‘Lol (Laugh Out Loud) Cats’ are pictures of cute kittens or fluffy animals, often with trite or humorous sentiments added to them. Many people post them on sites such as FaceBook. This series by Manchester documentary photographer David Dunnico, takes Lol Cats and adds quotes from political and philosophical sources that would not normally be seen on this type of picture. The juxtaposition satirises the genre, using an advertising technique of mixing unexpected elements to surprise the viewer and make the message stand out.
Media scholar Ethan Zuckerman has developed the “cute cat theory of digital activism”. This argues that most people use the web for mundane activities such as surfing for porn (or re-posting other people’s Lol Cats) on social media sites including FaceBook, Twitter, and Flickr. As we saw recently in the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings, activists can make use of these same sites. The mass adoption of such tools protects activists from reprisals by governments, as shutting down a popular public platform would provoke more of an outcry than closing a dedicated activist forum. The more mundane use of social media subsidises more serious uses, just as the millions of snap shots taken every day give economies of scale to photographic companies and subsidise art and documentary photography.