The Internet is a place of dreams. Sometimes the type of dreams that keep giving, the type that make you want to sleep all day. Sometimes those dreams are terrible, dark, disturbing, and downright disrespectful, but nonetheless they all coexist within the same realm. Within these individual dreams there is a code that is a modern-day driving force of the Internet. Although the code can change over time, there is one code that has been pretty constant throughout the 2010s – a code known for its familiar label: meme. The word meme originated far before the Internet was in existence, as Richard Dawkins coined the term in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. Dawkins used the study of genetics to define meme, as for Dawkins, the meme found itself as another self-replicating unit with the potential magnitude to effect and explain human behavior and cultural evolution.
As for the Internet age, memes really started to dominate and evolve around the same time the World Wide Web evolved as well. Internet memes started to pick up steam during the rise of what is known as Web 2.0, a term used to describe cultural evolution within the Internet, as users transitioned from passive viewers during the time of Web 1.0 into a culture of communal collaboration, something that is seen predominantly on social media and message board sites today. Some might remember classic memes like, “The Hampsterdance,” “Rick Rolling,” or “Rage Comics,” but in today’s day in age of the Internet, “Bad Luck Brians,” and “ Guys” are taking a back seat to SpongeBob and Gavin memes, as memes continue to evolve as culture evolves.
Just like a dream, memes can change on a whim slipping and sliding with the flow of culture at the particular time. One example of this is the evolution of the once innocent “Pepe the Frog” meme. The one-time king of Internet message boards has now become the symbol for right-wing internet extremism popping up sporadically on your Uncle Ted’sFacebook making fun of “butthurt liberals,” or “soyboy cucks.” Throughout the insanity of what was the 2016 political season, memes dominated both sides of the political spectrum. Both left and right attacked through the easy to understand format of political memes, but also through the influence of outside nations, as Russian operatives used memes to take away from the political discourse that was needed throughout the toxic 2016 campaign. Russian agents used a variety of tactics, from politically charged posts on Facebook and Instagram encouraging users to join Pro-Donald Trump groups, to memes conveying more controversial messages ranging from a religiously charged meme comparing Hillary Clinton to Satan, to a piece of art portraying Senator Bernie Sanders in a speedo painted in LGBTQ Pride Colors, to a meme blaming the fall of the Black Panthers on the U.S. Government. In fact, a super PAC took action to defend the Hillary Clinton camp from anti-Hillary memes and messages spread online during their campaign, through the use of pro-Clinton memes and Twitter accounts.
Within one decade, memes have played roles all the way from the catalyst of modern-day humor to political influencers on both sides of the aisle, but there exists one market that has yet to hit the mainstream, which one former Tallahassee native is now tapping into.
Kyle Stratis – who just recently moved himself and his family from Tallahassee to Boston – is the CEO and head of data for Danqex. Danqex, formerly known as Nasdanq, took the idea of the electronic exchange company Nasdaq byimplementing the popular idea of selling and buying stocks into the universe of meme popularity. Although Danqex had to change their name due to a disagreement with Nasdaq, the company is still maintaining the format of a stock exchange, described by Stratis as, “a stock exchange for memes, with prices determined not by buying and selling, but by the popularity of a meme on social media.” Right now, Danqex’s website is closed to the public, as their homepage displays a message thanking their Beta Testers for all their work, as well as previewing the future for the company. With the message geared more towards the testers who were directly involved with the development of “Round 1” of the website, Stratis gives us a more user-friendly explanation for the future of his company. For the first phase of the website Stratis and his team wanted to get something out there as quickly as possible. As far as the next phase, he wants to be “100 percent focused on bringing a stable, feature rich, and aesthetically pleasing market experience to our users.” Stratis wants the next update in the website to offer more advanced characteristics. “It includes newer features that will reach beyond the stock trading,” said Stratis. He also hopes a ground-up rewrite of both their analysis engine and website will lead to more enhanced stability and responsiveness. With more and more evolution within the world of memes, at the heart of Danqex comes a unified goal, a goal Stratis says, revolves around the quantification of meme popularity.
Stratis defines an Internet meme as, “anything that is spread and represents some idea or some group/subculture,” but in regards to the impact memes have on our society today Stratis says Danqex can be a huge tool for historians looking back on our time period: “Internet memes, and memes in general, are already an area of study today [known as memetics], and one of the things we are trying to do with Danqex is quantify the different dimensions of memes, with the first being popularity,” said Stratis, as he mentioned Danqex’s desire to provide their data to researchers down the road.
Stratis is also a moderator for the popular meme-centric subreddit, r/MemeEconomy. This involvement with the social news website Reddit helps him stay fresh and keep fellow meme aficionados in the know when it comes to rising and sinking memes. A personal fan of “deep fried” and “black holed” memes, Stratis mentioned r/MemeEconomy is the place where the Danqex team first met, as well as a community that started the evolution of the self-described, “The Leading Internet Trends Magazine,” Meme Insider, which collaborates with Danqex as a co-founder and developer of the meme-centric magazine met Stratis on r/MemeEconomy. Stratis felt the subreddit presents itself as a community of collaboration. “More importantly though is that the sub was where our team first met and started putting this together, it incubated Danqex and Meme Insider as well, and I hope more community driven projects come from it,” said Stratis.
Internet memes have sustained themselves in our lives for the past decade now. We have seen them bring laughs, joy, anger, and political discord. Memes are far from over as their adaptability will bring themselves further and further into the future of humanity. Danqex started off as something fun Stratis and his Internet cohorts put together, but it could go down as one of the first conglomerations of a new kind of historical marker: the meme.