When the Internet decides it likes something, there’s no stopping its meteoric trajectory. Keeping track of memes, sub-memes and subversions thereof can be an employment-jeopardizing endeavor. Take LOLCATS, the granddaddy of online diversions. How could one possibly be expected to keep track of all the funny, evil and musical kittehs spawned by the World Wide Web? If only there was a dynamic anthology to put it all in perspective.
Lost in the Data aims to be that anthology. The bimonthly online magazine created by Paris-based agency BETC wrangles the sprawling but interconnected strands of popular online trends into an easily digestible package. And its second issue, LOLCATpedia, is dedicated to all those frisky felines who’ve been making us ROTFL for years.
More interactive mind-map than magazine, Lost in the Data’s curated content is what Clarisse Lacarrau, deputy director of strategic planning and head of BETC’s Startup Lab, calls "20 minutes of controlled serendipity." Rather than an aimless dive into the rabbit hole of the interwebs, LITD provides a compendium of cats that elicit a LOL. "We decided to create a new kind of magazine that helps people breath a little bit when it comes to consuming data on the Internet. It allows us to consume content without the pressure of FOMO (fear of missing out)."
Starting with a central bubble, each click reveals a path to new content. Thoughtfully organized around central pillars such as awesome cats, cute cats and evil cats, the site creates a connected picture of the entire meme through videos, images and articles on the topic. And as an introductory disclaimer warns, "we will be considering a broad definition of LOLCATS as cats able to trigger a LOL, whether it be on video, print, or else. So please don’t be a web-scholar douchebag."
Lacarrau says the themes can range from the frivolous to the intellectual. The first issue of Lost in the Data took a more erudite approach by looking at The Hand, and upcoming themes include Hackers and Blonds. But each effort will aim to visually map a particular ecosystem and do the heavy lifting of connecting content around the topic.
More than an amusing exercise in trawling the depths of the web, Lost in the Data was born from BETC’s Startup Lab as a proof of concept of sorts. "The bigger purpose is to show how the agency is able to develop its own software, and to introduce people to the planners’ brains and how we are good at connecting things," says Lacarrau.
At the heart of Lost in the Data is a content publishing tool similar to Prezi that allows the team to easily populate it with new material. Once the theme for each issue is chosen and the initial map for the content is drawn, Lacarrau and her team engage the entire agency in finding online goodies before whittling down the final pieces.
"People within the agency were surprised to see planners talking to developers because it doesn’t happen so much. So it’s really about gaining new knowledge and skills, and to prove to ourselves that if we have a good idea and we put the right people in the same place and focus, we can produce software."
While the agency plans to release new issues of Lost in the Data every two months, there’s another useful application of the software for the agency. Because it’s easily customized and lines can literally be drawn from one content bubble to another, Lacarrau says it’s become a useful tool in presenting complex integrated ideas to clients.
"We can use this software to present strategy to our clients or to show a new process of how we might work with them," she says. "And it’s way better than PowerPoint where you forget what was on the first slide by the time the presentation is over."