Wednesday, December 29, 2010

241543903 - the strangest meme

Just type 241543903 into Google and do an image search. What you'll find is hundreds of photos of people putting their heads inside freezers. Really. You will.


241543903 (a.k.a Heads in Freezers) is a numerical keyword photo meme. By tagging a series of image files with a cryptic number, a high level of SEO (search engine optimisation) can be easily achieved on search engine sites. As a result, typing 241543903 into Google Images successfully yields page after page of pictures ... showing people with their heads in freezers.

On April 6, 2009, David Horvitz, a New York based artist known for his often eccentric DIY projects, posted a picture with his head in the freezer on his Flickr account San Pedro Glue Stick. Under the image, it read:

“TAKE A PHOTOGRAPH OF YOUR HEAD INSIDE A FREEZER. UPLOAD THIS PHOTO TO THE INTERNET (LIKE FLICKR). TAG THE FILE WITH: 241543903. THE IDEA IS THAT IF YOU SEARCH FOR THIS CRYPTIC TAG, ALL THE PHOTOS OF HEADS IN FREEZERS WILL APPEAR. I JUST DID ONE."

On the same day, another Flickr user posted a follow-up picture using the same freezer. A few weeks later on April 23rd, a single topic blog dedicated to 'Heads in Freezer, was registered under the domain 241543903.com. The site’s main page displays a headline that reads: Experiencing a MEME in the Making. Since then it's gone from strength to strength.

Okay, so it's all a bit silly and a bit of fun. But it's also an interesting social experiment about the human need to belong and be part of something. As writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace found, people will sign up for anything just to be part of something - even if they sometimes don't know what it is. In his book Join Me, he tells the story of how he accidentally created a cult with thousands of followers just by asking people to 'Join me!' and send a photo to a magazine's PO box number.

We're an odd bunch aren't we?

Want to know more about memes? Click here. It's the 'Know your meme' website.

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