For a couple of days last summer, smoke from the forest fires that were ravaging British Columbia swaddled the city of Vancouver. The truly devastating scenes were occurring around Pemberton where the fire was wreaking havoc, but the visible manifestation in the metropolitan area was unsettling. There was something apocalyptic about the normally yellow sun replaced by a glowing orange yolk sitting ominously in the sky, and the sandpaper scratch of the throat trying desperately to resist the air.
It was comforting when the sky returned to its normal hue a few days later and awareness of the fires diminished, even if they continued to rage unabated. When situations like this occur, there is always conversation and query around the devastation, but in the Internet age, there are so many methods of response that serve the purpose of reaction. Before the smoke had cleared away, some measure of the destruction and degree had already been catalogued online, a response that seemed to move more quickly than wildfire.
There are few things that sum up the need for quick reaction like the image macro. First appearing in 2007 on the website Something Awful, the image macro – more commonly known as the meme – superimposes a picture with text for ironic or comedic effect. In times that insist we acknowledge or respond to every aspect of pop culture, from ISIS to Game Of Thrones, the image macro has become a viral phenomenon.