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A discussion with artist and filmmaker Matthias Fritsch on why and how he is planning to produce a film about the story of my favourite internet meme: the Technoviking, a story that involves millions of users and that lately got him into court continue

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“The next 27 minutes are an experiment,” says the faceless narrator. “But in order for it to work, you have to pay attention.”

That’s the arresting introduction of Kony 2012, a viral documentary dedicated to stopping the war criminal Joseph Kony, head of the Lord’s Resistance Army. Kony is infamous for kidnapping children and turning them into child soldiers, among other atrocities.

But he’s not famous. That’s what the documentary, and the ambitious viral campaign it spearheads, is trying to change. It’s already attracted both a massive online audience — and a backlash.

The visually sophisticated documentary tells the story of the Lord’s Resistance Army’s brutal history in Uganda — it doesn’t say much about Kony’s flight to the Democratic Republic of Congo and Central African Republic — mostly through the eyes of Jacob, a child refugee whose brother was killed by the militia. At one point, the boy says he would prefer to die rather than to live in the world Kony has made. It hits like an emotional sledgehammer.

And that lays the foundation for the campaign the movie essentially advertises. The nonprofit group behind it, Invisible Children, supports President Obama’s recent deployment of 100 military advisers to Uganda to help its army hunt Kony, a decision that required years of grassroots demands from humanitarian activists. In order to make sure the pressure keeps up, and Kony is ultimately arrested — this year — Invisible Children wants to plaster the cities of the world with red, visually striking KONY 2012 posters, stickers and t-shirts.

The video is essentially a plea to take the campaign viral in time for a planned action on April 20, in which Invisible Children hopes to mass-advertise KONY 2012 that night, globally, so the world will “wake up to hundreds of thousands of posters.” Action kits containing stickers, posters, bracelets, information and t-shirts are going for a $30 donation on the group’s website. And the filmmakers want to enlist celebrities, athletes and politicians for the campaign, everyone from Sen. John Kerry to Bono to Mark Zuckerberg.

Beyond the specifics of the action, the “experiment” the movie refers to is basically a test of global internet culture. It’s an experiment in marshaling connectedness to stop atrocities. And that’s what’s earned KONY 2012 its fair share of critics.

There’s no doubt the campaign has made an impact. In just two days, a documentary that’s too long to be viewed casually has racked up over 4 million YouTube views and counting. The hashtag #stopkony is trending in the U.S. in a major way, and there’s also #kony2012. The movie has co-signs ranging from Human Rights Watch to the rapper Waka Flocka Flame. “Arresting Joseph Kony will prove that the world we live in has new rules,” the documentary promises, “that the technology that brings our planet together is allowing us to respond to the problems of our friends.”

Not everyone thinks that’s an unambiguously good thing.

While calling KONY 2012 “one of the most pervasive and successful human rights based viral campaigns in recent memory,” the conflict blogger Mark Kersten argues the documentary is “obfuscating, simplified and wildly erroneous.” Kersten takes it to task for ignoring the complexities of the U.S. military deployment, such as the demonstrated failures of earlier missions aimed at stopping Kony, and for neglecting to interview northern Ugandans who want peace at the cost of living with a free Kony.

“‘Kony 2012,’ quite dubiously, avoids stepping into the ‘peace-justice’ question in northern Uganda,” Kersten writes, “precisely because it is a world of contesting and plural views, eloquently expressed by the northern Ugandans themselves.” Other online critics have made similar points; one effectively accuses Invisible Children of lining its own pockets with donations.

It’s way too early to know if the criticism will resonate, or if Invisible Children will respond. For now, the movement is unapologetically grandiose in its aspirations. “If we succeed,” the documentary states, “we change the course of human history.” The first step is ricocheting around the Internet. The second will be whether the world awakes on April 21 to unignorable KONY 2012 posters, banners, stickers and street art. The final step — stopping one of the world’s most infamous war criminals — is far less certain.

