How quickly can you turn a meme into an object and back into a meme?

Rev Dan Catt has been experimenting with "flip-flops" since 2012, taking a popular digital image, getting a physical thing made from it, turning that into a new popular digital image — but the Google "Inceptionism" image-processing shirt was a world-beater.

It took Catt four days to turn an image from Google Research's popular post about using neural nets to add weird, eldritch details to fine art images into a t-shirt, photograph his kid Modesty wearing the shirt, and turn that post into a Tumblr sensation.

Catt used the UK service Sublab to print a full-bleed dye-sub version of the shirt — they turned it around in three days, plus one day for shipping.

By contrast, his earlier experiments (like turning the botched restoration of Ecco Homo into a set of postcards) took 8-12 days.

As Catt points out, the flip-flop is becoming a "bounce" — a near instantaneous phase-change from digital-to-physical-to-digital. And the "bounce" has implications for Web-based business:

A couple of years ago the bounce was "art", now it's business. The bounce is Kickstarter, the bounce is taking an idea, often something digital, then making a single physical version of it, purely for the intent of photographing and videoing it. For getting blogs to write about it, people to tweet about it, posts on facebook about it.

The physical object's single purpose is to be digitised, it (and its offspring) will only come into existence again if it can circumnavigate the digital globe.

My wife will be very relieved to know that this t-shirt only wants to carry on its digital life as this post, never to reveal itself in the physical world again.

Which is why I ended up going to the shops on my own.

The Google AI Neural Network T-Shirt [Rev Dan Catt/Medium]

(via Dan Hon)