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The Great and Terrible Rise of Screencaps

Great and Terrible Rise of Screencaps The Atlantic


“Screencaps”—still images or looping GIFs, usually taken from TV shows, and featuring text—are a huge part of the viral ecosystem: During one recent week, according to analytics service Rebloggy, they accounted for six of the 18 most popular posts on Tumblr. Their ubiquity embodies everything great and everything troubling about pop-culture in the Internet age—an age where fan passions and remix culture clash with traditional ideas of intellectual property, authenticity, and linear storytelling.


Different image bloggers seem to share screencaps for different reasons. A prominent contributor to one of the most popular screencap blogs, who didn’t want to be identified because of copyright concerns, told me that it’s largely about becoming involved in fan communities—and discovering new ones via viewer requests. And she feels the screencap scene can have a symbiotic relationship with the intellectual-property holders: The fan communities that evolve around certain shows, she said, can “create a massive amount of buzz around shows mainly through the manipulation of screencaps in some kind of way. And smaller niche fandoms create masses of buzz and get people talking about shows that are perhaps not talked about in mainstream media a lot.”

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Just six of the top 18? I would have thought that number even higher.

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