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At Book Off last week, I picked up an English translation of Tsutsumi Seiji’s Japan’s Consumer Society: A Critical Introduction 『消費社会批判』. Tsutsumi is, for those who do not know his legend, the man behind the Saison retailing group and its sophisticated retail chains Seibu Department Store, PARCO, Loft, Mujirushi Ryohin (MUJI), Wave, and Seed. He is also a former Marxist and award-winning poet/novelist who used his industrial power to support avant-garde artists such as Terayama Shuji.

The title of Tsutsumi’s book is a bit misleading: The volume is mostly abstract and theoretical, quoting Barthes, Bourdieu, and Baudrillard rather than talking about the specifics of Japanese consumer society. Written in 1996 — just as the Bubble had popped and the consumer market was about to peak — Tsutsumi offered many critiques to the Japanese industrial system. He, however, sounded most worried about Japan’s lag in the information technologies. When framed within the context of mobile phones and video games, this may have seemed like a silly concern. The following facts about the state of computer usage within Japan, however, grabbed my attention:

[A] 1993 study…of the diffusion rates for personal computers in the office showed Japan at 9.9% and the United States at 41.7%. Looking at Internet-connected systems as of January 1995, Japan had only 96,632 compared to the United States’ 3,179,170, and the gap is widening year by year. (174)

This data reveals a very significant difference in the centrality of the personal computer and Internet within the two perspective societies — even when held for population.

Of course, Japan eventually “caught up” and now boasts an impressive Internet diffusion rate. Thanks to highly-evolved mobile phones, even non-PC users can connect to the Internet (or its i-mode simulacra). Yet when you look at the “cultural development” of the Net, Japan still feels stunted. The most obvious example is that a very niche site like 2ch still works as the central hub for Net cultural creation and sets the overall tone, despite the core users’ non-mainstream values such as obsession with little girls and bitter neo-right-wing tendencies.

These computer diffusion numbers from 1995 help explain what is happening: Internet culture does not just rely upon the current state of usage but a compounded set of familiarities and expectations about the medium forged over a broad historical period. If less than 10% of the working Japanese population used computers in the 1990s and very few families had computers at home, that means that most Japanese people are not likely to be comfortable with computers nor communicating through them. Even those who have embraced computers in the last decade do not have a lifetime of knowledge about them from which to pull.

Personally speaking, my father’s work on math and statistics meant we always had a PC at home — from a TRS-80 to a Mac Classic II. Part of my joy of using computers and belief in the power of the Internet comes from my good fortune of being exposed to both PCs and the Net at an early age. And I do not think my case was that rare.

Conversely you cannot expect a population without these experiences to somehow make a full psychological embrace of the medium. This is especially true for older Japanese who likely never used computers at work nor saw their peers and neighbors use them with any kind of regularity. And based on the relative recentness of PC diffusion, we should expect that the top decision-makers in Japanese companies — who have always traditionally been in their 50s and 60s — do not have a deep-seated familiarity with the computer.

In this sense, I would argue that while Japan has caught up in terms of infrastructure, the idea of using computers as a social and communicative tool is still very young within a great majority of the population.

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Brain Bleach (a.k.a Mind Bleach or Eye Bleach) is a fictitious product referenced in reaction to someone else’s post containing undesirable online content. Often presented as a cure-all for unpleasant memories or online experiences, Brain Bleach may be served as parodical images of an actual detergent bottle or photographs of beautiful models or cute animals as to reduce the effect of trauma. See also: What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen.


The metaphor of bleaching one’s brain has been previously illustrated in popular TV shows and films through colloquial expressions like “poking one’s eye out” or “flossing one’s brain.” Such phrases have been quoted on numerous occasions through popular TV sitcoms like Cheers, Fraiser and Friends in the 1990s.

