Conference Celebrates Internet Pop Culture

The first 'ROFLCon' featured panel discussions with Internet celebrities

Unnamed photo
Xinran Yuan

Ben Huh of “I Can Has Cheezburger” and Adam Lindsay of “LOLCode” crack Stephen Granades of “LOLTrek” and Martin Grondin of “LOLCat Bible” up during the LOLCats: I Can Haz Case Study panel at “ROFLCon” Friday afternoon.

The sight of a man in a glowing, skintight suit might make some people roll on the floor laughing (ROFL). But the “Tron Guy” was a subject of academic debate over the weekend at the first-ever “ROFLCon,” a convention held at MIT devoted to exploring Internet popular culture.

Organized by Tim R. Hwang ’08, the conference featured panel discussions with Internet celebrities such as Homestar Runner, Brad Neely of Super Deluxe, and Drew Curtis of Fark.com.

Included among the almost 100 guest speakers at the event was Christian Lander of the blog “Stuff White People Like.”

Lander said he is not worried about the spin-offs, such as “Stuff Educated Black People Like,” that have been inspired by his site.

“They’re not really that funny,” he said, adding that he’s partial to the title “White Stuff People Like.”

Scholars of popular culture also made an appearance.

Organizers said that as a combination of fan convention and academic conference, ROFLCon occupied a difficult space between celebrating Internet culture and critically examining it.

“It’s been a bit of a struggle this entire time to define what we are,” said Carrie E. Andersen ’08, who helped plan the weekend. “We sort of say that we’re on an edutainment model.”

Although ROFLCon was created largely through the efforts of Harvard students, the conference was forced to move down Mass. Ave to MIT due to space issues at Harvard.

According to Hwang, the College could not accommodate the 500 registered attendees and guests.

Harvard College rules would also have prevented the panels and keynote speakers from being recorded, Hwang added.

Assistant Professor of Visual and Environmental Studies J.D. Connor said he worried the change in venue would cause Harvard to lose an opportunity to boost its reputation as an authority on the study of contemporary society.

“When people think of cutting edge research study on popular culture, they do not think of Harvard,” he said.

Though its first year was a success, the future of ROFLCon has yet to be determined, according to organizers.

“To be honest, we haven’t given that much thought to what to do next year,” Hwang said.

For others, the better question is not what next year holds in store, but why ROFLCon wasn’t organized until this year.

“It just makes too much sense,” Connor said of the first-ever event. “I would hate for it to be a one-time thing.”