On GraphJam and What’s Gone Wrong With It

You Did It

I used to love GraphJam, one of the many sites on the Cheezburger network noted for its user-generated content.  Used to, that is, since it’s now seems to have gotten rather boring. Something’s changed.

See, whereas originally GraphJam just translated various pop culture references — usually song lyrics — into graph form, it’s now gotten into observational humour.

The problem is that the current crop of contributors (auto-recruited from the ranks of Time Magazine’s 2006 Person Of The Year and noted Everyman, You) are trying to make jokes in the format of a graph rather than, as before, out of the graph.  The earlier graphs worked precisely because they weren’t jokes per se, but rather earnest representations of data in graph form.  It just so happens that the data set is drawn from song lyrics and movie quotes.

Some exampling follows.

Old GraphJam:
funny graphs
see more Funny Graphs

funny graphs
see more Funny Graphs

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

All brilliant (although I think there may be some inaccuracies in the “I Am The Walrus” Venn diagram).  I couldn’t find the one charting personnel distribution in the Yellow Submarine.

Now check the new GraphJam.  Note the devolution into lame observational humour.

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

song chart memes
see more Funny Graphs

Okay, that last one was quite clever, but still, it’s kind of a shame to see the ol’ GraphJam lose the deadpanned absurdity of its earlier work.  What’s striking is how quickly it changed — it’s not yet two years old.

As more people became exposed to the site, some didn’t quite get the “joke” of the format and instead used for it their own simplisticly humorous observations on daily life. This illustrates that, well, most people just aren’t very funny.  While it’s great that The Internet has allowed a forum for Everyone’s own voice, the fact of the matter, mean as it may be, is that not every voice is worth hearing.

For GraphJam to work, the author-function of the submitting user must be minimized, in a manner not dissimilar from someone playing MadLibs.  Since the GraphJam formula itself is funny, endless repetitions of the same basic joke (representing song lyrics in graph form) work when you have the endless supply of pop cultural “riffs” to play with.  Sorta like the blues.  Also, getting the “joke” is a kind of shibboleth since the graph is only really funny if you know where the reference is from.

But, alas, GraphJam has become swamped with the mediocre comedic stylings of masses of unfunny fools emulating the lame observational humour of hack stand-ups and formulaic sit-coms.  Those same masses whose aspirations are lured by the seduction of the Everyman Celebrity Archetype as seen on TV.  I’m all for turning the consumer into a producer an’ all, but damnit, this sucks!  Sorta like how in a world where digital technology has enabled anyone with a personal computer to make professional sounding music, everyone’s playing Guitar Hero because they’d much rather pretend to be musicians than actually be musicians.

Still, a toast to GraphJam.  A victim of its own popularity: what was once an outlet for rogue bureaucratites has since been taken over by the Twilight lovin’, High School Musical diggin’, eMoticon usin’ Legions of the Lumpenjuvenalia.


Moreover, I advise that Carthage be destroyed.


~ by Isaac Bickerstaff on September 17, 2009.

4 Responses to “On GraphJam and What’s Gone Wrong With It”

  1. The Wu-tang one is awesome.

  2. I sought out the definition of “shibboleth” and my mind was subsequently blown. Remind me to discuss this with you.

    In other news, The Walrus definitely is I, so keep up the fine crate-digging and Innerwebz-dredging, dear Dr. Bickerstaff.

  3. Pretty Gay :L
    + Ohh And Sort These Graphs Out They Are Absolutally Shit ! :L
    No Shit Hahahaahaaaa :L

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