“Pardon me. I’ve got to go poke out my mind’s eye.”
--Frasier Crane, Frasier, “The Ring Cycle” (Airdate: September 24th, 2002)

The online practice of sharing awesome images as a way to cope with post-traumatic stress most likely began on popular imageboards and forums where users are prone to share gross or shocking content, such as 4chan, SomethingAwful and FARK. The earliest documentation of the term can be found in a YTMND[1] site titled “pass the eye bleach!” originally posted in October 2005. The earliest Urban Dictionary[2] entry on “eye bleach” was submitted on September 5th, 2007.

Eye Bleach: a product used on the eyes when disturbing content, in line with internet rule 34, has been viewed and cleansing is necessary. steel wool may also be applied in severe cases.

“Damn it, the image of it is burned into my eyes!”
“Quick, use the eye bleach to remove”

A similar definition entry for “Brain Bleach”[3] was submitted on November 1st, 2007, which was later chosen by the editorial staff as the “Urban Word of the Day” on June 28th, 2009.


The bleach product is often presented as a cure-all for unpleasant memories or online experiences, most notably shock sites or gross media like Goatse, Two Girls One Cup and Lemon Party. The usage of “brain bleach” is also comparable to that of Rule 34 and What Has Been Seen Cannot Be Unseen image macros.

Although the meme was initially referred to as “eye bleach,” it inspired several variations including “mind bleach” and “brain bleach”; all versions essentially serve the same function. On Facebook[4], there are several groups and fan pages dedicated to “eye bleach” as well as “brain bleach” and “mind bleach.”

Eye Bleach

A product used on the eyes when disturbing content has been viewed and cleansing is necessary. This version is only used on the eyes and therefore only serves for content that has been seen. The term “Steel wool” may also be applied in severe cases. A website called[5] was launched on November 13th, 2007. The for-female counterpart website[6] was launched on December 24th, 2010.

Brain Bleach

Slight different than Eye Bleach, “brain bleach” is the only cure when something awful is thought to have been permanently engrained into one’s memory. Used when “Eye Bleach” and “steel wool” are not good enough, it removes bad memories and DO NOT WANT moments in general. The term has also seen minor usage outside the context of Internet culture, as in “I got wasted last night.”According to the TV Tropes[8] article:

In the sporking/MSTing/mocking community, there exists an offspring named Bleeprin which is a mixture of industrial-strength Brain Bleach and Aspirin -- Aspirin against the headache, Brain Bleach against the Badfic. Also Bleepka, which combines Brain Bleach and vodka. Its application is obvious.

Mind Bleach

Similar to “Brain Bleach”, mind bleach is considered a type of mental palate cleanser and something to clear your mind after being exposed to something disturbing or simply having a bad day. It is sometimes used interchangeably with the term “Unicorn Chaser.”[7] was launched on October 13th, 2010. Mostly consisting of pictures of cute animals and beautiful women, the website is intended to help wipe away the unpleasant aftermath from one’s brain.

Search Interest

Brain Bleach raised a peak in search interest in early 2005. General search interest in the meme began circa 2006 with the keyword Eye Bleach. Later in 2009, the term Brain Bleach began to yield some more interest, which was followed by the emergence of Mind Bleach in 2010.

External Links

[1]YTMND – Pass the Eye Bleach!

[2] Urban Dictionary – Eye Bleach

[3] Urban Dictionary – Brain Bleach

[6] Facebook – All Results for Brain Bleach

[5] – Need Some Eye Bleach?

[6] – Need Some Eye Bleach?

[7] – Mind Bleach

[8] TVTropes – Brain Bleach

[9]KYM Visual Analysis – Shock Sites

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The art of Nick Gentry has been featured at Illusion in the past, however, here is a glimpse at his new work.

