we realised that having a larger office space would only be beneficial to us when we are all in the office at the same time. Which isn’t actually that often.

Almost all of our team are market researchers. They are out on the road – a lot. During our busiest times, there’d only be a few of us in the office. On rare occasions, I might even get an afternoon to myself (which is great when I want to play my cheesy music while having a massive re-organise sesh).

In short, we ended December 2016 four months into our tenancy at WeWork, Waterhouse Square. Less than two miles up the road, and a million miles away from the kind of office set-up we began the year with. 

For starters, the building we’ve moved into is stunning. It’s majestic-looking from the outside. (Its nickname is ‘Hogwarts’.) The décor inside isn’t too shabby either. Everything is well-maintained throughout the day and gives a fab impression to anyone coming to visit.

Almost all of our researchers are now hot-desking. Believe it or not, quite a scary prospect six months ago!

Having people from other businesses around is a plus. Handy for reminding us that there is a world outside of research. From a selfish point of view, I enjoy seeing those extra faces – especially when my team are busy travelling to their various locations.

Naturally, there are some downsides. Thin (mostly glass) walls. That feeling of being in a goldfish bowl. Echoing sounds. Loud footsteps. But we are also tucked away from the noisiest part of the building which, I think, is not a bad thing.

Our main workspace is much smaller than at our previous office. On the few days we are all in together, it is a squeeze. But this is where the shared workspaces come into their own – especially now that we have our brand new atrium and additional meeting rooms. Whether it’s a quick phone call, a quiet catch-up, or somewhere to spread your papers out, there is always something to suit.

The move also gave us a chance to go even more mobile. Out went the gigantic server and all the dusty wires that cluttered the floor space. In came the Cloud and its beautiful invisibility. Out went all the individual desk phones with their – you guessed it – even dustier wires. In came VOIP calling. We can transfer incoming calls to anyone, anywhere.  

I’d be lying if I said I had no personal concerns for my role at Razor. Much of the day-to-day maintenance I used to take care of is now handled by the brilliant team at WeWork. And if I used to spend ages looking for meeting room venues, I now simply click the members’ app and book a room in any of the offices world-wide. (Job done.) 

Instead of making me feel redundant, what all this has actually done is free up more time for me to get involved in other aspects of the business – something I’m very excited about.

(Speaking of exciting, I could quite easily bang on about the dog-friendly environment, the new prosecco tap, and lots of other fun things for hours. But I won’t. You can see all that via @razorresearch on Instagram.)

Though I’ve written this blog from my own perspective, I did ask the team for anonymous feedback to see how they’re feeling about the new set-up. There are some small niggles that should be easy to fix. And there’s one that’s been a conundrum for me since even before we moved in. All the things that gave our previous office its ‘Razor’ personality came from all the furniture and knick-knacks that we’d accumulated over time. How do we replicate that character in a smaller office without filling it with clutter?

We’ll figure that out eventually. But overall, I’m happy to know that we’re all embracing the change. We’re nothing if not flexible.

So, as we look at the year ahead (our tenth birthday year, in fact!), here’s where we’re at…

January 2017: Holborn

  • Three offices
  • Eleven Razors.
  • Fourteen non-humungous desks. 
  • Loads of meeting rooms to choose from.  
  • A communal printer that’s not my responsibility!
  • Kitchens galore.
  • Sofas aplenty.
  • No roof terrace, sadly. But we’ll live.
  • A LOT LESS to coordinate.
  • Still some clutter. (I’d better work on that…)

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