Paging Naomi Schaefer Riley: crappy or foolish dissertations are not at all confined to black-studies graduate students. According to a piece in the Huffington Post:

Whoever said LOLCats were mindless might have the wrong idea, according to Kate Miltner, who wrote her London School of Economics masters dissertation on the Internet memes.

Titled “SRSLY PHENOMENAL: An Investigation Into The Appeal Of LOLCATS,” Miltner set out to answer, “‘Why in the name of Ceiling Cat are LOLCats so popular?’ What is it about LOLCats that not only fueled their initial popularity, but helped maintain it for years?”

Miltner noted that despite LOLCats’ enormous popularity, they’ve received no serious academic attention.

An LOLcat is basically a cute picture of a cat with text (often misspelled or grammatically incorrect) to express humor or simulate cat emotion. Fans have websites devoted to this concept.


Yes, whatever is presenting LOLCats from receiving serious scholarly research?

Kate Miltner wrote her 98-page dissertation for London School of Economics attempting to figure out the appeal of LOLcats. As she explains:

Unlike most Internet memes whose potency tends to wane after a short period of time, LOLCats have remained relevant and popular for the better half of a decade, inspiring a devoted following. Despite their position as a hallmark of participatory culture, LOLCats—and Internet memes in general— have been largely ignored in academia. This study sought to address this shortcoming through an exploratory, audience-oriented examination of LOLCats’ appeal. In light of the user-generated and social nature of the LOLCat phenomenon, focus groups were conducted to investigate the ways in which the textual and social aspects of LOLCats contribute to their allure.

The research revealed that the LOLCat audience is comprised of three separate groups that interact with and appreciate LOLCats for different reasons. The study also confirmed that LOLCats are operating as a genre, and that the appropriate execution of that genre is central to their enjoyment. Furthermore, it became evident that for most participants, LOLCats’ appeal rests in the intersection of the textual and the social, as exemplified by the use of textual and generic elements such as Lolspeak to perform social functions like establishing in-group boundaries.

Nice to clear that up. Read the dissertation to here. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer