Repurposing memes for presentations.

06 December 2014

I'm all for people reading, listening to, and watching the classics of any form of media. They're the basic cultural memes that so many other cultural communications are built on top of, and occasionally get riffed on that we all seem to silently recognize, whether or not we know where they're from or the context they originally had. You may not know who the Grateful Dead are or recognize any of their music (I sure don't), but if you're a USian chances are that you've at least seen the new iterations of the hippie movement and recognize the general style affected by adherents thereof due to the significant overlap between the two. Most of us, at one point or another, recognize scenes from Romeo and Juliet on television even though we may not have read the play or seen a stage production thereof. They're all around us, like the air we breathe or the water fish swim in (whether or not fish are actually aware that they swim in something called water isn't something I intend to touch on in this post).

More under the cut for spoilers, because I'm feeling nice. That said, it gets to me a little when I see people reference certain memes so far out of context that the original meaning runs completely counter to what they're trying to express. Not too long ago, I sat through a presentation that used this noteworthy image (local copy from the previous link, used without permission under the Fair Use doctrine) to introduce something new and very cutting edge. Rah rah rah, this is the future, let's do this...

Except that screenshot is from one of the more notorious scenes of the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey where David Bowman disconnects the homocidally paranoid ship's AGI, HAL-9000. Perhaps I'm coming at this from a nonstandard perspective on how ideas work, but it seems to me that a scene which depicts the forcible disconnection of a vast (albeit proven dangerous) intelligence in a treacherous manner isn't the best association to make with a new software product. It sort of taints things a little I think, kind of like not getting your paintbrush completely clean before moving on to the next shade.