Morse Code to Meme Code


Wifi is down, better learn morse code.

My reaction when a youtube vid takes more than 10 seconds to load.
(Meme by yours truly, via makeameme.org)

From the creation of the telegraph in 1837, to The Hamster Dance as the first ever meme (created around 2000, and the earliest I can recall unless anyone else has another contender?) humans and their clever little brain keep finding new ways to transport information. More efficiently? More condensed?

For sending a telegraph with ten words, it cost the equivalent of $1470. On Twitter, we can only use 140 characters. Different issue, same limitation.

We went from translating messages into dashs and dots, to using memes to illustrate and convey messages, like so above. We construct, we instil a code within the medium, and decode it to understand its meaning, we laugh when we get the reference. Or groan. Depending on the meme. Stalder explains that the digital media environment is the primary setting for human agency, our lifeline for communicating, organising and gathering information (Stadler, 2005). It’s basic structure depends on us utilising it, or each node will shrivel and vanish like a wilted plant.

Like any part of the Nervous System of Materiality in our global network, The telegraph was the appendix, once a crucial organ but eventually replaced by others. The internet and the World Wide Web have become our limbs and legs that allow us to connect and reach others outside of our peripheral. And Memes you ask. What crucial element of our metaphorical bodily system is a meme? Probably a pinky finger or something. Not necessarily crucial but sure is nice to have around!


Stadler, F (2005) ‘Information Ecology’ Open Cultures and the Nature of Networks pp. 62-66


9 thoughts on “Morse Code to Meme Code

  1. Definitely read this entire post in Bear Grylls Voice. I’ve never consider the creation of memes as its own unique form of coding/decoding messages from sender to receiver, you’ve made an interesting connection here to the telegraph which is very effective! Memes themselves are also a very useful medium in making online communities, 4chan and Imgur are great examples of this.

  2. The connection between the twitter and telegraph and their similar limitations is really interesting and reminds me of something Ted touched on in the lecture, how, similar to Facebook today, the telegraph made news seem trivial and unimportant at times. It is definitely interesting to see how, although there is massive progression in technology, there is also similar issues.

  3. So I guess the telegraph was the ‘social media’ of the 19th century – communication, but without the need to foster an interpersonal relationship with the receiver. Maybe in the years to come, we will eliminate verbal and written communication altogether? – according to Zuckerberg, telepathy is the communication of the future! https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-intersect/wp/2015/07/01/mark-zuckerberg-says-the-future-of-communication-is-telepathy-heres-how-that-would-actually-work/

  4. I also thought it was really interesting how you have drawn comparisons from the Telegraph and Twitter, something I had not conceptualised myself! It is true that we are able to communicate meaningful messages through very limited text via Twitter and of course memes. With the ever-increasing development of technology being carried out globally, who knows what kind of communication technology will follow!

  5. I love the brevity and the punchy-ness of this post. It give a great little insight into some history behind communication methods and I like the way you have likened the basic nature of Morse code to the 21st century meme.
    I also really connected with your metaphor in continuing with the ‘nervous system’ of communication. If the meme is the pinky, then youtube videos need to be the thumb; slightly more necessary to our basic survival.

    I also am not sure if you created this meme as it appears that it is from makeameme.org? If so, kudos to you, it made me LOL.

  6. I love your meme. So much. Your post is so concise and informative, the connections are uncanny between such historic and crucial inventions to today’s driving forces of society. The way you have portrayed technology as a constant foundation for new advancements to replace the existing ones is exactly right. Your humour to the post makes a very enjoyable read!

  7. The Bear Grylls meme returns! A really informative post Isabel. I particularly liked the parallels you drew between the Telegram and Twitter, and exploring deeper into the social utility of a meme beside the simple presumption that they are employed only to make us laugh. I agree that although our methods have changed over time, our goal in sending, receiving and decoding has always remained the same.

    If I could make one suggestion; perhaps consider including a small reference (I realise the word limit makes that hard) to one of our weekly readings in future posts. This will help tie it back to the lecture and strengthen your argument!

    But great job, otherwise!

  8. I like how you compared similarities between twitter and the morse code in terms of limitations. I wonder how patient our generation would be if we had to send a telegram to someone. We can’t even remain calm after our video takes more than 30 seconds to load!! Another idea that you could talk about in the future is the whole telepathic thing, that we need less words to communicate and can rely on memes that allow us to understand a sentence worth of emotions. Very well written.

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