Wednesday, April 22, 2009


The recent #amazonfail burst of traffic on Twitter to protest Amazon's pulling of sales ranking for gay literature inspired me to look for similar hashtags. Not surprisingly, there are a number of terms to describe other Internet-related "fail" experiences from the user perspective, such as #iphonefail, #vistafail, and #microsoftfail. But the "fail" category is hardly limited to technology. For example, there is #yankeesfail for disgruntled sports fans and #obamafail for discontented political watchers of all partisan stripes.

The phenomenon isn't limited to microblogging. The participatory cultures surrounding the epic "fail" as a cultural event are given a forum at places like Fail blog.

In a unit on "Making," my UCI colleague Julia Lupton lectures to freshmen about what Malcolm Gladwell calls "coolhunting," but -- with the exception of a brief mention of the blog Stuff White People Like -- I might suggest that Lupton could say more about the inverse form of the selection process that Gladwell describes, a form of detective work and a marshaling of collective intelligence that could be described as "lamehunting."

For example, for those who've tired of the competition between cooler-than-thou Flickr photostreams, what could be better than Look at this Fucking Hipster to see the results of the LATFH's ongoing photo safaris in major cities in where lamehunters seek to catch their colorful poseurs in their native habitats. There are a group of a thousand-plus people on Flickr devoted to hating the typeface comic sans and rooting of examples of its (mis)uses.

Sometimes, however, there's real heart under even the most mocking site. As one who follows the role of DIY culture in the long tail of the Internet, I've been a fan of the lamehunting at Craftastrophe with home-sewn fail items like "Someone Got a Laminator for Their Birthday," "Peekaru!!!!!" and "Jam Out With Your Clam Out." However, in "Pull Up a Chair. We Need to Talk," Craftastrophe blogger Karen also explains how this month the site wants people personally to pitch in for the March of Dimes after the death of a child among their online community of bloggers. As the Los Angeles Times explains in "Death of blogger mom's daughter prompts outpouring from Internet community," the Internet can be tender as well as tough.

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Blogger jrlupton said...

I love the "lamehunting" concept! Detecting the uncool is an important element of the cool dialectic, and it deserves its own vocabulary.

8:05 AM  

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