READ MORE (160 words)

Our Sponsors: SiteGrinder | LiveBooks | OneEyeland | Uneetee | Drawing Day 2011

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xkcd is a webcomic created by Randall Munroe, an ex-NASA robotics expert and programmer. Characters within the series are drawn as stick figures, and the subject matter typically centers around math, science, and Internet culture. The tagline on[1] read “A webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” All comics are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.[2]


The domain was registered on January 25th, 2003. In an interview with redhat[3], Randall explained the meaning behind the name:

“Actually the domain name came after the instant messenging screen name, which I picked late one night. Five, six, maybe seven years ago, I was tired of having names that meant something. Skywalker4, Animorph7… I wanted to pick a name that I wouldn’t get tired of. That would just always mean me. So I just went down combination of letters that weren’t taken, until I could find one that didn’t have any meaning, didn’t have any pronunciation, and didn’t seem like an obvious acronymn for anything.”

In September 2005, Munroe began to publish scanned copies of his school notebook drawings on xkcd, which became the sole focus on the website.


A character wearing a black hat often appears in the series, and Randall stated he was inspired by the character Aram from the Men in Hats webcomic in an interview with Wikinews[9]:

I started putting the man in the hat, when I just wanted to say the most absurd thing. A lot of the time, I’m in a real life situation and I think what’s the most hurtful thing, what’s the worst way this can go, and have someone do that gleefully. That’s just a recipe for comedy right there. Then I have the guy in the hat so I’d put all that on him and then say “but that’s not the main guy, he’s much nicer than that” and, and I took that, the black hat symbolizes that for me because Aram from the now ended webcomic Men in Hats also wore a hat.

Other recurring characters include a woman named Megan with short hair, a nihilist that is often paired with an existentialist wearing a beret, and a boy in a barrel. Representations of famous people frequently appear including blogger Cory Doctorow, free software advocate Richard Stallman, several Firefly cast members including Summer Glau and Nathan Fillion, and zombie versions of Richard Feynman and Marie Curie.

Inspired Activities and Submemes

The strip has inspired fans to act out certain activities depicted in the strip. Here are a few examples:
-While visiting the Yale Political Union, Richard Stallman was attacked by students dressed as ninjas.
-In the strip, Cory Doctorow is often depicted with goggles, a red cape and riding in a hot air balloon. At the 2007 EFF Pioneer Awards, he was given these items (with the exception of the hot air balloon, which was replaced with a smaller rubber balloon) to wear while accepting the award.
-YouTube has placed an Audio Preview feature on comments, possibly inspired by the strip “Listen to Yourself”.
-Alter the appearance of the “Troll Slayer” strip, which parodied 4chan’s hatred of Twilight, /b/ was changed temporarily to the “Twilight Appreciation Station”. Munroe disabled registration on his site’s forums to prevent trolls from retaliating.

Roller Coaster Chess

The strip “Chess Photo” has prompted many people to go on various amusement park rides and take pictures playing chess, checkers or other games. For more information, see main entry.

Online Community Maps

The first map of online communities was published on xkcd[4] on May 2nd, 2007. Randall based the size of each geographic area on estimated membership numbers. On October 6th, 2010, Randall published an updated map[4] with revised estimates based on volume of social activity rather than membership numbers.


As of July 20th, 2011, has an Alexa[5] ranking of 1,255, a Quantcast[6] ranking of 4,005, and a Compete[7] ranking of 2,345.


A book titled “xkcd: volume 0” with a collection of xkcd was released in September of 2009. The book was released under a Creative Commons license and published by Breadpig, a company started by Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian. According to Breadpig[7] n 6 months the book sold over 25,000 copies, and donated $52,961.78 to the Room to Read[8] charity organization.

External Links

[1] xkcd

[2] xkcd – license

[3] redhat – xkcd

[4] xkcd – Online Communities

[5] Alexa –

[6] Quantcast –

[7] Breadpig – The xkcd school in Laos is complete! Rejoice!

[8] Room to Read

[9] Wikinews – Randall Munroe, writer of xkcd, talks about the comic, politics and the internet

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