ABSTRACT

This chapter discusses the case of the Van Der Memes, Internet memes based on close-ups of actor James Van Der Beek (hereafter, JVDB) expressing feelings that, born as user-generated content, end up working as marketing tools for a rebranding campaign of the actor. This case study is used as a prism for understanding the dynamics of transformations of media objects in contemporary media culture, where an idea can evolve and take different forms according to specific technological, cultural, institutional and economic contingencies, ultimately blurring the boundaries between binaries like past and present, ephemerality and permanence, replication and creation of meaning, bottom/up practices and top/down strategies. I therefore propose an examination that, in trying to untangle a complex wave of heterogeneous cross-platforms and cross-spaces practices, ultimately accounts for the transformations of meaning and values, across time and contexts, of the media objects, texts, and presonalities involved. Given all these considerations, I will finally argue that, given certain conditions, a past cultural phenomenon could turn into a contingent memory of itself, shaped by and retrofitted to a new cultural context in order to make it valuable and (hopefully) profitable again.