Grumpy Cat. Doge. Ermahgerd.

Memes–love ’em or hate ’em, they’re inescapable. But even these simple photos with humorous captions had to start somewhere and Finn Brunton, Professor in the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU Steinhardt, tells the story of the origin of online memes, a story that is surprisingly complex, serendipitous, and rooted in western anglophone Internet culture.

The story starts with a New York City-based teenager named Chris Poole, a website he created called 4chan, and ends, improbably, with corporate co-opting and the design of protest signs around the world.

And all the while, it’s really a story about online culture, persistent anonymity, and creativity as a result of limited bandwidth and server space.

Finn Brunton ( is a scholar of the relationships between society, culture and information technology -- how we make technological decisions, and deal with their consequences. He focuses on the adoption, adaptation, modification and misuse of digital media and hardware; privacy, information security, and encryption; network subcultures; hardware literacy; and obsolete and experimental media platforms. He is the author of Spam: A ... View Profile