Fri Aug 10, 2012, 02:05 AM
flamingdem (27,025 posts)
Nasa Mohawk Guy - Persian-American at JPL - "hot nerd" goes viral
Forty-eight hours ago, Bobak Ferdowsi had fewer than 200 Twitter followers. This morning, he has almost 40,000. Ferdowsi, also known as "Nasa Mohawk Guy", became an internet sensation after his unusual hairdo caught the eye of those watching the Mars Curiosity landing on Nasa TV. Within hours, he was a trending topic on Tumblr and became a trending hashtag on Twitter. He's been immortalised in image macros, comic fan art, and even T-shirts on Cafepress. While his meteoric rise to fame may not be as remarkable as the Mars landing itself, it prompts the question: what is it about Bobak Ferdowsi that turned him into a meme?
There is no magic formula when it comes to creating memes or making "viral" content. There are certainly ways to stack the deck: content that is humorous, incongruous, and/or part of the zeitgeist is likely to be spread through social networks more often than, say, a boring interview or advert. In looking at the top memes of the past several years, there are few discernible patterns that can be pulled out: some, like LOLCats, have become part of the meme canon; others, like Pepper Spray Cop, became instant phenomena and faded away just as quickly.
Ultimately, memes spread because on some level, they resonate with their audience: people share content that is meaningful to them in one way or another. When it comes to the most popular memes, that underlying meaning often differs across a variety of audiences. In his explanation of Susan Boyle's overnight success and transformation into a meme, Professor Henry Jenkins of USC Annenberg said: "There's no need to identify a single cause for why people spread this content. Different people spread this content for different reasons."
When it comes to Ferdowsi, the reasons why he has struck a chord seem to fall under one of three headings. One is that he is a "hot nerd". A majority of the tweets and coverage featuring Ferdowsi comment on his appearance, or women's reactions to his status as a "sexy scientist", including a plethora of marriage proposals.
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