A Lolcat refers to an image or video featuring a cat and accompanied by a humorous caption (Lol is the acronym for laugh out loud translated into French by MDR, mort de rire), written in broken English.
The caption is believed to be a thought expressed by the cat depicted and the loose language makes a mockery of the way many cat owners address their pets.
In the 1870s, the photographer Harry Pointer was already producing such images, without the phenomenon being on the same scale as that known since 2000. So why such success today on the net?
The Lolcats: A Mass Phenomenon
The Lolcats belong to the large family of internet meme, that is to say an element taken up and declined en masse on the Internet. One of the earliest memes is from 1996 and featured a computer image of a dancing infant against a black background.
Internet memes spread virally across the web, reaching global popularity within days and disappearing just as abruptly. The offbeat register between representation and legend is a characteristic and the humorous dimension is essential to ensure the success of the broadcast.
The Lolcats would not constitute a mass phenomenon without the need that each member of the community to contribute to the group by producing it himself. The goal is to get noticed to stand out.
Lolcats have of course attracted the attention of researchers and industrialists seeking to understand their growth and their rapid impact for the former, and to reproduce the mechanisms for promote a product or service for the latter. It could well be a waste of time because the success of this easy online fun is also due to its being free.
The Place Of The Cat On The Internet
The idea that cats are the stars of the net is an idea that has imposed itself but has not really been demonstrated. Some journalists had fun researching whether cats were really the undisputed stars or whether dogs could claim that title as well. All content combined, the result is far from clear cut.
But the phenomenon of the Lolcats, which really took off in 2006 and has persisted since, imposes the cat in mind in the culture of the meme. Diane Lisarelli and Titiou Lecoq, journalists who have worked seriously on the subject, relay the idea that this success is the sign of folklore, a term which designates the traditions common to a people.
The people in question are the geek community. Indeed, some do not hesitate to see in the chat a symbol of the geek because they are just as selfish, asocial and hairy as the other.
However, the community of people using Lolcats now goes far beyond just geeks: some people now have the habit of sending Lolcats to each other to express their feelings in a more or less direct way.